I realize that I'm fast becoming this site's resident miserable bastard contributor, devoid of all passion for political discourse and oozing nothing but contempt for the entire process, but can anybody really blame me at this point? If you want to know why I've all but given up on trying to effect real change through thoughtful analysis and dialog -- why I think our country is politically broken beyond repair -- you need look no further than this: Glenn Beck is now selling his own line of jeans. Glenn Beck. Jeans. I shit you not. If the official motto for these things isn't "Because It Takes an Ass To Know Jeans" I'm crawling into my bathtub and dragging in a hair dryer.
Now being that Beck remains the media's most accomplished glad-handing grifter -- Olbermann's comparison of him to Lonesome Rhodes was always inspired and dead-on -- the fact that he's hawking something new with the goal of making money for himself shouldn't really surprise anyone. What's amusing is that, as it has been with so many of his other ventures, Beck's stated reason for getting into the jeans game has to do with an epiphany he apparently had in the wake of finding his staunch political beliefs personally slighted by an existing manufacturer. Late last year Beck took to his radio show and internet bullhorn to loudly proclaim that he was boycotting Levi's jeans because he felt that their "Go Forth" ad campaign, which through a series of gorgeous and evocative images celebrated youthful bravado, promoted progressivism and "revolution." In other words, Levi's jeans were just too liberal for Beck, so he decided it was incumbent upon him to give his audience of aging, white resentful and paranoid Christians a fashion choice that's more in line with their unwavering patriotism. After all, you don't want to insult America by wearing the wrong jeans. This is what it's come to: jeans can now be politicized. Chicken sandwiches. U.S. Olympic uniforms. Jeans. Like a nearby, handy steel chair in a WWE match, anything can be grabbed on the fly and turned into a weapon in the insufferable culture war.
For sheer comedy, there's nothing more entertaining than watching the extended online ad for Beck's "1791" jeans and fashion line -- the mere mention of "Glenn Beck" and "fashion" in the same sentence alone should be good for a few nice chuckles -- which are billed as being as American as mom, apple pie and very stupid, gullible people, and which claim to be 100% made in the USA. What's interesting, though, is that despite the new push from Beck, the 1791 brand of his has actually been around for about a year and may even predate his decision to publicly hang Levi's out to dry, so to speak -- meaning that, as is so often the case with a Beck enterprise, the entire Levi's thing might have been nothing but a publicity stunt designed to drive people toward a product he already had in the works. What's more, the average pair of 1791 jeans will set you back $129.99. For those who don't live in comfortable jeans the way I do, you can easily pick up a pair of Armani Exchange for that price, or, if you hit the sale rack, Diesel, Varvatos USA or 7 for All Mankind. Granted those jeans won't tell everyone that you love your country so much that you'll drop 130-bucks to show it, nor will it let the world know that you're an idiot who does anything a carnival barking doof like Glenn Beck tells you to, but in matters of style, it's no contest.
But that's really it: It's not about style -- although it can easily be argued that since fashion involves making a personal statement, nothing says more about you than wearing Glenn Beck on your ass -- it's solely about politics, or at least that's how it's marketed.
When I was a kid, I spent a very short amount of time at a fundamentalist Southern Baptist school -- short for obvious reasons -- and I remember being shocked at how dedicated the faculty and church staff was to the notion that everything a person does should glorify God. You couldn't just listen to music; you had to make sure it was sufficiently Jesus-centric. You couldn't dance unless it was a direct reaction to how overwhelmed with the Holy Spirit you were. If you went to the grocery store to pick up a gallon of milk, you'd better be sure everybody in that store knew you were there to buy milk for Christ, dammit. The point is that to them, religion was a show that never ended and that burrowed its way into every corner of your existence; there was no other way to do something than with God in mind. To the people on the far-right -- the tea-partying dolts and Glenn Beck faithful -- that's how they feel about America. Their belief in the infallibility of the Founding Fathers, their dedication to a grotesquely fetishized vision of the United States, and their paranoia over the creeping foreign-socialist-secular humanist infestation and contamination of their precious bodily fluids guides every decision they make. For them, religion and patriotism are held with equal fervor and are, in fact, interchangeable. That's what Beck is preying on. That kind of anxiety and delusional dedication.
There's an audience for this kind of nonsense, and that's the problem. Despite his diminished influence and grasp on the public and pop culture imagination, there are people out there who really will buy Beck's jeans because they feel like Levi's are just too commie. And they're not all relegated to the fringes of our political discourse -- far from it.
A couple of days ago, Mitt Romney glared at the President of the United States and contemptuously scolded him in front of a national audience on live television, saying "You'll get your chance in a moment, I'm still speaking," as if the leader of the free world were little more than an inadequate caddy at the Polo Club. Jerks like Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter saw this not as a shocking show of disrespect but as cause for a hearty high-five and the reason for the big red-white-and-blue erection suddenly pressing against the pants of the far-right. When the near-boxing match that was Monday's debate tended to favor Obama -- when the president turned the tables on Romney and fought back hard -- Romney's son Tagg, the singular personification of wealthy-and-white privilege, says he wanted to "rush down to the stage and take a swing at him," and that only the Secret Service might have prevented him from doing so. (For the record, Tagg Romney's nothing more than another pretend-macho frat boy. The only physical confrontation he's ever been in very likely involved somebody untying the sweater from around his neck when he wasn't looking.) Nobody of note really gives him crap for this. Mario Batali tweets a comment mildly praising one candidate and immediately gets bombarded with tweets from the other's supporters insulting him and telling him to shut up and get back in the kitchen. Again, a chicken sandwich becomes a truncheon and the restaurant that serves it, a nuclear flashpoint in our eternal, insatiable arms race in the service of beating the living shit out of each other.
Where does it end? It ends the way it always does -- with mutually assured destruction.
But hey, at least we'll look good in our Glenn Beck jeans when it all comes comes crashing down.