Zaitchik's crowded reading at Brookline Booksmith this past Thursday attracted just a single outspoken critic. Considering how horrified local lefties were by that unhinged gadfly's attack on Zaitchik's facts, I can only hope they turned to cable news for comforting accounts of what transpired in the capital. My observations are too foul for them to handle.
Here in DC, some anti-Beck operatives have set up an impressive art installation and counter-rally on the Mall to (actually) honor King. Their protest consists of broadcasting the reverend's speech and a cute black children's choir — but passing Beckheads heckle them as uninvited pests.
For the record, Beck's supporters aren't all white. There are more black people here to cheer Beck than the left would like to think — and far less than Tea Partiers cite in defending themselves against charges of racism.
Critics make the point that some in this crowd aren't here for Beck, but rather they're confused tourists who share the Tea Party's affection for fanny packs. Regardless, I'm stunned by the militia chic milieu; in my eyes, flocks of self-labeled patriots shouldering folded red, white, and blue lawn chairs like shotguns is a chilling sight. More sinister are the monied underwriters, wearing Ralph Lauren flag threads, who leave the safety of their VIP enclosure to check up on the peasants.
I'm especially amazed by how docile these so-called independent activists are; from what I can tell, they left their signs at home because Beck told them to. According to advanced literature: "The Restoring Honor Rally is neither a 9/12 nor a Tea Party rally . . . Please refrain from bringing signs (political or otherwise) as they may deter from the peaceful message we are bringing to Washington . . . There will be absolutely no politics involved." A park ranger tells me that he's had to inform numerous Fox groupies that protesters are legally allowed to hold signs despite Beck's directives.
Following some song and prayer, Beck's first high-profile "non-political" guest is Sarah Palin, who is here not as a failed vice-presidential candidate or gubernatorial quitter, but instead as the mother of a combat veteran. Though I watch both Beck and Palin's speeches closely, I'm not sure what the fuck either is talking about, which I suppose helps me assimilate. This is not a thinking bunch; the joy with which they embrace Beck's pious bombast is an indicator, but I settle any doubt on that matter when they don't boo Palin for announcing that we all came for no reason: "Though this rally is about restoring honor for these men and women," she says, inexplicably, "honor was never lost."
Playing the crowd, I notice dozens of folks queuing at the first toilet cluster on the Mall that people see when walking toward the action from the Washington Monument. Knowing from experience that there are rows of available potties nearby, I announce to everyone on line that they can promptly relieve themselves at the next bathroom bank. But not a single one of them has enough strength to break from the group, and they all stay waiting together with their knees knocking. Translation: if and when Beck directs his cattle into battle, you should hide in your bathroom. And if Palin tells them to reload, well, let's not go there.