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Glen Beck’s Pillar of Fire and the “Jerusalem Syndrome”

Beck on radio, before he left for Israel, talking about his upcoming rally in Jerusalem, on August 24th:

The other good thing that is going to happen – it seems to be something that everybody ignores or – I swear to you! – I mean this sincerely – there’s a possibility a pillar of fire appears, heh – I think this could be miraculous!

We already knew he was a bit nuts, but it appears Beck, on his mission to Jerusalem to “change the direction of the world,” as he put it last week, has caught a malady first written about by Jerusalem psychiatrist Heinz Herman back in the 1930s.  It has since become generally known as Jerusalem Syndrome:

The Jerusalem syndrome is a group of mental phenomena involving the presence of either religiously themed obsessive ideas, delusions or other psychosis-like experiences that are triggered by a visit to the city of Jerusalem. It is not endemic to one single religion or denomination but has affected JewsChristians and Muslims of many different backgrounds.

The best known, although not the most prevalent, manifestation of the Jerusalem syndrome is the phenomenon whereby a person who seems previously balanced and devoid of any signs of psychopathology becomes psychotic after arriving in Jerusalem. The psychosis is characterised by an intense religious theme and typically resolves to full recovery after a few weeks or after being removed from the area.

The religious focus of the Jerusalem syndrome distinguishes it from other phenomena, such as the Stendhal syndrome, which is reported in FlorenceItaly, or the Paris syndrome, which has been reported predominantly inJapanese individuals.

Three types of Jerusalem Syndrome seem to have been recognized, and where Beck fits in may bend the borders between the types a bit:

Most of the discussion has centered on whether this definition of the Jerusalem syndrome is a distinct form of psychosis, or simply a re-expression of a previously existing psychotic illness that was not picked up by the medical authorities in Israel.

The distinctions between types are:

Type One: Jerusalem syndrome imposed on a previous psychotic illness.

Type Two:Jerusalem syndrome superimposed on and complicated by idiosyncratic ideas.

Type Three: Jerusalem syndrome as a discrete form, uncompounded by previous mental illness.

Beck seems to be somewhere in the strangeness between type one and two.  Here is Beck’s long promo for the event, which is officially called “Restoring Courage”:

He has used overtly messianic terms in several of his media appearances leading up to his current trip to Israel:

A life-changing event.

The rally will open “the very gates of heaven”

He has visited the Fogel home, site of the awful murders of five members of a settler family on March 11th.  The visit inspired him to some blood-soaked invective, recounting and quasi-procphecy:

“I went to Itamar in Judea and Samaria, and I… our cameras were the first to be allowed into the home.  It is empty now and they are ?? they couldn’t get all of the blood off the walls.  I will tell you, this was one of the most horrific, bloodiest massacres I could imagine.  It was horrifying, horrifying.  And yet in that community, profound hope.”

“If you stand in their backyard, you can see the two mountains:  The Mountain of Blessing and the Mountain of Curse.  It is the ?? it is scriptural.  Which do you choose?  The mountain of blessing or curse.  And this community has both.  I can’t believe what people go through here in Israel, and the world stays silent.  The media is distorting and lying, lying to you.  Lying to you.  And it is important that you know it.”

Beck’s Jerusalem Syndrome has more than a small component of talk radio host Tourette’s Syndrome to it, as he comments inanely on one thing after another, about which he knows virtually nothing.  As Paul Mutter observed today:

A lesser pundit would no doubt use this time to take in some sites or idly eat hummus while drifting on the Dead Sea and waiting to be bungeed up to heaven on the wings of the Messiah. But Beck’s a man of action, a truth-teller, and by Monday, he and his lackey sidekicks, Steve Burguiere (aka Stu) and Pat Gray, had successfully sniffed out and exposed their first conspiracy, the dark, twisted, hard-left-socialist-radical motives of Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard protesters.

Haaretz is entertained – at least so far – by Beck’s ignorant rants:

Beck then went on to suggest that the housing crisis could be solved by simply building up empty land in the West Bank. The right-wing commentator emphasized that the area, biblically referred to as “Judea and Samaria”, is “Judea – like Jews”.

The commentator said that Judea and Samaria is the contested territory’s real name, not the West Bank.

Beck continued to poke holes in the “extreme left” protesters’ demands calling for decreased privatization of health care, free education and an increase in minimum wage.

Beck also insinuated a possible collaboration between socialists and Islamists, pointing out historical instances in which the two movements went hand in hand.

In the article by Paul Mutter, cited above, Mutter deconstructs Beck’s delusional description of some of these alleged collaborations.  Even Commentary Magazine, which has seemed to egg Beck on in his fantasy world at times in the past, called Beck on his ignorance of the political and economic environment from which the summer demonstrations in Israel have emerged:

Any discussion of these protests must begin by stating the reason why most Israelis are sympathetic to the demonstrations: the price of housing and food is sky high and the middle class is being squeezed even in an economy that is on the upswing. Complaints about an inequitable distribution of wealth strike many Americans, including Beck, as mere left-wing rhetoric. But when Israelis speak of the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few families they are, for the most part, not calling for socialism. Rather, they are noting the fact that during the sell off of state properties when free market reform in Israel began during the Rabin and Peres governments, a few individuals were able to snatch up bargains that enriched them in a manner that better resembles what happened in Russia in the early 1990s than anything out of a Milton Friedman economics text.

These are things that Beck needs to take into account before he opens his mouth on the subject.

Beck will inevitably get wackier and wackier as the 24th approaches.  He’s an awful economist, a pathetic historian, a very strange religious figure, and a relentless purveyor of hatred.  But understanding his actions between now and the 24th without taking into account the Jerusalem Syndrome might keep one from taking in the whole bizarre picture.

hat tip to DICKERSON3870 for reminding me about Jerusalem Syndrome

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Alaska progressive activist, notorious composer and firedoglake devotee.