Glenn Beck has announced that he "intends to transition off of his daily program" on Fox News later this year. It's not clear what killed The Glenn Beck Show—perhaps it was the fleeing advertisers or the shrinking audiences. Or perhaps it was the increasingly bizarro obsessions and labyrinthine conspiracy theories, which we've attempted to catalog in this map of the inner workings of Beck's brain.
Is the Japanese nuclear emergency freaking you out? Perhaps you don't appreciate just how cute and harmless the power of the atom can be—at least when it's in cartoon form. Below, a few gems of propaganda aimed at calming nuke skeptics, from the Cold War to the present day.
Nuclear Boy: Disaster goes kawaii in this adorable Japanese animation, in which the damaged Fukushima Daichii power plant becomes Nuclear Boy, a little guy with an "upset stomach." And those brave workers trying to avert catastrophe? They're shown as a doctor working "around the clock to make sure he doesn't poo."
A huge share of the nation's economic growth over the past 30 years has gone to the top one-hundredth of one percent, who now make an average of $27 million per household. The average income for the bottom 90 percent of us? $31,244.
In April 2009, Evgeny Morozov wrote a blog post about antigovernment protesters' use of social networking tools in Moldova, wondering if the country was in the midst of a "Twitter revolution." The demonstrations soon dropped from the headlines, but a meme was born: When Iranians took to the streets—and the tweets—a few months later, Western pundits and journalists declared a "Twitter revolution"; Andrew Sullivan announced, "The Revolution Will Be Twittered." The phrase has since been applied to events from Guatemala to Uganda. Most recently, it's been used to describe the protests in Tunisia that led to the flight of its autocratic president.
Yet Morozov has become intensely skeptical of the concept he helped introduce. The 26-year-old Foreign Policy blogger and visiting scholar at Stanford University's Liberation Technology Program now rarely misses a chance to throw cold water on those who suggest we can tweet, friend, or text our way to a freer, more democratic world. In his new book, The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom, he presents a wide-ranging assault on the notion that the internet is an inherently liberating force. Unlike fellow cyber-skeptic Malcom Gladwell, Morozov doesn't completely dismiss online organizing. Rather, he advocates taking a less starry-eyed view of its potential: "The idea that the Internet favors the oppressed rather than the oppressor is marred by what I calll cyber-utopianism: a naïve belief in the emancipatory nature of online communication that rests on a stubborn refusal to admit its downside." (For a good example of this mindset, consider this Tunisia-inspired letter to the New York Times: "Anyone subject to political repression anywhere can now be an influential 'minister without portfolio,' able to organize and call the people into the streets to demand reform.")
One major downside of the internet revolution, according to Morozov, is that instead of fearing the internet, authoritarian regimes can learn to use it to their advantage: China has deployed a small army of users known as the 50-Cent Party to post pro-government comments on blogs and in chat rooms. The same sites and mobile apps favored by Iranian dissidents also have been used by the Ahmadinejad government to track them down. Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez has more than 1.1 million Twitter followers.
Morozov also argues that the internet's attractiveness as an organizing tool and as an entertainment medium can undermine serious political action. Beyond the risks of slacktivism, there's also the risk that the internet is breeding complacency by distracting the digital natives who might otherwise become cyber-activists. Morozov has seen this in his native Belarus, as well as in Russia, where young people enjoy "a very nice digital entertainment lifestyle." That, he quips, "does not necessarily turn them into the next Che Guevara."
Illustration: Marcos ChinIn February 2010, Jane McGonigal completed another level in her quest to become America's new guru of gaming. She delivered a talk at TED, the annual California conference that's an obligatory stop for anyone peddling a Big Idea, from Al Gore to Bill Gates to David Byrne. McGonigal's was that video games can fix the planet's toughest problems. It's a bold, appealing proposition: Game-addled kids, who spend an average of more than 10,000 hours fiddling with consoles and controllers before they turn 21, could wind up stopping climate change with their PlayStations!
It should come as no surprise that gamers, techies, and Silicon Valley types have been thrilled to have a much-maligned pastime elevated to an altruistic pursuit—and by an exuberant, un-geeky blonde, no less. In the year since McGonigal's TED talk, the 33-year-old director of game research and development at the Institute for the Future, a Palo Alto think tank, has been interviewed by Wired, had an onstage chat with fellow futurist and Whole Earth Catalog founder Stewart Brand, and told the New York Times that 2011 will be the year of "unconventional games with real-world impact." O, The Oprah Magazine, put McGonigal on its annual "Power List," suggesting that she deserves a nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize.