What drives Glenn Beck, really? Alexander Zaitchik draws these thoughts from his Beck bio Common Nonsense: Glenn Beck and the Triumph of Ignorance.
Beck “contains a multitude.”
“Showman, opportunist, manipulator, cuckoo bird, and innocent–Glenn Beck contains a multitude. If he were easy to unlock with any one key, any single defining characteristic, he wouldn’t be where he is. He’d be no fun at all.”
He combines “business savvy” with a “showman’s instinct.”
“However grand and public-spirited his rhetoric, however earnest and enormous his pretensions, Beck is above all an entertainer and a huckster. To put it more charitably, he is a businessman out to make a nickel.”
“In recent years, Beck has increasingly become a narcissistic demagogue huffing delusions of grandeur, but his ego and his narcissism feed, and have always fed, directly into a larger business plan. They are one and the same. Beck’s narcissism and demagoguery cannot be separated from his business success any more than that success can be separated from the spiraling madness we see on Fox News and in Washington, D.C.”
Which isn’t to say he’s faking the (“paranoid and deeply religious”) politics.
“[It's]hard to escape the conclusion that Beck’s politics are deeply held. … Beck’s genius is not in fooling a nation of suckers, then kicking back with a cigar and laughing behind the scenes. It is in forging an empire out of his personal and political pathologies. He is our very own crackpot capitalist Che Guevara: fueling his legend and pushing his ideology with one hand, selling the T-shirt–millions of them–with the other.”
More than a cynic, he’s an innocent.
“Beck’s shows are more than just manipulative entertainment. They are nationally broadcast exercises in adult remedial self-education, which draw much of their energy from the host’s genuinely exuded sense of discovery.”
“Until his political awakening in 2001, Beck was really just an FM morning radio clown playing with toys.”
“It is partly because he possesses a child’s understanding of U.S. history and Democratic coalition politics that to him everything seems so shocking and new. This is why his rants about the “tree of radicalism” have the same feel as a freshman-year bong session devoted to the possibility that the universe is really just an atom, and within each atom another entire universe.”
Finally, he fits within a long tradition of right-wing huckster-demagogues.
“[Beck's] trademark style is but a neon sports stripe sprayed onto a jalopy built from old and rusted parts rescued from the slag heap of American history. He did not invent paranoia, race, and red baiting, or the conservative distrust of government that often borders on hatred. Beck is just an eye-catching twenty-first century hybrid carrying timeless right-wing cargo into the age of Fox News, PlayStation, and Adderall.”
This post first appeared on the blog of the Progressive Book Club.
by Gage Skidmore via Creative Commons/Flickr
By Alexander Zaitchik - from his book Common Nonsense: Glenn Beck and the Triumph of Ignorance