Glenn Beck is, for a liberal like me, far more entertaining to watch than, say, Sean Hannity or Bill O'Reilly. The latter are garden variety blowhards and their subject matter is predictable. But Beck? He's crazy! He thinks the Muslim Brotherhood is going to take over the entire Mediterranean! Fabian socialists are a fifth column working to subvert everything that makes America great! (But slowly. Sneakily.) The Tides Foundation is on a mission to "warp your children's brains"! And Obama the secret Marxist is behind it all! It all fits together!
This is actually sort of entertaining in small doses. But in bigger doses, not so much. Conor Friedersdorf:
As I've said before, lots of Glenn Beck listeners aren't in on the joke. Unlike Roger Ailes, Jonah Goldberg, and every staffer at the Heritage Foundation happy hour, they don't realize that the Fox News Channel puts this man on the air fully understanding that large parts of his program are uninformed nonsense mixed with brazen bullshit.
....Conjure in your mind a retired grandfather. He served in World War II, voted twice for Ronald Reagan, and supports the Tea Party. Awhile back, he started watching Glenn Beck....
Actually, we don't have to conjure this. Richmond Ramsey has done it for us. I've mentioned before that lots of Fox viewers have the channel on all day long, basically as background noise, and Ramsey says he's noticed this too. His piece is called "Fox Geezer Syndrome":
Over the past couple of years, I’ve been keeping track of a trend among friends around my age (late thirties to mid-forties). Eight of us (so far) share something in common besides our conservatism: a deep frustration over how our parents have become impossible to take on the subject of politics. Without fail, it turns out that our folks have all been sitting at home watching Fox News Channel all day — especially Glenn Beck’s program.
....I asked my father privately why Mom, who as far as I know never before had a political thought, was so worked up about Obama all the time. "She's been like that ever since she started watching Glenn Beck," Dad said.
....Then I flew out for a visit, and observed that their television was on all day long, even if no one was watching it. What channel was playing? Fox. Spending a few days in the company of the channel—especially Glenn Beck—it all became clear to me. If Fox was the window through which I saw the wider world, for hours every day, I'd be perpetually pissed off too.
....Back home, I mentioned to a friend over beers how much Fox my mom and dad watched, and how angry they now were about politics. “Yours too?!” he said. “I’ve noticed the same thing with mine. They weren’t always like this, but since they retired, they’ve gotten into Fox, and you can’t even talk to them anymore without hearing them read the riot act about Obama.”
And that's from a conservative. It's all entertaining enough until you come face to face with the consequences. Sure, Beck's audience is relatively small: a few million, probably no more than one or two percent of the adult population of the country. But that's misleading. These are the shock troops, the true believers, the ones who have turned our politics so toxic. And worse, they're being deliberately conned by Roger Ailes and his pals, who know perfectly well that this stuff is nonsense. And it's all in the service of selling yet another con, getting the geezers to invest their money in endless gold scams.
I know this is whistling into the wind, but it's long past time for the adults in the Republican Party to speak up about this. Glenn Beck is the Father Coughlin and the Robert Welch of his generation rolled into one, and his brand of noxious conspiracy theorizing isn't something to be tolerated just because it produces a few useful idiots. It's time for this to end.
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