Because I am an inveterate online shopper, and my colleagues do a bang-up job of monitoring Glenn Beck’s other pronouncements, I figured I would do my part by signing up for the email list for his 1791 clothing line. This made me privy not only to the roll-out of the line in my inbox yesterday, but to the announcement that the funds from the clothes will support a new relief organization that will be “self-funded and uniquely American. It will be a hand up, not a hand out,” and that the clothes, in keeping with Beck’s position as a huge Spider-Man fan will serve as a reminder that “we haven’t’ forgotten that with those rights enshrined in that historic year comes great responsibility”:
The clothes are basically J. Crew-meets-Ed Hardy-by-way-of-Etsy. There are lots of polo shirts and fleeces (interestingly, no women’s apparel) with radiant hearts, snakes, and skulls-and-crossbones declaring “Death to Tyranny.” As popping-your-collar-and-getting-annoyed-about-government gear goes, it’s fine, though unlikely to ignite a fashion revolution, particularly when the polos start at $65 and the fleeces at $85 (you can get a t-shirt for as little as $25). And I’m not wildly optimistic that 1791′s going to spark a revolution in American-made textiles, though the idea of Glenn Beck in period clothing hectoring Lowell Mill Girls seems strangely apt.
Beck is quite a marketer, and it remains to be seen if, particularly at those recession-unfriendly prices, the 1791 line will generate the kind of revenue that can support a nation-wide self-help movement. What, precisely, Beck wants for this new organization, is not wildly clear from the video announcement, which says it’ll:
Be a constant reminder that our solutions do not reside in Washington, bt they reside within you and me…this will be a grassroots effort that in reality will only be as big as our American imagination and ingenuity will still allow it to become. It will not be funded by taxpayer dollars, and will look for other ways besides charitable donations to survive…Capitalism is only a reflection of the values of those who use it. It’s neither good nor bad. It’s simply what you make of it.
I’m not in principal opposed to the idea that it would be great to simultaneously create jobs and raise funds for good causes. But I think Paul Newman, who Beck (surprisingly, without jabbing at Newman’s Hollywood liberalism) cites as a direct inspiration, was probably closer to a successful model with a product you can buy for $3, that is demonstrably superior to its competitors, and that’s easily available in grocery stores, than Beck is.