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Earl Ofari Hutchinson Headshot

Beck's Perverse Honor of King

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There are 52 Saturdays in 2010 and talk show exhibitionist Glenn Beck could have picked any one of them to hold his "Restoring Honor" rally on Washington DC's Lincoln Mall. But Beck, of course, picked August 28, the same date as the 47th anniversary of the March on Washington. Becks been repeatedly called out for picking the date to mock the civil rights movement and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He first lied and said that he had no idea the date is a sacred day for civil rights leaders, and that it was pure coincidence he chose the date. But since that lie wouldn't fly, Beck reversed gear and wrapped himself in the mantle of King. He's bragged to audiences that he and conservatives are the inheritors and protectors of King's dream. In a moment of preposterous flight of rhetoric he fantasized that he and other conservatives could see themselves beaten by police, set upon by dogs, dosed with fire hoses, and jailed on trumped-up charges. What an imagination! But Beck wasn't finished with King and the civil rights movement. He boasted to another radio audience that he was out to "reclaim" the civil rights movement and that his choice of August 28 as the rally date was "divine providence" and supreme proof that he's doing King's bidding.

Let's cut the garbage. Beck is the modern day PT Barnum. He'll do anything to shuck and jive a crowd to make sure he has a crowd. The aim is always the same to snatch ratings, ratings, and more ratings. Beck has done it better than most. But perverting King isn't something that Beck invented solely to grab more ratings, and mock the civil rights movement. Legions of conservatives, including GOP presidents, long ago beat him to King.

In the mid 1980s, the GOP and conservatives eagerly grabbed at King's famed line in his "I Have a Dream" speech at the March on Washington in August 1963, in which he called on Americans to judge individuals by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. Those sentiments proved, Republicans claimed, that King would be on their side against affirmative action.

During the fierce wars over affirmative action in the 1990s, King's words were even more shamelessly used to justify opposition to affirmative action. That was just the starting point for falsifying and then repackaging King to suit the GOP.

Starting with Reagan, Republican presidents realized that they could wring some political mileage out of King's legacy. They recast him in their image on civil rights, and bent and twisted his oft times public religious Puritanism on morals issues to justify GOP positions in the values wars that they wage with blacks, Democrats and liberals. Even conservative black evangelist jumped into the act, and staged a march to King's gravesite to protest gay marriage, the implication being that King being a good Baptist minister would know about have opposed gay marriage. Coretta Scott King dispelled that by repeatedly issuing statements saying that she was a staunch backer of gay rights, and so would King have been.

Beck added another perverse twist to his I'm the second coming of King fantasy. He bashed his favorite whipping boy, liberals with it. Telling his radio crowd that it's liberals that perverted the civil rights movement and that it's the sworn duty of conservatives to take it back from them. None of this pap would work let alone grab the media attention it has if there weren't millions who profess to genuinely loathe liberals, see government as the sworn enemy, and are in an absolute rage at President Obama's policies and even him. They just as firmly believe that he has turned government into a Frankenstein monster to tax them out of their gourd to create endless social programs that benefit minorities at the expense of hard-working whites. This is exactly how hate groups, the pack of anti-Obama Web sites and bloggers, and radio talk jocks, and of course Beck, craft the reason for the anger and alienation that many whites feel toward health care and, by extension, Obama. This translates to even more fear, rage and distrust of big government.

Beck could have easily stopped with simply saying the rally is what he claims it to be and that's an event held in conjunction with the Special Operations Warrior Foundation to provide college scholarships and counseling to children of special operations personnel killed during operational or training missions and to honor America's heroes. But truth and honesty is not a Beck strong suit. Saying that wouldn't give him the national platform to do what conservatives have done for two decades and that's propound the absurd notion that King and the civil rights movement would be in lockstep with them. Beck's rally is simply their latest perverse homage to King.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He hosts a nationally broadcast political affairs radio talk show on Pacifica and KTYM Radio Los Angeles.
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