Just before Glenn Beck made his first appearance on screen at his “Restoring Courage” rally in Jerusalem on Wednesday, Aug. 24, the broadcast on the newsman-impresario’s internet-based network, GBTV, cut to video images from a few of the viewing parties being held by his supporters around the world.
“Where are we?” asked Jeannie Atkins, as she looked at grainy Skype footage from a party going on in Fort Lauderdale. One couldn’t really make out faces, but you could see two flags being waved—a blue and white Israeli flag and a yellow one, which looked as though it had a coiled snake on it.
The reasonable conclusion one might draw—that the room in Florida had more than a few self-described “Tea Party” supporters in it—was certainly true of the Santa Clarita Marriott Residence Inn’s conference room.
Atkins, who said she hadn’t yet been to Israel—“I have to get there in the next five years, that’s my plan”—was watching Beck with 25 other people, many of whom knew each other from local Republican party events. Local radio personality Joe Messina organized the viewing party, and the room was populated with friends of his and other folks committed enough to get up really early for the live broadcast at 7 am (Pacific time).
He kicked off the early-morning activities with a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. There were no flags, though, so Messina held up his laptop computer, which had a Stars and Stripes backdrop on it. (Could we have pledged allegiance to a garment with Old Glory on it? There was one guy sporting such an Old Navy T-shirt.)
“How many other events like this one are going on right now?” Jeannie’s husband BJ wondered.
Over 1,400 around the world, Beck said in his opening remarks. On Beck’s radio show, the stand-in host spent most of the first half hour, from 6 to 6:30 am, trying to recruit additional viewers, letting listeners know that for $4.99, they could watch the event on GBTV.
The live broadcast included a speech by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, musical performances by Israeli singer Dudu Fisher and others as well as pre-recorded videos—but this rally, Beck’s third of the week, belonged primarily to the man himself.
To anyone familiar with Beck and the PR spin of the Netanyahu government, the event presented little if anything new. Beck spoke for over 45 minutes, proclaiming his support for Israel, of course, but also ranging across a variety of his favored topics—including the evils of politicians, bureaucrats and the media.
Waiting for the rally to begin, the folks in Santa Clarita perused the signature pages for a few referendums being passed around. One was aimed at repealing a recently passed California State law requiring schools teach about the contributions of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans in Social Studies classes. Another supported the inclusion on the ballot of the so-called Amazon referendum, which is being funded in part by the online-only retailer in an effort to get Californians to overturn a law that would allow the state to charge sales tax on online businesses with affiliated organizations in the state. (According to some estimates, the tax revenue that the state would lose this year if that law were overturned could be as much as $1.9 billion.)
In Jerusalem, Beck frequently cited scripture—“lo eerah,” a Hebrew phrase that means “I will not fear,” became a mantra—and he invoked the Almighty even more often.
“The only message that I have for Israel and the Israelis is this: My friends, do not lose hope,” Beck said.
“You must have courage,” he continued. “You must draw courage from the knowledge that you were led to this land by God, and in the affairs of mankind, God is not a stranger to the children of Abraham.”
Although the setting of the rally—overlooking the archaeological excavations near the Southern wall of the Old City—was clearly aimed at emphasizing the Jewish historical roots of Jerusalem, Beck, who is himself Mormon and has a great deal of support from American evangelical Christians, talked of Jerusalem’s holiness to all of Abraham’s children—including Muslims. With musical accompaniment—from a shofar, church-like bells, and an oud, a Middle-Eastern stringed instrument—Beck acknowledged that Jews, Christians and Muslims all have history in Jerusalem.
But near the end of his speech, when Beck said that the world “will see evil rear its head,” he left no doubt that he was referring to the specter of Islamist rulers taking hold of Arab nations that have experienced revolutions over this year.
“This week they were holding up signs in Cairo that said—quote—‘We are building the gas chambers,’” Beck said. “They dress their children in suicide belts. They are given the choice and they choose death; we are given the choice—let us choose life.”
“Let me speak directly to them,” Beck continued. “We read your signs. We listen to your speeches. We know you say what you mean and mean what you say. But we put you on notice today—so do we.”
Beck, who recently told the Jerusalem Post that he’s losing money on “Restoring Courage,” announced that he would soon be launching a “global movement” and a non-profit arm of his company. (Those might be one and the same.)
Before that, however, Beck said he was taking his show on the road. His first stop would be Cape Town, South Africa. His agenda: “To remind the world what apartheid really looked like.”