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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.

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Beck is “appealing to a broader section of the American public that feels that it needs to put a check on the administration," she said. "If we see a big Republican turnout in November, it's going to be partly not because people are loving Republicans but because they will do anything to check the power that is there.”

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Ms. Kay had company in questioning Beck's motives. “Beck's claim that his rally is not political is laughable,” says Matthew Hale, a political scientist at Seton Hall University, in an e-mail.

Political echoes

But is there something inherently wrong with that? Longtime journalist Donald Mazzella, who covered the Rev. Martin Luther King’s speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial 47 years ago, says in an e-mail: “Rallies of this sort always have a political element attached."

"The original march was as much political as social and clearly galvanized a whole generation of activists and political activity,” he adds.

Beck’s role today is to galvanize the other side of the political spectrum, Mr. Mazzella says, adding, "There seems to be a questioning of the Tea Party attendance, when the real question is: Why are so many apparently middle class people so concerned?”

So, does the media think like Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) of California, who said: “They can’t be protesters, they’re too well dressed”? Does a protest have to be liberal to be legitimate in their eyes?

Writer and book critic Antoinette Kuritz, who says she has in the past voted both sides of political tickets, thinks so.

People are trying to figure out Beck “because of the way his influence has grown. Arguably, he will impact more voters than MTV or Bono or Alec Baldwin or even Oprah. And he is not espousing liberal causes."

"Glenn Beck has made a point: The people are rejecting the paternalism of this administration, of [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi in particular," she says by e-mail. "They are tired of being told what is good for them, of having legislation thrust upon them with which they disagree. The people want a louder voice. They want to be heard. And, if necessary, they will band together until they are.”

Religion and politics

The packaging of the event in religious overtones, however, caused discomfort in some quarters.

“What is interesting to me is that Beck seems to see a benefit in cloaking his politics in religion, as if that somehow makes him safer and less threatening," says Mr. Hale, the political scientist. "It is as if he is arguing that religion is above the fray of messy and ugly politics.”

“The danger of Mr. Beck's claim that he is focused on religion is that he is attempting to define being a 'good Christian' with a host of other values that have nothing to do with a person's faith," he adds. "There are religiously observant people in all faiths who would actually call themselves politically liberal, yet Mr. Beck seeks to deny that as a possibility.”


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