As I prepare to cover this weekend's Glenn Beck/Sarah Palin rally in D.C.and for the official launch of my book "The Backlash," I've published an op-ed piece at CNN.com about a major element of the Glenn Beck phenomenon that often gets overlooked -- but it is critical to both his popularity and his success in altering America's political discourse for the worse.
It relates to the craving among Beck's audience for knowledge -- but particularly knowledge that isn't really the best info but rather alternate versions of U.S. history that play into their fears about cultural and economic change in America -- and how Beck has thrived by giving them what they want, for both political influence and profit. In his two year run on Fox News Channel, Beck has created a bizarro-world 20th Century in which the advance of rights for minorities and women was really a march toward totalitarianism, in which Calvin Coolidge belongs on Mount Rushmore while Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson are suddenly America's Trotsky and Lenin -- while he's promoted the pseudo-historical denial of America's traditions of separation of church and state of the Texas textbook Taliban leader David Barton onto the political civil stage.
Now Beck will be bringing his dangerous brand of bogus revisionism to the civil rights movement, deep in the shadow of Martin Luther King Jr.:
While all these histories are too important to lose to revisionism, none represents more of a risk than the civil rights era. In 1963, King understood that his dream of equal rights for black Americans would never happen without intervention from the federal government, a concept that's such an anathema to the Tea Partiers, the Beck-sponsored 9/12 movement and the other right-wing radicals who'll occupy the Mall this Saturday.
Famously, King lashed out at the Alabama governor -- George Wallace -- who had "his lips dripping with the words of 'interposition' and 'nullification' " -- a reference to claims by Wallace and other segregationists that states' rights trumped the power of Washington to promote integration.
Yet these two maligned principles are exactly what the Tea Party wants their red-state governors to do to block health care reform and other major federal initiatives of the first black president. This contradiction is lost on the Tea Partiers, and if the recent past is prologue, such facts will matter little to the mass of people who've risen up in the backlash against the Obama presidency.
Please read the entire piece over at CNN.
Programming note: I'll be spending the day at the rally on Saturday.I should have some coverage posted here at Attytood and look for it also Monday in the Daily News. I'm also hoping to offer live coverage from the event starting 10 a.m. Saturday over Twitter, so here's where you can follow me.