Drawn as I am to all things Beckian (not the least of which is the absurdist beauty of his rhetoric), it was only a matter of time before an inner voice compelled me to write about his latest foray into alternate reality: his plan to create an entire utopian community ironically named “Independence.”
For those of you who haven’t yet heard about this, watch the clip below, in which Beck describes his vision for a Disney-Stepford hybrid that encompasses what he refers to as “patterns” (whatever that means):
Independence has a “front gate” based on Ellis Island, and an immediately accessible marketplace (which Beck refers to, scarily, as “Galt’s Gulch”), a place where you’ll find no Gap, no Ann Taylor, and which will apparently be filled with products created by “dreamers” (though I assume said marketplace will only carry certain kinds of appropriately patriotic products).
In addition, the community will supposedly reward hard work in that strangely honored, Galtian, sort of way, and will likely be (I’m guessing) full of Constitutionally protected weaponry.
Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?
Here, Jon Stewart gives us his impressions of Independence, using his always brilliant ability to deconstruct words, images, and ideas:
The entire project is baked in irony. Glenn Beck, the exemplar of pure libertarian principle, has designed a place in which free-market capitalism is not allowed, which has a gated entrance to restrict the flow of people in and out, and which will operate as a planned community with rigid rules and regulations. Independence will be a place that inherently insists on a certain foundational allegiance to designated principles, ones that Beck decides on and promotes. It strikes me as an eerie combination of 1960s communal experimentation, Skinnerian utopianism, right-wing paranoia, and a Randian wet dream, all rolled up into a package designed by someone who reminds me more of Curly than an intellectual leader whose world-view might actually entice others.
And let’s not forgot the indoctrination that comes with admission. Beck suggests that
[b]efore you send your kids to college, you come to us. And you spend a week with us. We’re gonna tell them exactly, we will show them the truth, we will tell them what they’re going to try to do, and we will deprogram them every summer, if you care.
Wow. I wonder if they’ll have uniforms. And if they’ll march.
I give him props for creativity, though; his “American Dream Labs” has effectively created an entirely new ideology, one that blends full-on right-wing libertarian extremism, Ayn Rand’s egoism, and a communal approach to living and working for the greater good of all. Sort of a right-wing communism, if you will. Truly brilliant.
Initial estimates put the project’s cost at something north of $2 billion, a number that even Beck must find daunting. So it’s unlikely that Independence will ever get built. (And let’s not forget, too, that he would still have to declare Independence inside an American landscape that has its own rules and regulations, including things like equal opportunity and free markets. I can practically hear the attorneys at Ann Taylor preparing their briefs as we speak.)
But the project itself may not be the point. Beck’s never been about the doing as much as the saying; the self-proclaimed rodeo clown has built his career on the outlandish. Remember: this is the guy who once put a gerbil in a bank tube just for fun and fooled hundreds of people into searching for a non-existent theme park supposedly opening under the D.C. beltway, all before he suddenly discovered that political hyperbole was intensely profitable. So the reality or non-reality of this vision is likely moot; instead, what is relevant is the reaction to it by the millions of people who hang on to Beck’s every word, who internalize his worldview, who hear just enough of what their supposedly reluctant yet authoritarian leader wants them to hear…
Perhaps, after all, there is nothing really new here. In researching this essay, I came across an interesting definition that seems to sum up what Glenn Beck’s so-called Independence is really all about:
…an authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization…a governmental system led by someone having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism….
That definition attaches to a word we should all truly fear….
It’s important also to remember that Beck is only one of many out there, people with microphones and manipulation on their minds, people whose lives are divorced from any of the realities most of us live in yet continually try to convince us that they are “one of us,” people whose primary motivations seem to be ambition and profit. Beck’s persona may be the most articulate, the grandest, the most carefully wrought, but he is not alone.
It’s not Beck’s Independence we need, but our own.