UPDATE: TDB’s John Batchelor makes it plain: Beck is an oaf, and a harmless one at that. A clip:
What is Beck talking about? What is it that the folk who watch his afternoon TV show hear when he starts prophesying about “ways out” and “the sun is setting” and “the fire of truth”? The answer may be disappointingly simple. Beck isn’t talking about anything historical, that is, genuinely threatening, since he is not politically astute, intellectually curious, or even much of a kvetch. Beck is an entertainer, and he does his job with hambone energy and handfuls of self-mockery. There is no threat here. Beck is bootlessly earnest, as he says; Beck is pleasantly harmless, as he says. Beck is a fool in the manner of a court jester, a fool whom FNC properly features as foolish—a braniac with a pipe in-mouth, or a lecturer-in-chief with chalk in hand, or a handsome lad mugging to the camera as if he’d just dropped his own birthday cake in his lap. I think of him now and again as Quasimodo Lite, a deaf bell-ringer swinging from the Notre Dame of Fox, a man who is eager to confess his own unsightly warts—“I’ve screwed up most of my life”—and who is also heroically delighted to be our slightly stooped “Pope of Fools,” because this accidental role, in this Festival of Fools called 2010, wins the cheers of the crowd.
Also at the Beast: I have a nightmare…
ORIGINAL POST: There’s lots of talk about Glenn Beck’s “restoring honor” rally this Saturday; from outrage over the date (the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream speech” … Glenn swears it’s a coincidence … or God’s doin’ …) to questions about whether the Democrats will be able to milk the collective crazy for votes, or whether Beck is milking the up to
300,000 100,000 expected attendees, and the charity he claims to be supporting, to make a buck. But there’s a strong case to be made for simply ignoring Beck, his rally, and the wacky people who follow him.
Beck has made a successful career — and a lot of money – ticking people off. He careens between outrageous claims (Obama is a racist, half the administration are Marxist infiltrators …) and quasi-religious, Messianic cultism. His followers think he walks on water, and is incapable of not telling the truth. But Beck’s devoted audience, which can number nearly 3 million people on a good night, represent a small fraction of the 300 million-plus people in this country, and even a fraction of the nightly television audience. If every single one of them voted for Sarah Palin, twice, they couldn’t elect her president.
And while Beck may harbor delusions of grandeur, and believe that he will change lives, the world, and human history itself on Saturday, the truth is, all he’ll change is the news cycle for a few days, as breathless media dutifully report his every crackpot utterance, and those of Palin and the other “non-political” speakers at the ultimate Fox News freak show (call it the “million angry white dude march.”) After that, he’ll go back to hawking gold on Fox News and wigging out on his radio show; his audience will still be angry, paranoid, and in full lather that they lost the last presidential election; Barack Obama will still be president, the sun will still come up Sunday morning, and Dr. King’s 1963 speech will still be the only thing history remembers August 28th for.
It’s possible, in fact, that all the attention being given to Beck, who after all, has a perfect right, under the First Amendment and under the principle that we shouldn’t deify days and dates any more than we sanctify Burlington Coat Factories, that the attention and hand-wringing over Beck’s crazy-clan rally just gives it more oxygen. We all are just feeding his ego by paying so much mind to a self-described rodeo clown who at the end of the day, just wants to sell some books, pump up his sponsor, Goldline, and hawk a few more enrollments to Glenn Beck University.
In fact, the more the rest of us storm and rage at Beck; the more we display umbrage at him, the stronger he gets (financially.) His followers feed on victimization (including their certainty that Barack Obama is out to destroy white people and “the white culture,”) and attacking their Jim Jones is precisely what makes them grab for the Kool-Aid (and the gold). In a way, the most appropriate response to Beck is the one we’ve seen on The Colbert Report or the Jon Stewart Show, and that is mockery. Beck is a comedian. So laugh at him. Trust me, he’ll hate it. And if you can’t muster laughter, do the next best thing: ignore him completely.
In fact, ignoring Beck might be the best bet of all, since it’s the only thing a guy that self-interested really won’t be able to stand.