Where are the fire-breathing, chest-beating demagogues of old?
I saw clips of Glenn Beck exhorting the crowd to come back to Jesus during his “Restoring Honor” event in D.C. and I wondered, honestly, how this simpering buffoon rose from radio obscurity to become the de facto voice of the Tea Party movement.
Even more puzzling is why some liberals compare Beck to Lonesome Rhodes, the menacingly jovial TV star and front man for fascism played by Andy Griffith in the classic 1957 movie A Face In the Crowd. Can you imagine strong, sexy Patricia Neil being smitten by the Pillsbury Doughboy?
Rhodes was a cross between Huey Long and P.T. Barnum, a born rabble-rouser but also a secret cynic. Beck is the champion of today’s touchy-feely right-wingers — New Age nativists? — who think they’re victims of a government in cahoots with Mexican immigrants, Muslim terrorists and gay solar-power salesmen. He’s graceless and prone to making ugly slurs, but he’s a sensitive demagogue, proud that he publicly blubbers while professing love of country, even if he sometimes fakes the tears (see video of GQ photo shoot, below).
I say bring back the two-fisted, actively alcoholic Joe McCarthy types who snarl non-stop. Better to fight them than some chickenshit ex-drunk who, when he’s not weeping, puts a smiley face on the fascist agenda of the Koch brothers. Beck is pissing off us cinephiles and shaming the Know Nothing tradition even as he demonstrates his devotion to it.
Quotable: “Glenn Beck’s rally was large, vague, moist, and undirected—the Waterworld of white self-pity.” — Christopher Hitchens in Slate.