Friday, September 3, 2010

Beck and the unease of the elites

Jennifer Rubin, Commentary:
Brooks Cheers Beck — Honest!

And he does, however tepidly. It's not cats and dogs living together, yet, but coming from one of the "two mighty Davids" in the T.Coddington van Vorhees VII ratpack, it's something. Unfortunately, if you click through to the NY Times article itself, you'll see that he's in a dialog with Gail Collins, who can manage to make even Maureen Dowd read like an intellectual. "Do you think this feel-good moment is a permanent change of course?" she asks Brooks, with a flutter. "Most days the Tea Party folk still seem pretty ferocious."

Brooks, as Rubin shows, managed to hold his nerve a little better, and find some nice, if condescending, things to say:
I’m no Beck fan obviously, but the spirit was really warm, generous and uplifting. The only bit of unpleasantness I found emanated from some liberal gatecrashers behaving offensively, carrying anti-Beck banners and hoping to get in some televised fights.
And that last sentence is appreciated. But Brooks' nervousness, though more complex than Collins', is apparent throughout -- first in his repeated need to signal his good standing in the elite by dissing Beck himself, as we see even as he's praising the gathering in the quote above; and second in his need to project his own genteel but largely ineffectual conservatism on the crowd:
... at the rally I don’t think the word “elite” was mentioned. There was a sense that the moral failings are in every home and town, and that what is needed is a moral awakening everywhere. After all, the stupid mortgages happened everywhere. The excessive consumption happened everywhere. This was an affirmation of bourgeois values, but against a rot from within, not an assault from on high. Again, at least at the rally.
So, perhaps, he hopes. He's right, though, that the phenomenon is really an affirmation of basic -- yes, "bourgeois" -- values, but one of the motivations underlying the movement that drew people to the rally is that such values are indeed being assaulted from "on high". At the end, Brooks reverts to his more obnoxious mode, still whistling as he walks past the manifestation of something he can't quite get his mind around:
People like those at last weekend’s rally want the Judeo-Christian ethic back, which sweetened and softened life on the frontier (physical or technological). And so they march. They are only vaguely aware of this value system. It is so entwined into their very nature, they can not step back and define it. But they feel it weakening.
Again, note the projection of fears that are clearly evident in the elite itself. Something is happening here, but you don't know what is ... do you ... Mr. Brooks.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Brooks's Hume-lite schtick doesn't impress me much though he's a competent scribe, perhaps-- then, so was Goebbels. It's not only elitists who object to Beck's update of the Moral Majority, however (the Moral Mormon Majority, that izz). The rightist spinmeisters would have us believe--that is, the non-MMM us--"Lamanites" in trad. LDS terms---that anyone who opposed Beckstock supports socialism, paganism, nihilism, etc, but that's quatsch. We can oppose Glenn Beck just for the fact that's he's about the intellectual equivalent of the chairman of the Provo rotary club...if that. Beck makes O'Reilly seem nearly smart.

    I only watched the highlight reel so to speak but did note that the LDS were out in force, pitchin' God, Country, and the Golden plates of Moroni (Donde estan... las Placas?). Admittedly some Mormon folks are not completely evil--at times they take on the real libertarians trying to set up casinos or bordelloes or liquor stores in NV or Utah . (aren't those the guys you work for, like Reason mag.?) The LDS theocratic code itself does not square with any normal reading of the Constitution, however (and Miss Rand would def. agree). A rather trite, obvious point, but Beckstock did not look particularly "ecumenical"--the new, improved corporate LDS were pulling the strings the entire time.

  3. I guess there may be some great Mormon conspiracy -- lots of people used to think the same of the Jews. For that matter, lots still do. But the significant thing about the gathering itself, as distinct from Beck, isn't its religious or racial or ethnic makeup, but rather what drives it -- and it's not Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin, both of whom are merely along for the ride. Both Brooks and his nervous liberal colleague understand that much at least, and Brooks puts his finger on part of the reality.

    But Brooks, though he tries to hide it, feels the same unease, not to say fear, that his partner does at the prospect of the loss of elite control. Not that he can see this -- in his own words, "[He is] only vaguely aware of this value system. It is so entwined into [his] very nature, [he] can not step back and define it. But [he] feel[s] it weakening."

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  5. Have you read objective accounts of Joseph Smith and his supposed visions-- the plates, the angel, the bizarre tales of the Book of mormon itself, and various supernatural claims? Preposterous (and with no historical or archaeological support). Also check out some of the history of Brigham Young's Utah, the state of deseret, the seizure of the natives' lands, etc (and...murder of thousands, natives and non-mormons). Young's legions nearly defeated the US Army (prior to the Civil War) ordered out to Utah territory by Buchanan. In effect the US Army turned tail. It's one of the great farces of US History--Absurd, with a capital A. Mark Twain thought so as well (see his Roughing it for an amusing discussion of Mormonics).

    Joseph Smith's visions have no basis in reality metamorf. There were no witnesses to Smith's reveries--some left the early LDS once Smith's bizarre tales became known. He wouldn't produce the so-called plates. He was a....carpetbagger..and ex mason, not to say horse thief. Just a sober one. He was finally killed by locals--a bit harsh, yet even the hicks were on to his shenanigans.

    That's the bogus credo of Beck. Brooks at least has enough spine to point out the phony piety .

  6. Have you read objective accounts of Joseph Smith and his supposed visions

    No, but then I haven't read the "objective" accounts of the supposed visions of Moses, Christ, or Mohammed, either, or for that matter the Buddha and his supposed visions, nor any of the various other anointed ones. Which might include Gore and his vision of hockey sticks, or Obama the light worker and his vision of the seas receding, etc. I'd suggest we treat these all as stories that appeal to their faithful, none of which include me. I can't think of any faith that doesn't have its unsavory, even ugly aspect, but that's not an excuse for bigotry.

  7. A different take on Beck's rally that i tend to agree with, but would have to hear his whole speech to be more certain about it:

  8. Sorry: the link didn't take but you can find it.

  9. you tuned out the old-time religion talk then--well, what was left over? They avoided any specific political or economic rhetoric, instead focusing on "morally uplifting" messages, which is to say, christian, uh, mormonic messages (tho' Beckstock did feature the rotund..Rev Hagee, with "The Jezebel rides the Beast"). Really, performers at Beckstock didn't say much of anything (even the usually anti-tax rants), except....Pah-raise de Lawd!

    Davey Brooks I'm not but I seem to recall dicta from Madison regarding the dangers of religious "enthusiasm" (following from their mentor Locke)--and that included potential political dangers (ie religious judges, military chaplains, voting in theocracy etc). It's quite evident that the Founders were not fundamentalists (Washington included). The Constitution indeed has safeguards against religious factions (also noted in the Federalist papers).

    Beck and the fundamentalists, the mormons the orthodox of whatever sort (including jews) thus seem rather similar to the evangelical "enthusiasts" opposed by the men who founded the USA. Beck's no patriot but bordering on sedition (not so different than the Mormon outlaw-patriarch Brigham Young).

  10. itzik: thanks for the link -- it was an interesting take, certainly, but one that to my mind plays out an old cultural adversarial role too predictably. A more nuanced, if I might use that term, reflection to my mind is this one in Reason. By the way, I've used both links in a new post on the subject here.

    J: Yes, I pretty much tuned out the actual content of the rally myself. But, atheist though I be, I did like the words that Brook used right at the start of his conversation to describe its general atmosphere: "the spirit was really warm, generous and uplifting", and I appreciated the notice of what he called "bourgeois values", and the "thrifty, industrious habits that built the country". Sorry, but talking about Mormon plots, theocracies, sedition, etc. seems to me to be just another of the many off-the-wall conspiracy theories that litter the landscape.


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