Green Room

What Beck Does Right

posted at 4:22 pm on August 28, 2010 by

There are a lot of good people – people with whom I agree on most things – who are put off by Glenn Beck.  Sometimes I’m put off by Glenn Beck.  There are conclusions he makes about history that I find simplistic, off-center, or just plain wrong.  His on-screen persona can be over the top.

But today, I come not to bury Glenn Beck but to praise him.  Because he does something right that matters more than almost anything else: he stands where he believes he’s been told by God to stand, and says what he knows he has to say.

The things that discourage us from doing that have great power.  For many people, it just feels indecorous.  Personality and upbringing are a tremendous self-deterrent.  For a lot of others, the natural fear of being misunderstood and thought a fool is a mighty influence.  There are many who agree with much of what Beck says, but are discouraged from saying it themselves, because of the long experience we all have with the spin-and-obfuscation machine that is automatically set in motion by any conservative-right assertion, no matter how nuanced.  Beck actually makes some insightful and complex arguments, when he’s dealing with things he has gained substantial knowledge of, but all his arguments are misrepresented on principle in the leftosphere: reworded and distorted to put him in a bad light.

Even many on the right are at pains to repudiate him, as they do other popular conservative mega-figures like Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh.  But as I have written about Sarah Palin before, I see in Beck a quality that conservatives despise at their peril.  That quality is the willingness to stand up and answer the call, no matter what:  to say what he knows he has been appointed to say, and not tack or trim to catch the winds of MSM approval.

What Glenn Beck believes he has been appointed to say is about character in the American people.  He’s been making that point for months, as far as I can tell.  It’s why he invokes Martin Luther King, Jr. so often.  If you weren’t prepared for Beck’s Restoring Honor rally to be about character, then you don’t know much about him.  And for Beck – as for millions of other Americans – character cannot be addressed apart from God.  For Beck, as for these others, there is nothing artificial or strained about calling on God and behaving as if we live in His presence; it is natural, reflexive, and unforced.

The left will do what it’s going to do, but what I’d like to do here is reiterate a point I made about Palin last year to my fellows on the right.  The point is this:  people like Beck, Palin, and Limbaugh are as much a test of our character as anything else.  Are we so dedicated to a set idea of decorum and credentials that we will close our ears to people who are telling us the truth, because of their social attributes, communication style, and demeanor?

When we see 500,000 or more people turn out on the Mall at the end of August – in the heat and humidity, in a painful recession, after school and sports have already started in many states – are we going to insist that that’s “not conservatism,” that it’s something we need to triangulate away from and reject, because people prayed to God, got emotional, and talked about character?

And if so, what is it we’re waiting for that we think is better?  From what standpoint is it better?  Glenn Beck, for all his intellectual faults (and we each have them), sees something very clearly:  that America needs a restoration of character.  Our republican liberties depend on republican virtues, and there is no future for our republican ideal if the virtues are not re-identified and cultivated again.  His unique perspective on this is suffused by more practical truth than any raft of academic studies, because he’s a recovering alcoholic.  “Restoration” is a theme he has a gift for: a gift not only of analytical insight but of personal experience with balancing justice and mercy, and distinguishing between self-deception and realistic hope.

And he’s right about this, too:  America can’t be set on a better course solely with changes in federal policy.  Law and government don’t – can’t – make the people good.  They don’t make us eligible for liberty.  Our law and government are only as good as we are.  It’s the people who have to change.  And spiritual revival never looks like something organized by State Department protocol; when people are changing from the inside, there are rallies, hortatory preaching, gabfests, sorrow, joy.

I urge my fellow conservatives not to despise this phenomenon or be disparaging about it.  All our futures depend on the character of the people around us.  Fear, defensiveness, and moral weakness in the people are the best friends of the tyrant.  None of us can resist the siren-call of statist collectivization single-handedly. It is not embarrassing or over-the-top for people to gather in public to affirm that there’s such a thing as good character, and that we can’t do without it.  It is meaningful and life-changing to many.  It is necessary.

To stand up and assume leadership in this effort is to make oneself a target.  Beck has done so; as our modern expression goes, he “puts it out there,” ready to weather criticism because he believes he has a task.  Like Sarah Palin, he seems to have been put where he is “for such a time as this.”  No existing model of media success would have led him to do what he is doing today: to teach history on his program, to read passages from America’s early texts, to interview obscure academics and little-known clerics, to talk like a fire-and-brimstone preacher about character.

But here he is, and Fox lets him do it.  He gets the ratings with what he offers.  He reaches more people in one week, with the kind of truth about our history that will only strengthen the political appeal of modern conservatism, than some more-polished legacy conservatives have reached over their entire careers.  He’s meeting a lot of people where they are, in their lives and level of knowledge, rather than despising them for where they’re not.  That’s something all of us can profitably ponder.

Cross-posted at The Optimistic Conservative.

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C.K. MacLeod to chime in on why this post is so wrong in

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gryphon202 on August 28, 2010 at 4:51 PM

Great Post – very insightful analysis. What I admire most about both Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin is their utter fearlessness in the face of so much hostility, both from the left and the right. We can all learn something about character from their example.

fourofhearts on August 28, 2010 at 4:53 PM

Yes, what Beck does right! He tells the truth about what is happening to our Republic with words FROM those who want to destroy it. Today with his rally, it had numerous people, who came to let those WE elect know our Founders wanted the people, not the government in charge. This was not a political rally, but having this at this site gave us all some insight to see to it we can not go to what this bho, team, and the d’s have in store for us. We are a Republic, not a democracy! Our Founders did not want our country to be a democracy, they all fail! Thank you Glenn and all who were at your rally, it was wonderful in spite of what the msm will say.
L

letget on August 28, 2010 at 4:59 PM

Turn out looked impressive.

koolbrease on August 28, 2010 at 5:08 PM

Well said.

rbj on August 28, 2010 at 5:20 PM

Sarah Palin remarked on something very deep and very reassuring in this regard: look around you, you are not alone, you are Americans! Glenn also pointed out that the crowd was in the midst of giants: Washington, Lincoln, King, the honorable dead. Very powerful symbolism.

txmomof6 on August 28, 2010 at 5:28 PM

Sarah Palin remarked on something very deep and very reassuring in this regard: look around you, you are not alone, you are Americans! Glenn also pointed out that the crowd was in the midst of giants: Washington, Lincoln, King, the honorable dead. Very powerful symbolism.
txmomof6 on August 28, 2010 at 5:28 PM

This is probably the most important thing for all of us to keep in mind. The media constantly bombard us with the illusion that we are alone.

What we need to remember is that WE are America. Our friends, our family, our churches… multiplied by a million. That is what America is.

People see that 99% of the media are liberals and can get fooled into thinking that bizarre, warped, twisted, inbred, incredibly tiny little world is reality.

logis on August 28, 2010 at 6:28 PM

What we need to remember is that WE are America. Our friends, our family, our churches… multiplied by a million. That is what America is.
logis on August 28, 2010 at 6:28 PM

Agreed and would also add that our forefathers and foremothers and all they did to build this country ARE America and we can rely on that for strength and sustenance as well.

txmomof6 on August 28, 2010 at 8:03 PM

Thank you for this.

You understand where Beck is coming from and express it very well.

dicentra63 on August 28, 2010 at 9:13 PM

I get a bit turned off when Beck does his G*d thing, just as I feared the complete crud that Pat Robertson tried to sell. But I do know this:

Belief in the power of the individual to determine best the path of one’s life, as opposed to the ‘wisdom’ of the collective, is what makes us unique. I will fight to preserve that power, regardless of the MSM onslaught that tries to sell the fringe benefits of knuckling under.

For that I thank Glenn and all who participated today.

You are not alone.

GnuBreed on August 28, 2010 at 9:24 PM

He’s meeting a lot of people where they are, in their lives and level of knowledge, rather than despising them for where they’re not.

Absolutely. Thank you for a very valuable post.

bofh on August 28, 2010 at 9:33 PM

Well done. I enjoyed this post and agree with it. I haven’t been watching Beck very often but I have seen his show, I did watch the rally today and I just can’t see anything provocative, incendiary or controversial about it. I very much appreciated the message of the rally today. I’m amazed at the personal attacks some people charge at Beck.

Our law and government are only as good as we are.  It’s the people who have to change.

Absolutely.

tartan on August 28, 2010 at 9:42 PM

For each thing I disagree with Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, there are three I agree with them on. But at the deepest core, here is the most important fact, I admire them and am grateful for them. Not only for their message and inspiration, but for their unfathomable courage. That courage to say and speak the truth as they know it, and to do their best each day. They both inspire me to be a better man than I am, and they both make me want to be more optimistic, more honest, more decent, more kind, more hopeful and more generous. How can this be bad? I am truly disgusted by those who can not see the amazing good these two Americans do. Countless lives are better because they are there among us.

WashingtonsWake on August 28, 2010 at 9:54 PM

Well done. Thanks.

Maquis on August 28, 2010 at 11:24 PM

Beautifully stated. Thank you so much.

theotherone on August 28, 2010 at 11:43 PM

Love the Shakespeare allusion, and this post made QOTD, which is richly deserved!

txmomof6 on August 29, 2010 at 12:30 AM

J.E.: You are my favorite poster by far at the Greenroom. I agree that while getting past Mr. Beck’s style is difficult, it is often worth the substance that lies beneath. But while character is the proper subject, the devil is in the details, and no liberaltarianism that gives space to abortion and forced affirmation of homosexual acts (for the latter of which this blog has been waving the pink flag for months now) can ever be a constituitive part of the character of a republic founded on virtue and personal responsibility.

Ed Snyder on August 29, 2010 at 5:45 AM

The truth will set you free, but first it will make you ill.

This is Beck’s message now, to exort people to allow truth to wash over them and, like Moses’ pillar of fire, burn away what is false.

Liberals are all about lies – not that they always lie deliberately (although many do, since they believe the ends justify the means). Will liberals tell you to get up and achieve your happiness, as so many have died to enable? No, they will tell you to demand that others provide you with relief from your misery. I can think of nothing more debilitating than being on welfare or unemployment.

Government cannot provide a feeling of achievement for you; that is something you must strive for yourself.

God would never demand that others make sacrifices to support you.

disa on August 29, 2010 at 9:19 AM

J.E.: You are my favorite poster by far at the Greenroom.

mine as well.

it wouldn’t be the same without her.

audiculous on August 29, 2010 at 12:16 PM

no one else, not an idiot, would link hortatory preaching and people changing from the inside
with Glenn Beck.

Dyer is really something special.

audiculous on August 29, 2010 at 12:20 PM

Good post except for your obvious need to slam Beck and Palin. I am really tired of so called conservatives slamming others because they are supposedly not their kind (east coast elitists?). Krauthammer is one of the worst with his slam to Palin. Just what are the major items you ‘conservatives’ disagree with? I am in flyover country and I really like both Beck and Palin – they are both my kind of people. I even think they have no accent. However, I am educated, am a history buff, and maybe do have a Midwest accent. Maybe the Midwest just cannot produce conservatives you like. Tough.

MoGal on August 29, 2010 at 12:33 PM

Well said. I think a surprising amount of the knee-jerk response to Beck is questionable though. Media Matters picks on everything it can every day, and yet they leave out more of his show than they comment on. In other words, there’s nothing negative to say about the majority of his daily output. Considering how often he’s on, that’s pretty impressive.

And of course, Media Matters gets it wrong pretty often too.

John on August 29, 2010 at 10:37 PM

I was there Saturday, and it was an amazing experience. And you know, for all of Beck’s listeners, nothing new was said. We’ve heard him say it all before. What was important was that we stood together with hundreds of thousands of like-minded individuals. We stood with others who aren’t afraid to pray in public, who aren’t afraid to put politics aside and talk about God for one day. We looked around and saw a seemingly never-ending crowd of people, and yes, we knew and know that we are not alone. That was the true gift of this amazing day.

kierstin1989 on August 30, 2010 at 12:05 AM