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Thread: Mad Man: Is Glenn Beck bad for America?

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    Elite Member Fluffy's Avatar
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    Question Mad Man: Is Glenn Beck bad for America?

    Thursday, Sep. 17, 2009
    Mad Man: Is Glenn Beck Bad for America?

    By David Von Drehle

    On Sept. 12, a large crowd gathered in Washington to protest ... what? The goals of Congress and the Obama Administration, mainly — the cost, the scale, the perceived leftist intent. The crowd's agenda was wide-ranging, so it's hard to be more specific. "End the Fed," a sign read. A schoolboy's placard denounced "Obama's Nazi Youth Militia." Another poster declared, "We the People for Capitalism Not Socialism." If you get your information from liberal sources, the crowd numbered about 70,000, many of them greedy racists. If you get your information from conservative sources, the crowd was hundreds of thousands strong, perhaps as many as a million, and the tenor was peaceful and patriotic. Either way, you may not be inclined to believe what we say about numbers, according to a recent poll that found record-low levels of public trust of the mainstream media. (See pictures from the protest.)

    At any rate, what we can say with confidence is that Deanna Frankowski was there. A cheery woman of 49 from Leeds, Ala., Frankowski said she had come to Washington as part of a group of 100 or more protesters. They filled two buses. And they were motivated by a concern about runaway government spending — that, plus an outraged feeling that their views as citizens are not being heard. "We are sick and tired of being ignored," she said. "There is too much money being spent."

    Frankowski has been hit hard by the economic turmoil of the past year. Short of funds to make the trip, she painted an American flag on a pane of glass and asked people at her church to chip in toward her expenses, with one of them taking home the flag. She would like to share a house with her soon-to-be husband, but first she must figure out how to get free of the house she has — the one with the underwater mortgage. Some left-leaning writers argue that people in her boat must be deluded to oppose Barack Obama, but Frankowski is skeptical that her interests are being served by trillions in new government interventions. So she said, "I've paid my mortgage every month. And I'm getting no help. I'm just saying, Let capitalism work." Then she added, "We just want people to listen to us and care." (See pictures from a day in the life of Glenn Beck.)

    One person listens, Frankowski believes, and that's why back home in Alabama she arranged to have 10 large signs made on white foam board, nine of them marked with a big letter and the tenth with we and a heart. Raised aloft, the signs spelled out "We ♥ G-l-e-n-n B-e-c-k."

    Glenn Beck: the pudgy, buzz-cut, weeping phenomenon of radio, TV and books. Our hot summer of political combat is turning toward an autumn of showdowns over some of the biggest public-policy initiatives in decades. The creamy notions of postpartisan cooperation — poured abundantly over Obama's presidential campaign a year ago — have curdled into suspicion and feelings of helplessness. Trust is a toxic asset, sitting valueless on the national books. Good faith is trading at pennies on the dollar. The old American mind-set that Richard Hofstadter famously called "the paranoid style" — the sense that Masons or the railroads or the Pope or the guys in black helicopters are in league to destroy the country — is aflame again, fanned from both right and left. Between the liberal fantasies about Brownshirts at town halls and the conservative concoctions of brainwashed children goose-stepping to school, you'd think the Palm in Washington had been replaced with a Munich beer hall.

    No one has a better feeling for this mood, and no one exploits it as well, as Beck. He is the hottest thing in the political-rant racket, left or right. A gifted entrepreneur of angst in a white-hot market. A man with his ear uniquely tuned to the precise frequency at which anger, suspicion and the fear that no one's listening all converge. On that frequency, Frankowski explained, "the thing I hear most is, People are scared."

    Fears of a Clown


    Beck is 45, tireless, funny, self-deprecating, a recovering alcoholic, a convert to Mormonism, a libertarian and living with ADHD. He is a gifted storyteller with a knack for stitching seemingly unrelated data points into possible conspiracies — if he believed in conspiracies, which he doesn't, necessarily; he's just asking questions. He's just sayin'. In cheerful days of yore, he was a terrific host of a morning-zoo show on an FM Top 40 station. But these aren't cheerful times. For conservatives, these are times of economic uncertainty and political weakness, and Beck has emerged as a virtuoso on the strings of their discontent. Rush Limbaugh, with his supreme self-confidence, holding forth with "half my brain tied behind my back just to make it fair," found his place as the triumphant champion of the Age of Reagan. Macho Sean Hannity captured the cocky vibe of the early Bush years, dunking the feckless liberal Alan Colmes for nightly swirlies on the Fox News Channel. Both men remain media dynamos, but it is Beck — nervous, beset, desperate — who now channels the mood of many on the right. "I'm afraid," he has said more than once in recent months. "You should be afraid too." (Read Glenn Beck's tribute to Rush Limbaugh in the 2009 TIME 100.)

    His fears are many — which is lucky for him, because Beck is responsible for filling multiple hours each day on radio and TV and webcast, plus hundreds of pages each year in his books, his online magazine and his newsletter. What's this rich and talented man afraid of? He is afraid of one-world government, which will turn once proud America into another France. He is afraid that Obama "has a deep-seated hatred for white people" — which doesn't mean, he hastens to add, that he actually thinks "Obama doesn't like white people." He is afraid that both Democrats and Republicans in Washington are deeply corrupt and that their corruption is spreading like a plague. He used to be afraid that hypocritical Republicans in the Bush Administration were killing capitalism and gutting liberty, but now he is afraid that all-too-sincere leftists in the Obama Administration are plotting the same. On a slow news day, Beck fears that the Rockefeller family installed communist and fascist symbols in the public artwork of Rockefeller Center. One of his Fox News Channel colleagues, Shepard Smith, has jokingly called Beck's studio the "fear chamber." Beck countered that he preferred "doom room."

    On the recent anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Beck grew afraid that Americans may no longer be the sort of people who cross mountain ranges in covered wagons and toss hot rivets around in bold bursts of skyscraper-building. Tears came to his eyes (they often do) as he voiced this last fear. But then he remembered that the fiber of ordinary Americans is the one thing Glenn Beck need never fear. So he squared his quivering chin to the camera and held up a snapshot of ground zero, still empty eight long years after the World Trade Center was destroyed.

    And he said, "Let me tell you something. I believe that if it were up to you or me, just regular schmoes in America, the Freedom Tower would have been done years ago. And it wouldn't have been the Freedom Tower; it would have been the Freedom Towers — because we would've built both of these towers back the way they were before! Except we would've built them stronger! We would've built them in a way that they would've resisted attack. And you know what? My guess is they would've been 25 stories taller, with a big, fat 'Come and Try That Again' sign on top. We would've built it with our bare hands if we had to, because that's what Americans do. When we fail, when we face a crisis, we pull ourselves up and make things better. I believe the only reason we haven't built it isn't because of Americans. It's because we're being held back. And who is holding us back? Politicians. Special-interest groups. Political correctness. You name it — everybody but you."

    Beck describes his performances as "the fusion of entertainment and enlightenment" — and the entertainment comes first. "Like Limbaugh, Glenn Beck is a former Top 40 DJ," radio historian Marc Fisher explains, "first and foremost an entertainer, who happens to have stumbled into a position of political prominence." Unlike Limbaugh, however, Beck is a "radio nostalgic," in love with the storytelling power of a man with a microphone. He started in radio at age 13, inspired by a recording of golden-age broadcasts given to him by his mother — who later committed suicide, leaving the young Beck deeply traumatized. "He loves radio," says his longtime producer and on-air sidekick Stu Burguiere. "The way the mind becomes its own theater and the listener engages in the medium with you, drawing their own pictures in their heads." Beck once lovingly re-created the 1938 Orson Welles classic War of the Worlds for XM Satellite Radio, and he named his production company Mercury Radio Arts in homage to Welles' Mercury Theatre on the Air. (Read "Heeeere's Glenn! When the Lunatic Fringe Tries Comedy.")

    As melodrama, it's thumping good stuff. But as politics, it's sort of a train wreck — at once powerful, spellbinding and uncontrolled. Like William Jennings Bryan whipping up populist Democrats over moneyed interests or the John Birch Society brooding over fluoride, Beck mines the timeless theme of the corrupt Them thwarting a virtuous Us. This flexible narrative often contains genuinely uncomfortable truths. Some days "they" are the unconfirmed policy "czars" whom Beck fears Obama is using to subvert constitutional government — and he has some radical-sounding sound bites to back it up. Some days "they" are the network of leftist community organizers known as ACORN — and his indictment of the group is looking stronger every day. But he also spins yarns of less substance. He tells his viewers that Obama's volunteerism efforts are really an attempt to create a "civilian national-security force that is just as strong, just as powerful as the military." While scourging Obama and the Democratic Congress, Beck takes pains to say that the ranks of the nation's would-be oppressors know no party. In his recent instabook — Glenn Beck's Common Sense, a huge best seller, with more than 1 million copies moved in less than four months — he wrote, "Most Americans remain convinced that the country is on the wrong track. They know that SOMETHING JUST DOESN'T FEEL RIGHT but they don't know how to describe it or, more importantly, how to stop it." The book's pox-on-both-parties populism evokes the quixotic campaigns of Texas billionaire H. Ross Perot, but with an eerie sound track.

    He is having an impact. Along with St. Louis, Mo., blogger Jim Hoft, whose site is called Gateway Pundit, Beck pushed one of Obama's so-called czars, Van Jones, to resign during Labor Day weekend. Jones, whose task was to oversee a green-jobs initiative, turned out to be as enchanted by conspiracies as Beck — he once theorized that "white polluters and the white environmentalists" are "steering poison into the people-of-color's communities" and signed a petition demanding an investigation into whether the Bush Administration had a hand in the 9/11 attacks. On Sept. 14 the Senate overwhelmingly voted to cut off all federal funds to ACORN, and the U.S. Census Bureau severed its ties to the organization. This followed Beck's masterly promotion of a series of videos made by two guerrilla filmmakers who posed as a pimp and prostitute while visiting ACORN offices around the country. The helpful community organizers were taped offering advice on tax evasion and setting up brothels for underage girls.

    By affirming its suspicions and assuaging its sense of powerlessness, Beck bonds with his rapidly growing audience. "I continue to be amazed by the power of everyday Americans," Beck said after Jones resigned. What the Obama adviser called a "smear campaign" against him was, Beck said, simply "honest questioning." And there's more to come, he warned: "Judging by the other radicals in the Administration, I expect that questioning to continue for the foreseeable future."

    The Profit Motive


    We tell ourselves a tale in America, and you can read it in Latin on the back of a buck: E pluribus unum. Many people from many lands, made one in a patriotic forge. And there's truth in that story — it conjures powerful pictures in the theater of our national mind. But it can also be misleading. Lots of Americans can't stand one another, don't trust each other and are willing — even eager — to believe the worst about one another. This story is as old as the gun used by Vice President Aaron Burr to kill his political rival Alexander Hamilton. And it's as new as the $1 million–plus in fresh campaign contributions heaped on Republican Representative Joe Wilson of South Carolina after he hollered "You lie!" at the President during a joint session of Congress. Anger and suspicion ebb and flow through our history, from the anti-Catholic musings of the 19th century Know-Nothing Party to the truthers and birthers of today.

    We're in a flood stage, and who's to blame? The answer is like the estimates of the size of the crowd in Washington: Whom do you trust? Either the corrupt, communist-loving traitors on the left are causing this, or it's the racist, greedy warmongers on the right, or maybe the dishonest, incompetent, conniving media, which refuse to tell the truth about whomever you personally happen to despise.

    But we can all agree that — no matter where it comes from — rubbing the sore has become a lucrative business. The mutual contempt of the American extremes draws crowds and fattens wallets at bookstores, cable-news departments, AM radio stations and documentary film fests. Wilson's campaign kitty is just one example, and a fairly modest one at that. (His opponent, Democrat Rob Miller, also raked in $1 million in new donations thanks to the outburst.) Michael Moore makes far more than that with his capitalist-bashing movies. The new Senator from Minnesota, Al Franken, cashed in handsomely with his conservative-taunting books. Or check out Beck Inc. to see how loudmouthing can earn you a river of cash.

    There are bigger one-voice enterprises in the world: Oprah, Rush, Dr. Phil. But few are more widely diversified. In June, estimators at Forbes magazine pegged Beck's earnings over the previous 12 months at $23 million, a ballpark figure confirmed by knowledgeable sources, and this year's revenues are on track to be higher. The largest share comes from his radio show, which is heard by more than 8 million listeners on nearly 400 stations — one of the five biggest radio audiences in the country. Beck is one of only a handful of blockbuster authors who have reached No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller lists with both nonfiction and fiction. (Among the others: John Grisham, Patricia Cornwell and William Styron. Unlike them, however, Beck gets a lot of help from his staff.) His latest book, Arguing with Idiots, will be published this month, and if things go as expected, it will be the third No. 1 with his name on the front published in the past 12 months. Taking a page from Stephen King — who once called Beck "Satan's mentally challenged younger brother" — Beck recently entered into a partnership with Simon & Schuster that pays him a share of profits rather than a traditional author's royalty, and he plans to create a range of books for every audience, from children to teens to adults.

    His website claims 5 million unique visitors per month; his weekly podcast is seen by 1.5 million people each week. Between them, he draws at least $3 million annually online. He has an online magazine, Fusion; a newsletter that touts Beck merchandise; and a tradition of live performances — a blend of stand-up comedy and political monologues — that have drawn more than 200,000 fans in recent years. The finale of his most recent tour was simulcast in some 450 movie theaters across the country.

    Lured by the Fox News Channel from CNN's Headline News channel last year, Beck has lit up the 5 p.m. slot in a way never thought possible by industry watchers, drawing upwards of 3 million viewers on some recent days. Indeed, despite his late-afternoon start, he sometimes beats even Bill O'Reilly, Fox's prime-time behemoth, in key ratings demographics. The value of his Fox contract is reliably said to be about $2 million per year. (Read a Q&A with Glenn Beck.)

    With a staff of about 25 employees at Mercury and 10 or so at Fox, Beck Inc. is doing its part to jump-start the economy. And there are ancillary industries feeding on the success of Beck and others like him. Both left- and right-wing not-for-profit groups operate as self-anointed media watchdogs, and one of the largest of these — the liberal group Media Matters for America — has a multimillion-dollar budget. Staff members monitor Beck's every public utterance, poised to cherry-pick the most inflammatory sentences. (Conservative outfits do the same for the likes of MSNBC's Keith Olbermann.) These nuggets are used in turn to rev up donations to political parties and drive ratings for the endless rounds of talking-head shows.

    The inevitable question is, How much of this industry is sincere? Last year, shortly after the election, Beck spoke with TIME's Kate Pickert, and he didn't sound very scared back then. Of Obama's early personnel decisions, he said, "I think so far he's chosen wisely." Of his feelings about the President: "I am not an Obama fan, but I am a fan of our country ... He is my President, and we must have him succeed. If he fails, we all fail." Of the Democratic Party: "I don't know personally a single Democrat who is a dope-smoking hippie that wants to turn us into Soviet Russia." Of the civic duty to trust: "We've got to pull together, because we are facing dark, dark times. I don't trust a single weasel in Washington. I don't care what party they're from. But unless we trust each other, we're not going to make it."

    How can we trust each other, though, when the integrated economy of ranters and their delighted-to-be-outraged critics are such a model of profitability? A microphone, a camera and a polarizing host are all it takes to get the money moving. Because audiences have been so widely fragmented by the new technology, ratings that would have gotten a talk-show host canceled in the late 1980s create a superstar today. (In 1987 comedian David Brenner bombed in syndication with about 2.5 million viewers at midnight — which is roughly what Fox, the leading network for political talk shows, averages in prime time.)

    Extreme talk, especially as practiced by a genuine talent like Beck, squeezes maximum profit from a relatively small, deeply invested audience, selling essentially the same product in multiple forms. The more the host is criticized, the more committed the original audience becomes. And the more committed the audience, the bigger target it presents to the rant industry on the other side of the spectrum. A liberal group called Color of Change has organized an advertiser boycott of Beck's TV show — great publicity for the group and a boon to Beck's ratings.

    If it's E pluribus unum you're looking for, try American Idol.

    Mad as Hell


    Starting after the election and continuing into spring, pollster Frank Luntz conducted a survey of some 6,400 Americans, and the first question was whether they agreed with this statement: "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore." Nearly 3 out of 4 — 72% — said yes.

    Movie buffs might appreciate this, because when Beck gets rolling on a particularly emotional riff, when the tears glisten and the shoulders shudder, Paddy Chayefsky, the great leftist playwright, looks like a prophet. He's the man who coined the phrase that, according to Luntz, is the rare thing Americans can agree on. He gave the line to Howard Beale, the mad anchorman at the center of the dark satire Network.

    Chayefsky imagines cynical television executives who create a ratings sensation out of the nightly rants and ravings of Beale. The host energizes the nation with his cry, "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!" It's hard to find a film that better captures the rotten vibe of the early 1970s, when America found itself suffering through one downer after another: failing companies, tense foreign relations, high unemployment, rampant incivility, spiraling deficits, corruption in high places, a seemingly endless war. Sound familiar?

    Beck often cites Beale as an inspiration and a tribune for our own times. "I think that's the way people feel," he told an interviewer. "That's the way I feel" — like the fist-shaking, hair-pulling Beale. Whether channeled by a playwright on the left or a talk-show host on the right, anger and distrust can be dramatized and monetized. But do they ever really go anywhere?

    The trouble with this prophecy is that we never find out what happens to the people watching Beale. Do they stay mad forever? Does their screaming ever lead to something better? Does the rage merely migrate, sending new audiences with new enemies to scream from more windows? And if the time comes when every audience is screaming, who, in the end, is left to listen?

    With reporting by Michael Scherer
    Mad Man: Is Glenn Beck Bad for America? - TIME

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    Elite Member Grimmlok's Avatar
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    lol glenn beck is the stinky phallus of corporate infotainment, and these blighted idiots think he's some champion for the free market?

    delusion.
    I am from the American CIA and I have a radio in my head. I am going to kill you.

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    La vie en rose DitaPage*'s Avatar
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    Glenn Beck IS funny. Because he's SUCH a moron. It's so entertaining.

    They left 'giggles spontaneously' out of the description.
    Last edited by DitaPage*; September 19th, 2009 at 12:06 AM.

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    Elite Member olivia720's Avatar
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    Glenn Beck is the biggest moron on tv. That includes the guys on Tool Academy.

    He actually said that Obama has a "seething hatred of white people". Yeah. That's a real mensa member right there.

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    Elite Member L1049's Avatar
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    Did you all know that Glenn Beck raped and murdered a young girl in 1990?

    Proof is in the puddin':
    DidGlennBeckRapeAndMurderAYoungGirlIn1990.com

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    La vie en rose DitaPage*'s Avatar
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    Please tell me thats a parody.

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    ^^
    It is a parody, but it shows exactly what is wrong with Beck's "just asking questions" pose. Beck's a moron and a tool, but he is a dangerous one because he feeds off of and generates fear.

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    Is Beck bad for America? Why so restrictive - Beck is bad for the World!

    He may be the only person ever to convert to mormonism as an adult.

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    Elite Member HWBL's Avatar
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    Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Mark Williams.....
    All these rightwing populists are dangerous if only because
    they propagate their opinion by brute force and noise.
    In the eyes of the stupid portion of the population, not allowing
    the other party to counter the propaganda that loudmouthed
    idiots like the ones mentioned spew, simply by screaming over
    and through their attempts to do so, serves as proof that the
    opinions of the populists mentioned are right. Noise over substance.
    Warren Beatty: actor, director, writer, producer.

    ***** celeb

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    Elite Member Little Wombat's Avatar
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    Is Glenn Beck Bad for America?
    I don't even need to read the article to know the answer to that question - a resounding YES!
    "Oh! I've been looking for a red suede pump!"
    - Marie (Carrie Fisher), When Harry Met Sally

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    Elite Member kingcap72's Avatar
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    People like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh are products of American racism and ignorance. They could both retire tomorrow and there would be others lined up to replace them.

    So, the question shouldn't be is Glenn Beck bad for America. The question should be 'what is it about America that continues to produce and embrace the Glenn Becks?'

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    Elite Member HWBL's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kingcap72 View Post
    People like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh are products of American racism and ignorance. They could both retire tomorrow and there would be others lined up to replace them.

    So, the question shouldn't be is Glenn Beck bad for America. The question should be 'what is it about America that continues to produce and embrace the Glenn Becks?'
    True dat. America needs YEARS of therapy and resocialization.
    Warren Beatty: actor, director, writer, producer.

    ***** celeb

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    Elite Member KrisNine's Avatar
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    America needs to split into separate countries. Let these Beck morons have their own area where they teach creationism, racism, are allowed to have uzi's, are only white and no one is without healthcare. That would make me happy

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    Elite Member witchcurlgirl's Avatar
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    America survived Father Coughlin, the KKK, the Bund...we'll survive Glenn Beck and Limbaugh too.



    All of God's children are not beautiful. Most of God's children are, in fact, barely presentable.


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    Elite Member Grimmlok's Avatar
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    yes, the problem is you keep breeding this stuff over and over.

    Everybody needs some Re-Neducation.
    I am from the American CIA and I have a radio in my head. I am going to kill you.

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