We came together. We promised ourselves that we would never forget. On September 12th, and for a short time after that, we really promised ourselves that we would focus on the things that were important -- our family, our friends, the eternal principles that allowed America to become the world's beacon of freedom.
-- Glenn Beck, in announcing "The 9/12 Project" on Fox News Channel, March 13, 2009.
Surely, you remember Sept. 12, 2001, and the days that immediately followed, those rough weeks immediately after the worst terror attack ever on U.S. soil. Don't you? It was a frightening time but also a rare moment of spiritual renewal and a sense of shared national purpose, when all Americans, liberal and conservative, without regard to race, creed or color, came together...to denounce the president of the United States as a socialist and a dictator and even question his citizenship and thus his very legitimacy to serve as commander-in-chief.
What? That's not how you remember those highly charged days right after the 9/11 attacks? Then clearly you are not caught up in the spirit of Glenn Beck's 9/12 Project, which the increasingly highly rated FNC host unveiled with great fanfare in the early days of Barack Obama's presidency, which is apparently when it dawned on Beck for the first time that America's sense of purpose had gone AWOL. Since then, Beck has talked frequently of the project -- which has spawned chapters around the country, driven by Beck's growing influence -- without ever really offering a coherent explanation of what exactly The 9/12 Project is, let alone what it's supposed to accomplish. The site's home page does offer a nod to the real "9/12" period back in 2001:
"The 9/12 Project is designed to bring us all back to the place we were on September 12, 2001. The day after America was attacked we were not obsessed with Red States, Blue States or political parties. We were united as Americans, standing together to protect the values and the principles of the greatest nation ever created."
Hey, so far, so good -- that does indeed sound like that brief and now-distant era when you saw those magnetically attached American flags on every car in every section of town and when both parties sincerely applauded George W. Bush's speech to a joint session of Congress, the time that liberal icon Frank Rich of the New York Times recalled in this poignant column as an "outpouring of affection and unity that swelled against all odds in the wake of Al Qaeda's act of mass murder."
But so how does Beck's project carry on that spirit today, nearly eight years later?
Well, it starts by giving visitors a dose of news headlines -- headlines like this one: "President Obama Gets Booed at AMA Speech." Doesn't that remind you of President Bush's "bullhorn moment" right after 9/11, when the nation rallied behind the president at a tough time? Me neither. The other headlines are in the same vein: "Access to White House Vistor List DENIED. Why?" or a video, "Wondering If We Are a Christian Nation or a Muslim Nation: WATCH THIS."
Other sections of the 9/12 Project are devoted to the voices of the everyday citizens who come there and who, in the words of the project credo, "stand united as Americans," although mainly united in their opposition to Democrats. One user-generated area of the site is simply called "Stand Up and Lead," which visitors do by writing comments like "jburdett", who was reluctant to sign up for the site because "I was afraid they (sic) "government" would remove me from my job in some way, or some brown shirt ACORN folks would single me for a good pushing around." "spec4pat" writes in to say "I'm ashamed that the tyranny we fight is growing on native soil." "acharlie2005" chimes in that "What Osama can not do; Obama and his lap-dogs are doing!" -- if that doesn't capture the spirit of 9/12, I'm not sure what does! Poster "dsame" gets to the point succinctly: "Obama Is Satan I now believe it."
Of course, the real passion is saved for a different part of the site called simply "Vent." This is where people make ugly jokes about Nancy Pelosi and where "JoJo54" writes: "It was just reported that ACORN goons were in the NY state capitol building knocking GOP senators and their aides to the floor. IS THIS THE SPARK THAT STARTS IT ALL??????????Are we stepping into a violent phase?" I don't know, but the tone there seems almost hopeful, doesn't it? The "Vent" section is different from "News From You," where readers post items like "Why Obama Wants To Hide Birth Certificate."
There's also an entire section of the 9/12 Project web site called "2nd Amendment," since nothing captures the spirit of charity and solidarity of than weeks after the 9/11 attacks than the basic American right to carry around a fully loaded AK-47 around.
I think you get the general idea -- there is nothing here that would remind you of the real September 2001, when Americans gave pints of blood and millions of dollars for victim relief. And here's the thing: I honestly have no problem with Glenn Beck using his TV- and radio-generated clout to set up a highly politicalized Web site, one where people can criticize the president and leaders of a certain political party. In fact, I'm not sure if I buy into the supposed premise of the site credo that 9/12 was so great because there was a lack of "political parties"; I happen to think political parties and debate are exactly part of what makes America great, even -- and maybe especially on 9/12, when the political parties forgot to debate -- or even read -- the USA Patriot Act.
What's is highly troublesome is this: The way that Beck once again so casually uses the tragedy of 9/11, and the slaughter of nearly 3,000 Americans, as a simple prop, as a tool to gain new followers who will watch Glenn Beck's show and buy Glenn Beck's books and accumulate more of this kind of warped politcal influence for Glenn Beck in 2009. Because Beck wants nothing to do with the actual reality of 9/11 or 9/12; in fact, he is the only major American media figure to admit that he hates the survivors of the 9/11 victims, stating from a radio studio in my hometown of Philadelphia in September 2005 that "when I see a 9-11 victim family on television, or whatever, I'm just like, "Oh shut up!" I'm so sick of them because they're always complaining. And we did our best for them." (I'm proud to say I was the blogger who first exposed this sick diatribe.)
Rather than atone for that outrageous comment, Beck now compounds it by creating an entire project that uses the memory of 9/11 -- and by extension the people who died that day -- as the foundation for a site largely given over to hatred and bogus claims about the current president of the very nation, our nation, that was attacked eight years ago. How pathetic. Beck promised a project that would be dedicated to America's "eternal principles" -- but the only eternal principle that Glenn Beck really holds is "Glenn Beck."
Follow Will Bunch on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Will_Bunch