Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Ignoble Experiment

Bryan was a vulgar and common man, a cad undiluted. He was ignorant, bigoted, self-seeking, blatant and dishonest. His career brought him into contact with the first men of his time; he preferred the company of rustic ignoramuses. It was hard to believe, watching him at Dayton, that he had traveled, that he had been received in civilized societies, that he had been a high officer of state. He seemed only a poor clod like those around him, deluded by a childish theology, full of an almost pathological hatred of all learning, all human dignity, all beauty, all fine and noble things. He was a peasant come home to the dung-pile. Imagine a gentleman, and you have imagined everything that he was not.

The job before democracy is to get rid of such canaille. If it fails, they will devour it.
” - H.L. Mencken’s eulogy of William Jennings Bryan.

(By American Zen’s Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari.)

Hardly anyone living remembers that day in Washington, DC in August 1925. In a city that would, ironically, become 90% African American, the Ku Klux Klan pulled their linen off their beds, threw them over their bodies and staged a massive rally in the nation’s Capitol. The only difference between this one and your typical Klan rally is that they did not even bother wearing their hoods.

Part of the reason they were there was to drive up registration. By this time, the Klan already boasted of between 4-6 million members although their membership would plummet like Wile E. Coyote to 30,000 in just five short years. The nation’s racism, sentimentalized and romanticized by DW Griffith’s Birth of a Nation, was on full, undisguised display, a 40,000 person march through the nation’s Capitol in a vivid delineation of what Republican Herbert Hoover would call “the Noble Experiment.”

Last Saturday, we saw much the same thing, minus the Macy’s White Sale fashion, in the nation’s Capitol. But the hatred of our first African American President was on full display, despite frenzied protestations to the contrary by right wing astroturf sympathizers such as Sen. Jim DeMint, Congresspersons Mike Pence, Phil Gingrey and Marsha Blackburn and disgraced former House majority leader and health racketeer shill Dick Armey. In one fell swoop, we had gone from being the Great Experiment to, once again, the Noble Experiment.

At its shriveled and soured core, deliberative and level-headed observers got the unmistakable impression, just by seeing pictures of the signs dutifully posted by bloggers on both sides of the Great Ideological Divide, that it wasn’t about taxes or tea bagging or any informed dissent to the health care bill. It was racism, plain and simple. It was the ineluctable fact that these protesters, who combined could barely fill Fenway Park, were infuriated that a black man, their symbol of the welfare state that siphons their tax dollars, was telling them what kind of health care they had to have whether they like it or not.

It’s telling that their newest superhero, the closest thing the GOP leadership has to a face besides Rush Limbaugh, is a racist hypocrite who six years ago had voted for health care funds for illegal immigrants and, rather than offering a considerate, well-proportioned rebuttal to the President’s health care initiatives, chose instead to insult and embarrass his president, his party, his Congress and his nation by violating Congressional rules by calling the Chief Executive a liar on international TV.

Small wonder why Glenn Beck was able to successfully and tearfully exhort such a motley crew to Washington, DC through his 9/12 campaign.

The very fact that Glenn Beck is on national television is in itself a crime against Western Civilization and the humanities. Aside from the obvious reasons, that Beck’s febrile imagination sees living Communist conspiracy theories in 1930’s bas reliefs at Rockefeller Center and NBC studios and proudly and profitably calls the President a racist, his enduring popularity and infestation of the airwaves is a tragedy when one considers who his new hero is.

Alexander Zaitchik wrote a revealing essay for that draws ineluctable conclusions about Beck’s true impetus for his most delusional ravings. As with Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin, it’s been suggested that Beck’s sweaty bloviatings are for publicity purposes only, that no one can possibly be so insane as to actually believe what billows from his pie hole. Yet Air America’s Dan Carter writes, “But after reading Alexander Zaitchik’s revealing article on the book that provides the 'intellectual' underpinnings to Beck’s conspiratorial fantasies, one should consider the disturbing notion that his beliefs are in fact sincere.”

Beck’s impetus for his newly militant position can be traced without any difficulty to a book called The 5000 Year Leap. It was written by a Mormon named Willard Cleon Skousen and who was quite possibly the most insane man who ever lived and still managed to remain one step ahead of butterfly nets. The book had remained out of print for many years until republished by PowerThink Publishing, a smaller version of right wing propaganda mill and hate factory Regnery Press.

Skousen was eventually reviled by even the most arch conservatives of his day, eventually losing the respect and backing of his church and his every corporate sponsor. Hoover’s FBI (which had employed Skousen for 15 years) compiled a file on him that was over 2000 pages long. In another book, he once referred to black children as “pickaninnies” and approvingly quoted a historian who’d written of the slave trade, “[slave] gangs in transit were usually a cheerful lot, though the presence of a number of the more vicious type sometimes made it necessary for them all to go in chains.”

Remember, during our lifetimes, this man had been ostracized from polite society, his books justifiably going out of print and his much too long delayed death in 2006 little noted outside of LDS circles of which Beck is now a part.

Yet in three and a half brief years, his biggest acolyte outside of Skousen’s family is enjoying record ratings on national television in spite of losing about 60 sponsors with seeming impunity. Beck’s influence is such that despite his daily conspiracy theories, manic depressive on-air blubbering and literally screaming at guests who phone in to his radio program is able to mobilize even the 30,000 who invaded Washington DC.

That’s troubling, troubling not just in the sense that Beck could get even one person to spend perfectly good money to go to our nation’s Capitol to protest our President for GWB (Not George W. Bush but Governing While Black). It’s even more troubling that a maniac such as Skousen, a man who’d been rightfully thrown out into the cold by even his fellow right wing extremists would pick up an acolyte who is already enjoying more critical and commercial success than he ever did, that Beck’s plagiarized racist views are merging closer and closer to the political mainstream now represented by Joe Wilson.

And we have finally come full circle as a nation, the nation envisioned by DW Griffith, the nation envisioned by the Klan leaders of the mid Twenties who proudly and with similar impunity flaunted their racism on the streets of our seat of federal government. Overton’s Window has not merely shifted from far right to center but has, instead, traveled full circle. If Beck’s views don’t represent the mainstream of right wing thought, the media, led by Beck’s network Fox, seem to be doing its damnedest to present that fiction as fact, which is the basis for a self-fulfilling prophecy.

And one gets the uneasy sense that when Beck's time comes, he will be given much more humane treatment than William Jennings Bryan got from H. L. Mencken or that Skousen got from his own country in general.


At September 17, 2009 at 2:34 PM, Blogger Steaming Pile said...

The loss of just about every top-tier sponsor would have utterly destroyed the career of any other talking head on any other network. Not just fired, but discredited to the point where one's next job would be selling used cars at a backwoods Chrysler dealership. My wife says Glenn Beck's days are numbered. I disagreed. Strongly. The fact that Glenn Beck is still on the air is proof positive that he's not really there to get ratings or even make money for the Fox News Channel, it is because he has the rapt, undivided attention of the very group of willfully ignorant and/or just plain stupid people we saw march on Washington this past weekend. It is propaganda directed specifically to the lumpenproleteriat, and they don't even bother to disguise it. The idiots wouldn't catch on anyway. I pray they don't reproduce in numbers that would constitute a threat to civilized society, but I fear we may already be near that point. God help the USA.

At September 17, 2009 at 2:53 PM, Blogger MickeyWhite said...

Why was Marsha Blackburn or any Politician allowed to speak a the 'tea party'?
Marsha Blackburn Voted FOR:
Omnibus Appropriations, Special Education, Global AIDS Initiative, Job Training, Unemployment Benefits, Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations, Agriculture Appropriations, U.S.-Singapore Trade, U.S.-Chile Trade, Supplemental Spending for Iraq & Afghanistan, Prescription Drug Benefit, Child Nutrition Programs, Surface Transportation, Job Training and Worker Services, Agriculture Appropriations, Foreign Aid, Vocational/Technical Training, Supplemental Appropriations, UN “Reforms.” Patriot Act Reauthorization, CAFTA, Katrina Hurricane-relief Appropriations, Head Start Funding, Line-item Rescission, Oman Trade Agreement, Military Tribunals, Electronic Surveillance, Head Start Funding, COPS Funding, Funding the REAL ID Act (National ID), Foreign Intelligence Surveillance, Thought Crimes “Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act, Peru Free Trade Agreement, Economic Stimulus, Farm Bill (Veto Override), Warrantless Searches, Employee Verification Program, Body Imaging Screening.

Marsha Blackburn Voted AGAINST:
Ban on UN Contributions, eliminate Millennium Challenge Account, WTO Withdrawal, UN Dues Decrease, Defunding the NAIS, Iran Military Operations defunding Iraq Troop Withdrawal, congress authorization of Iran Military Operations.

Marsha Blackburn is my Congressman.
See her unconstitutional votes at :

At September 17, 2009 at 5:53 PM, Blogger Greg Salvatore said...

At least D.W. Griffith had the decency to make "Intolerance" after "Birth of a Nation." Watching "Good Night, and Good Luck" a few nights ago (about Edward R. Murrow's fight on the airwaves against the vitriol of Joseph McCarthy) makes me wish we had someone of that caliber in the news business fighting against these radicals today. I know John Stewart and Keith Olbermann have hammered Beck on their shows, but what about a Brian Williams or a Katie Couric or a Diane Sawyer doing the same?

At September 17, 2009 at 6:13 PM, Blogger MickeyWhite said...

Joseph McCarthy was Right!

At September 17, 2009 at 6:37 PM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

OK, Mickey? You realize that your odds of beating Marsha Blackburn are about the same as Rush Limbaugh winning an Olympic gold medal in figure skating, right?

Just wanted to see if you knew that. Carry on, old chum.

At September 17, 2009 at 7:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

But let's go further. What really motivates the becks of the world? Why have we not learned by now that it is almost always a deep dark secret (most likely of a sexual nature)? It's usually not any more complicated than that. beck hates himself -- everything we see is simply the fruit of that hatred. For what its worth he already has to suffer the worst imaginable punishment: he must serve out the rest of his days being glen beck (the thing he most loathes). You can't do anything worse to him.
And to all his little followers: This truth apply to your lives too ---doesn't it?

At September 17, 2009 at 10:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you want to understand The Glen Beck's of the world and the people who listen to them, read C.M.Kornbluth's 'The Marching Morons'.


At September 17, 2009 at 11:24 PM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

For what its worth he already has to suffer the worst imaginable punishment: he must serve out the rest of his days being glen beck (the thing he most loathes). You can't do anything worse to him.

Unlike you, I cannot muster any pity for the man considering how much power and money he commands from his bunker of a sound stage at Fox, while guys like me have to openly beg for Payal donations just to keep from getting evicted. I don't feel sorry for that prick. I'll bet he's feeling pretty happy with himself right about now.

At September 18, 2009 at 12:00 AM, Blogger daveawayfromhome said...

"You can't do anything worse to him."

I dont want to do anything worse to him. In fact, as much as he deserves a steel-toed boot in the nether regions, I dont even want to do that. I just want him to fucking GO AWAY.

He wont, though, until the day that he hinders Rupert Mordoch in his quest for world domination rather than helps. For now, rousing the rabble, he helps. When the rabble is no longer roused, Murdoch will drop him like the cold turd that he is.

At September 18, 2009 at 5:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having lived by a group of Mormon dental students,I can say unequivocally these folks are as shrill as Beck himself. They hate Black people. They hate Latin Americans. They hate Muslims. I think they hate everyone. And each subsequent group of them thereafter became more shrill and entrenched in prejudice. Moreover,the Mormon students take advantage of every government program available to them.

We've always had a crazy element within white America...And yes,white America is THE problem..One would think this element would've become extinct with subsequent generations...Why is that not happening?

Islamic fundamentalism isn't a problem in America....Religious fundamentalism in America is a problem. This isn't exclusive to the Mormons. Beck,Limbaugh,et al...are only reinforcing beliefs that a lot of folks are hearing from the pulpits of their tax exempt church's.

And consider with the increasing enrollment and development of Christian Academies across the country,this is gonna be something that'll be with us for awhile.

Hell,you'd almost think 9/11 was a call to arms for these crazy folks.

At September 18, 2009 at 6:04 AM, Blogger Bukko Boomeranger said...

People wonder what Beck's secret motivator is? And Flannigan drops the phrase "manic-depressive"? That's it, Mike. Seriously.

In my time as a psychiatric nurse, I worked with a number of patients in the throes of full-blown mania. It's rare to see them full-on -- usually it's "hypomania" which is a step short of raving madness. Beck reminds me the hypomanics.

People in mania are initially entertaining. They talk animatedly, and their eyes are wide-open and shiny. These are some excited folks, and their excitementis infectious. They have marvelous plans to save the world!

As the mania ramps up over days and weeks of sleeplessness, they begin getting paranoid. They see conspiracies and dark forces. That's what struck me when I saw him ramble on about the hidden symbolism in those New York public artworks. (I clicked off it after 4 minutes because it was too arcane and boring.)

True psychiatric mania progresses into incoherence. It's a sleep deprivation thing, where the brain gets over-excited and irritable due to lack of REM cycle recharging.

What interests me is that Beck has been able to surf the crest of the wave of mania, without going full-blast, which leads to a collapse. (If you look at his past, and his family history of mental illness, I reckon he's got a depressive characteristic in his psychological makeup too.) I wonder if he or doctors at Fox Lies are tweaking his meds -- keeping his lithium or valproic acid levels at just sub-therapeutic, for instance -- so he can play the manic game for as long as possible. It suits the propaganda aims of corporations who want to keep the well-armed moron-mob riled up and threatening, after all.

And never forget -- some people are questioning whether Glenn Beck raped and murdered a young girl in 1990! (I have to link to that whenever I can, in case someone hasn't heard. And I want to do my part to keep its numbers up on Teh Google.)

At September 18, 2009 at 8:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And never forget -- some people are questioning whether Glenn Beck raped and murdered a young girl in 1990!

Didn't Joe Scarborough do something similar?

At September 18, 2009 at 9:15 AM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

D r i f t g l a s s started out as a commenter on the late Steve Gilliard's Group News Blog. Digby started out writing long eloquent comments at Eschaton. Jane Hamsher started that way, too. What do all these people have in common? They're all now A or high-end B list bloggers who were politely told to take their eloquence and hang their own shingle.

And that's what I have to tell you again, Bukko. Seriously. Some of the best bloggers out there are people who were too timid or self deprecating to hang their own shingle and to speak their mind in their own house. While I didn't start out as a commenter (I didn't even know who the A listers were until I set up my first blog over 4 1/2 years ago), I was reluctant to get into the fray for the same reasons you offer, Bukko: I don't want to be tied down. I have more important things to do. I'm too busy.

But I made the time, then the time always seemed to find me whether I could find better, more pragmatic uses for it. The beauty of a blog is, no matter how demanding your readership may e, you're you're own boss, you set the hours and you don't have to labor under constant deadlines and having an editor breathing down your neck.

You have something to offer the blogosphere. And Gilliard told that to d r i f t g l a s s, Duncan Black told that to Digby and Markos told that to Hamsher. Look at them, now. Those guys get millions of hits a year between them.


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