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Save the Beck-bashing for later

August 30, 2010 | 11:17 am

It's inaccurate to call Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally disarming, because there's no evidence that its basically apolitical program converted his many detractors. Fair enough. One innocuous event can't atone for Beck's day-to-day wackiness or his notorious assertion (which he now has recanted, sort of) that President Obama has a "deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture."

But give the devil, or rather the demagogue, his due. Beck and special guest star Sarah Palin harbor daffy and divisive political views, but they were largely muted on Saturday. The proverbial observer from Mars (or Atlantis) would have had a hard time discerning Beck's political agenda. 

The rally's appeals to patriotism could have come from any small-town Fourth of July celebration. The heroes saluted by Beck wouldn't be out of place in a mainstream-media feature story or in the balcony at a State of the Union address.

And then there was the pervasive religiosity. The rally often resembled an exuberant service at an evangelical mega-church. (One liberal commentator suggested, bizarrely, that religion had no place on the "sacred" site of the Lincoln Memorial.)

The likely political views of those in attendance aren't my cup of tea, so to speak. If the audience had been allowed to bring signs, I'm sure some of them would have contained extreme, even ugly, sentiments. Nor would Beck and Palin be my choices for grand marshals of an Independence Day parade.  

But I think criticizing the rally itself plays into its impresario's unclean hands by suggesting that liberals disdain patriotism, religious conviction and even diversity.  There will be plenty of other opportunities for Beck-bashing.

-- Michael McGough

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