Glenn Beck is either a liar or was simply mistaken when he claims that he got the date confused. The date is August 28, the same day as the 47th anniversary of the March on Washington. This is the date that Beck picked for his “Restoring Honor” rally in Washington DC. Beck says he had no idea the date is a sacred day for civil rights leaders, and that it was pure coincidence he’ll rally that day.
Civil rights leaders don’t buy it, and neither do I. The provocative, over-the-top, incendiary talk show host doesn’t do anything by accident. He always has a keen eye on what will shock, grab, and infuriate the biggest number of persons. This always ties in to his eternal hunt for ratings, ratings, and more ratings. That’s the mother’s milk of cable talk gab shows. Beck has done it better than most.
He has the other eye just as firmly on President Obama, or rather dredging up anything that can belittle, ridicule and mock an African-American president. There’s no better way to do that than by tarnishing a day that for a half century has been nearly universally recognized as the day that the entire nation and world was riveted by Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights battles in America. Beck knew what he was doing when he picked the date, and the day won’t pass without Beck and speaker after conservative speaker invoking the name of King and the civil rights movement to tout a hands off government, unchecked free markets, non-interference in the affairs of private business, and their phony color blind notion of civil rights. The day also won’t pass without Beck and other speakers making the preposterous claim that if King were alive today he’d be quite comfortable at their rally. There’s nothing new about this shameful twist of King’s legacy by conservatives.
With King safely off the American scene for nearly two decades, Republicans in the mid 1980s eagerly grabbed at King’s famed line in his “I Have A Dream” speech at the March on Washington in August 1963, in which he called on Americans to judge individuals by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. Those sentiments prove, Republicans claimed, that King would be on their side against affirmative action.
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During the fierce wars over affirmative action in the 1990s, King’s words were even more shamelessly used to justify opposition to affirmative action. That was just the starting point for falsifying and then repackaging King to suit the GOP.
Starting with Reagan, Republican presidents realized that they could wring some political mileage out of King’s legacy. They have recast him in their image on civil rights, and bent and twisted his oft times public religious Puritanism on morals issues to justify GOP positions in the values wars that they wage with blacks, Democrats and liberals. Even conservative black evangelist jumped into the act, and staged a vigil at King’s gravesite to protest gay marriage, the implication being that King being a good Baptist minister would know about have opposed gay marriage. Coretta Scott King dispelled that by repeatedly issuing statements saying that she was a staunch backer of gay rights, and so would King have been.
Their distortion wouldn’t have been possible if some of King’s pronouncements did not parallel GOP positions on crime, marriage, the family and personal responsibility. Republicans carefully cobbled together bits and pieces from King’s speeches and writings during the 1950s and early 1960s on values issues to paint King as anti-big government, anti-welfare, and tough on black crime, as well as an advocate of thrift, hard work and temperance.
The snippets of conservative thinking in King’s early musings on the black family, economic uplift, and religious values blended easily with the social conservatism of many blacks. And this was more than enough for Republicans to say he’d be a big player on the GOP team. Beck and company merely picked up on this historically distorted and much manufactured view of King to justify their embrace of him.
Beck’s best efforts, though, to stir and keep his legion of tea party cohorts stirred into frenzy wouldn’t get to first base if millions didn’t genuinely loathe Obama’s policies and even him and just as firmly believe that he has turned government into a Frankenstein monster to tax them out of their gourd to create endless social programs that benefit minorities at the expense of hard-working whites. This is exactly how hate groups, the legion of anti-Obama Web sites and bloggers, and radio talk jocks craft the reason for the anger and alienation that many whites feel toward health care and, by extension, Obama. This translates to even more fear, rage and distrust of big government.
The march then is an outrageous and cynical ploy to hammer Obama. Even better Beck can have it both ways. He can knock everyone else for playing the race card with Obama, while playing it hard himself with the March. Leave it to Beck to find the perfect way to dishonor King.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He hosts a nationally broadcast political affairs radio talk show on Pacifica and KTYM Radio Los Angeles. Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/earlhutchinson>