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Who is Glenn Beck? Rally adds to his mystique.

A day after the Glenn Beck rally in Washington, the media was stumped by who the real Glenn Beck was and how he had motivated thousands of Americans Saturday.

By Staff writer / August 30, 2010

Glenn Beck speaks at the 'Restoring Honor' rally in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington Saturday.

Alex Brandon/AP

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This Sunday, apparently, no one knew who Glenn Beck was.

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The "Chris Matthews Show" on NBC had a roundtable panel discussion about the man who claimed to be “restoring honor” in America, with panelists delving into Mr. Beck’s character as though he were lying on a couch in front of them.

Fox’s Chris Wallace, who works in the same office as Beck, marveled that he still doesn’t “know" who Beck is.

And ABC’s Rick Klein called his power to attract audiences “the most potent political force in American life today” – even though Beck suggested his rally was not about politics.

Why all the confusion?

Granted, Beck casting the event in a religious light caused for some scratching of heads. But whatever the motivation for the rally, the result was hardly unfamiliar to Beck-watchers.

Beck, after all, is no cipher. He is on television no fewer than five times a week, and during those five hours of head shaking and finger-wagging, he is not exactly shy about sharing his opinion.

And the Beck who brought thousands of Americans – 65,000 or 650,000? – to the National Mall Saturday is no more or less than what he is at 5 p.m. nightly on Fox News: The voice of the conservative, middle class, and red-tinted core of the country, which sees in America’s future only increasing cause for alienation – illegal immigration, more entitlement programs, and a perceived decay of America’s sense of rugged individualism.

The Sunday post-mortems, then, had some savor either of triumph or panic at Beck's success. It was like that scene from “Little Shop of Horrors” when the hapless Seymour wakes up to find his innocuous little plant has grown monstrous and taken over the entire greenhouse. Saturday was Beck’s greenhouse, and the entire country was made to watch.

'Gripping television'

With Fox's Mr. Wallace, Beck was given the platform to further add to his mystique as a conservative talisman. For critics, though, it was a spectacle as upsetting as it was surprising.

Time’s Joe Klein decreed that Beck was a “paranoid lunatic who is a great entertainer, and he is exploiting something that always happens in our country when the economy is bad and when we are at war.” Cue clips of World War II internment camps for Japanese-Americans and tales of German-speaking Americans being beaten up by fellow Americans.

It was, however, “gripping television,” said the BBC’s Katty Kay on the "Chris Matthews" roundtable, expressing no doubts as to the rally's political purpose.

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