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Glenn Beck: almost criminally negligent towards his audience

By Amanda Marcotte
Thursday, April 8, 2010 21:01 EDT
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This article in Forbes about Glenn Beck is a real treasure trove of information about the moral-free crybaby teabagger pundit. I was surprised at how Forbes, a conservative publication, really makes Beck look like the piece of shit he no doubt is. Maybe they don’t realize how bad he comes across, or maybe they don’t care, or maybe there’s an outside possibility that the reporter just decided to do his fucking job and report the truth. The last is so uncommon nowadays that it’s hard to swallow, though.

Beck made $32 million last year, a mind-boggling number that is grabbing much of the attention paid to this article. But what really jumped out at me was the running theme, which I’d summarize as, “Glenn Beck thinks his audience is a bunch of morons.”

With a deadpan, Beck insists that he is not political: “I could give a flying crap about the political process.” Making money, on the other hand, is to be taken very seriously, and controversy is its own coinage. “We’re an entertainment company,” Beck says.

Yeah, “deadpan”. I get the strong impression that Beck is being perfectly honest here, and doesn’t seem to think—for good reason—that his target audience will be turned off by this. Maybe it’s because he thinks his audience doesn’t read Forbes. Or, more likely, it’s because he believes his audience doesn’t care on a certain level. They won’t see this betrayal of their trust as betrayal. And they need to know is that he’s adept at stoking their paranoia, hatred, and rage, and they’re going to eat that shit up, and set aside any evidence that it’s all just a dog and pony show.

But it’s unbelievably frustrating to read quotes like this:

“I don’t necessarily believe that [what Beck says] is reflective of his own personal politics–I don’t even know if he has personal politics,” says Michael Harrison, publisher of Talkers, a trade magazine devoted to talk radio. “I see him as a performer.”

Maybe the reason is that conservative audiences have already grown so accustomed to the thick level of bullshit that they’re ready to move on to a new level. For years now, they’ve swallowed whole “family values” nonsense spewing from people who don’t play by their own rules, “Christian” preachers who are clearly living the high life, and one disingenuous argument after bad faith panic after another. Right wing audiences delight in bullshit, as long as they can justify it as clever attempts to get the bad guys, i.e. Democrats. So they don’t bat an eyelash at Republicans spinning on a dime about issues like the filibuster or reconciliation, now that they’re in the majority. They all let the Bush administration lie to their faces about the Iraq war, and they supported them even after the lies became too big to ignore. That the ACORN videos are charitably described as misleading doesn’t bother them—who cares if you have to lie, so long as you win? The lies and bullshit have piled up so deep that of course they’re ready to give their allegiance to a man whose actual political beliefs are irrelevant. He may agree; he may not. The main thing is he can act the part.

The amount of paranoia that Beck is stoking in his audience to keep them hooked is unbelievable. Listen, for instance, to this lady calling in that got a tax refund, and how he encourages her to send it back:

There’s no reason to think the government is out to get her, or that they sent this refund for any other reason than she had it coming. Beck reads her situation with speed that kind of amazed me, since I had to listen for a full 60 seconds longer before I grasped this woman’s emotional dilemma. But he got it immediately. Here’s what I’m thinking is going on: The woman has been trained by right wing media to be so paranoid that she can’t emotionally handle the fact that her refund check was bigger because of the Obama tax cuts, especially since that caused her to feel a pang of gratitude towards Obama, who she know she’s supposed to hate. And she wants to disbelieve her own eyes, but I’m guessing that her obsession with getting a treadmill comes straight from a doctor telling her that’s what she needs to do or else she may be facing even more serious health problems—she mentions that she’s on oxygen, and I think she’s really torn. And she could really use that money. And Beck basically demands that she choose loyalty to right wing media and to paranoid hatred of Obama over her own health and well-being.

To me, this is why the difference between true believer and just in it for the money isn’t as academic as I’d like. I’d at least hope that some right wing demagogues would have enough sympathy for one of their own that they’d want her to go ahead and get this treadmill that she has probably been told she needs very badly for her health and longevity.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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