The uniformed factotums of Homeland Security and TSA are checking airline travelers’ papers; grumpy crowds, long lines. But follow the beautiful people past the velvet rope and through an unmarked door to the VIP lounge, and you’re no longer in a major New York airport, but in the spaceport of Mos Eisley: streamlined “security” where the privileged are quietly ushered past the polloi. Now the infuriating boarding process boils down to one lone guard. No fuss, no muss.
But in Glenn Beck’s thriller, The Overton Window, this guard by the metal detector is a Star Wars geek with a shiny plastic tray for your jewelry who may very well recognize an impersonator when he sees one. He may be the one guy in a million who’d know the difference between Natalie Portman in the flesh and patriot Molly Ross, a plucky gal claiming star status, cloaked in hoodie and sunglasses, and exuding eau de Hollywood. If the impostor is unmasked, our civil servant will allow agents provocateurs out west to unleash a national catastrophe.
“Would you take off your sunglasses for me, please?”
The let-me-see-your-identification moment has arrived. Well, if you’re going to bluff the Imperial Storm Troopers of the Empire, do it with a wave of the hand and a Jedi mind trick; the impostor, Molly Ross, plumbs a reservoir of gumption and goes all Queen Padmé on the poor man. Peering over her Foster Grants, she says: “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”
And the TSA functionary, stunned at what he thought would never happen as long as he lived, the real Queen Amidala talking to him, repeats in a dream of delayed gratification, “These aren’t the droids we’re looking for,” letting our damsel pass. The words alone bring the TSA lad’s easily influenced mind to heel. He sees what he wants to see, Natalie Portman, not Molly Ross. Mixed episodes be damned. He couldn’t care less.
The real Jedi mind trick of Beck’s The Overton Window is that it says thriller on the cover. And, yes, a scion of wealth, power, and privilege, Noah Gardner, heir to the Gardner public-relations empire, dabbles in rebellion and gets in over his head. But Beck’s novel is, more than anything, a book of ideas. Ideas that are very frightening to many in our media elites. Like the idea of liberty, the idea that we have a right to pursue happiness, the idea of the responsibility that comes with limited self-government, and the idea that our rights are granted by God with a capital G. Ideas that make some men uncomfortable and afraid.
Want to ponder a vast idea? Go to almost any page in this book and you’ll find something to chew over. Beck quoting Thomas Sowell: “The most basic question is not what is best, but who shall decide what is best.” How truly shocking in its clarity.
In Beck’s novel, the heavy is Noah’s father, Arthur Gardner: a public-relations master, but really a Sith lord, a master manipulator of public opinion. He is Beck’s anti–John Galt. A modern-day Mephisto with powers Ellsworth Toohey could only dream of. A man consumed with fixing and arranging outcomes, not creating anything of value. In Arthur Gardner’s preferred world, the enlightened elites rule. “The American experiment has failed, and now it’s time for the next one to begin. One world, one government — not of the people this time, but of the right people: the competent, the wise, the strong.”
The scariest of Arthur Gardner’s ideas is that you can twist and mold the average citizen to achieve just about any desired outcome. Beck’s book is studded with real-life examples, some anticipating and reflecting the Orwellian nature of our present definition-of-reality struggles. As in: If it’s “Net Neutrality,” you can bet the effect will be anything but neutral.
In a planning session for societal transformation at Doyle & Merchant, Arthur Gardner’s public-relations firm, there’s a big screen in the conference room, showing how it’s going to be realized. We see a dozen items devoted to command and control, influence, the mind tricks of PR. All on the cusp of being put into practice. Take this item, for instance:
“Associate resistance and ‘constitutional’ advocacy with a backward, extremist world view; gun rights a key.”
Believe in the Constitution as written? Believe in gun rights? I mean that’s beyond the pale. No one enlightened believes in that sort of thing any more. Just ask Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan: NRA = KKK. Gosh, I wonder what “bad guy orgs” means? NRA, KKK? Sheesh, they even sort of rhyme.
In another part of the novel a bunch of hired thugs break up a political meeting and get everyone thrown in jail for the night; there’s a dicey moment when we wonder whether New York’s finest are in on this abuse of power. As it turns out, our New York men in blue are true blue and won’t sign on to thuggery. Now take a look at some real-life cops down on the D.C./Maryland border who can’t seem to find it in their powers to protect a kid in his own house from being terrorized by SEIU Imperial Storm Troopers and who go all lawyerly on Megyn Kelly of Fox News. Guess it depends on what the meaning of “terror” is.
Some critics get the vapors at the prospect of this book’s somehow inciting others to terrible deeds. In fact, this novel is about people trying to prevent others from doing terrible deeds, and it says so explicitly. Unlike Obama’s manufacturing czar, who has no problem with the concept of power coming from the barrel of a gun. And says so explicitly.
A grotesque monster of public relations, Arthur Gardner knows where his power comes from. And mere words are not enough. In the final scenes of the novel, Arthur Gardner, fearing that his son, Noah, is lost to him, uses every device he can find to twist and sculpt Noah and bring him back into the fold. Make his son a worthy image of himself, completely heedless of anyone else’s integrity.
In a truly horrifying final sequence, where the brainwashed Noah tries to please his father with little public-relations tasks, he just can’t get them right. Trying to make a statue of the perfect man, the great Arthur Gardner has only brutalized it — much like the commissioned statue in his private office, which appears on the cover of the book: the Statue of Liberty, partially morphed into the Colossus of Rhodes, no longer beckoning, now a bearded freak brandishing a spear. That upright arm still holds the torch, but it’s not the torch of freedom.
– Keith Korman is an agent at his family’s literary agency, Raines & Raines Authors’ Representatives, and the author of several novels. The latest was written with Rich Lowry: Banquo’s Ghosts.