There is a web site created by Glenn Beck that is called The 9-12 Project. (For those who don’t know, Glenn Beck is a conservative commentator on Fox News who is famous for being a Christian and for being the guy who said that President Obama hates white people during one of his shows). The stated goal of Beck’s “Project” is “to bring us all back to the place we were on September 12, 2001. ” So where were we on that day? Apparently we were in a mythic America where no one was “obsessed with Red States, Blue States or political parties” but rather we were “united as Americans, standing together to protect the values and principles of the greatest nation ever created.”
When you think of 9-11, what do you think of? I flashed on an image of businessmen running panicked towards the camera while a massive cloud of gray smoke filled the street behind them. I remember the image of firemen walking resolutely towards the danger, faces covered with white dust masks, stepping over debris, the sky completely fogged over with particulates. I think of the image of Mychal Judge, a Catholic priest who ministered to firefighters, and who died when the south tower collapsed, his body being lovingly carried from the rubble. And I think of an image of an impromptu prayer circle formed by workers, firefighters, paramedics, and State Department employees as they stood next to the devastation.
When I think of 9-12-2001, I remember a country that prayed to God, that rallied around a President, that put the needs of others first, that reconsidered what it means to love your country. There was a spirit of unity in the air as we temporarily cast aside our differences to stand together and face a common enemy.
So let’s see where Glenn Beck and I agree about the “place we were on September 12, 2001.” Praying to God. Check. Love your country. Check. Putting the needs of others first? Hmmm. Glenn Beck thinks that when God is the center of your life, you should have compassion on some folks but not others, and it is up to you to judge who is deserving of your charity. (See the 9 Principles on The 9-12 Project web site). So who would Jesus have compassion on? I know, the deserving!
Let’s continue checking. Rally around the President? Wait, isn’t Glenn Beck rallying against the President? Stand together to face an external enemy? But Glenn says that the enemy is the Obama administration, that the enemy is internal, that the enemy is any elected official that seeks to destroy Glenn Beck’s way of life. It turns out that Glenn Beck and I were in two different Americas on the twelfth of September in the year 2001.
So, where is Glenn Beck’s 9-12 Project really taking us? What is our destination? All we have to do is examine the signs along the way. They’ll tell us where we are going. So, here’s my examination of signage that appeared at the 9-12/Tea Party March on Washington on September 12, 2009. (http://www.flickr.com/photos/42448313@N03/sets/72157622224474669/).
As we enter into the land of the 9-12 Project, the first signs I see speak of a people who get all their information from a single news organization. Apparently Fox News is God’s Tru TV. Some examples:
One sign read, “God bless Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs, Greta Van Susteren, Mark Levin, Monica Crowley.” Another one said simply, “Thank you, Glenn Beck.” Then there was “MSNBC, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, Obama’s news czars AKA The 5 Stooges.” And this one, “If you can see this, you must be watching Fox News.” But my favorite sign in this category was carried by a man wearing a T-shirt that said, “Christian, American, Heterosexual, Pro-gun, Conservative. Any questions?” His sign read, “Fox News, 21st Century Paul Revere.”
Signage check. Fox News as an objective source of information so that we can make rational decisions concerning important issues facing Americans? Scary wrong. In fact, Fox News viewers overwhelmingly believe the four biggest lies about healthcare reform that are currently circulating: that the plans would give health insurance coverage to illegal immigrants; that reform would lead to a government takeover of the health system; that the plans would use taxpayer dollars to pay for women to have abortions; and that the plans will allow the government to make decisions about when to stop providing care for the elderly. (http://firstread.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2009/08/19/2036015.aspx). Fox viewers believe these lies in part due to the biased commentators that fill so many of Fox’s airtime slots. On a 2 day period in August, Fox News guests that were opposed to healthcare reform outnumbered supporters and neutral observers by a 6 to 1 ratio (http://thinkprogress.org/2009/08/13/report-fox-health-coverage/).
Fox’s objectivity has been frequently questioned by media critics. And with good reason. Fox News heavily promoted the 9-12 rally. Then, when on the scene, a Fox News channel producer was captured on video urging the protestors to cheer louder so that the crowds behind the on-air commentator would appear more angry and enthusiastic. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/09/19/fox-news-producer-caught_n_292529.html). After it was over, Fox News even took out a full page ad criticizing the other network’s coverage of the event. (For CNN’s rebuttal, see this: http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/200909180056). So many Christians I know are quick to point out the dreaded liberal bias of the mass media. The antidote to this perceived “problem” is not to swallow propaganda from a blatantly biased right-wing news organization.
Let’s continue our journey into 9-12 Project territory and take a look at another group of signs. These three signs all have one thing in common. President Obama is pictured in white face with exaggerated lipstick markings making him look like the Joker in the movie “The Dark Knight.”
What a diabolical image. First, it tries to associate the freely elected President of the United States with an anti-social, psychopathic terrorist bent on subverting society and forcing a violent descent into anarchy through random acts of violence. Second, and more subtly, it is a reversal of the despicable tradition of blackface in American theatre.
In minstrelsy or blackface, white performers would blacken their faces with grease paint and exaggerate their lips to caricature African Americans. The typical stereotypes portrayed were buffoonish, lazy, superstitious, cowardly, and lascivious characters, who stole, lied pathologically, and mangled the English language. In this role reversal, a black man, President Obama, is shown in whiteface, the imagery suggesting that he is pretending to be a white man (one of us?) when in his heart of hearts, he’s really just an anti-social, anarchist, terrorist, killer.
The captions on these signs match the extreme imagery. First up, “Unamerican cap and traitor”. (Apparently the cap and trade system for carbon dioxide emissions is really a terrorist plot disguised as environmental legislation). Next up, in a nod to Joe Wilson, we have, “”Stop lying! I don’t want your debt. Obama Bin Laden.” (Apparently this sign maker still believes that Obama is a secret Muslim). But the craziest caption is, “Stop him now, before it’s too late. It’s not about Obamacare, it’s about power! When we smell the burning flesh from the ovens, it will be too late for us all. Socialism.”
This position is so extreme that it boggles the mind. This idiot would have us believe that healthcare reform is really just a grab for power by a would-be fascist dictator who if not stopped will one day carry out a Hitlerian final solution plan to destroy Glenn Beck’s America. It is just not possible for any semi-rational person to conflate President Obama and Adolf Hitler. There are simply no similarities. To do so desecrates the memories of all the Jewish victims of Nazi evil. And it goes beyond Joe Wilson’s racist disrespect into psychotic conspiracy land.
Speaking of psychotic conspiracy land, let’s look at a third group of signs, all evidence of a total break from reality that hints at extreme right-wing violence. The captions on one of these signs read, “We came unarmed this time.” (Good thing the rally wasn’t held in Arizona). The next read, “Revolution: Montana armed and ready.” Then came, “Oust the Marxist usurper!…his czars and thugs! Honduras did it!”
But the scariest sign to me is this one, “I repeat, Sir, we must fight. An appeal to arms and to the God of Host [sic] is all that is left to us.” That caption is echoed by a T-shirt for sale at the rally. It depicts Jefferson’s “tree of liberty” and over it the phrase, “An appeal to heaven.” It’s bad enough that some of these crazies are hinting that they’re ready for armed revolution. It worse that they do so thinking that God would bless their insanity.
And there we have it. In Glenn Beck’s 9-12 Project America, good Christians get their news from a biased right-wing media outlet that sponsors fake grass-roots rallies against a black man who is not really one of us but has illegitimately usurped the position of highest power in our political system and is plotting to take dictatorial control of all of our institutions and destroy all good, white, patriotic, heterosexual, pro-gun, Christian, Americans. Any questions?
I have one. How in the name of Jesus did Christians get associated with this lunacy? I truly feel ashamed to call myself a Christian when I read the signs at the 9-12 Project/Tea Party rally. When did Yahweh start to support racism, lying, hatred, and the violent overthrow of the democratically elected American President? Would Jesus have been at that rally holding up one of these signs?
My advice to 9-12 Project supporters is this. Stop watching Fox News and start thinking for yourself. The America that you want to bring back is an America that is filled with intolerance, racism, and the violent repression of ethnic and religious minorities. And based on the photos at the 9-12/Tea Party rally, it’s 99.9% white. God will never bless that kind of America.