The Coming Insurrection: Glenn Beck Deciphered

A geriatric army marched on Washington, D.C. today and tried to appropriate language long since deprived of its historic force: Glenn Beck is no freedom rider. The civil rights of the aggrieved white upper middle class don't carry the blood stain of centuries of slavery. That anyone would think the Tea Party's petite rage can fill the outsize wine skin of Martin Luther King's passionate rhetoric is obscene.

But some good did come of today's political theater. It highlights the extent to which old forms are dead. A restless and disconnected people don't know where to turn. So they turn to yesteryear's theater to adopt a role, a pose. Absent any compelling new narrative to capture their lingering sense of malaise, they turn to an irretrievable past. Can anything better and more poignantly reflect the extent to which American politics has become sound and fury signifying nothing?

There is a legitimation crisis in the United States. Our politics and politicians are morally bankrupt. Consider the lead paragraph in this morning's New York Times regarding New York Governor David Patterson: "A thoroughly honest politician has pretty much always been considered an undiscovered specimen." How easily we assume that to be a politician is to be a liar. And yet we prosecute the liars we elect without irony. Does anyone really believe the rhetoric of the political elite? I suspect few do. We expect them to lie, and so they do. We expect them to lie because we have little or no sense of a shared truth.

I stumbled upon a little book I urge all of you to read. Its author is unknown. It is called The Coming Insurrection. The book was published in the United States in 2009 by Semiotext(e), 2007 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 427, Los Angeles, CA 90057. The author is called, simply enough, The Invisible Committee. (The publisher's web site is

First published in France in 2007 as L'insurrection qui vient, the work is steeped in Sartrean and post-Marxian dialectic that makes for sometimes hard reading, especially in translation. Yet its assessment of a world in which politics and power are divorced from the
ordinary lives of people is compelling. "The business of voting and deciding a winner is enough to turn the assembly into a ... a theater where all the various little pretenders to power confront each other." Amen. Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Richard Blumenthal, Antonin Scalia, Barack Obama -- all tossing words into a void, hoping that something will stick. "From left to right, it's the same nothingness striking the pose of an emperor or a savior, the same sales assistants adjusting their discourse according to the findings of the latest surveys."

Politics, The Coming Insurrection argues, is passe. History doesn't end, institutions end. Their death sigh is observed in the widening gap between the rhetoric and reality of political life. Do we speak of freedom? "Freedom is no longer a name scrawled on walls, for today it is always followed, as if by its shadow, with the word 'security.'" What remains when rhetoric fails is the lived experience of those without rhetoric, possessing only the means, however limited, to act not in the name of mere survival, but in the joyous, almost Nietzschean spirit of overcoming. (I told you, the book is not easy.)

The dominant spirit of the age is the easy condescension of the raconteur: "[I]t's the eye-rolling or the wounded indignation at anyone who's stupid, primitive, or presumptuous enough to still believe in something, to affirm anything at all. You can see the dogmatism of constant questioning give its complicit wink of the eye everywhere in the universities and among the literary intelligentsia. No critique is too radical among postmodernist thinkers, so long as it maintains this total absence of certitude."

This is dangerous reading. The future, and there will be one, even its shape is not foreseeable, belongs to those who can find life and creative energy in new, as yet scarcely recognized forms. Think how troubling the world looked to the Roman elite in the late fifth century: there was new life in the manor and in the monastery, a life that had yet to emerge and be known.

What new form lingers in the shadow of our decay? Is this form the commune? "The commune is perhaps what gets decided at the very moment we would normally part ways. It's the joy of an encounter that survives its expected ends." Put another way, the commune is connection after the ends of utility have been served. I am reminded of Cicero's definition of a commonwealth: a collection of people bound together not just by common interests but also by a shared sense of right. New communes arise daily all around us. I observed one the other night in an after-dinner gathering of friends in a small-town restaurant: the people there rejoiced in one another's presence. Who rejoices any longer in a public forum?

The American Century has ended abroad, and the rhetoric of American politics no longer matches the lives of most Americans. Glenn Beck's play-acting appeals out of an act hunger that must be served. He is a caricature energized by forces seduced into playing at politics when politics no longer matters. But as the Sun sets tonight on Washington the loud clanging of Beck's mordant cymbals already grows faint.

The Coming Insurrection is a dangerous book. It is a centerpiece of the French prosecution of nine individuals accused of terrorism. Indeed, the French government has called it a manual for terrorism. It is no such thing. The Coming Insurrection is a simple book about dangerous times. Read it, I tell you. Read it and ask yourself whether a little revolution now and again isn't a good thing.

Glenn Beck is a sign of a revolution, but he is no revolutionary. He is yesteryear in effigy. Anyone got a match?

Comments: (4)

  • This book went as high as #24 on Amazon's best sel...
    This book went as high as #24 on Amazon's best sellers after Glenn Beck ranted against it, but my local library doesn't have it. It's available for free in pdf form in English at the link below though.
    It automatically downloads when you post that link so I'm hoping my next trip to through the airport doesn't involve a delay and some questioning...
    Posted on August 28, 2010 at 12:33 pm by David Tarrell
  • Wells said, and thanks for the link, David.
    Wells said, and thanks for the link, David.
    Posted on August 28, 2010 at 6:42 pm by Lee Stonum
  • Some of Pattis's quotes sound like they could have...
    Some of Pattis's quotes sound like they could have come from Jean Baudrillard, a French philosopher/writer on postmodernism, especially the media and its drastic effects of culture. I am now reading Baudrillard's "In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities," published by Semiotext(e), the publisher of the book Pattis refers to. I don't think Baudrillard is the unnamed author of the book Pattis brings up, but he is plainly a source for a good deal of the critique of this book. Baudrillard does not get into political, social, revolutionary action.
    I do not see that there will be an insurrection, which to me implies collective action. The country is now too heterogeneous (multicultural), and the public is too enervated (binging does this) and disorganized. As I have proffered, the proper stance at this time is like that of the French WWII partisans vis-a-vis the German occupiers of their country after invasion of it (similarly to how the banksters have surreptitiously seized control of the U.S.). The guiding principles are resistance and disruption in the hope--though not the expectation--that democracy can and will somehow be restored in this country.
    The situation as I see it at this time (as I've written elsewhere) reminds me of a joke the Russian people used to tell one another during the depths of the tyranny they were enduring: "They [the Soviet government] pretend to pay us, and we pretend to work." Modified for the current American situation, this goes, "They pretend to govern us, and we pretend to be governed."
    Posted on August 29, 2010 at 2:43 am by Henry Berry
  • Revolutionaries are never the beneficiaries of the...
    Revolutionaries are never the beneficiaries of their own revolution. Washington you say? That was not a true revolution. It was an insurrection parading as a revolution, in spite of what the historians have written and what we are 'taught'. Here's the proof: We assumed lock, stock and barrel, the customs, laws and judicial trappings of the very country we sought independence from. That country, Great Britain, would in time become 'dependent' upon the United States, to which it gave birth. Kissing cousins, so to speak.
    The French revolution was another matter, a bloodbath gone awry which gave rise to a failed experiment in socialism. Dubya is reported to have said, "The French have no word for 'entrepreneur'," and he may very well have been correct, because the English-speaking peoples co-opted the French word and made it their very own. What was left for the French? Cuisine, fine wines and Impressionist art. You cannot take that away from them.
    The best thing about the French philosophers and French thinking is that they and their their thinking are almost always wrong--predictably wrong--while the Brits and Amerikans are not. Bertrand Russel enters my mind here, and Mark Twain on this side of the pond. Think Utilitarinism and Pragmatism! Romanticism and Enlightenment belong in the studio. Might makes right, and the pen is NOT mightier than the sword, though Ralph Nader and other gadflies can be awfully annoying.
    The real revolution would come 72 years after the first insurrection against the Brits. That would be the Civil War. And if you believe in long cycles--as I do--the next cataclysmic period would have culminated in the period between the depths of the Great Depression and WWII, roughly a twelve-year period. Add 72 years to that and you see we entered another cataclysmic cycle on or about 2002, one year after 9/11, and would be scheduled to emerge around 2114.
    So hang on tight, the end is near. There is light at the end of the tunnel. We will emerge for another go-around. Although things may seem nasty and brutish to some, it is not nearly as bad as the Civil War or the Great Depression/WWII era where thousands of lives were lost and there were severe shortages of goods and services leading to rationing.
    I am not a glutton for literary punishment, and I happen to like Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin. I really do think they're true Amerikans. I even like Obama bin Laden. It is the Supreme Court I do not like.
    What you want to watch out for, signifying the end of this dark period, is for some piece of paper, some document(s), treaties or act(s) to emerge which everyone rejoices in and gives lip-service to. During the Revolutionary era, it was the Declaration of Independence and the highly-touted Constitution. During the Civil War period, it was the Emancipation Proclamation and the Reconstruction Act. During the thirties and Forties, it was Social Security, Glas-Steagal, Sherman Anti-Trust, the Japanese surrender and the Marshall Reconstruction Act.
    I would look for some serious resolution of the Palestinian-Jewish State debacle and/or something coming out of the Middle-East. Afghan/Pakistan is the quagmire du jour, with no end in sight. China is not a threat. We owe them too much money. He who owes you money cannot be your enemy. We have nothing to fear but debt itself. Glenn Beck beckons, and Al 'Sharp-TONgued' Sharpton may be the best shadow-senator out there. Most of the rest are wimps. (Not you Scott Brown.)
    Posted on August 30, 2010 at 12:50 am by William Doriss

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