On this past Thursday night, Glenn Beck said goodbye to Fox News and television sets, and hello to GBTV, his internet news channel. Here's a recap of the last show involving Jon Stewart, Hitler, and God. Over at Religion Dispatches, I editorialize about his departure, his legacy of history-making, and his brand of nationalism. Here's a glimpse:
Much of the coverage concludes that Beck is, at best, “bonkers.” Alex Pareene of Salon.com, however, realizes that perhaps this is not “some sort of victory”; that leaving Fox is not the end of Beck, but rather that his legacy might not be as a talking head but as an amateur historian, the creator of Beck University, with a clear, and popular, articulation of nation. The tagline for BU promises, “learn history as it really happened” with David Barton responsible for courses labeled Faith 101, 102, and 103, in which students can (of course) learn about the faith of the Founding Fathers.
Beck’s mantle of telling history like it really “was” is packaged, glossy, and consumed. Yet this mantle, or even legacy, does not solely belong to him. The struggle to reclaim the nation, or “restore honor,” began long before he, the John Birch Society, Joseph McCarthy and the like joined it in the mid-twentieth century. Americans, from the Reconstruction Klan in the 1860s, the Know Nothings of the 1890s to the second Klan of the 1910s and 1920s, to home-grown Christian fascists of the 1930s, sought to protect a nation in peril from any perceived threat, be it Catholic, Jew, African American, or Communist.