Imaginary Assassins

I missed this earlier, but another of Glenn Beck’s Saturday stunts rips from the classic annals of demagoguery:

Making a show of fear for one’s own safety dramatically conjures the specter of enemies, even if they don’t actually exist. This was, again, a stunt used to great effect by Augustus after he assumed sole mastery of Rome. When minting new Senators, to underscore the still-fresh memory of his adopted father’s death at the Body’s hands, and (by some interpretations) keep anger at the Senate alive, thus deferring the Republic’s restoration, the princeps conspicuously wore mail under his tunic, carried a sword, and was followed by bodyguards. See Suetonius, De Vita Caesarium, “Divi Augustus,” XXXV. That the demure father of his fatherland could still fear for his safety, after all the good he’d done, made the point better than any actual assassin could.

Similarly, Beck’s decision to flaunt his bulletproof vest speaks to paranoia and persecution but omits any reasonable basis to believe it, or a credible threat, exists. The classier — but riskier move — is to trust. One searches history in vain for any record of Obama, or any American president, wearing a bulletproof vest.  Rumors that 44 wore a suit laced with bulletproof cloth are just that, and underscore rather than refute the point.

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8 comments

  1. I’m curious as to how many Glen Beck / Roman posts there will be this week. Must be some kind of new project.

  2. The consistency of demagoguery through the ages is interesting though, isn’t it?

    1. Sure – what I am a bit more interested in though is what cultural forces came together to put that many people in DC for that event. WTF is going on that makes him so appealing?

  3. I think this post answers the question, obliquely, or implies the answer. A wide swath of the population feels hegemony slipping away from them — and that’s not bad, but engenders feelings of persecution and paranoia. Aside from validating those concerns, Beck gives them a chance to reclaim a feeling of power, and nothing says that like a huge prayer rally in the nation’s capital.

    1. I can’t dispute that. Wouldn’t you say though that at this point it’s almost transcending politics? I mean, they are targeting Republicans and Democrats alike.

      1. It may transcend Party, but it doesn’t transcend politics. Sure, Democrats are easy as the opposition, but the take down of Republicans is just a continuation of the orthodoxy tests that began with the 2006 mid-terms. The public face of the Republican Party is now all about (or so it seems) allowing the Tea Party to enforce ideological purity. Its ironic to me that the Republican used to blast dictatorial “communist” regimes for doing the same thing.

        1. Looking at he larger picture though – I consider this a good debate for the Party. The Right has always been less ideologically-diverse than the Left, for better or for worse. But interestingly enough, we seem to be more willing to have these internal squabbles over the nuances of conservative thought. So we have a big dustup right now and I have no doubt the dust will have settled by 2012 and we’ll get behind one candidate. If the TP outlook on things wins the debate, some of us will have to move on (count me on that list). But I don’t think it will. What I HOPE will happen is that mainstream conservatives will start to emphasize those most important of conservative principles and diffuse the anger we see in TP crowds. That will bleed off a lot of their support. What’s left is the wingnuts and we’ll always be stuck with them.

  4. I wish I had a ballistic vest, but they’re damn expensive.

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