So, how has Glenn Beck taken the news that Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) thinks he and his favorite gold dealer, Goldline, are working "hand in hand to cheat consumers"? Not well, by the looks of it. He's called Weiner a modern-day Joe McCarthy and invited his fans to send in photos of the congressman with "his nose as a wiener." And as the Beck trackers at Media Matters have documented, he's not backing away from hyping gold—anything but. On yesterday's radio show, he plugged Goldline as "the escape" from the economic doomsday scenario he's been painting for the past couple of years. Earlier in the week, he dragged out his famous chalkboard for a bit what what can only be described as gold-bledygook:
He may seem like he's losing it, but Beck is clearly reveling in the moment, which lets him tap into persecution complex and his shock-jock roots. Last night, in a bravura performance, Beck ripped into Weiner and then hit the chalkboard to connect the dots between community banking, Acorn, Van Jones, Bill Clinton, and Obama's mom. You can get a taste of it on his site—right after watching a Goldline promo. And the fun continues tonight, when Beck appears on the O'Reilly Factor to discuss his feud with Weiner, which apparently is the funniest word Beck has heard since he was 11. On his radio program this morning, Beck said the highlight of the taping was hearing O'Reilly admit, "I like Weiner." I suppose we should be grateful that Beck's not coming under fire from Washington Democrat Rep. Norm Dicks.
As MoJo's Stephanie Menicmer reports in "Glenn Beck's Golden Fleece," Beck's favorite gold company, Goldline International, is getting a reputation for using aggressive sales tactics to push overpriced products. As part of her investigation, she used the Freedom of Information Act to unearth a small trove of consumer complaints about the company filed with the Federal Trade Commission. If you're curious, here's a PDF of the complaints.
One customer, whose name was redacted by the FTC, filed a complaint in February, writing, "Not knowing anything about buying gold, I called Goldline International, Inc. because of their advertisement on Fox News and the fact that Glenn Beck endorses them." Like Richardson, this customer originally wanted bullion, but the sales rep "absolutely insisted" on 20-franc coins, and the customer relented. Unable to get a refund, the customer reported paying $369 apiece for coins that could be bought elsewhere for as low as $208. A Washington state couple nearing retirement invested $31,812 in foreign coins after calling to inquire about gold bullion "as a hedge against the falling dollar." Once they realized they'd overpaid, it was too late for a refund. Another customer complained that a sales rep "insisted" on selling French 20 franc coins: "He would not relent. He told me lies." A quadriplegic Californian described being persuaded to pay $5,000 for $3,000 worth of gold coins after disclosing a recent inheritance to a Goldline rep.
Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), who has set his sights on Goldline and Beck for conspiring to "cheat consumers" with the M.O. detailed in our story, has asked the FTC to investigate the company. Beck, meanwhile, has fired back at Weiner, accusing him of being a modern-day McCarthy, and asking his fans to send him images of the congressmman with "his nose as a wiener."
There's a lot of people who'd like to shut down WikiLeaks, the now-famous whistleblower site that recently posted video of two journalists being gunned down by a US helicopter in Iraq. But so far, the only group that's ever taken down WikiLeaks is WikiLeaks itself. Earlier this year, the site's giant repository of leaked documents (and most of its mirror sites) went dark as part of a $600,000 fundraising drive. It was a bit ironic, considering that one of WikiLeaks' claims to fame is that once it posts a document, "it is essentially impossible to censor." For more than five months, if you wanted to peruse its exclusive stash of Scientology tracts, Sarah Palin's hacked emails, or Guantanamo detainee manuals, you were out of luck.
Now the fundraiser is over and WikiLeaks' main site has emerged from hibernation. All the old documents appear to be there. But there are some notable changes. When MoJo contributor David Kushner was profiling WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, he contacted some of the people named as advisors on the previous version of the WikiLeaks site; they said they didn't know why they'd been listed there. The new site does not list any advisors.
When Glenn Beck talks, people listen. Too bad he's the last person you should be getting investment advice from—especially when he plugs gold and his favorite gold dealer, Goldline. Of course, Beck is hardly the only right-wing gold pitchman—virtually every major conservative talker, from Rush Limbaugh to G. Gordon Liddy, has endorsed a gold seller. But, as several readers have rightly pointed out in response to MoJo's story about Beck and Goldline, prominent left-wing radio hosts have jumped on the gold bandwagon as well. Ed Schultz and Thom Hartmann have both endorsed ITM Trading, an Arizona company that, like Goldline, pushes gold coins as "the best way to own gold" and likes to cite the 1933 executive order banning gold hoarding. As I write this, I'm listening to Schultz, whose website announces that he's just about to chat with ITM's Craig Griffin about "why we are seeing record gold prices."
That type of guest appearance is par for the course on talk radio, no matter the political stripe, where the lines between commercials and content can get pretty blurry. So does Big Eddie think that promoting gold squares with being a "straight talking, no-nonsense voice of reason in unreasonable times"? Or does even a good progressive have to pay the bills? Or both? I've contacted Schultz, Hartmann, and ITM for comment. Stay tuned.
UPDATE: Schultz just spent seven minutes chatting with Griffin, whom he ID'd as an advertiser as well as a longtime "contributor" to his program. The conversation hit many of the standard gold selling points—its price is skyrocketing, the value of the dollar is being undermined by the federal debt—though it noticeably lacked the apocalyptic feel of Beck's gold pitch. Nonetheless, Schultz didn't mince words. "I own it and I think you should too," he concluded. Gold, he added, is "a very safe, solid, and growing investment."
Just to clear up any confusion created by that headline, cartoonist Dan Clowes' surname doesn't really sound like "close"; it rhymes with "browse." And he's really not all that nerdy, even though being a celebrated comic-book artist and former fanboy is arguably the height of nerdiness. (Or is it geekiness? I can never keep them straight.) Anyway, if Clowes is a nerd, then we're all nerds now. When I recently sat down to talk with him, Clowes observed how the comic-book scene has gone from a being a "sad little world" to a "sad big world": "When I was in high school, if you said you liked superheroes or Lord of the Rings, you were just like a hopeless reject, and now those are the biggest things in the world. Even Avatar is a total nerd thing, and yet our popular culture has somehow made all that stuff acceptable...I don't think there are any outsiders anymore. It's good for the outsiders; I don't know if it's good for our culture."
The full interview is here. Check it out for more on Clowes' new book, Wilson, plus why he hates the term "graphic novel," the inside scoop on New Yorker covers, how Charles Manson's eyes ended up on a soda can, and much more.