If You Think You Can Scare Me Into Shutting Up, Here's Why You're Wrong

Editor's Note: The following is based on Glenn's monologue from August 23, 2016.

I want to have a really open and frank discussion with you, because we are tearing each other apart.

Maybe some of it is justified, and maybe I played a role in dividing us. I am human. I'm a guy who tries to be better every day, but oftentimes fails.

The things being said about me right now don't matter to me. And I want to save you a lot of time. If you're one of those people thinking that I'm going to change my mind or that you're going to scare me into shutting up, I'm not that guy.

After a year of looking at this race --- and beyond that the last 15 years of studying revolutions, studying how things happen, studying history --- I expected a revolution to come from the left. I have laid out how revolutions happen over and over and over again. So I'm looking at things differently than just today. I'm looking at things historically and over the horizon, taking into account things that, maybe, others don't.

Now, you may disagree with everything I'm about to say, and that's fine. But I want you to understand where I'm coming from. I don't expect you to change your mind. In fact, I'm not trying to change your mind. I just want you to know why I'm doing what I feel I must do.

I Am Not Voting for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump

First of all, I don't hold anything against anyone who votes differently than me. Because, honestly, I'm not happy with how I'm going to vote. For the first time in my life, I am not going to vote for one of the two major candidates. I am not voting for Hillary Clinton, and I am not voting for Donald Trump. I don't know how I'm going to vote for president yet, but those two are not on the table.

Secondly, I see a lot of people saying, "I was a fan of Glenn Beck until he sold out." If you have listened to me and appreciated the show, what am I selling out? If you are a fan of this show, it's most likely because I've said what I believe. Many times, I've said what you believe. I have also said many things that no one believes. I don't pull any punches, and I'm the last guy to sell out.

You have always listened because I tell you what I believe is happening and what is coming. Many times, I have been wrong. But, many times, I have been right. And when I'm right, it is devastating.

A Pattern of Predictions

If you're a fan of this show, you know I've had a pattern of making correct predictions.

Osama bin Laden

In 1999, I was defending Bill Clinton's bombing of the aspirin factory because I started doing my homework on Osama bin Laden. At this point, only the intelligence community knew about Osama bin Laden. I got on the air, reading his words and warning about him. Callers said, "You're just trying to excuse this to help the Democrats win in 2000. You're just trying to cover up for Bill Clinton and take his name off the front pages with Monica Lewinsky." In a moment of frustration, I said, "There will be blood, bodies and buildings in the streets of New York, and it will have been done by Osama bin Laden. Will you be willing to admit that terror is coming at that point?"

Iraq

When I said something was wrong in Iraq, beginning in 2003 or 2004, I said we weren't fighting this to win. My audience said, "You're only trying to help the Democrats." I got a lot of complaints from a lot of stations, and a lot of people were very angry with me.

Economic Collapse

When I warned about a market collapse and a housing bubble in 2006, I was told even by some of my best friends, "You can't say this about the Republicans and what George Bush is doing. You'll kill yourself." In the fall of 2007, I said, "Don't listen to John McCain right now and all of the pundits who are saying that he's going to be strong on the war in Iraq." I said, "Come next fall, the economy will be all that people are talking about. Forget the war. It's going to be the economy." People said I was crazy, I was drinking, I had sold out. And, of course, I was only trying to help the Democrats get Barack Obama elected.

The Caliphate

When I warned about the caliphate, I was told every single day to shut up. I was told by Fox, "Shut up. Stop talking about that, and stop talking about Israel." Every single day. To the point where they came and took things off my set to get me to stop talking about it. I talked about it every day until it was my last. They said it made me look crazy. I said, "So be it."

The Strongman Cometh

There is a reason, a real reason, my family and I have 24-hour security. I have said from the day my security team started, "I am more worried about a crazy person on the right who thinks I have betrayed them than somebody on the left."

One controversy that everybody seems to have forgotten was what the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) did, what Fox News did. It was in all of the magazines at the time. It was all over the internet. Jon Stewart made fun of it. Stephen Colbert made fun of it. They always made fun of me talking about the Nazis, right? "Glenn Beck is talking about the Nazis!"

The ADL told Fox News to tell me to stop talking about the word "Nazis." I argued, "How can you not forget if you don't remember?" I continued talking about the Nazis and the Nazi threat. Here's what people missed in that: What I was talking about was that a strongman could come from the right or the left. I said specifically, "The right is already doing it in Europe, and if we forget that we are not Europe, the right will rise here and a strongman will come to the forefront, if -- and only if -- the left can wear us out, the left can make us feel beaten and that there is no other way out, and if the left continues to push the pendulum further and further left." You remember the pendulum show? That was the complaint from the ADL.

That is why I was talking about Nazis, because I predicted the rise of the Nazis. And later, Golden Dawn came and the far right in Spain, the far right in Germany, the far right in Austria, the far right now in France. It's happening. But it is also happening here, and you see it. We are farther behind, but the alt-right, the fascists and the white supremacists are on the rise. David Duke is running for Senate.

History shows us that a strongman always will and always does rise. Someone at the point of chaos that says, "I will restore order." Do you remember me warning about top-down, bottom-up and inside-out? What are people saying right now? What is Donald Trump saying? What was the point of his entire convention? "I will restore order. I am Mr. Law And Order. I will do it, and I am the only one who can do it."

What are people shouting for right now? What are your friends who are supporting him saying? They want somebody who will just take control and burn the system down. That's insanity.

I ask that you hear my words today. I've warned about top-down, bottom-up and inside-out. I believe that this is that moment. It is coming on the horizon very soon, and you're seeing the beginning of it right now.

Donald Trump

I believe that Donald Trump is the strongman that I did not think would come from the right, but the pendulum has swung back so far. That does not make him a Nazi or his supporters a Nazi, although some of his supporters are literal Nazis. The vast majority are not.

It does mean that I think he has the potential to be, at least, a South American strongman in the right conditions. So what are the "right" conditions?

1. No connection to the Founding and our Constitution

2. Global war

3. Domestic uprisings

4. Terror

5. Real economic hardship

When those conditions are met and the man in the oval office demands that it's my way or the highway, if that man is a bully and surrounds himself with like-minded bullies, if he has a historic pull towards a socialistic solution like nationalizing banks, huge bailouts and protectionism then the cause of concern should be our loudest discussion, but it is not.

Steve Bannon, Donald Trump's new campaign CEO, told Slate magazine that he is not a nationalist, nor a populist. He called himself "a Leninist." That's not John Lennon, that's Vladimir Lenin. The reporter was so shocked, he said, "Explain that to me." And Bannon said, "Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that's my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down and destroy all of today's establishment." He included the Republican and Democrat parties, as well as the traditional conservative press.

Historically, you need chaos to have a strongman come into power. And a strongman always has certain attributes. He doesn't believe in things like individual rights and the Constitution. Generally, they are socialistic in their tendencies, that what is right for the individual doesn't matter. He's also somebody who demands his way, he's a bully. He surrounds himself with like-minded bullies, and usually the people he surrounds himself with are even worse than he is. And if those things are met, along with the conditions of war, domestic uprisings, terror and real economic hardship, a country -- any country -- is in real trouble. This is what we should be talking about right now: What does the world look like in four years after either one of these two?

People write to me. People call me. People have approached me in church, everywhere, saying, "Glenn, Glenn, I can't listen to you anymore." I understand. I really do. I wish that weren't true. I wish I had enough credibility over a 16-, 17-year history with you, that you saw that, yes, I have pissed you off in the past and I have said things that you really didn't want to hear, but in the end, you were glad you heard them. You were glad you had a warning.

I don't know what else to do. I don't know what you want me to do. I can only do what I feel I'm supposed to do, what I feel the Lord has commanded me to do, and that is, tell the truth. I don't think the Lord is commanding me to expose Donald Trump. I'm not saying that. I'm saying he has commanded me to do my own homework. He has commanded me to never compromise on what I truly believe. So I'm kind of stuck.

I'm really stuck because there is a warning in Ezekiel, that in those days there will be a watchman on the tower, at the gates. And that means all of us in our own way are watchmen on the gates, in your own life. And if you see trouble coming, you're supposed to warn the people. If you don't, the blood of everyone who could have heard the warning and could have done something, that blood is on our hands as the watchmen. If the people inside the gates decide not to listen to the watchmen, that's fine, that's up to them. But I have a responsibility to tell you. This is what my job is, as I see it.

Some people see their job as to make money, get advertisements, get ratings, et cetera, et cetera. I've never believed in somebody who is on the air -- read my first book -- who is into a cause. Unfortunately, I found God. And I have changed that opinion that I have to do what is right. I'm not just an entertainer.

Hillary Clinton

I beg anyone with eyes and ears to look and listen. Please don't make this about Clinton. I'm not voting for Clinton. I never will vote for Clinton. And I know who she is. I have railed about her for over 20 years. I know who she is.

I'm the one who exposed her running guns in Benghazi while she was still telling everybody in the press about the film. I'm very aware of who she is. I know how dangerous she is. I know what she believes. But don't let how dangerous she is or the false binary choice of our elections blind you to the other side of the equation.

If she wins, yes, we are going to be crippled with an outrageous Supreme Court where maybe Barack Obama is a Supreme Court justice. That's a real possibility with her. It is horrible the future under her. Perhaps it is worse than even you believe under her. I see the grave potential of an international globalist structure, because that's what an early 20th century progressive, as she describes herself and as outlined in my book Liars, that's what they wanted: United Nations, the League of Nations, or something like that. And we are headed to it.

But I would rather fight a globalist structure than fight each other internally. I don't know how we get through it. But I do know this: We survive if we hold on to each other. We survive. Many of us didn't think we'd make it this far with Barack Obama, but we survived. Horribly, but we survived.

Our Dunkirk Moment

Winston Churchill found himself with Dunkirk. Everybody said, "If you pull the army back, we lose all of Europe." He said, "If I don't pull them across the channel, we lose everything. We lose the entire army."

"Well, if you pull them out, we're never going to get it back."

He said, "Save what little you have to fight another day. This is lost."

This is our Dunkirk moment. If I'm right about Donald Trump, it will take a coup or a revolution to restore freedom to America.

The world is heading towards global war. Economic collapse is a near certainty. Domestic uprising is already happening and will continue to grow, as anger and hate on both sides is being fueled by those who are in control. And we all know how domestic terror isn't coming. Domestic terror is already here.

I warned of this very thing. I have told you, at the time, most of us would not see it. It's why I asked you to prepare spiritually. It is why I, even at Restoring Honor, I begged you, "Don't bring signs. Don't chant. Don't do any of those things." It's why in Birmingham, I said, "We've got to keep the structure of Martin Luther King."

"Why, Glenn?"

"I don't know, other than, I know it seems ridiculous now, but at some point, this audience is going need to have the discipline of standing alone and being beaten," I said.

We are here. And I've always believed that this audience is the only hope because you are the only audience that has truly been prepared for these things at this time. You have more information than most do because you have been with me and you have heard the warnings, you have seen it coming, you have learned history. You're not easily duped.

You are not who they say you are. I've said to you over the last ten years, "If you stay strong, if you don't get swept up in the anger or the cries of payback or the cry for somebody to just make it stop, you will be our Republic's last line of defense."

So what do I do? People are telling me, "At least just shut up." I can't. I can't.

You condemn me if I continue to warn, but God condemns me if I fail to warn. 24601: Who am I? Jean Valjean made exactly the same choice as I am, except in the play, it ends happy for him. Life is much more like the book, not the play.

If I'm wrong, I am the biggest fool, and I have been discredited. And I will be the first to apologize, and I will apologize if I have any listeners left at that time. But if I don't have any listeners left at that time, I make that as a fair trade for my credibility and my integrity.

As a guy who has lost everything, all I ever wanted was my integrity back. My integrity has been under attack over the last two years like nobody's business. It is the only thing I have of value, and I will do nothing knowingly myself to damage it. Integrity always comes with the highest of prices. It's why most are unwilling to ever pay for it.

I don't ask you to believe. I ask you to do what you've always done, and what I've always asked you to do.

Don't believe me. Do your own homework. Study how revolutions happen. Study what it means and who has said in the past, "I just want to burn the whole system down. I just want to smash the entire system." Ask what happens in times of trouble and in a country as divided as we are, when somebody comes in, who is an egomaniacal kind of guy and surrounds himself with that.

I'm not asking to you believe me. I'm asking you to do your homework and to just remember that old T-shirt somebody printed a long time ago that asked this question: What if this time, what if Glenn Beck is right?

Listen to this segment from The Glenn Beck Program:

Featured Image: Screenshot of The Glenn Beck Program, August 23, 2016.

Ryan: Making of an Ant Queen

Photo by Kevin Ryan

The embattled, Nobel-Peace-Prize-winning author Liu Xiaobo wrote that "Life is priceless even to an ant."

An ant colony can only survive for a few months after the death of its queen. On average, queens live 10 to 15 years. Some, up to 30 years, one of the longest insect lifespans, hidden deep within the colony, protected, unable to use her wings because she's a little bigger than she used to be.

Plus she's very busy.

The majority of ants are female. Wingless, sterile worker ants. They build nests, they forage, they hunt.

Theirs is a far briefer life than the queen's, ranging from a few weeks up to a year. But they see more of the outside world than any other ant.

The bigger they are, the farther they travel. And they release pheromones along the way so that they have a trail home.
Drones — winged male ants whose primary function in life is to mate with the queen — die after mating and rarely make it out of the colony.

Then, there are the soldier ants. They protect the colony and attack.

To quote philosopher Bertrand Russell, "Ants and savages put strangers to death."

They go on raids.

The attacking colony rarely loses, so most colonies flee as soon as an invasion begins. But they sometimes remain and fight.
Ants on both sides of the battle die in droves.

Henry David Thoreau describes an ant battle in Walden: "On every side they were engaged in deadly combat, yet without any noise that I could hear, and human soldiers never fought so resolutely."

If the attackers succeed in overtaking a colony, they pillage the eggs. Some are eaten, fed to larvae. But others become victims of slave raiding. Meaning that the victors return home with their enemy's unborn, feed them, nurse them. Then, when the eggs hatch, the victors force them into slavery.

Often, the slaves even develop an allegiance to the colony which ransacked their home and enslaved them. They'll even help raid other colonies and either die pointlessly or help with the seizure of the next generation of slaves.

Sometimes, however, the slave ants rebel.

In the words of Persian poet Saadi, "Ants, fighting together, will vanquish the lion."

Flying ants, both male and female, leave the colony to form another colony. Once they find a suitable place, the males's wings fall off and they mate to their death. Then one or more of the females becomes queen.

*

It felt odd, any time I sat with a roomful of media, a few hundred journalists from all over the world, as they simultaneously, silently, decided "Yep, that's newsworthy. We should hammer that."

It wasn't like everyone turned to each other and said, "Let's agree on the narrative."

It was an energy.

Photo by Kevin Ryan

Like in Houston, at the third Democratic Debate, after Biden misused the word "record player," you could hear chatter spread through the room, people muttering the words "records" and "record player."

In Houston, the media watched the debate from a gymnasium around the corner from the auditorium. So I could contrast the crowd's reactions with the media's reactions.

Nearly every time, there was a disparity between the two. The media were more relaxed — during the debate at least. The audience enjoyed any mentions of identity issues. There were a lot. But the media barely reacted at all.

This was a good thing, probably.

*

It's impressive to see how politicians force their stump speeches into a new form, depending on the context. How they say it like an epiphany.

That night brought the opposite for the ever-fledgling Kamala Harris. I could not believe it. Was this the same woman who'd made Iowa hers, just a little over a month ago?

All night, she was so loyal to the tactic she'd premeditated that she didn't realize it wasn't working, like she kept putting on a puppet show on some busy sidewalk.

At one point, she declared, proudly, "We're not talking about Donald Trump enough."

The most talked-about man in the world, perhaps in our country's history.

In five weeks, she became an entirely different candidate. Her latest version resembled a Xanax-fueled stepmom. It was like she was transforming into Joe Biden.

She kept laughing at her own jokes. And the entire media room cringed every time.

Photo by Kevin Ryan

Amy Klobuchar's pre-formed jokes and half-zany dad jokes fell short every time, too. Most of the media saw Klobuchar's long rants as a chance to chat with a neighbor or jet off to the nearest bathroom, which was likely a locker-room full of plastic flight containers and padded camera cases and journalists who curse like sailors.

During the debate, the press was stoic. So if a candidate got a reaction from them, it carried a certain authenticity.

They laughed at things that the audience ignored or disliked or didn't notice. In part because the audience didn't do a whole lot of laughing. But the media laughed like professionals laugh. In-jokey and staid yet ready for anything unexpected.

They loved it when Booker said the thing about "Let me translate that to Spanish … 'No'." And Yang's opening handclaps. As well as Pete Buttigieg's reaction to Yang's raffle.

The biggest laugh of the night in the media center, surprisingly, was when Yang said, "I am Asian, so I know a lot of doctors."

*

Early scientists believed that ants adhere to a complicated hierarchy, which biologist E O Wilson compared to the Hindu caste system. The idea was, ants and humans have a lot in common, and ants belong to a society divided by class and determined by labor.

In the Wealth of Nations, father of capitalism Adam Smith wrote: "It is the great multiplication of the productions of all the different arts, in consequence of the division of labour, which occasions, in a well-governed society, that universal opulence which extends itself to the lowest ranks of the people."

Ants have been organized into colonized societies since the Cretaceous Period, 140 million years ago, when dinosaurs still dominated the Earth. All of that changed 74 million years later. Which was about 66 million years ago. When a comet slammed into what is now the Yucatan Peninsula, resulting in the KT mass extinction.

80 percent of all plants and animals died. The ash and dust and debris polluted the air, blocked the sunlight, transforming the Earth into a dark, frozen wasteland full of asthma.

Insects, carrion-eaters, and omnivores all survived. Any purely carnivorous animals starved to death, while mammals and birds fed on insects and worms until the earth repopulated itself with more animals that could be eaten.

The K-T Mass Extinction ushered in a new era of life. Species that had lived in constant retreat from predators were suddenly able to form more elaborate purposes.

After these lifeforms thrived for tens of millions of years, certain mammals started to become vaguely humanlike.
Early humans popped up about 300,000 years ago.

Meaning, ants have existed for 140 million years, which is 139.7 million years longer than humans.

For reference, if you counted to 300,000, it would take you roughly three-in-a-half days. To get to 140 million would take about four-and-a-half years.

Humans only began developing language about 100,000 years ago.

Yet we're the ones with libraries and governments and ABBA and iPhones. What did ants have? Other people's sugar?

*

Before the debate, I wandered out of the gymnasium and onto bustling sidewalks with makeshift security fencing on each side. And hopped over the massive yellow tubes that belonged in E.T. and pumped cold air into the building. Past dozens of police and security, through an elaborate weave of temporary checkpoints and wires bigger than a fire hose.

On the street, I passed a group of six-or-so teenagers flipping DELANEY signs around like those cardboard "WE BUY GOLD" banners which actual people bob around while dressed as Elvis or Lady Liberty or a Banana.

Photo by Kevin Ryan

The sun cast a delightful orange over Houston, glitter in the humid air.

Those kids were having a blast with those signs. Laughing so hard they had to stop occasionally and slap their legs.

On the other side of the fence, some of the most powerful people in the world were readying for battle, and these kids could not have cared less.

*

The protestors had gathered just outside the gates of the campus entrance.

Far as I could tell, it was me and no other journalists present. The rest of the media were in the gymnasium, preparing for the debate or networking or already on-air. Once they got into the media center they stayed put. For many reasons, I assume.
The air collapsed under a wave of heat unique to Houston.

Photo by Kevin Ryan

Gnarled blockades served as borders on both sides of the street. Locked into steel fencing, flanked by rows of police cars with their lights on but their sirens off.

Worse than the humidity, and more intense, was the energy bouncing out of the protestors on Cleburne Street. The opposite of suction energy, shoving out with tension and panic and elation.

Photo by Kevin Ryan

Curtis Mayfield's "Move on Up" blared from a Bluetooth speaker. I envisioned a slow zoom from above, beginning with the top of my head and rising, up and up and up. Drawing in the greater scene. Up past Trump's message-board plane. A panorama of city, then county, then state, capturing the topography and nuance of each snapshot of nature.

The higher the camera rose, the more I resembled an ant. One more wingless worker or obedient soldier rushing from place to place on a mission.

And when you got far enough above, you saw the colony that each of us belongs to.

Then it shrank like a passing bobsled, and Earth itself resembled an ant.

The scale of it is daunting.

For thousands of years the sky has filled humans with romance and humility and wonder. A restive impulse that strikes when we gaze up at the moon, the stars, the galaxy, the quiet.

But at ground level, I was a man in the throes of a great human drama. And my job was to document it as neutrally as possible.

The 120-odd protestors on the south side of the street spilled onto the sidewalk and into a lawn, and they chanted as the Trump plane groaned overhead.

They were crowded together, and they were all fighting for different causes. Lots of contradictions under the same banner.
Next to a group of Beto supporters with pro-choice t-shirts, several women chanted

We.
Want.
A pro-life.
Dem.

Chaos itself occupied the south side of the street. The protestors weren't sure how to handle it. So they chanted and sang and probed for the problem. Like so many tiny creatures hauling an orange slice.

Across the street, facing that horde of supporters, two men gripped pro-life signs.

They were the counter-protestors. Their barricade was far wider than needed. The grass around them looked sad, like the trail a dog makes along the fence when it wants to escape.

Behind the two counter-protestors, a mini-bus covered with photos of aborted babies, tangled fetuses, severed and indistinguishable chunks.

Photo by Kevin Ryan

Photo by Kevin Ryan

I squinted and gasped and felt downright unwell.

Two days earlier, my wife and I found out that she was pregnant with our first child.

At the very moment I stared at images of tiny human shapes contorted and grey, our baby was the size of a pea.
A few weeks later, we'd see its heartbeat pulsing like a strobe.

I'm not making a statement on abortion. That's not my job as a journalist.

It's more my admiration for the impeccable depth of life. The timing. How messages and symbols confront us all the time, with unmatchable creativity.

Because there I was, literally in the middle of two opposing factions. Again. In the divide. Tangled into so many dichotomies. Life and death. Freedom and oppression. Order and chaos. Activity and stagnation. Creation and loss. Art and nature.

And I had once again remained in the middle.

This brought me tremendous satisfaction. It signified personal and journalistic success.

It was also a bit ridiculous.

As a reporter, I never wanted to pick a side. I already had a side. My side was America, and Ireland. My side was humanity.

My side was life.

New installments of this series come out every Monday and Thursday morning. Check out my Twitter or email me at kryan@mercurystudios.com

"Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak.Not to act is to act."
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The cost of discipleship can be daunting and few people are willing to sacrifice and stand in the face of evil to do what they know God is asking of them. The "Bonhoeffer Angel Award" is awarded to someone with the vision and courage to act when others only talk, to dig in and listen to the whisperings of the spirit when others turn a deaf ear. It is only fitting the inaugural award go to the visionary founder of Mercury One, Glenn Beck.

The award was presented by the Board President of Mercury One, David Barton and CEO of the Nazarene Fund, Tim Ballard. There was a touching video tribute as well including the likes of Penn Jillette, Senators Mike Lee, Ted Cruz and Joe Liberman, Congressman Loui Gohmert and Rabbi Daniel Lappin.

WATCH THE VIDEO HERE:

Glenn will be hosting the annual Operation Underground Railroad gala Saturday, November 2nd with keynote speaker Tim Ballard. If you are able to join us, tickets are still available and donations of all sizes are welcome.

Summer is ending and fall is in the air. Before you know it, Christmas will be here, a time when much of the world unites to celebrate the love of family, the generosity of the human spirit, and the birth of the Christ-child in Bethlehem.

For one night only at the Kingsbury Hall in Salt Lake City, on December 7th, join internationally-acclaimed radio host and storyteller Glenn Beck as he walks you through tales of Christmas in the way that only he can. There will be laughs, and there might be a few tears. But at the end of the night, you'll leave with a warm feeling in your heart and a smile on your face.

Reconnect to the true spirit of Christmas with Glenn Beck, in a storytelling tour de force that you won't soon forget.

Get tickets and learn more about the event here.

The general sale period will be Friday, August 16 at 10:00 AM MDT. Stay tuned to for updates. We look forward to sharing in the Christmas spirit with you!

Ryan: Donald Trump goes to Dallas

Photo by Sean Ryan

Donald Trump leaned into the rostrum like a bartender. He loved to rile his patrons.

"They. Wanna. Take. Your Guns. Away," he said, in his trademark staccato.

They stomped and hollered, 18,000 strong in the American Airlines Center, home of the Dallas Mavericks, on a Thursday in October, and another 5,000 people waited outside, desperate to join.

"At stake. In this fight. Is the survival. Of American democracy itself," he said, then went off-script. "Don't kid yourself, that's what they want, they are destroying this country, but we will never let it happen, not even close."

Photo by Sean Ryan

Here it was a few weeks from Halloween, with more autumn in the air each day. And 23,000 people roamed Dallas in costumes. All dressed up like American flags. They were happy. You could feel it all around.

It was ice-cold in that arena, but I had my bulky tan Carhartt jacket. It had been an hour since I chuffed down a travel-sized Crown Royal and some Sativa gummies, and I felt an unerring contentment.

Photo by Sean Ryan

So my eyes shot wide when Trump jerked his hand toward the media pool for the third or fourth time that night and dealt a few jabs, and the audience hissed.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Every time it happened, I struggled to keep from laughing. Not in a condescending way. Neutral amusement. The drama of this wild setting full of energized people, the stadium lights, the narrative in motion. Hero versus Bad Guy.

Next minute they were cheering again. Because Trump told them about his plan to bring jobs back to America. It was just a matter of overcoming so many evil forces. But, he assured them, he was the only man who could guide us.

He listed off the enemies. The media, obviously. China, Obama, Democrats, Socialism, politicians, ISIS. I gasped, "Oh shit, I forgot about ISIS!"

*

There were five of us at the rally representing BlazeMedia. Writer Samantha Sullivan, cameraman James Baier, producer John Ruggio, and photographer Sean Ryan, my father.

James plays on the drumline at Mavericks games, so he gave us a proper tour of the arena, all the long passages and gaping walkways and cramped stairwells.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Then we prowled around outside, looking for protests.

It was a different world out there on the street. A nun in diabetes socks strolled past MAGA vendors by the W Hotel. Valet spots crowded with Secret Service vehicles.

Photo by Sean Ryan

An all-women Pro-Trump county/rock band chanted on the massive stage, where, an hour later, Fox News live-casted. We were the only media outside, besides the odd cameraman tip-toeing through the curving rows of Trump supporters in line.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Samantha conducted man-on-the-street interviews. Nearly every time we walked away from someone we'd just interviewed, the people around them said a version of, "Now you're famous."

*

There were a dozen merchants selling Trump merchandise outside the arena, at least a dozen. One of them told me that they travel to all of Trump's rallies. From his cart, a flag billowed with the words "2020: Make Liberals Cry Again."

Photo by Sean Ryan

As we followed the curves of the snaking line, I overheard a drunk man in his dark tan blazer exclaim, "All right, I'm gonna get us on television again."

We flashed past thousands of faces, thousands of people, driven to be there, standing in line. And happy no less. Blatant under the red-winged sky with planes that float silently, graceful and astounding.

Photo by Sean Ryan

A young woman strolled down the street with a sign that read, "I might be gay, but I'm not stupid."

She told us her story. Her message was compassionate. Her face was relaxed.

Photo by Sean Ryan

A little further down, plumes of smoke rose from a group of protestors with signs that said "We Vape We Vote.""Are you guys protesting Trump," I asked one of them.

"No," he said, "we all have different opinions about Trump. Not really worried about that. Right now we just want to protest the new vaping laws."

Photo by Sean Ryan

*

At 7:44 p.m., "Proud to be an American" came on and Trump emerged from the guts of the arena, strolling through the tunnel like Michael Jordan. Game 6.

Some people teared up, placed a hand over their eyes or their heart. Others nodded for too long, as if they couldn't believe what they were seeing. Was that really him up there?

Even a few of the police had that resplendent look.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Trump walked the stage. He clapped and waved. He waited till the end of the Lee Greenwood song to speak. The audience cheered as he braced the podium and said, "Thank you." And they kept cheering. He waited. 20 seconds or so. But the applause kept going, so he turned around and clapped some more and waved and smiled that certain way he smiles.

*

"I am thrilled to be here," he said, "deep in the heart of Texas." And people cheered even louder than before, because Texans love Texas. "Where we just opened a beautiful new Louis Vuitton plant."

Life in America was now constantly surreal. Donald Trump, who actually became President, was talking at a packed rally. In a basketball arena. About the opening of a factory. For a luxurious French fashion brand. In Keene, Texas, population 6,400.

*

Trump peeked at one of his teleprompters. Grinning halfway. Then he jabbed his finger into the air, aimed it at the media section, and said "They're worse now than they ever have been," his shoulders raised and hands gesticulating. "They're crooked as hell. They're worse now than they've ever been. They're crooked."

Photo by Sean Ryan

His supporters booed. Jeered.

They pointed their fingers. They hocked.

A "CNN sucks" chant whispered down from a corner section on the 3rd level, but it never caught on. The audience's hissing tactic worked better anyway. No words. Words were the problem.

*

There was a musicality to Trump's sentences. He started with clipped phrases spoken in couplets. Then he let the words slide into an almost freeflow.

Photo by Sean Ryan

He would start on-script, "The radical Democrats want to destroy America as we know it. They wanna indoctrinate our children." Then, halfway through the next sentence, he would pivot into an aside, spoken in vernacular.

"And teach them that America is a sinful nation, you see that happening all the time. And I know it from personal experience. What they want to teach your kids, not good. They come home, 'Mommy, daddy, this is what I learned,' and you're going 'Oh, no, don't tell me. Let's get 'em into another school, fast.'"

*

Bleacher Report ranked American Airlines Center the 7th loudest arena in the NBA.

The crowd's reaction to Trump's comments about guns and the 2nd Amendment created one of the loudest sounds of the night, louder than Tina Turner's "The Best," which played about 8 times. Must have been 100 decibels. Some people were stuffing their ears with whatever fit.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Nearly every one of Trump's punchlines got an audience reaction.

I mean these folks were revved up.

I spoke to a lot of people that night. Not a single solitary one of them was anything less than kind.

Look, I might as well say it now. The crowd was more diverse than I'd expected. Race, ethnicity, age, sex. Probably less diverse than the demographics of the country. But that's to be expected. Every one of the events so far brought a completely different crowd.

Photo by Sean Ryan

What mattered most was how the candidates swayed any given crowd at any given place. What was different about a Bernie Sanders townhall at a Hilton and a Kamala Harris sermon at a Baptist Church?

Nobody was ever rude at any events. But nowhere was there as much excitement as at the Trump rally. It felt like a sporting event or a music festival.

Photo by Sean Ryan

More than anything, it felt like WrestleMania. Professional wrestling. World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).

So many times I looked around at the engulfed arena and thought, "This is WWE."

*

Especially when Trump told stories. The way he added both vitriol and triumph to his sentences. Turned them into journeys, much like the interwoven plot lines of a WWE drama, each scene and victory or failure leading to WrestleMania.

The more outrageous or scandalous the story, the better. The less believable, the more dramatic it became. Because all any of it had to be was compelling.

Photo by Sean Ryan

To be compelling was more important than to be literal or judicious. Supercharged with human drama. Betrayal. Contempt. Dalliances. Mockery. Danger. Love. Confoundment. Anxiety. Celebration. Occasionally even death.

All of it was WWE to the hilt. But it was also the polluted clouds in an otherwise sacred dream. Water and adolescence, all the magnets spinning and spinning. Each huff from the street. The reckoning of life, how maybe it could have happened differently but this is how it went.

*

He seemed to use a kind of operant conditioning on his audience, as if to make it easier for them to communicate in shorthand.

Fewer words, fewer, few.

Photo by Sean Ryan

For instance, here's his first mention of the media, at the start of the rally.

"Although the fake news back there, they don't wanna talk about it." That drew the boo's all right.

He leaned back, as if handing them the mic for a moment.

Photo by Sean Ryan

"They don't wanna talk about it." He stared at the media area for a few seconds, then squinted cartoonishly and lifted his palm over his forehead like he was blocking out the sun. Then he leaned into the podium, and the pitch of his voice rose. "Look at all those cameras, can you believe it? Look at all those red lights."

Then he pointed at the press pool. The cameras were set up directly across the arena floor, so when you watch it on video it's like Trump is bursting out of your monitor.

Photo by Sean Ryan

"Don't worry, I won't say anything bad about your network."

Then he — immediately — said something bad about the networks.

"Cuz' a lot of times I get ready to do a number on these phony networks and, you know, I see those red lights go off, off, off, off, off. They don't want their viewers to see, but that's okay. I'm not gonna say it tonight. I'm gonna say, 'You're legitimate media'."
Aside, "I don't actually mean that."

He grimaced.

Photo by Sean Ryan

"But you look at that," he said, pointing, then lifted his palm to his forehead again, like he still couldn't find the puny thing he was looking for. "That's like the Academy Awards used to be, it failed. You know why it failed? Because they came after us. That's why it failed. It failed because it had stupid people saying horrible things about us."

Then he pointed to his temple wiggling his finger, "Stup-id." Shook his head. "Stupid people. They are stupid people. And their ratings have dropped like a rock. And I love seeing it, I'm telling you. Love it."

He reared his head back.

"But no matter how. Hard. They. Try. They will fail. Because the people of Texas, and the people of America, will never. Surrender. Our freedom. To those people. Right there."

Photo by Sean Ryan

Later in the speech, he said much less, mostly variations of "and in the back you'll see the fake news." Repetition, a little briefer each time. Down to an occasional off-handed, "Those phonies in the back." Then, eventually, all he had to do was point, grimacing.

Two K9 police took stance in front of the grey barricade separating us from them, which amounted to separating us from ourselves.

*

Security at the rally was unlike anything I'd seen. An entire military apparatus that floated here from Washington D.C., subsuming downtown.

Two wax-shined helicopters hovered over the arena, unmoving, like geckos ready to snap on a fly. I'd never seen a helicopter float perfectly still like that. It was terrifying.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Secret Service everywhere. Different ranks. Outside were the Navy Seal types in body armor, hoisting MP5s with silencers. The Secret Service inside, nearest Trump, had the same jagged stare and well-trained unease. But they glided around in immaculate, boring suits, each with a gold square pin on the lapel. They either stealthed around in a blur or stood perfectly still like the Queen's Guard.

I'd been to the American Airlines Center twice before. A few years ago, for Kanye West's Saint Pablo tour, when he performed solo on the levitating stage. And last summer, to review a Shania Twain concert under the influence of LSD.

Oddly, the Trump rally was a mixture of both.

*

In nearby Grand Prairie, at the Theatre at Grand Prairie, Texas Democrat Beto O'Rourke held a competing rally. There were about as many people at O'Rourke's rally as people outside the Trump rally.

Obviously, Trump loved that. But, for good measure, he hurled a few Beto-jabs into his speech, referring to him as "a very dumb Democrat candidate for president."

Photo by Sean Ryan

Then he compared him to one of those wacky inflated dancing noodles you only ever see at used car dealerships.

Then he did an imitation of above-mentioned contraption. It was bizarre to see a President imitating a dancing noodle. But he didn't care what a President should or shouldn't do. He was the anti-Politician President. And his followers loved that about him.

Photo by Sean Ryan

"The flailer," he said. "Remember he was flailing all over the place? I said, 'Why is this guy hot? John Cornyn's gonna win so easily. Just like Ted Cruz won. He's gonna win. No matter what happened." Then he scoured, like a falcon in a painting. "In a few short weeks, [Beto] got rid of guns then got rid of religion. Those are not two good things in Texas to get rid of."

*

Stomping his balled-up hand, Trump said that his office, the Oval Office, was our office, too. The crowd roared. Some of these people had driven hours for the rally. There were farmers and truck drivers and teachers and nurses. A lot of people there had never had an office of their own, and here was the President saying his was theirs.

Trump is the hero of his stories. It's part of his success, and, I suspect, a useful defense mechanism. At first glance, his journey and his character are riffs on the classical literary model, a thirsty figure who gnashes through dangerous territory, down into the unknown, through death and onto rebirth.

Photo by Sean Ryan

But Trump is not classic in the slightest. He's nothing like Odysseus or Dante or Gilgamesh or Don Quixote. Instead, he is a postmodern antihero, like Clint Eastwood in "A Fistful of Dollars" or Tony Soprano or Beyoncé or Homer Simpson. In the summer of 2015, I asked a former professor to define postmodernism.

"Donald Trump," he replied. "He contains all of it. Chaos. Hyperreality. Lots of chaos. A constant sense of 'This is so surreal.' The rejection of tradition and assumptions. Rejection of divisions between high and low culture. Rejection of rules and styles and genres. Use of pastiche. Satire. Irony. Playfulness. Paranoia. Fragmentation. A total lack of boundaries."

*

Any time the place got quiet, some random person, usually near the rafters, hollered out phrases, and it just sound like the South Park rednecks saying "They took our jobs!"

To be fair, hecklers on the left don't sound much better.

*

A week earlier, at Trump's Minneapolis rally, protestors and activists formed a moshpit outside the Target Center, not too far from the Mississippi River.

Tensions in Minneapolis had been high, and as Trump was about to board Air Force One Mayor Jacob Frey insisted that Trump pay the $530,000 security fee in advance. A last minute effort to keep him out of Minneapolis.

In response, Trump tweeted that the "lightweight mayor is hurting the great police and other wonderful supporters. 72,000 ticket requests already. Dump Frey and [Minnesota Rep. Ilhan] Omar! Make America Great Again!"

Photo by Sean Ryan

Conservative networks reported that, after the rally, members of AntiFa attacked at least one Trump supporter. Moral panic or not, it didn't augur well for the next year.

The following day, Trump appeared in Lake Charles, Louisiana. The South. No army of AntiFa down here, not like in Portland or New York or Seattle.

AntiFa has a decent presence in Dallas, and a reporter friend of mine interviewed a group of them outside the Trump rally. But there were hardly any there. A dozen or so. Which is nothing compared to the tens of thousands of Trump supporters, coiled all through downtown Dallas with its neon green outline.

*

I worked as a soccer referee for years. So I've broken up countless fights, dealt with manic egos, endured adults prone to outbursts, taken every kind of verbal abuse, faced absolute mutiny. In these chaotic situations, when people around you are losing their minds, the two greatest solutions are kindness and humor.

*

Halfway through a sentence Trump stopped reading from the prompters, stopped talking, pivoted, beamed at the crowd, then lifted his hand.

The entire arena fell silent.

It was the captivating hush of the final moments of an important game, as the ball floats through the air toward the goal or net or end zone, and fate is no longer within our grasp.

Imagine being able to freeze an entire arena into abrupt silence with one tilt of your hand.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Trump was quarterback and they were the defensive line. He sang the melody and they hummed the backbeat. He was the skipper and they were deckhands. Although he seemed concerned that his supporters never felt belittled by this arrangement.

"[Democrats] come after me, but what they're really doing is coming after the Republican party. And what they're really really doing is they're fighting you, and we never lose."

Photo by Sean Ryan

Every time he dropped a line like that, the crowd erupted with the kind of visceral intensity usually reserved for good news and sports.

The man who Evil Knievelled into arenas and said he'd never be conquered.

The closing of his speech was like the ball-drop in Times Square. But instead of kazoos and fireworks it was the words "Make America Great Again."

"Four more years," people shouted, "four more years."

Photo by Sean Ryan

Then the Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want" blasted to life.

For some reason, one verse stood out more than the others.

And I went down to the demonstration
To get my fair share of abuse
Singing, "We're gonna vent our frustration
If we don't we're gonna blow a fifty-amp fuse"

In all that hissing and mania, all the flag-waving intensity — as the arena peeled and shook with the song and so many stomping feet — Trump looked in one direction, waved. Then another, and turned, waved. Until he had looked in every direction and waved.

Before he ducked out, he pointed toward the crowd one last time. A blaring sea of reds, blues, whites. A living representation of the American flag. All three colors boiling around under the Jumbotron and disco balls.

Little by little, people streamed into the aisles. They filed up the concrete steps, and out into a familiar chaos.

New installments of this series come out every Monday and Thursday morning. Check out my Twitter or email me at kryan@mercurystudios.com