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Glenn Beck puts on his tin-foil art critic's hat -- again

August 28, 2010 |  3:07 pm

Beck Chip Somodevilla Getty Images
Glenn Beck brought his traveling demagoguery circus to the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, and in the process restored, if not honor (as the religiously inspired political event was billed), then at least his reputation as a slippery and ill-informed art historian-slash-critic.

Last year it was nutty conspiracy theories about Diego Rivera's mural for New York's Rockefeller Center, plus his unwitting use of historically socialist and Communist graphic motifs for the logo of his so-called "9-12 project," both promoted on Beck's Fox News television show. This time it was an erroneous -- and unintentionally very funny -- take on the design of the Washington Monument in the center of the National Mall.

Pointing to the place about 150 feet up the Egyptian-style obelisk, where the color of the stone suddenly changes, Beck gravely exhorted the crowd to note the "scar" on the founding president's memorial. It happened, he said, when construction was halted for the national trauma of the Civil War -- the apparent implication being that Saturday's rally would perform some necessary plastic surgery on race-related social divisions splitting the country.

Well, close but no cigar. In fact the "scar" predates the Civil War.

Beck 3 monument KAREN BLEIER AFPGetty Images Work on the long-planned Washington memorial was finally launched during the presidency of James K. Polk, a Democrat, in 1848. Costs for building blocks were being sponsored by citizens, states, territories, foreign dignitaries and others. But after six years of work, and long before completion (almost 30 years later), funds largely dried up. Construction didn't take place during the War Between the States, but it had already long-since stopped -- in 1854, six years before South Carolina seceded from the Union and nearly seven years before Confederates opened fire on Fort Sumter.

When building ceased, a private group of political activists grabbed the project's reins -- but they promptly made a huge mess of things. Among other problems, they were rabid anti-Catholic nativists, religious fanatics who believed only native-born Americans should hold any public office. They stoked popular fears that waves of Irish and German immigrants were overwhelming the United States.

When Pope Pius IX donated a building stone from the Temple of Concord in Rome for the restarted Washington Monument project, the activists had it destroyed. Through in-fighting, ideological division and bursts of election-related violence, the group fell apart after two years The shoddy work they had done on the monument had to be removed. Hence the "scar" we see today.

What were these hardy exemplars of fear-mongering religious nativism called? The Know-Nothing movement -- all of which might help to explain Beck's heartfelt misdirection to the crowd.

--Christopher Knight, Times art critic

Follow @twitter.com/KnightLAT

Photos: Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally; Credit: Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images; Washington Monument; Credit: Karen Bleier, AFP/Getty Images; Martin Luther King "I Have a Dream speech; Credit: AFP/Getty Images

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Comments () | Archives (60)

Interesting that such a wonderful, peaceful and insightful rally attended by what appears to be around as low as 250k and as high as possibly 500k is angering people???

Seems the only one angered are the progressives and liberals as they see the people of the United States wakng up and coming together in all races, credes, colors and religions to celebrate the greatness of the country and to stop being victims and what a wonderful day to do it on as this is not a black day, it is a human day for civil rights is for ALL humans, white and black alike, MLK's speech was not a black only speech and the fact that Pres. Linclon was white and Republican does not make the Lincoln Memorial a white Republican place. Today was a celebration of humans, of love and God and peace, to say it was anything else is to show that those who claim it to be anything else are words of hate coming from the haters themselves because they fear the Godless progressive agenda has failed and Americans are finding their hearts, their love, their God and their respect for all once again. God bless America!

It's a good thing this "comment" is in the Entertainment section - it certainly gave me a good laugh. Of all the events that happened today at the Restoring Honor event, you chose this one comment to dissect? Was there nothing else that stirred you or gave you pause to consider your own values and honor? Was there no individual's speech or the surroundings or any moment of positive value throughout the day that meant more to you? If not, I have great sympathy for you and for all those who read your negative, nit-picking writing. Why not consider writing something positive sometime? It might surprise your readers and cleanse your soul.

What a lame hack job. The construction was stopped seven years prior to the beginning of the civil war---but the turmoil that was leading up to that war was a primary reason there was no more construction until after the war. So says no lesser authority than the National Park Service: " lack of funds, political turmoil, and uncertainty about the survival of the American Union caused the intermittent hiatus." http://bit.ly/Pduqt

The imagery Beck invoked is well within the facts of history.

You hate Glenn Beck, but this was just a propaganda piece where you wished to demonstrate how smart you are compared to the nutcase Beck---the problem is you were not all that smart

Demagoguery circus? Really? The content of this "article" is the best you can do? The event raised $5 million for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. Why don't you stop being a Beck hater for about 5 minutes (or maybe forever) and realize that this event was to honor America and the brave men and women who sacrifice their lives, their minds, and their bodies to protect our freedom and our country. Maybe if you would spend more time in a VA hospital and less time on Wikipedia you could write something that would actually be profound.

I read the detailed history in this article. Then i checked 3 different sites online and one book on monuments in D.C.

Each says the work was delayed when money ran out in 1854 and then the civil war. When work was continued the stone from the original quarry was not available thus the 2 shades of the monument.

I am sure an intellectual elitist would find the authors answer more detailed than Mr. Beck's but I hardly find the latter to be false or ill informed. I like it when those who feel superior talk down about Beck and others as it enrages the majority of Americans when the do so. Most feel the professional left spends their time feeling above the masses and not just talking down to us but looking down at us as well.

I am sure this posting can be picked apart by an English major, so be it. The people I am writing to understand everything I said and they vote.

Hey loyal Beckites: in the words of Moynihan, "You are entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts."

CK is pointing out is that Beck is making things up as he goes along. What you are proving by your doggish defense is that you enjoy the lies. I suppose when you get inured to them when that's the main staple of your diet.

Left wing propaganda with a deminished voice; enjoy it while you can as your days are numbered.

What a pitiful, hateful, ignorant, leftist piece of crap for an article. It's no wonder the newspapers are in trouble around the country, but this is the worst I've seen so far. I wouldn't subscribe or pay for the L.A. Times if someone gave me the money.

I would ask this author to call Glenn and ask to be on the show, but since you didn't have the guts to identify yourself, I'm sure you don't have the guts to face Glenn Beck.

Who cares when the scar was. What a petty little stupid remark to try to demean someone. All you did was demean yourself.

Oh, great, the author that didn't have the guts to post its name has to approve our comments. Isn't that kind of like the fox guarding the chicken house?

LA Tymes
You really don't get it.
And it amazes me you will continue to miss-understand what AMERICA is and can be.
I'll see you at the baracades. And we'll all see you in the museum.

Hey isnt this the place where Forest Gump found his Jenny, finally some body dumber than Forest Gump came to the monument Glen Beck.

A sincere question for those who agree with Beck: I have a hard time understanding your thinking process about what, from my perspective, are frequent misrepresentations of history broadcast by Beck (or by David Barton, who is endorsed by Beck), many of them far more egregious than this "scar" thing. I would appreciate any help you can give me in understanding your reasoning.

I didn't hear Beck make the claim C. Knight writes about, but nobody seems to dispute that he said something to the effect that the changing color of stone on the monument is a "scar" brought about by the civil war. The historical facts indicate that the monument's construction stopped six years before the first state made a move that would lead, ultimately, to civil war, and that the reason construction ceased had to do with fundraising problems and an anti-Catholic political party that hijacked the project and bungled it--nothing to do with the as-yet-unknown civil war. (It is true that they didn't make any progress on the monument during the war years, or for some years after, but that hardly makes the civil war the cause of the "scar.")

So my questions is: 1. Why isn't it correct to call this a misrepresentation on Beck's part (whether deliberate or an unintentional error)?

Of course, the main point of Knight's article, lost in the comments here, is to point out what he sees as a parallel between Beck and the "exemplars of fear-mongering religious nativism" who were the actual parties responsible for that "scar."

Dear angry commenters,

Learn to spell. It might help others take your hateful spewing more seriously.

Christopher, stick to art. You probably don't know anything about that either but you can attribute your obvious ignorance and bias in that to a simple difference of opinion. Here you are simply a left wing loon and make it plain for all to see.

Christopher, P.S.

It is buffoons like you that are accelerating the failure and intellectual/moral/factual bankruptcy of the MSM and our government. If the Times were wise, which they aren't, they would fire you, last week.

Now, now.

Give Mr. Knight a break. He has a Masters Degree from a public university and has only failed three times to win a Pulitzer. His work, exemplified here, is a triumphant redirection, celebration if you will, of his latent anger.

Courageously peering deeper into his psyche, via his online bio, we learn that he's also written " numerous exhibition catalog essays" and has an honorary Doctorate from some place in Georgia...

True, those accolades don't quite measure up to the knighting of Sir Elton John or Sir Mick Jagger, but still we should revere his online presence.

For reasons not immediately extractable, it all reminds me of a line from "Terms of Endearment:"

"I'm a nutritionist, and my husband's with Ticketron."

One day someone will ask him about the quality of his life and he'll honestly reflect that all he did was ruminate about people who actually mattered.

Until then...

I'm surprised Beck commentators actually *follow the arts* considering the best works come from the leftists you so hate.

Simple fact: The people who helped put the crack in the monument were people who did not want immigrants (then "the threat" being Irish and Germans).

The truth hurts. It is even more hurtful that instead of knowing art history, people are willing to blindly follow a man who would throw you under the bus if you even deviated from his current incorrect "opinions". Which seems as of today (unlike a few months ago) would be religious demagoguery for America. Where you are not a patriot at all if you sway even an iota from his current beliefs. Liberal soldier? Who cares? You are a *liberal*

Then again, this is the culture section. A cup of yogurt has more culture than Glen Beck's historical knowledge of of American Architecture. You see, that is the whole *point of this story* It's in the "Art Section" under "Culture" and...

Oh never mind. blah blah glen beck. blah blah libs. Whoop de doo fire him run him out on a rail...etc ad nauseum you hate America...blah blah yes I followed your directives and hid my misspelled Xenophobic signs and guns...who is Frank Lloyd Wright...a libby socialist? blah blah blah.

That convention of angry white people in Washington yesterday was a keeper for sure. Good thing I taped it on C-SPAN, I really must look at it again to be sure that I wasn't hallucinating.

And the theme: "Restoring honor to America". Wasn't that a hoot? Restoring the honor that was snatched away by Barack Obama? Really? These fools are actually nostalgic for George W. Bush. Well, they can breathe a sigh of relief. The American people (as of this writing anyway) appear hellbent on putting these silly people back in power on Election day. Let freedom ring.

Who would have dreamed that the election of a BLACK MAN would make so many people behave in such a weird and foolish manner? It truly was something to behold. Glenn Beck: This generation's Martin Loony King. Don'cha just love it?


Tom Degan

Spitting on politicians..
Yelling racial names at people...
Shouting down speakers at town hall meetings on HCR..
Yelling " You lie. " while the president speaks...
A SCJ shaking his head ' no 'while the president speaks..
Yelling and mocking a man with Parkinson disease...


I see the e-mail directives went out and all the neo-bloggers came out of the woodwork to write inspired "facts" to help muddy the point Mr. Knight was making.

Some of them even appeared to have Googled Mr. Knight's bio so they can invent some name calling. Inspirational.

And they found out about a new newspaper on the other side of the country! In a place called Los Angeles.

Keep throwing out the bait LA Times! Your comment section will soon have the same hate filled stink as the Washington Post.

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