Saturday, August 28, 2010

The DC Beck Event

MLKing in Birmingham Jail, April 1963

I attended the March on Washington in 1963.  I was 20 years old, and had been a part of the civil rights movement in Chapel Hill that spring and summer.  At the March I was just another guy in the crowd.  I was proud to be there, because I was a white southern boy.  I wanted to make the statement, by my presence, that all white southern boys were not racists or proto-klansmen.  If you want to read about the Chapel Hill movement, John Ehle's "The Free Men" is a good place to start.

It was a complicated moment in my life, but what I did was fueled by a simple idea that I still don't believe was mistaken, namely, that segregation was wrong, and that it could be ended by acts of good will on the part of the perpetrators.  That's not to say that I wasn't naive.  The so-called "Southern Strategy" proves that, and that strategy continues in Mr. Beck's assembly today.  We'll see how it goes, and if Beck and the rest of the right wing punditry can gin up a Republican majority in Congress come November.  If that happens, we'll then get to watch a rerun of the impeachment game the GOP spent most of Clinton's second term playing.

I happened to watch Brian Williams' piece last night on Hurricane Katrina five years out.  It's just remarkable that the country could have actually impeached Bill Clinton for the Monica Lewinsky mess, yet let Mr. Bush slide for his incredible incompetence concerning Katrina.  The aftermath of Katrina was breathtaking in its horror.  America at every level let hundreds of people literally die, when aid was available.  George Bush was President and had the power to do something.

Yet today we have another Tea Party rally, and on the very place that M.L.King gave his reverberating speech, and on the very date, and Mr. Beck can even pretend with a straight face that he was unaware of this synchronicity until after plans had been made.  This is how racism works in the 21st Century.  And if you have your doubts, watch the Katrina piece--surely it's on line.  Because that, too, is how racism works in the 21st Century.

One thing though.  Dr. King didn't have a radio show, and a teevee show, to build up attendance for the March on Washington in 1963.  People came to that March because it was time to say something about racism in the United States, and time to make some changes.  Seems to me that given Beck's media presence, if he doesn't draw a million people it's an abject failure on his part.  Hell, that many people believe the world is coming to an end tomorrow.  Any tomorrow.

Sunday Morning Update.  I never found some place to watch the Beck event on tv yesterday.  Surely it was covered, but who knows.  From what I gather, the turnout was relatively small (overhead shots generate a count of 87 K I've read).  But the primary thing is, the rally turned out to be weirdly a-political, living up to it's vague description of "restoring honor to America."  That's not really much of a phrase, and made less so by the fact that no one would actually explain what it meant.  Of course Dick Herbert is exactly right when he points out that the mere placement of the event on this hallowed ground and hallowed date has, in itself, a meaning:

And it was a relief to read Herbert's piece after reading the appalling "coverage" of the rally which the NY Times offered up as news.  The sandpapering away of basic mainstream media credibility is a 24/7 operation, and this is the latest evidence.  Nonesense flying ants, indeed. 

Here's what I think happened, for what it's worth.  As the moment of the event grew nigh, somebody Mr. Beck respects told him he wasn't wise to be fooling with the Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther King head on.  So he didn't.  It's the same pattern Beck has exhibited before--he's a man of indirection and snark, but if he's called directly he backs down (until he can get in front of his own people--then whatever he backed down on will be repeated again).  On Friday he told Joe Madison he didn't stand by his assertion that President Obama was a "black racist," a phrase he's used more than once.  Suddenly his supporters couldn't even remember when he ever said such a thing.  Same deal with having this event at the same place as the '63 March on Washington.  Called on it, Beck goes "What, huh?  Are you kidding?  I never looked at a calendar.?" 

With Beck it's probably about the money.  He's raking it in now.  But people who are on top do falter.  It happens all the time.

Alternatively, a guy named Jeff Kaye has a different view which is certainly worth your time to think about as well:

I'd also recommend Driftglass's Sunday Morning Coming Down, Part II (see my links).  He reprints Steve Gilliard's "We Told You So."  The other relevant anniversary this weekend is Katrina.  

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