9/12…. I’ll concede that I’ve never fully been able to understand or relate to the concerns of those gathering on the Washington Mall today. Indeed, like the “Tea Parties” in April, I’m not altogether sure what it is they’re protesting. Being mad about your side losing a presidential election doesn’t seem like an especially compelling rationale for a rally in D.C., but maybe that’s just me.

Six months ago, when Glenn Beck first talked about organizing today’s event, he said he intended to “bring us all back to the place we were on September 12, 2001. The day after America was attacked we were not obsessed with Red States, Blue States, or political parties. We were united as Americans.”

By any meaningful measure, this is, at a minimum, disingenuous. Beck, Dick Armey, and right-wing organizers have been obsessed with ideological warfare and tearing the country apart. Their goals are to attack Democrats and undermine the Obama presidency. There’s nothing especially wrong with that — conservative Republicans are in the minority, and it stands to reason they’d oppose the majority’s agenda — but it has nothing to do with where Americans were eight years ago today.

Time‘s James Poniewozik’s take on today’s events struck the right note.

[A]s someone who happened to be in New York City eight years ago today, the implicit premise of the 9-12 Project — that those who aren’t on Beck’s side must have somehow “forgotten” 9/11 and its aftermath — ticks me off royally and personally.

I was at home in Brooklyn, holding my six-week-old baby on the couch, when I saw the second plane crash into the World Trade Center on TV. I watched the smoking pit of the ruins from the roof of my apartment building as bits of memo paper and ash drifted on the winds to my neighborhood. I was there on 9/11, and 9/12, and 9/13. You’ll excuse me if I don’t feel warm nostalgia for the lingering smell of burnt airplane fuel, and metal, and bodies.

Nor, of course, does Beck. What he purportedly wants is to bring back our feeling of “unity.” I remember that feeling. After 9/11, I remember hardcore liberal New Yorkers rallying behind Rudy Giuliani, saying nice things about President Bush when he spoke at the WTC ruins. I remember thousands of American flags being flown out of apartment and brownstone windows, not as political statements or in the you-better-prove-your-patriotism spirit of flag pins and Freedom Fries, but simply because we felt we Americans were all in this together.

So since March, what has Glenn Beck been doing to re-establish that sense of nonpartisan national brotherhood? Calling President Obama a racist, declaring that the government was bringing fascism upon us, asking his fans to dig up dirt on political figures he doesn’t like, and predicting civil-war-like uprisings. Because that’s how you bring people together.

It’s precisely why the message of today’s gathering is largely incoherent. Beck insisted his intention is to see us “united as Americans.” Except, he wants nothing of the sort, and by all appearances, those gathering in D.C. today have the exact opposite in mind.

The point of today’s protests seems to be to condemn the president, his party, and a progressive economic agenda in general. While Americans rallied behind the nation’s leaders eight years ago, today’s activists are desperate to see America’s elected leadership fail.

What does this have to do with the feeling of national unity and civility Americans felt in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks? Not a thing. “9/12” is a shallow excuse to rant and rave, attack Americans the right doesn’t like, and share hysterical right-wing ideas and conspiracy theories.

That’s their right, of course, but to characterize this as a celebration of American unity is ridiculous.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.