Mo (et al.) –
Listened to an interesting interview on Fresh Air about Glenn Beck’s attempts to “restore” history and the Tea Party’s ideological roots.
The interview stems from a New Yorker article by Sean Wilentz, a Princeton historian, and details efforts on the right to tell a sort of revisionist history. Beck has recently launched “Beck University,” a series of web seminars that purport to reveal a history which has been hidden from us by “malicious progressive intent.” Beck’s has been using his show and seminars to stoke fears that Obama’s supposedly totalitarian rule can be traced back to Progressive boogyman Woodrow Wilson (and the birth of the graduated income tax and Federal Reserve system), a view which has gained prominence within Tea Party circles. Wilentz points out that many of the ideas being peddled by Beck and shouted at Tea Party rallies have their roots in the John Birch Society’s Cold War mentality and fears of totalitarian/socialist/communist take-overs.
What I found interesting was the role of symbols in providing support for this conspiratorial view of history. Wilentz talks about Beck holding up a Wilson-era mercury dime with a head of fasces on it, as evidence that our country has been on the road to Fascism since the Progressive era (failing to mention that the fasces has long been a symbol for power/war, before being adopted by Fascists). This all ends up sounding like some sort of Dan Brown book, but using these tricks to expose the dangers of Obama’s presidency has been remarkably successful. And it’s interesting how the fears of Communism that stoked the John Birch Society have been resilient enough to prompt modern fears about “the Left’s” intent, long after the Cold War.