Media

Glenn Beck's Collision Course at Fox

| Tue Feb. 8, 2011 11:57 AM EST

In his PoliticsDaily.com column, David Corn notes that Glenn Beck—as he promotes the conspiracy theory that "uber-leftists" and Islamic extremists are plotting together to destroy the West—is in trouble on the right, with conservatives decrying his nuttiness. (Yes, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush are part of the grand cabal. You hadn't heard?) This week, neocon titan Bill Kristol (a fellow Fox Newser) slammed Beck:

[H]ysteria is not a sign of health. When Glenn Beck rants about the caliphate taking over the Middle East from Morocco to the Philippines, and lists (invents?) the connections between caliphate-promoters and the American left, he brings to mind no one so much as Robert Welch and the John Birch Society. He's marginalizing himself, just as his predecessors did back in the early 1960s.

Beck fired back at Kristol, maintaining that Kristol doesn't "stand for anything anymore." But, as Corn points out, Beck's real probem may not be Kristol, but Fox:

Beck's problem, though, is not that Kristol has finally realized Beck is preaching nonsense. It's that now Beck has to expand his conspiracy to include Kristol, a prominent Fox News contributor, as either an active participant in the mighty plot or an unseeing buffoon exploited by the evil masters. And not just Kristol, but everybody else at Fox News who doesn't report and decry the Bush-assisted Islamic-communist plot against the United States. For Beck to be true to his cause, he will have to assail other conservatives who don't join him, for, my friends, this is about survival.

Beck cannot sustain his conspiracy mongering without roping into the conspiracy those on the right who either dare to challenge him or who are too dumb to see what's what. And that includes the rest of Fox News. After all, how could Bill O'Reilly, during his pre-Super Bowl interview with President Obama, not ask the president about his role in the left-Islam plot to create a caliphate? O'Reilly must be in on it -- or a naif. And the rest of the Fox network, too! If Beck is serious, his conspiracy theory must engulf the network that pays him.

Meanwhile, Fox faces a challenge: How long can it continue to air the ravings of a fellow denounced by sane conservatives? I once was a commentator at Fox News and worked with Roger Ailes. The guy likes to make money; he likes to cause trouble. But he also likes to be regarded seriously. (Ditto for Rupert Murdoch.) Beck is making it increasingly tough for Fox to claim it is a reality-based outfit (even by its standards). As Beck veers more into Bircher-land, can Fox stand behind him?

....As Beck becomes increasingly unhinged and lost in conspiracy-land, he may well become a litmus test for the right -- and a measure of whether the leaders of Fox News care about any claim to respectability. Should Fox throw him out of the coop, Beck will still have a cult-like following that he can service via his syndicated radio show, website, and books -- and still make tens of millions of dollars a year. He won't crawl off to an undisclosed location. But he will no longer have the imprimatur of the right's main media outfit. And what better confirmation that the conspiracy is vast, oh so vast.

Meanwhile, Time's Joe Klein has reported that he's hearing stuff: 

I've heard, from more than a couple of conservative sources, that prominent Republicans have approached Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes about the potential embarrassment that the paranoid-messianic rodeo clown may bring upon their brand. The speculation is that Beck is on thin ice.

No doubt, that ice is thin because lefties and Islamic meanies have figured out how to direct global warming.

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