Sarah Palin Glenn Beck And The Conservative Hero Myth

Massa the Conservative Hero

Heroes are much easier to create in the simple black-white, good-evil, with or against world of conservatism. After all, you automatically eliminate everyone who is not “one of us” from consideration. And anyone who stands up to “them” is half-way there already.

Conservatives love heroes. Look at the Media Heroes, Sarah Palin, the Mama Grizzly and her heroic battle against abortion.  Never mind that abstinence doesn’t work and that thousands of children are suffering because conservatives refuse to accept that the facts do not fit their system.

A real hero makes the tough choices and rises above the rest of us, a normal person who does the exceptional.

But for American conservatism, a hero is any conservative who says “no” to Barack Obama and and who stands steadfastly by the conservative narrative, however it flies in the face of reality.

Apparently, blind obstinacy is now heroic.

We see, for example, that Sarah Palin is a hero. But she is also a hero who likes to talk about heroes, from Ronald Reagan (whom she appears to know nothing about) to the Founding Fathers (whom she can’t name) to Margaret Thatcher (whom presumably, she also knows nothing about), or most recently, Dr. Laura, for using the “N” word when talking to a black caller – 11 times!  (Sarah says we should be “thankful” for her voice). Presumably, Sarah Palin does know something about Dr. Laura, and that tells us quite a bit about Sarah Palin.

If a person can be judged by the quality of their enemies, they can also be judged by the people they hold to be heroes.

But there are other heroes to admire. Sherif Joe Arapio is a hero because he has his own private concentration camp and hates Mexicans.

Hate is an important quality in conservative heroes.

John McCain is a war hero because of his service in Vietnam. His actual ability to grasp the issues or understand how the economy works are apparently irrelevant.

But he’s a good liar. Lying is also an important quality conservative heroes. Again, that blind obstinacy, obedient to the script in the face of all facts.

By the way, John Kerry, who also served with distinction in Vietnam, is not. Of course, Senator Kerry is a liberal. He can’t be a hero. He is one of “them.”

Conservatives love their dead heroes, like Reagan. They can’t wait to “saint” them. Conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg wrote at on August 5, 2010 that “Conservatives, being conservatives, have a soft spot for the good old days, but this is getting ridiculous.” It’s not surprising, after all, since conservatism is at its heart about the status quo, and what says status quo like the past?

Progressives look forward, conservatives look back. But we all knew that.

Another prominent dead conservative hero is the bully-boy demagogue of the 50s, Joseph McCarthy. Ann Coulter loves him. Says he was a righteous dude.

Ann Coulter at Demagogue Joe's Grave

Coulter likes McCarthy as much as Palin likes the people she can’t remember anything about, and like Palin, Coulter doesn’t seem to know much about them beyond their names. For example, she calls “The myth of ‘McCarthyism’ is the greatest Orwellian fraud of our times,” and said of McCarthy,

The portrayal of Senator Joe McCarthy as a wild-eyed demagogue destroying innocent lives is sheer liberal hobgoblinism. Liberals weren’t cowering in fear during the McCarthy era. They were systematically undermining the nation’s ability to defend itself while waging a bellicose campaign of lies to blacken McCarthy’s name. Everything you think you know about McCarthy is a hegemonic lie. Liberals denounced McCarthy because they were afraid of getting caught, so they fought back like animals to hide their own collaboration with a regime as evil as the Nazis.

I dunno about that, Ann, but I guess if anyone knows about Nazis and hobgoblinism, it’s you.

Glenn Beck has promoted himself as another hero of the right. His latest gimmick is the “Restoring Honor” rally in Washington D.C., on the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech. Beck says this is a non-political thing but of course it’s as political as it can get (for a list of conservative groups “helping out” see Media Matters). He even invited Tea Party hero Sarah Palin, who, he says, is there to introduce “the heroes of the military, as a mother, not as a candidate.”

The hero narrative is essential to conservative self-identity. For a party that has largely become the Christian Morality Party to embrace so many golden idols is rather ironic, but there it is. While one cannot begrudge the status of hero to soldiers who have distinguished themselves, conservatives have gotten just a bit out of control as they hand out approbation and platitudes.

I mean, military heroes aside, to look at the evidence; standards have gotten so low that darn near everyone on the right can claim hero status for themselves.  Conservative political commentator Debbie Schlussel wrote a piece last November about the desperation of the conservative hero-quest, arguing that if people like Carrie Prejean, Lou Dobbs, and Linda McMahon are conservatives then there is no conservatism. She may be right.

Children’s TV show Higglytown Heroes said your local baker and mailman were heroes too, and it’s hard to escape the conclusion that perhaps the Republicans have watched too many episodes of that kid’s show. To call every “average Joe”- or another hero, Joe the Plumber, a hero because they take out the garbage or wash the dishes is to cheapen what heroism is. Joe the Plumber wasn’t even a Plumber. Shouldn’t heroes by at least a little honest?

When ideology is all that is required to be a hero, the very idea of heroism has become meaningless. But given that conservatives have constructed a mythic America, why not populate it with suitable heroes?

So go be a hero while you can. Go to it, boys and girls!

And don’t forget to order your Sarah Palin hero action figure!:

Palin Super Hero

11 Replies to “Sarah Palin Glenn Beck And The Conservative Hero Myth”

  1. Scathingly on point and accurate, Hraf. You got to the heart of something that’s always bothered me. And yes, listening to these folks warped version of history is jarring beyond belief. I just responded to a commenter who claimed there were many black people at the rally yesterday by writing, “are you on crack?”

    You, Hraf, have known me for years and you know I am not prone to talking that way to people, but I simply know no other way of responding to these Orwellian attempts to distort reality.

    This piece tickles me, but it also shows the paper thin transparency and bankruptcy of their heroes. And why do they need heroes so much anyway?

    Isn’t that a sort of juvenile need? When you grow up, you realize many of us are heroes for facing our own challenges: from the disabled person who deals with the relentless staring but doesn’t let it stop them from enjoying a walk in the perfect fall air, to the child of a poor family whose parents manage to save five dollars a week for his college but that means he has to dress in hand-me-downs and be teased to the girl whose parents teach her she is worth something and shouldn’t have sex before she is ready and she stands by herself no matter how she’s teased…..These real struggles, these real displays of courage and breath-taking faith in goodness – these are my heroes.

    Joe the Plumber? Sarah Palin? Liars and quitters who take the easy way out and have yet to own up to even one of their lies let alone understand why it mattered that they lied. Cheap and devoid of character.

  2. Thank you Sarah. It’s been eating at me for awhile too…watching the endless parade of “Joe Hero’s” marching across our screens. I studied totalitarian art. I see these things today and I think back to the grandiose and bellicose art-styles of totalitarian regimes, the bloated, bombastic rhetoric, and to me it looks all too familiar. The right is all about hero cults and cults of personality. My own opinion as to why is that it’s a glossy veneer for emptiness and it’s as fake as Sarah Palin’s highly visible body-sculpting.

  3. Great job Hraf! I too am mystified by this “hero worship”? Sarah had two servicemen as “props” yesterday instead the usual, her kids.
    While all the heroic military talk I’m still waiting for her and Fox news to acknowledge that PRESIDENT OBAMA is bringing the combat Troops home from IRAQ the last coming in on 8/31 which is Tues…. why no mention Sarah? I think after the yrs of a false war this qualifies for “Hero” status? But *crickets* from mama grizzle, Glenduh and fox news????
    Oh these racist, fascist people will look anywhere else for a hero, instead of our very intelligent, well spoken,constitutional scholar, BLACK PRESIDENT! Who in spite of the deck being stacked against him (racist, good ole boy repubes, family values ilk) who say “no” if he says the sky is “blue” he keeps on, keepin on….
    Now THAT IS A HERO!!!

  4. SO TRUE! They wouldn’t know a hero if it bit them in the arse until Fox told them to worship the person and like the mindless sheep they are they would fall in line. I am so over these people. Even MSm is calling them out for their lies and incendiary bs.

    The idea that anyone would look up to SP or GB as hero is hysterical. I guess people looked up to Charles Manson too.

  5. Great article.

    What bothers me so much about this is not that conservatives have heroes that aren’t “worthy”. It’s that the heroes have worshippers that arent’ worthy. If that makes any sense.

    It’s not the conservatives follow their heroes with blind faith, it’s that they will denigrate, smear, and flat out lie about their supposed foes in attempt to lend credibility to those they have exhaulted–right or wrong.

    It’s not that they rejoice and shout out statements like “restoring America”, “true Patriotism, and “good old American values”, it’s that they fail to understand the processes that make those statements true and meaningful.

    It’s not that they spew hatred and racists statements (there will always be people who are bigots), it’s that they do it under the guises of the First Amendment, the whole while ignoring someone else’s rights under the 14th Amendment.

    The hero worshippers in this country have a duty to discern between true heroes and the conservative entertainers. They have failed. They are the ones not living up to the expectations and dreams of the founding fathers who, by the way, would not be heroes in their book. I wonder what names they would call Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, etc.?

  6. It’s an old war tactic to co-opt heroes and movements of the opponent. This is what they’re doing and it’s why it’s so offensive to the leaders of the civil rights movement.

    Your comment made a lot of sense and it’s a great point.

  7. What they consider heroes are actually caricatures that would not fare well in reality. For one thing, he or she has to be inflexibly hard right, a quality that makes for political ineptitude due to the conviction that he or she is always right and opponents are always wrong. The faux cowboy images of both Reagan and GW Bush, as well as the grizzly mama image of Palin, and the faux religious image of Beck, come to mind. The unrealistic images of these “heroes” also indicates an emotional immaturity on the part of folks who believe in them. It always seems to elude them that these
    carefully manufactured images are nothing but facades. These same folks have a problem with those they consider “other” like Muslims, minorities, immigrants especially of non-white origin, and those they disagree with politically. Their skewed sense of reality often prevents them from seeing when these “others” possess the very qualities they claim to cherish like morality and family values, and also from seeing when their “heroes” don’t. People like that have always been, and apparently always will be, susceptible to the malignant influence of demagogues like Limbaugh,
    Beck, Palin, Hannity, Coulter, and others who appeal to their dangerously simplistic view of the world.

  8. Great Post, thank you I shared this on Facebook. But i miss a facebook like button? Bye, The Lastactionseo Girl

  9. Say what you would like about Mr. McCain, but do not say his ideals overrule his military service and he is, therefore, not an American hero. McCain’s policies are at the least controversial, but saying his ability to grasp issues has escaped him is a mere opinion. He is a war hero, in the company of men like Washington, Puller and Tillman, and that is almost certain fact. You present your hateful liberial opinions as fact. Excuse me sir, but is that not a quality you excuse conservatives of harboring?

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