Home / Culture and Society / Danger Ahead: Populism, False Prophets, Cult Worship and the “Second American Revolution”

Danger Ahead: Populism, False Prophets, Cult Worship and the “Second American Revolution”

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Oh, boy, are we in trouble here.

Last Saturday, radio and television talk show host Glenn Beck held an enormously large rally — some estimates put the total number of participants at nearly one million — at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. I did not watch the entire thing on television as I was feeling quite ill that day and, to be frank, found it to be about as appealing as watching paint dry.

Nonetheless, I would only be fooling myself if I did not acknowledge exactly what it was that I saw, which was the manifestation of a new, truly grassroots populist movement in American politics. It was not very difficult to see that the vast majority of the attendees at Beck’s rally were lower-middle-to-working class, more than likely from small towns or rural areas, and relatively ambivalent about the fiscal aspects of the political process. As a matter of fact, all of the speeches given at the rally were completely devoid of partisanship — which is not necessarily a bad thing — instead focused on the attendees’ (until now) silent desperation about whatever it is that is occurring on Capitol Hill with which they disagree and the idea that the United States should — in Beck’s own words — “turn back to God.”

Now, I want to make it abundantly clear that I do not believe that Beck wishes to abolish the separation of church and state. As I wrote in an article during late July, he is a self-described entertainer who “could give a flying crap” about politics. Chances are that, for him, the “Restoring Honor” rally was little more than a brilliant marketing ploy for his television program — which has experienced a steep ratings decline — as well as his radio and print media interests. Michael Harrison, the publisher of Talkers Magazine — which is essentially the Billboard of the talk radio industry — and a veteran trade journalist, does not “necessarily believe” that what Beck says is “reflective of his own personal politics.” Harrison merely sees Beck “as a performer.”

Beck’s most ardent supporters, however, do not share Harrison’s view. They honestly believe that Beck is a citizen watchdog and visionary — some even are of the opinion that he is on a mission from the Sweet Lord Almighty Himself. Needless to say, they are in a far better position to wreak havoc on the American political landscape than their “leader” is. They care not about supply-side economics or a vigorous national defense, but about waging yet another culture war — undoubtedly along the lines of Pat Buchanan’s longstanding one which ended in futility a few weeks ago. The way they see it, they are the “conservative” — what a laugh — base and they “want their country back”.

From whom, or what, though?

Right now, it seems as if non-fringe Republicans are their main targets. In South Carolina, for example, U.S. Representative Bob Inglis recently lost his primary with a dismal 29% of the vote. Why did this happen? Quite simply, because he refused to kneel down and worship at the Altar of Beck. To put things in prospective, Inglis was one of the chief anti-Clinton forces during the ex-president’s impeachment in the House of Representatives. He was about as “conservative” as one could possibly get. Strangely enough, this did not matter one iota to Beck’s True Believers. For them, Inglis was either a member of their cult — er, crusade — or not. Seeing as he had the self respect not to submit his political agenda to the whims of an Elmer Gantry-level entertainer and his band of deluded cultists — er, fans — Inglis paid the price with his career. He was either One of Them or not, and at the end of the day, he was not. I often urge my readers to browse through the unfortunately popular far-right discussion forum Free Republic in order to attain a deeper understanding of extremists like Beck’s True Believers. This thread is a prime example of how they think and perceive the world around them.

It is a sad combination of being both pathetic and scary (Did anybody else besides me notice how the FReepers’ vitriolic responses to Mehlman’s “coming out” make it seem as if they feel personally threatened by his decision? Perhaps the FReakshow is the unintended home of the Larry Craig Conservative Federation).

Even if the GOP takes control of both Houses of Congress in this November’s midterm elections — which, thankfully, is looking more and more likely to be the case — that may not be enough to satisfy the yearnings of these whackjobs.

So, what is?

My guess is that even they could not answer that question.

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About Joseph F. Cotto

  • Rick

    Beck’s type of revisionist history forgets that Washington, Jefferson and Franklin were not even Christians. Beck would have voted in approval for the “Mountain Meadows Massacre”, if it would have advanced his cause!! Wake up people! Another Jim Jones in the making!

  • Anonymous

    Not really I have several people who commented on my computer!

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Careful, y’all –

    Make too much sense and provide too many facts and Dave and Arch will accuse y’all of lying again….

  • John Wilson

    Well, Bruce Bartlett says that Koch finances TP.

    They found it easier to takeover a populist movement than to create one from scratch, which was a rightist failing for many years.

    If TP were truly a grassroots movement one would have thought that they’d be prominent in talking about the Big BP Oil Fiasco, especially since so many of their kind of folk are severely damaged by the Fiasco, but the Koch empire will abide no such criticism of Big Oil.

    TP has no other visible means of support. They don’t charge for events, don’t pass the hat, and the members appear to be marginal earners. Thus, one would conclude that their money comes from behind the scenes.

    Thus, it seems reasonable to conclude that they are ‘secretly’ funded by some rich outfit that doesn’t want them to criticise BP oil.

  • The Mayer article is excellent and everyone should read it.

    It does not exactly say that the Tea Party is financed by the Koch brothers.

    The Tea Party is not all one monolithic entity. And Fox News and Glenn Beck, as well as the Koch-financed Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks, have helped make “Tea Party” into a national brand.

    Rather than being pro-anything, the Kochs are anti-progressive, especially on taxes and global warming — issues that benefit their companies and their own wealth.

    The amount of money they have pumped into politics, and the stealthy way they have done so, is really disturbing and more than a little creepy.

  • John,

    The billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama. This looks like a very enlightening read!

    Are you saying that Dick Armey works for them? He fits in this picture, somewhere.

  • John,

    Great post! Thanks for that!

  • John Wilson

    The Tea Party is financed by the ultra-rich Koch brothers. Just in case you thought the Tea Party was some kind of ‘populist’ or grass-roots movement. It is actually the tool of the super-rich, determined to reduce their own taxes while increasing their own take from government coffers.

    Jane Mayers New Yorker article

    With his brother Charles, who is seventy-four, David Koch owns virtually all of Koch Industries, a conglomerate, headquartered in Wichita, Kansas, whose annual revenues are estimated to be a hundred billion dollars…. The Kochs operate oil refineries in Alaska, Texas, and Minnesota, and control some four thousand miles of pipeline….Forbes ranks it as the second-largest private company in the country, … David and Charles Koch…among the richest men in America. Their combined fortune of thirty-five billion dollars is exceeded only by those of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.

    The Kochs are longtime libertarians who believe in drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry—especially environmental regulation. These views dovetail with the brothers’ corporate interests. In a study released this spring, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst’s Political Economy Research Institute named Koch Industries one of the top ten air polluters in the United States. …from 2005 to 2008, the Kochs vastly outdid ExxonMobil in giving money to organizations fighting legislation related to climate change, underwriting a huge network of foundations, think tanks, and political front groups. Indeed, the brothers have funded opposition campaigns against so many Obama Administration policies—from health-care reform to the economic-stimulus program—that, in political circles, their ideological network is known as the Kochtopus.

    …But Charles Lewis, the founder of the Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan watchdog group, said, “The Kochs are on a whole different level. There’s no one else who has spent this much money. The sheer dimension of it is what sets them apart. They have a pattern of lawbreaking, political manipulation, and obfuscation. I’ve been in Washington since Watergate, and I’ve never seen anything like it. They are the Standard Oil of our times.”

    the advocacy wing of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation—an organization that David Koch started, in 2004—held a different kind of gathering. Over the July 4th weekend, a summit called Texas Defending the American Dream took place in a chilly hotel ballroom in Austin. Though Koch freely promotes his philanthropic ventures, he did not attend the summit, and his name was not in evidence. And on this occasion the audience was roused not by a dance performance but by a series of speakers denouncing President Barack Obama. Peggy Venable, the organizer of the summit, warned that Administration officials “have a socialist vision for this country.”

    Five hundred people attended the summit, which served, in part, as a training session for Tea Party activists in Texas. An advertisement cast the event as a populist uprising against vested corporate power. “Today, the voices of average Americans are being drowned out by lobbyists and special interests,” it said. “But you can do something about it.” The pitch made no mention of its corporate funders. The White House has expressed frustration that such sponsors have largely eluded public notice. David Axelrod, Obama’s senior adviser, said, “What they don’t say is that, in part, this is a grassroots citizens’ movement brought to you by a bunch of oil billionaires.”

    Americans for Prosperity has worked closely with the Tea Party since the movement’s inception. In the weeks before the first Tax Day protests, in April, 2009, Americans for Prosperity hosted a Web site offering supporters “Tea Party Talking Points.” The Arizona branch urged people to send tea bags to Obama; the Missouri branch urged members to sign up for “Taxpayer Tea Party Registration” and provided directions to nine protests. The group continues to stoke the rebellion. The North Carolina branch recently launched a “Tea Party Finder” Web site, advertised as “a hub for all the Tea Parties in North Carolina.”

    The anti-government fervor infusing the 2010 elections represents a political triumph for the Kochs. By giving money to “educate,” fund, and organize Tea Party protesters, they have helped turn their private agenda into a mass movement. Bruce Bartlett, a conservative economist and a historian, who once worked at the National Center for Policy Analysis, a Dallas-based think tank that the Kochs fund, said, “The problem with the whole libertarian movement is that it’s been all chiefs and no Indians. There haven’t been any actual people, like voters, who give a crap about it. So the problem for the Kochs has been trying to create a movement.” With the emergence of the Tea Party, he said, “everyone suddenly sees that for the first time there are Indians out there—people who can provide real ideological power.” The Kochs, he said, are “trying to shape and control and channel the populist uprising into their own policies.”

    A Republican campaign consultant who has done research on behalf of Charles and David Koch said of the Tea Party, “The Koch brothers gave the money that founded it. It’s like they put the seeds in the ground. Then the rainstorm comes, and the frogs come out of the mud—and they’re our candidates!”

    “They’re smart. This right-wing, redneck stuff works for them. They see this as a way to get things done without getting dirty themselves.”

    Oddly enough, the fiercely capitalist Koch family owes part of its fortune to Joseph Stalin. Fred Koch was the son of a Dutch printer who settled in Texas and ran a weekly newspaper. Fred attended M.I.T., where he earned a degree in chemical engineering. In 1927, he invented a more efficient process for converting oil into gasoline, but, according to family lore, America’s major oil companies regarded him as a threat and shut him out of the industry. Unable to succeed at home, Koch found work in the Soviet Union. In the nineteen-thirties, his company trained Bolshevik engineers and helped Stalin’s regime set up fifteen modern oil refineries. Over time, however, Stalin brutally purged several of Koch’s Soviet colleagues.

    In 1958, Fred Koch became one of the original members of the John Birch Society, the arch-conservative group known, in part, for a highly skeptical view of governance and for spreading fears of a Communist takeover. Members considered President Dwight D. Eisenhower to be a Communist agent. In a self-published broadside, Koch claimed that “the Communists have infiltrated both the Democrat and Republican Parties.” He wrote admiringly of Benito Mussolini’s suppression of Communists in Italy, and disparagingly of the American civil-rights movement. “The colored man looms large in the Communist plan to take over America,” he warned.

    Charles and David Koch were particularly influenced by the work of Friedrich von Hayek, the author of “The Road to Serfdom” (1944), which argued that centralized government planning led, inexorably, to totalitarianism. Hayek’s belief in unfettered capitalism has proved inspirational to many conservatives, and to anti-Soviet dissidents; lately, Tea Party supporters have championed his work. In June, the talk-radio host Glenn Beck, who has supported the Tea Party rebellion, promoted “The Road to Serfdom” on his show; the paperback soon became a No. 1 best-seller on Amazon.

    The Kochs have long depended on the public’s not knowing all the details about them. They have been content to operate what David Koch has called “the largest company that you’ve never heard of.” But with the growing prominence of the Tea Party, and with increased awareness of the Kochs’ ties to the movement, the brothers may find it harder to deflect scrutiny.

    Read more Mayer

  • Arch,

    It’s almost ingenious though, isn’t it?

    Dick Armey was able to manipulate a segment of this country that could be both *racially & economically* motivated to go once again against their own best interests.

    After all, this is a class war…

  • “Today, FreedomWork’s Adam Brandon responded to the criticism that its efforts to organize these anti-Obama protests are ‘astroturf,’ saying that the organization’s work in coordinating and planning the events would be akin to “MoveOn’s model.” However, MoveOn is not run by corporate lobbyists and is funded by actual grassroots activists. On the other hand, the leader of FreedomWorks, Dick Armey, who is ranked as one of DC’s top “hired guns,” is a corporate lobbyist with a history of directing FreedomWorks to support the goals of his lobbying clients.” Source

    Note that one year later we are trying to call this agitation the *Tea Party*…

  • Dave,

    Once again, you look over the real meat of that comment. cherry picker!

    My list didn’t peak your interest?

    In addition, saying that Freedom Works didn’t grow the seed of this *Party* is an outright lie.


  • Arch Conservative

    “Leftists are so used to paying to get people to turn out to support their causes that they can’t even conceive that real grassroods activism exists. They’re through the looking glass.”

    Not only that but the left, realizing the potential detrimental, impact of the tea party movement on their agenda, has decided to go with the narrative that there are no minorities at the tea party events (a lie) which means that all of the tea partiers are racist.

    If the sole factor pointing to racism is a lack of minority faces in the crowd, the logic dictates that MSNBC must be a racist network then. There is not one minority host on any of their prime time shows.

  • The Tea Party is not a grassroots organization.

    Same old lies, same old bullshit.

    Please look into Freedom Works and Dick Army’s involvement with this *party* from the onset.

    Actually, FreedomWatch didn’t even exist as an organization when the first Tea Parties started and it still isn’t part of the grassroots organizing base. Anyone can claim they are organizing the Tea Party. It doesn’t make it true.

    Leftists are so used to paying to get people to turn out to support their causes that they can’t even conceive that real grassroods activism exists. They’re through the looking glass.


  • How do you *spoof* your IP… 😀

  • Arch Conservative

    IS that the same IP that the asshole who took it upon himself to become my shadow was using to post Christopher?

    The dumb fuck doesn’t even have the sense to spoof his IP.

    Glenn, take heart, the left as a group will never fail to make themselves look ridiculous in the eyes of normal people. One “anonymous” poster won’t make a difference.

  • College roommates or one *nut*… 🙂

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Then “Anonymous”/”Al”/”SJ” needs to get a clue and see that doing something like this makes those of us on the left look bad.

    Thanks, Chris –

  • Comments made by Anonymous, Al and SJ are coming from the same IP address, so there is either one over-enthusiastic person commenting or at least three people hunched around one computer.

  • Bill B

    Joseph –
    I think some of the assumptions you make are a bit presumptuous. About the only thing you can say about this ‘group’ is that they’re by and large pretty conservative. Beyond that it’s very difficult to generalize – except the big money backing behind them like Koch et al.

    * Lower middle to middle working class

    * More likely from small towns or rural areas – (this probably isn’t far off)

    * Relatively ambivalent about the fiscal aspects of the political process

    * They care not about supply-side economics or a vigorous national defense, but about waging yet another culture war


    Even if the GOP takes control of both Houses of Congress in this November’s midterm elections — which, thankfully, is looking more and more likely to be the case — that may not be enough to satisfy the yearnings of these whackjobs.

    Historically the party in power doesn’t do well when things aren’t going swimmingly in the country, especially economically, in off year elections. But it’s quite possible that the number of “new” voters that are generated by the tea party movement will be offset by independents continuing to move toward the democrats as they become more and more freaked out by the further movement to the right of the republicans. Loony right at that. If nothing else it will be interesting but they’re not likely to take the Senate. They really don’t have to as the wuss democrats can’t seem to get anything done w/o 60 votes anyway. What friggin pansies.

  • Bill B

    “Some estimates put the total number of participants at nearly 1 million”

    Who? Michelle Bachman??? Puleeze. The page you linked to has a link to this guy.

    One of the guys who calculated the CBS estimate from the photo’s from the tethered ballons. Guy sounds real level headed. I’m more convinced than I was before that there weren’t more than 100k. Still a lot of people though. Impressively sad.

  • Thank you, Tommy-the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

    :)We are a secular nation.

  • The concept of “separation of church and state” comes from Thomas Jefferson. However, as close as it comes to the Constitution is found in Clause 3,(Oath of Office)Article VI.

    “The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

    Beck is big on platitudes, not concepts.

  • Joseph Cotto and Bob Inglis: two conservatives I can actually stomach. The short-sightedness of the extremists on the right may end up reducing the number of elections the GOP wins this fall.

  • Joe,

    The Tea Party is not a grassroots organization.

    Please look into Freedom Works and Dick Army’s involvement with this *party* from the onset.

    Now, granted people are falling in formation like lemmings, but the march was not their idea!

    and then look at this,

    The following organizations have gained attention on the national stage for their involvement with the Tea Party movement. All have the potential to play an instrumental role in turning the loose network of activists into effective agents of change.

    Americans For Limited Government
    American Majority
    Americans For Prosperity And Americans For Prosperity Foundation
    Independence Caucus
    Liberty First
    Our Country Deserves Better PAC
    Smart Girl Politics, Inc.
    Tea Party Nation
    Tea Party Patriots
    The 912 Project
    The Patriot Caucus

    :O That’s not the rising up of the individual.

  • I would never dream of scapegoating Mormons – whoever you anonymous guys are. But knowing how Jews have been scapegoated in the past, I could see the hostility towards Mormons in the other comments – and it had the look and feel of Jew-hatred to me. But it was not directed at Jews….

  • SJ

    To address the irony of the Religious Right Jesus said Jimmy Swaggart and Ted Haggard are forgiven not perfect! There is only one perfect man and he walked on water according to the Christian perspective.

  • Anonymous

    Oh the irony of life within the Religious Right, this could be Will Bunch’s next book!

  • Anonymous2

    We have a vote in our campus dorm who started this religious stuff. Take a guess!

  • Al

    If they continually trash Pres. Obama over his religious views, or lack thereof then they opened the Religious Pandora’s box on the subject!

  • Anonymous

    I am not sure but it sounds like some people are lumping them all into the same type, is that scapegoating enough?

  • Anonymous

    Speaking of scapegoating what do are they saying about our decent mainstream Muslims US citizens lately on Fox?

  • Anonymous

    Blacks were not even allowed to be Mormons until Civil Rights laws made it against the Law to discriminate.

  • Anonymous

    It was Glenn Beck who trashed Pres. Obama’s religion shouldn’t someone be asking him that question of why?
    NO one is saying scapegoat Mormons just stating the facts that have another doctrine.
    Speaking of scapegoating Mormon Joseph Smith said blacks were equal to animals and could not inherit Heaven. Read it for yourselves!

  • Anonymous

    Ruvy Beck introduced religion into this!

  • Anonymous #2

    There is a little known point that is being missed in this latest episode of Glen Beck and the Rally with his Christian supporters The hypocrisy of it all when Mormons and Christians are opposed to each others doctrine. It is not the same and anyone can google it or go into a Christian bookstore and see where Mormons are placed in their Christian bookstores with cults and other Religions!

  • Interesting. The fact that Beck is a Mormon is really working against him on these pages. Looking at the disaster the American economy faces, my question is, what scapegoats are there for Americans to blame? Naturally, my attention would go to American Jews. But what if Mormons were scapegoated – either as well as Jews – or instead?

    An interesting thought….

  • Anonymous

    President Obama was elected as President of the USA rather you like him or not.

    Obama is President of all of the people of every faith, race and religion, or no religion.

    Stop bringing his religion (many Conservative Evangelical Christians believe he is Muslim while Obama has said he is a Christian) or lack of what you think his religion should be!

    President Obama is not your Pastor!

  • Anonymous

    Confessed Mormon Glen Beck said President Obama has a perverted view of Christianity and Conservative Christians give him the green light with Sarah Palin appearing at his Rally last Saturday!

    No kidding? They say the same thing about Beck’s Mormon religion!

  • Al

    Mormon Doctrine:
    God has a physical body and so does his wife.

    No Trinity. Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are three separate gods. People can become gods.

    Jesus was created by sexual union between God and Mary.

    Jesus was married.

    Jesus’ death does not atone for all sin.

    Baptism for the dead.

    Dark skinned people were not granted Mormon privileges until 1978.

    Jesus and Satan were spirit brothers.

    An angel named Moroni appeared to Founder Joseph Smith giving him this information contrary to what the 2,000 yr. of four Gospels Old and New Testament said.
    Conservative Christians should be outraged at Mormon Glen Beck not assembling with him and allowing him to confuse people with this anti-Christian false doctrine!
    Someone said Judas should among the enemies of Christ but what do you call people throwing stones at Pres. Obama for and saying his Christianity is pervert like Beck said. I think the word here for them is Hypocrites!

  • Anonymous

    According to the basic tenets of the Christian faith. Glenn Beck is not a real Christian. Why are Conservative Evangelicals letting him flung mud at Pres. Obama’s faith or lack of it when Mormons do have a different god, Jesus and doctrine.

    Founder of the Mormon Religion Joseph Smith denounced authentic Christianity and the bible when he claimed an angel named Moroni appeared to him and gave him a different (married) Jesus! This is heresy according to true Christianity. Christian believe an unmarried Savior died on the cross, shed his blood as their sacrifice to pay for their sins. Mormons do not believe the cross or Jesus paid for their sin. You will never see a Cross over their Church or inside of one. Christian Pastors should be outraged when Beck speaks as if Mormons have the same God as the Christians yet they applaud him. Isn’t the name doing that Judas?

  • Oh, and let me add that it’s an indication of how completely out of the GOP mainstream Freepers are that they were shocked and outraged about Mehlman. Everyone in the mainstream GOP has known he was gay for years. The fact that they didn’t know this suggests that they have so little access and so little real involvement in the party that they are largely irrelevant.


  • The Beck crowd and the Freepers are two distinctly different brands of extremists. The Beck followers are not necessarily homophobic and pro-war, while the Freepers are much more so. The Beck crowd is more diverse and has more overlap with the Tea Party, while the Freepers are a small and shrinking group of hardcore partisan ideologues. Beck followers are less partisan and less focused.

    That said, the defeat of Inglis had a lot more to do with his voting record and who he associates with than his unwillingness to court the 9/12 people or the Tea Parties. In South Carolina the libertarian-leaning Nikki Haley slate overturned the more moderate Lindsey Graham slate, and as a Graham ally with a particularly unimpressive voting record, that meant that Inglis was doomed.