In the 1982 film Blade Runner, Rutger Hauer plays a replicant (human clone) who returns to Earth from an extraterrestrial labor colony to find what all humans want – more life. In a climactic scene with Harrison Ford he tries to convey the depth of his passion for life saying that “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.” His character’s name is Roy Batty. And batty would certainly describe Glenn Beck’s latest hallucinatory escapade in pursuit of demonizing progressives. He too is seeing things, and yes, we don’t believe it. [See Beck's previous Messianic Delusions]
“I’m trying to show you the things that seem to be hidden but they’re not. They are out in plain sight. Those with eyes will not see and those with ears will not hear. You’re awake. You need to see the things that are hidden in plain sight.”
Those with fingers will not touch and those with feet will not smell. If only some of those with tongues did not speak.
Beck has used his divine vision to reveal the evidence of Satan’s secret seeds. Planted amongst us are the vile devices of communists and fascists meant to steal our thoughts and sway our allegiances to the dark side. And what are these tricks of the netherworld’s master? They are paintings and sculptures and other works by history’s subversives – the artists! These mental traps were set decades ago by devious social perverts with a century long plot and an abundance of patience.
In this sermon (captured on YouTube), Beck associates the evil artists with their patron, Rockefeller. Unfortunately, he doesn’t specify which one. In fact, he jumps around to several of them without making any distinction. It’s as if they were all incarnations of the same demon spirit. Was Beck referring to John D. Rockefeller, Sr., the ultra-capitalist business maven who founded Standard Oil? Or was it his son, the real estate magnate who built Rockefeller Center? Or was it Nelson, who was the Republican Governor of New York and Vice President of the United States? Or was it Jay, the current Senator from West Virginia? No matter. In Beck’s mind, they were all socialist stooges.
Beck begins his unveiling with a denouncement of a relief at the entrance to Rockefeller Center. The work shows two men on either side of the doors. Beck tells us that one is holding a hammer, and the other a sickle. Ergo communism! It’s right there in plain sight. Except that the first man is actually holding a shovel according to the historians curating the Center’s artwork. The figures were meant to represent the strength of America’s industry and agriculture, which I’m sure Beck views as treasonous.
Then Beck focuses on a bas relief carving by Italian American sculptor Attilio Piccirilli called Youth Leading Industry. Beck’s interpretation of this work centers on his theory that the artist, and thus the work, were avowedly fascist. Beck asserts that a strong male figure in the piece is Mussolini. Whether or not that’s true, and there is some debate, it is illustrative of Beck’s dementia that he can jump from warnings about progressives being communists to progressives being fascists without taking a breath. In the real world, Mussolini was a bitter foe of Stalin and vice versa. And the artwork itself is simply heralding a young, creative, and prosperous America. Another subversive concept in Beck’s mind.
Turning to a more conventional subject matter for art, Beck finds fault with a biblical representation of the verse regarding turning swords into plowshares. I’m not even sure what Beck’s complaint is here, but he’s upset about something. Perhaps it just has to do with the fact that there is another swords/plowshares sculpture on the grounds of the United Nations. And the site for the U.N. was donated by – Rockefeller. Obviously there’s something sinister in there somewhere. I also like Beck’s explanation for why he keeps his own sculpture depicting the swords and plowshares. It isn’t because of the message of a peace delivered by God. It’s because it reminds him that something beautiful (the statue) can come from someplace ugly (Russia). Evidently he has never heard Tchaikovsky or seen Chagall or read Dostoyevsky.
The next piece for which Beck provides his striking analysis is a painting by renowned Mexican artist Diego Rivera. Beck is concerned by the presence of people like Stalin and Lenin in the artwork. The funny thing about this hypothesis is that the painting Beck is reviewing doesn’t exist at Rockefeller Center. Beck is reviewing a version of the painting that Rockefeller rejected because of his objection to the very iconography that Beck is pointing out. Rockefeller had commissioned a work from a draft that did not contain those elements. Yet Beck still blames him for the piece he had thrown out. And, of course, it is not one of those works of propaganda that Beck said is hidden in plain sight. Unless you’re walking around Mexico City.
For Glenn Beck to set himself up as an art critic/historian is funnier than anything Monty Python ever thought up. While his interpretations lack any knowledge of the subject, they are jam-packed with paranoid fantasies that would make David Berkowitz’ dog shudder. And Beck is the only one who can see any of it. He’s the only one who can see that Rockefeller (whichever one) was not a capitalist captain of industry at all, but a clandestine communist (or was it fascist) revolutionary. He is the only one who can see the coded symbols in the wicked artwork.
Beck has just recently recognized the malicious power of art as propaganda. He took on the National Endowment for the Arts for holding a tele-conference with artists for the purpose of promoting public service and volunteerism. Now I actually would have agreed with him that that may be outside the mandate of the NEA, but his manic distortions of reality make it impossible to even tangentially agree with anything that comes out of his warped brain. If he regards an initiative to boost the Peace Corps as a dangerous example of propaganda, how can he be taken seriously?
Rightist demagogues have long feared the power of artistic expression. In January of 2003, shortly before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Colin Powell assembled the media at the United Nations to comment on his presentation in support of war. But before the media arrived, the tapestry of Picasso’s masterpiece, Guernica, was covered by a blue drape. A press conference to discuss launching an unprecedented war of aggression could not be held in front of one of the twentieth century’s most moving anti-war statements. The symbolism of literally throwing a blanket over this representation of truth is unmistakable.
But Beck is not demystifying art, he is attacking it. He is assigning false intentions to the artists and their work. He is denigrating these long-respected icons of free expression and celebrations of American prosperity and spirit. And worst of all, Beck is virtually inviting his disciples to do harm to these works, or any others in which they imagine horrors lurking. He is no better than the Taliban mullahs who destroyed the Buddhas of Bamyan, giant statues in Afghanistan that were over 1,500 years old.
If Mullah Omar had a show on the Taliban Fox Network he would have been making the same sort of claims about the Buddhas that Beck is making about this art. Hopefully Americans are more tolerant than the Afghans that allowed Omar to blow up the Buddhas. And hopefully they are smarter than Beck and his congregation of glassy-eyed followers who wouldn’t know art if it was right in front of them everyday – like the over 100 works commissioned for Rockefeller Center.