Saturday, 28 August 2010

Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin: "Restoring honor?"

Palin Beck Rally T-shirt
T-shirt seen today at Glenn Beck's rally

Glenn Beck, the bipolar Fox News talk show host, had his great day today. He is on a mission to"restore honor", and Sarah Palin joined him. Glenn Beck today shamelessly exploited the legacy of Martin Luther King, a man who would be on Glenn Beck's infamous chalkboard if he were alive today - for example because of his scathing anti-war speeches and his open support of union-led strikes.

So Glenn and Sarah want to restore honor. There are a few questions that need to be asked, for example:

1. Whose honor needs to be restored?
2. Why does the honor need to be restored?
3. How do you want to restore honor?

I listened to a lot of the speeches today, and I couldn't find the answers to those very simple questions.

So let's say the honor of the USA needs to be restored. Why? Because of the budget deficit? Because of the unemployment? Because there is now a President in the White House who doesn't plan to start another war, but rather wants to end wars? Because the current political leaders are against transforming the USA into a theocracy?

What came across as the main message was that one thing in particular needs to be honored: Serving soldiers, veterans, the dead, the military and women who give birth to soldiers.

So was the real message that the honor of the MILITARY needs to be restored after two disastrous wars which left the country in catastrophic public debt, and in which victory can only mean for the USA to leave the occupied country without loosing face, because real "victory" can never possibly be achieved?

Listen to Sarah Palin's speech. Palin was announced by Glenn Beck as "a mother of someone in the military":

EDIT: Read the full transcript of Palin's speech at The Midnight Review.

Here is the part where she talks about mothers giving birth to soldiers:

"I’ve been asked to speak as the mother of a soldier, and I am proud of that distinction. You know, say what you want to say about me, but I raised a combat vet, and you can’t take that away from me. I’m proud of that distinction, but it is not one that I had imagined because no woman gives birth thinking that she will hand over her child to her country, but that’s what mothers have done from ancient days."

"Mothers proudly giving birth to soldiers" is a classic fascist meme. You find it all over again in fascist speeches. The Nazis even went to so far to hand out special medals ("cross of honor") to mothers, because the birth of soldiers had to be encouraged. The Nazis of course expected to win the war at this point. The more children, the "higher" was the award.

Further below I quoted from a speech of Hitler's "deputy" Rudolf Hess from February 25, 1934. You will be able to find many, many similar speeches from leaders of the "Third Reich." Here is what he has to say about the mothers:

"We do not want to forget the mothers, women, and children who gave their dearest, often their provider, and bear their fate with quiet heroism. The battle-ready manly heroes and the quiet sacrifices of mothers and women are holy examples of loyalty for us Germans."

(end of edit)

That was a truly cringe-worthy speech. Military, military, military. Is there anything else in Sarah Palin's world which is important?

Where does patriotism end, and where does nationalism start?

It seems that conservative observers of the event found nothing wrong with it. The comments I have read is that this event was apparently all about "hope, faith and charity", and how can this be a bad thing? In addition, there were lots of preachers on stage, including several black people and including Glenn Beck, who magically transformed into a preacher himself. Then you had people singing on stage, black and white. All friendly and innocent, nothing to worry about?

However, a closer look at this supposedly "innocent" event pretty quickly reveals that propaganda techniques were used that should better have been left untouched.

Propaganda can be very seductive. The Nazis ruthlessly used propaganda techniques, as it is well known, and made no secret about it. The USA was never subjected to these kind of techniques on a larger scale, as far as I know, although it surely had its fair share of "extreme" politicians as well.

But I feel that events like the one which happened today are crossing a line, and more importantly, many Americans don't seem to notice it - probably because there is a lack of "sensitivity" to certain keywords, methods and images.

This is different in Europe, especially in Germany. It's starts already with the title of the event: "Restoring honor."

It would be impossible that one of the main political parties in Germany to choose such a title for an event - because "honor" (in German: "Ehre") was one of the keywords of Nazi-ideology.

The word "honor" was used (and abused) by the Nazis for good reason. It's very vague, can be interpreted in many ways and somehow appeals to patriotic emotions - but it's quite difficult to establish what exactly it is, how it can be damaged, and how it can be restored.

However, one thing is clear: Nobody wants to be "without honor."

Without "honor", the people of a country are supposed to be unsatisfied, because something important is missing. So Adolf Hitler felt it was very important for him to declare on January 30, 1937:

"The restoration of the honor of the German people was the most difficult and the most audacious task and work of my life."

But the use of the word "honor" by the Nazis went much, much further. For example, members of the Hitler Youth received daggers on which was printed: "Blut und Ehre" ("Blood and Honor"), when they reached a certain rank.

In addition, "Meine Ehre heißt Treue" (translates as "My honor means faith", or "My honor is called faith") was the main motto of the SS, the elite Nazi-organization which was instrumental in executing the Nazi-terror (also used on SS-daggers and on SS-buttons).

I am perfectly aware that most Americans approach the word "honor" with different sensibilities and would not necessarily have this dark background in mind. However, the problem begins in my opinion when media personalities stage mass rallies in order to "restore honor" and then fail to explain why they have chosen this title, but instead start to rave about the military, the fallen heroes etc.

It seems obvious that they chose this term merely for its emotional effect, because it's not only vague, but also very effectively appeals to the patriotism and pride of the "common citizen" - and that's also exactly the reason why the word was so popular with the Nazis and so widely used in their propaganda.

Here is a youtube-user who seems to have uploaded the complete rally to youtube. Let's have a look at these three clips:

Note that in the previous clip, Glenn Beck said from 10:57:

“What is it today that America truly believes in?

We have very little trust in most of our institutions, but there is one thing that still is 15 points higher at the top of the list on things that America trusts: Our military!”

So the military is supposed to be the answer to all problems? Nobody else in the USA who is truly "honorable" any more?

If this is not a nationalistic appeal, they I don't know what it is.

This is not patriotism any more. This is the excessive use of national symbols and national heroes and patriotic feelings for your own political agenda - which conveniently is barely explained. But who cares about details: All you need is to BELIEVE.

However, it's seems clear to Glenn Beck that Americans had a "soft life" so far, the "poorest" in the USA apparently still belong to the "richest in world." I wonder how often Glenn Beck meets poor people...

The "restoration" of the "honor" can easily be filled with your own political agenda - which in this case is for example to overcome the separation of church of state - and a strong military in order to, well, make sure that the USA "won't perish."

To me, this event sounded more like "Restoring honor and taking revenge for the recent 'embarrassing' wars" (ideally through bombing Iran as a start, I presume).

The exploitation of fallen soldiers, the "heroes", was also hugely popular in Nazi Germany, as the leaders of the "Third Reich" were obsessed with the military. See for example in this speech of Hitler's "deputy" Rudolf Hess from February 25, 1934:

"You are swearing your oath on a holiday that Germany celebrates for the first time: Heroes’ Memorial Day. We lower our flags in remembrance of those who lived as heroes, and who died as heroes. We lower the flags before the giants of our past, before those who fought for Germany, before the millions who fought in the World War, before those who died preparing the way for the new Reich."

To use dead soldiers, the fallen heroes, as political props is hugely tempting.

Appeal to emotions, to patriotism, to religious feelings, make it simple, don't say to people that they should "think." What they are supposed to do is to believe and obey. Critical thinking is subversive, potentially a socialist activity.

Those who dare to think critically are not believers, they have no faith.

It's actually comical that from 1:55 in the second clip, Glenn Beck demands from his followers that it's the "sacred honor" that you "tell the truth", and that there are "no lies in your life." Well, I guess Sarah Palin didn't get the memo!

More interesting clips:

Here is Glenn Beck as he leaves the event - look at the bodyguards. I guess the President of the USA couldn't be protected better:

Somebody made backstage recordings with Sarah Palin:

Sarah Palin then confirms again that the whole thing is mainly about the military:


More very good pictures on the "therightscoop." It's obvious from these pictures that Glenn Beck wore a bulletproof vest under his shirt.

Our reader BuffaloGal compiled a selection of quotes by Adolf Hitler - compare them with what Glenn Beck said today!


As this event was already extensively discussed in the comments of the previous post, here are some of the comments from our readers:

From mealewis:

King modeled his program of non-violent demonstrations after Gandhi. King faced dogs, water hoses, and angry crowds. He is known for his non-violent resistance. He was a pacifist who spoke out against the Vietnam war, saying that war was the enemy of the poor. There are two days in the year when Sarah should learn something about MLK. Today, in memory of his famous "I have a dream" speech, or in January, when the nation celebrates his birthiday.

Memo to Sarah and Rebecca: I suggest that you study this question. It just might appear on the gotcha test when Sarah is running for president. (At the time of King's marches, the army had just been barely integrated. The armed forces were famous for having separate companies for different races).

From JTme:

For a moment I forgot what year this was. How can policies like this still even be around? I'm starting to feel a bit of despair today, what with Beck's Hate Fest, channeling Hitler, another of $arah's bullshit screechy speeches, ugh. It's getting overwhelming. Someone please talk me down!

From Indigoblue:

I was just reading a story about the big event today and saw this-

"Palin, the 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee who may make a White House run in 2012, said activists must honor King's legacy by paying tribute to the men and women who protect the United States in uniform."

Soon as I read it I thought- of course, all Americans would pay tribute to our folks in uniform, but isn't Dr. King's legacy all about civil rights, peace, putting an end to racism and poverty? Wouldn't those things come to mind first?

Suddenly, it occurred to me that Palin doesn't know a damned thing about Martin Luther King, Jr.

From Sunnyjane:

Beck and Palin know NOTHING about the struggle for equal rights in this nation. They know nothing about honor. They know nothing about America. They know nothing about ANYTHING.

They would take us back (by restoring honor) to a time when African Americans and women had no rights. I know of what I speak. Until the mid-1970s, women in Virginia could not own personal property, i.e., a car, etc. It belonged to their husband. Women could not have certain medical procedures (tubal ligations, etc.) without their husband's approval. A married woman's salary could not be used to get a mortgage until she was at least 28 years old because she was still of "child-bearing age." I would ask the women who appeared at today's rally how they would like to return to those times. Not so much, me thinks!

The struggles of African Americans to earn a modicum of respect and civil rights have totally been lost on them. I think there is no hope for right-wingers, and I refuse to engage them with facts. We must move forward without them.


From aview999, quoting David Neiwert from Crooks & Liars:

Glenn Beck promised there wouldn't "be a dry eye in the house" after his big speech today at the Lincoln Memorial for his "Restoring Honor" rally -- because, you know, it was going to be "so stirring."

Riiiiight. Well, Glenn Beck's eyes certainly weren't dry. He started weeping while telling the crowd that somewhere out there was "the next George Washington".

Dunno about you, but when I saw pan shots of the crowd -- which was one of the whitest crowds in D.C. in recent memory -- I mostly thought I saw "the next Timothy McVeigh." But your mileage may vary.

As for the speech itself: Lunesta in verbal form. I'm having to pick my head up from my desk just to write something about it.


I would like to add a comment by our friend and fellow blogger Ennealogic:

Navy "sills," the real "dill," the American "idill..."

Pronunciation aside, a time worn tactic in political battle is to usurp the icons, heroes, and intentions of opponents. Thus it was today. Glenn Beck and his sidekick Sarah Palin did their best to bury the essence and meaning of the struggle of Dr. Martin Luther King and supplant it with pseudo-patriotic images from Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. No doubt the men whose stories she told were worthy of remembrance, but not on this day. Perhaps on Veterans Day. Or some other gathering to give thanks and recognition to members of the military who blindly went into battle. I say "blindly" because when you are young and vital and filled with national pride, and find yourself sent into war, you do not think about it ahead of time, "Is this right, just and good?" You do not question, "To what end is this conflict and who benefits?"

I am a veteran, Vietnam-era. I saw the troops leave and I saw the bodybags and wounded and crippled coming back. And I never questioned, until later, what it was all for. But none of that has a damn thing to do with the long and painful struggle for civil rights in this country. None of that has a damn thing to do with "restoring honor" to our country. What the hell does that mean anyway? Kick the black man out of the White House? How have we lost honor? Who lost it, and where did it go?

The crowd in the video was all white as far as I could see. What honor, Sarah? Whose honor? Define honor, if you please. And damn you to hell for trying to usurp and re-paint the civil rights movement into some god-awful nationalistic "go war" story.


I would like to add another comment, by our reader "d lusia":


You said, "The USA was never subjected to these kind of techniques on a larger scale, as far as I know, although it surely had its fair share of "extreme" politicians as well."

In fact the US population has been victim many times over of manipulation of information and massive PR campaigns--as well as continual targeting of reformers as "enemies," as in the labor movement and MCCarthy era--labor leaders and other "enemies" were called communists; in the 1960s peace activists were "traitors"; post 9/11 term is "terrorists."

The US was isolationist prior to WWI. Britain wanted the US to enter the war against Germany. To that end President Wilson's government formed the Creel Commission, which used propaganda techniques to sway the population toward war.

Edward Bernays was hired to run the propaganda campaign and it was so successful that in 6 months Americans not only wanted to go to war against Germany, but many wanted the teaching of German banned from schools (along the use of the word "hamburger").

As Bernays knew, in a democracy consent has to be "manufactured" since one cannot overtly use censorhip. Bernays, considered the father of PR, who was also a nephew of Sigmund Freud.

You are right to point out that the Becks and Palins are crossing a line. That is, they are more overt and transparent now in their propaganda techniques. I'm not sure if that is good or bad--I mean if they were more clever and subtle in their methods perhaps they would be more more dangerous. But they should not be underestimated by any means, and their incendiay rhetoric, though foolish, is still dangerous.

Covertly, the US government has been manipulating and hiding the truth about policy and facts for many years from its citizens. For example, if it weren't for people like Daniel Ellsberg when would we have learned the truth about what was going on on Viet Nam?

MLK's speeches were censored by Democrats as well as the Right. He not only was against miltarism but felt that social justice could not be attained without a radical restructuring of a system that keeps so many impoverished.

Some accused him of being a communist, though he was not. He and many others throughout US history--including labor leaders, artists, anti-militarists, peace activists, civil rights workers have been spied on, jailed, driven into exile, some into suicide--some, like MLK, murdered.

The "no-nothings" and their masters the oligarchs have been playing this game for most US history.

Thanks for you insightful thoughts about the the Nazis and their use of propaganda and mass psychology. Let's hope some light can penetrate the darkness that is full of hatred, bigotry and fear.


Very good clip by Media Matters about the "real" Glenn Beck (h/t Political Carnival):

What about this one - Glenn Beck said that the $ 700 billion Wall Street bailout is "the right thing to do" and "not nearly enough":

Sarah, what was the bailout all about again?

No comments: