Rolly: Utah's fringe getting weirder
If you think Glenn Beck is strange, you ought to see some of his followers in Utah.
Beck had his much-hyped, stand-with-Israel rally in the Holy Land Wednesday to mixed reviews. Some applaud his stand on the side of conservative factions in Israel and right-wing Zionist groups in the U.S. that oppose concessions to the Palestinians. Others see him as a self-promoting blowhard and demagogue who seems almost on the verge of declaring himself a prophet.
Count me with the latter group.
And, of course, if you log onto Beck's website promoting his latest adventures, you also are guided to links that allow you to subscribe to various Beck enterprises. For a fee, of course.
Then there is the Come-to-Jerusalem-in-Utah group, found on the Internet as Come2Jerusalem.inUtah.tv.
The group initially came to light at the Republican State Convention, where members passed out fliers promoting an event in Jerusalem, Utah, in Sanpete County, to coincide with Beck's spectacle in Israel. Interested folks were guided to the website, which spoke of large groups of righteous pilgrims trekking to the Utah outback where satellite trucks would be set up to provide feeds from Israel. An agenda was posted on the site listing an impressive array of speakers and even listing the exact times in the morning that each would address the throngs.
The speaker's list included Sens. Mike Lee and Orrin Hatch, U.S. Reps. Rob Bishop, Jason Chaffetz and Jim Matheson, Gov. Gary Herbert, an unspecified LDS official, an unnamed Jewish rabbi, and an Israeli ambassador.
When I called around, I found that none of those people had even been contacted by this group and had no plans to attend.
After I wrote about that, the website changed, and became quite interesting.
An unsigned diatribe on the site accused me of lying and boasted that the event would be held elsewhere in Sanpete County and bring a great economic boost to the Sanpete and nearby Juab counties.
The group would pay thousands to the local governments for security and other amenities and leave the area a better place than when they found it.
But the narrative changes and begins a rant against the Moroni City Council for denying it a permit to hold the event in a Moroni Park.
"We, the organizers wonder what base motivation would compel one organizer to exercise unrighteous dominionâ¦," the anonymous ranter spewed, concluding the council member is "a misogynist and anti-Semite."
The ranter vowed his group would be guided by "the Spirit," and the group would "leave it to Him to smite His foes."
Then the light shone, according to the narration, and West Valley City was enlightened to turn over its Cultural Celebration Center for the event.
Actually, West Valley City will rent the center to anybody who will pay the fee, Mayor Mike Winder said.
The group paid $1,000 to rent a hall at the center and it had its revival Wednesday.
Organizers told center officials to expect between 400 and 500 people.
About 40 showed up.
When I called organizer Victor Shanti to talk about his motivations, he told me to go to hell and hung up.
Maybe I'll be smitten.