I wasn’t gonna write anything about the Glenn Beck Jaysus Fest, because, c’mon, Biblically speaking, my life is two-thirds over and why waste the time, you know? But Dennis G. at Balloon Juice has the best take I’ve seen so far on this event and the epiphenomenon that led to it, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t share:
In 1922 Hiram Evans became the Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. He led a movement that would see more than 6 million Americans join the KKK. In August (of course) of 1925 more than 40,000 Klansmen marched through the streets of Washington, DC. While hatred of black folks was (and is) a strong motivator for the Klan and other neo-Confederate movements (like the Teabaggers) that is not a very great organizing tool. What worked for the Klan in the Twenties was fear of foreigners, immigrants and their weird Religions that were out to conquer and subjugate the United States.
Back then the main threat was from Catholics, then Jews, foreigners and (as always) African Americans. This passage from Wikipedia describing the 1920s Klan could be about the Teabaggers, Fox, Beck and most of the current GOP if you replaced Catholic with Islamic:
The Klan’s Teabagger’s primary enemies were Catholics Muslims who the Klan Teabaggers feared were behind secret plots to overthrow the government and exterminate Protestants. Another important enemy was people of foreign birth, especially those from Catholic Islamic countries. A third, and lesser enemy, were blacks.
It was Evans who hit upon the bright idea to wrap the Klan in the American Flag and Jesus and market the group as a grassroots movement firmly rooted in traditional American values. Mobilizing around hate and efforts to restrict liberty are always easier when you evoke the blessings of a divine power and magical ancestors like Founding Fathers. It worked for the Confederacy, it worked for the Klan and it works for Beck.
Of course the comparison of Beck to Evans isn’t really fair — to Evans. Beck is really just a common grifter. A better comparison from the second Klan era to the Teabagger era might be between Beck and D.C. Stephens, who — back in the day — was the Grand Dragon of the Indiana KKK. Stephens was a real grifter. He backed Evans in a power play to take control of the Klan and was rewarded with control of Indiana and 22 other states. It was a money making operation. Stephens took a cut of every dollar paid for hoods, robes and other tools of the Klan trade. In no time at all he was a millionaire and he used his influence with the gullible rubes flocking to join the KKK fad to elect certain candidates to office — candidates who would do his bidding. By the mid-Twenties almost all of the elected officials in Indiana owed their office to Stephens and the Klan.
Like Beck, D.C. Stephens was very powerful with the wingnuts of his era. And then he fell. Turns out that Stephens kidnapped and repeatedly raped a young women who then ate (or was fed) poison. As she got sick, Stephens refused to release her. After a few days he finally sent her home, but by then she only had days to live. Before she died she told her story and Stephens was arrested for murder. He thought his political pals would get his back, but instead they let him go down. Once in prison, Stephens spilled the beans on the grifters he helped to elect and they followed him to ruin. On the way down, he also helped to end the KKK fad of the Twenties. So at least he did some good.
It would be nice to think that Beck will do this country some good before he goes to prison. But then, it also would be nice to think that Santa Claus is real, and I don’t waste much time on that, either.