The “Restoring Honor” rally this past Saturday on the National Mall, organized by Fox News host Glenn Beck, confounded critics even as it uplifted and inspired its participants. I was among those attending the event, part of a truly massive crowd estimated conservatively (based upon aerial photographs) at somewhere between 300,000 and 500,000. Despite the attempts begun by (primarily leftist) critics to impugn and malign the rally and those attending it weeks in advance, the gathering was peaceful and non-political in nature – just as Beck had billed it. As several so-called mainstream journalists noted, there was no apparent anger, vitriol or bitterness exhibited by the crowd. In fact, I noticed only one indirect political reference in the entire program – more on that later.
I arrived in D.C. on Friday afternoon anticipating an event historic in size and significance, meeting up with relatives from St. Louis. Over dinner that night, we discussed the rampant media speculation regarding the rally, fueled in part by Beck’s refusal to release more than a few details of the program agenda in advance – even to Fox News Channel executives. He later explained on his radio program the following Monday that he had deliberately done this to prevent his associates at FNC from being subjected to accusations of any sort of cover-up or clandestine plot. In fact Beck had made it clear for months leading up to the event that it was being organized by him, and was not sponsored by Fox News in any way. Despite this, the drumbeat of criticism persisted, with some journalists continuing to refer to the rally as a “Fox News event,” and others darkly warning that it might degenerate into an ugly display of racism and/or intolerance. I and my family members agreed to meet at 7:30 a.m. the following morning to take the Metro from Arlington, VA into D.C. for the 10 a.m. rally. As it happened, my curiosity got the best of me and I ended up taking the train to the Smithsonian station that morning shortly after midnight to see for myself what was happening at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial.