The Overton Window: Chapter Twelve

Pencils down.

Okay, so how did you do? I asked last chapter if anyone could guess what exciting thing would happen next. Did any of you guess "Another speech"? If so, give yourself a Twinkie, because you're a winner! Yes, this is the third chapter in a row with a speech by one of the characters. Will the thrills never cease? That was rhetorical. Well, maybe not rhetorical so much as sarcastic.

Noah hopes to be ignored, but Bailey zeroes right in on him. "Well, well, well. Looks like we've got a junior ambassador from the Ivy League among us." Yeah, damn elite! Who invited him anyway?

He's coaxed up on stage by Bailey. "I doubt if you can tell us much about the Constitution or the Founding Fathers, but maybe you can enlighten us with a little racist, communist wisdom from a real hero ... like Che Guevara."

Che Guevara was a racist? That's not rhetorical. Really, if someone knows, please drop a link in comments.

Noah finishes his beer and takes to the stage. And for three pages explains how the teabaggers will never, ever win. They are correct in their paranoid conspiracy theories, but that isn't going to help them any.

"I want to start off by saying," Noah began, adjusting his voice to make the most of the sound system, "that because of my job I'm in a unique position to know for certain that most of what's been said here tonight is absolutely true."

The crowd quieted down considerably upon hearing this, as he'd assumed they would.

"Let me see if I can confirm some of the speculation from earlier speakers ... The Federal Reserve isn't federal at all: you're right, it's basically a privately owned bank, a cartel that loans you your own money at interest, and its creation was the beginning of the end of the free-market system."

I mentioned back in chapter three that I really did not understand the Darthur character. Half of what he said was pure Beckian philosophy, and the other half was Beck's paranoid fears. But now I've got it figured out. Of course, this should have been obvious from page one, but maybe I was being overly optimistic with the writing here.

Darthur and Molly and Noah and Danny and every other person in this thriller isn't really a character at all. They are certainly not fleshed out in any meaningful way. But it's not just lazy writing. No, the characters are here not to move the story along, to develop, to interact with one another, but to mouth Beck's words, to impart his paranoid worldview like puppets in some weird Libertarian Guignol.

"The United States was built to run on individual freedom, that's true, but because you've let these control freaks have their way with it for almost a hundred years, your country now runs on debt. Today Goldman Sachs is the engine, and in case you haven't realized it yet, the American people are nothing but the fuel."

See what I mean? That's just Beck. It doesn't read at all like a character who just pages ago claimed that "talking politics" was "kind of a waste of time." Noah continues:

The Committee of Three Hundred exists. And the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Bilderberg Group, the Trilateral Commission, the Club of Rome—they all exist. And they are globalists; they're wealthy and powerful beyond anything you can imagine. All of them together really do run things in this world, just like you say they do. There's nothing secret about those societies, though. No hidden conspiracies: they do what they do right out in the open.

Oh my! That paragraph is a conspiracy theorist's wet dream. I think though, the Trilateral Commission reference is a bit dated. Weren't they super spooky back in the Eighties? Well, I guess there can't be a Facebook-quality reference on every page. Relevance is hard, you guys!

The thing I really love about the Noah character is how he serves to legitimize Beck's paranoid theories. He's the inside man that confirms all the horrible things the teabaggers believe is going on are really true. Because the New World Order is one PR campaign away from success: "The place where I work is where all the secrets get told, because they have to tell us their secrets before we can hide them." Okay then.

Then Beck and Noah lay out for the teabaggers their main problem: Their public image:

Noah pointed out a particularly hefty man near the bar.

"Can everybody read what it says on this guy's T-shirt? Turn around so we can see it, big guy; be proud of it. It says, 'Born in the Jew S A.'

"If he's not already an infiltrator or an agent provocateur, then your enemies should hire him immediately. With him standing next to you, who'd ever believe a word you say? At every rally you hold, if you're lucky enough to get the press to cover you at all, he's the one guy who'll get his picture on the front page. If you want to know why you can't get any traction with the other ninety-seven percent of America, it's because you let yourselves be lumped in with people like that."

Fringe elements, the smallest of minorities in the movement, you see, are all that the press will cover. "If you're lucky enough to get the press to cover you at all." Heh. Yeah, I hate how there is rarely mention of teabaggers on the news. If only they had their own news network.

I also love how the idea that the man in the anti-Semitic (is that what it is?) T-shirt may be an agent provocateur. Nevermind that Noah just claimed he could spot an infiltrator without even trying. Beck wants everyone to believe that the particularly scary elements of the teabagger movement are all secretly liberal agents trying to besmirch the good names of the true patriots. Yeah, okay.

Noah points out that "name-calling also works like a charm" too, another trick of the leftist news.

"There's a Birther, and a Truther, two Paulites, a John Bircher, a Freeper, a white supremacist, a pothead, three tea-partiers, and that guy there is the jackpot: a Holocaust denier. From there it's easy to roll you all up together so that no one in their right mind would want to join you. Why would they? According to the network news, you're all borderline-insane, ignorant, paranoid, uneducated, hate-mongering, tinfoil-hat-wearing, racist conspiracy theorists.

If I may point out something: Labelling someone a white supremacist isn't exactly name-calling. Neither is calling someone a Holocaust denier. That's just correctly identifying someone based on their beliefs. Also, "three tea-partiers"? I thought they were all tea-partiers. Now I am so confused. I did, however, like the shoutout to the Freepers. Of course, do I need to note that Freepers is name they've adopted for themselves? I don't think Beck gets this whole name-calling thing.

"There's no respect for you in Washington. They laugh at you. You say you want a revolution? That Constitution the lady was holding up a while ago? It gives you the power to revolt at every single election. Do you realize that in a couple of weeks every last seat in the U.S. House of Representatives will be up for grabs? And the presidency? And one-third of the Senate seats?

"The approval rating for Congress is somewhere around fifteen percent. You could turn the tables and put them all out of a job on that one day."

Again with the mention of the upcoming presidential election. Is this 2008? 2012? 2004? Oh, nevermind, that can't be important, can it? Forget I even asked.

And that's that, essentially. Noah says if anyone wants to punch his lights out, he'll be out front waiting for a cab. Oy.

Did you follow all that? Teabagging patriots are right, there is a conspiracy, but the fringe elements, who may be leftist agitators, are delegitimizing the movement, and the only way to achieve legitimacy and advance the cause, to reclaim the country, is to disassociate the movement from those undesirable elements.

So, yeah, that was Noah's speech. I got tingles just reading it. I didn't really. Now Noah wanders off stage and bumps into Beverly.

"That was quite a speech you gave, and on such short notice," she said.

"Yeah," Noah said. "I've got a gift. Look, I didn't mean any disrespect—"

"You don't have to apologize to me." Her face was kind, her eyes intelligent and alight with that same inscrutable glint that had hooked him so hopelessly during his brief time in her daughter's company. "I think we might have more in common than you realize."

Noah may have something in common with these patriots after all. How nice! And that glint in Beverly's eyes? Awesome. Totally awesome.

Things are about to take a turn now, dear readers. And I want you to be prepared for it. It so ridiculous, so obvious, so by-the-numbers, one would not even consider it a possibility. It's just too absurd to actually happen. But then, this is Glenn Beck's fantasy, and absurdity is what he strives for.

Back in my last post I asked if anyone could guess what exciting thing would happen next, right? Did anyone say "cops in riot gear raid the bar"? If you did, give yourself a Twinkie and a Ho-Ho, because that is some insightful shit you're working right now. Yes, the Stars 'n Stripes is flooded with truncheon-wielding goons who proceed to rough up the patriots.

Noah attempts to leave the pub, but spots some shifty looking goons near the entrance. He makes for the fire-exit. He tries to pull Beverly along with him, but she is lost in the throng of teabaggers. And then:

To describe the next few seconds as a blur would make it seem as if the ensuing events were jumbled together or indistinct, and they were far from that. They passed in something like slow motion, like those graceful shots of a drop of milk splashing into a cereal bowl or a rifle bullet cutting edge-to-edge through a playing card at twenty thousand frames per second. But the trade-off for all that visual clarity was a complete inability to act; Noah could see everything, but do nothing.

I am not a professional writer by any means. And I do understand that to write effectively takes a fair amount of skill, if not some modicum of talent. I imagine writing something truly suspenseful take a mastery of language far beyond that which I possess. Which makes me wonder why Beck didn't hire a ghostwriter with those skills. To say this book lacks thrills is an understatement, and that's problematic, since the words "A Thriller" appear on the cover right under the title.

A slate-gray pistol appeared in a man's hand nearby—a man whom Molly had pointed out earlier as a newer member of her organization. The weapon was drawn down and level toward the stage. There was a flash, and the sonic pressure of a firecracker or the popping of a paper bag too near his ear, and then another, over and over as the crowd surged away from the gunman. The rising sounds of panic, a shower of glass and white sparks as a spotlight shattered in its mount above the stage, the back door banging open, the rush of black-suited officers storming in, a sudden stinging odor like a mist of Tabasco and bug spray, a loud commotion at the far end of the room as another squad in riot gear burst in.

Noah sees Hollis on the floor, victim of a tazering. A "a nearby man-in-black" raises his club to bash in Hollis' head. (And if I may interrupt, I thought Beck and his ilk loved cops. What gives?) It's here that Noah's transformation begins. It starts in an instant:

As the black truncheon swung down Noah reached up and caught the uniformed man by the wrist, stopping him cold with an unexpectedly steely grip toned over years with his personal trainer at the Madison Square Club. It's true what they say: you just never know when all those pull-ups are going to come in handy.

There was no struggle. The other man locked eyes with him, their faces a hand's width apart. Perhaps the man was in the midst of a defining moment of his own. At first he looked surprised, and then incredulous, and then—despite the impressive array of armaments swinging from his belt and the three additional troopers already rushing to his rescue—he looked afraid.

Noah, and the chapter, quickly fades to black, as the truncheon blows rain down on his head.

Shakesville is run as a safe space. First-time commenters: Please read Shakesville's Commenting Policy and Feminism 101 Section before commenting. We also do lots of in-thread moderation, so we ask that everyone read the entirety of any thread before commenting, to ensure compliance with any in-thread moderation. Thank you.

blog comments powered by Disqus