Sometimes I think it really is just about action-hero fantasies imagining some good reason to kill people.
Glenn Beck’s radio program has been suspended from its SiriusXM simulcast after Beck described the election of Donald Trump as a “possible extinction-level event for capitalism” during an interview with a guest who suggested that a “patriot” will then need to “step up” and “remove him from office.”
During Wednesday’s “Glenn Beck Radio Program,” guest and conservative fiction author Brad Thor said he “guarantees” that the presumptive Republican presidential nominee would temporarily suspend the Constitution if elected president, calling the controversial candidate a “danger to America.”
“This could bring down incredible heat on me because I’m about to suggest something very bad―it is a hypothetical I’m going to ask as a thriller writer,” Thor said. “With the feckless, spineless Congress we have, who will stand in the way of Donald Trump overstepping his constitutional authority as President? If Congress won’t remove him from office, what patriot will step up and do that? If―if―he overstates his constitutionally-granted authority I should say as president, if he oversteps that, how do we get him out of office? I don’t think there is a legal means available. I think it will be a terrible, terrible position the American people will be in to get Trump out of office, because you won’t be able to do it through Congress.”
Instead of following up on Thor’s remark about Trump’s “removal” from office, Beck simply said he agreed before going on to say that he believed the economy would “reset” and decline “even if Jesus were in office.”
Certain factions within American conservatism have been itching for a revolt ever since Barack Obama was elected. We’ve seen dire warnings about revolution pretty much from the outset, first because Obama needed to resign, then because he needed to be impeached―because, you know, white supremacism says so. We’ve heard of the need for “Second Amendment solutions” along the way, liberal evil in passing Republican legislation, totalitarian mass-rape fantasies, rumors of rahowa because the black guy in the White House tried to incite a race riot by speaking a ritual platitude, and even something about invading Texas on behalf of Walmart and McDonald’s. Rumors of violence swirl around the Republican National Convention, and now conservatives are even looking forward to the chance to revolt against a Republican president.
But that’s the thing, it’s so very nearly prim. It’s as if these people really, really want to revolt, but are so invested in revolting as a patriotic act they need to imagine some incitement.
Perhaps the context is more personal; I sometimes recount this bit about Obamanoia, and a Republican of my acquaintance who tried pretending racism had nothing to do with the “lyin’ African” and Aunt Jemima bits or Birtherism or terrorist fist bump or any of that. It wasn’t racism, he insisted, but, rather, a policy argumentα. But, you know; I mean, how is that a policy argument? Well it’s all they have left because Barack Obama is an elitist who won’t listen to them. See, that’s the thing about time and setting; in effect, the complaint was that by not conceding to the Republican platform before he was inaugurated, President Obama so cruelly alienated good, patriotic, non-racist American conservatives that they had nothing left but to lob flaming racist sinks at him in hopes that he might show some decency and shame. The moment stood out for its sheer stupidity.
But it was also bellwether. This is kind of how the conservative hardline works; it’s a longtime joke about the definition of compromise: Republicans tell everyone else what to do, and everyone does it. See? Everybody has a part to play. My associate’s circular logic seems, these years later, nearly emblematic.
That there is a faction of our society constantly itching for rebellion with a pretense of righteousness is what it is. That we feel somehow obliged to give them more serious consideration than in the past is actually a fascinating question. To what degree has our media hype feedback loop augmented the signal? What was easy enough to interpret as a modern-day would-be lynch mob, turning out to greet the President of the United States with guns in order to send a message, now also looks like a point on a precipitous curve toward delusional insurrection, and the point is any excuse to take up arms.
Republicans dared stoke these fires; now the well-armed potsherds and knights in shining tinfoil are looking to target the GOP.
As to Glenn Beck, do we really expect any better?
This is an important question: Certes, ’tis grotesque, but there is always the point that we don’t really expect any better. How is this low expectation not, in and of itself, problematic?
By the time we get down to these people stalking restrooms in order to give women permission to urinate we might find utility in considering pathology, in addition to whatever hot-button issues the would-be American martyrs have in mind.
These people want a reason to fight and kill. And they want to call themselves heroic. Political pissing contests do define priorities, but what of the underpinning need for a moral excuse to cause havoc?
To the one there is societal discourse. To the other are antisocial people. The question just how much we ought to allow antisocial behavior to demand priorities of societal discourse seems pertinent. Civilized society is not a suicide pact.
Image note: Glenn Beck, circa 2016, via Twitter.
α Yes, I am aware that sounds ridiculous, but (A) this was a bona fide Republican, dedicated to the cause, and (B) this is the internet we’re talking about. Honestly, he had an effect; he’s something of a mystery proving a point insofar as I really wish I had kept better track of all the times he tried a talking-point reset three or five or seven days into a news cycle. There was also the argument about racism itself, a circumstantial reiteration of the “it’s bigoted to reject bigotry” argument; the idea was that one could go off about “Mexicans” invading the United States and being lazy and demanding and sucking up public resources, but if anyone pointed out the racism, that was an unfair personal attack. In other words, racism was okay in his book, but it was offensive to call racism by its name. And this one is important in my memory in part because I think it was during that strangeness that he actually boasted about being some manner of Republican operative or participant. Even today, recalling the episode, it seems remarkable just how unsurprising that turned out to be. The bit with reiterating anew last week’s debunked talking points even continued to confound me for a while, afterward, despite the obvious duh factor about why he was doing that.
Tesfaye, Sophia. “Glenn Beck’s program suspended from radio show for ‘advocating harm’ to Donald Trump”. Salon. 31 May 2016.