On Glenn Beck & Other Crazy People
I am allergic to political cable tv shows, talk radio, and nightly news. I cannot watch or listen to these programs for longer than fifteen minutes without subjecting anyone within earshot to a lengthy rant. And so I won’t pretend to be deeply familiar with Glenn Beck’s work. Instead, I’ll rely on Joe Carter at First Things:
There isn’t much I could add to the criticisms—from the left, right, and center—that have been made against him in the last few weeks. His recent comments have shown that he’s a naked opportunist who will say anything to get attention: If he’s on his television show on Fox he’ll pander to the audience by saying that President Obama is a racist who is ushering in an age of socialism, if not the apocalypse; then, when he is in front of Katie Couric and CBS News, he says that John McCain would have been worse for the country than Obama (which begs the question, “What exactly is worse than the socialist/communist/fascist apocalypse?”).
Yet despite his antics and inconsistencies, he retains a cult of personality that rivals Obama. (Disagree? Try saying something negative about Beck and see what kind of feedback you get.) So its not worth trying to persuade people that he is bad for conservatism, bad for America, and bad for anyone who believes political discourse should be civil and sane. Those who are open to such a discussion don’t need to be convinced and and those that aren’t simply won’t brook any criticisms of their populist hero.
Now, let me anticipate the first response to this post right now, and say, yes, there are crazy people on the left too. Craziness is an actively bi-partisan phenomenon (just ask the 1/3 of Democrats who are, or at any rate, were 9/11 Truthers).
What I’m curious about is why people find this type of nonsense appealing. After all, it’s fairly obvious that elections are determined by independents and swing voters. In other words, people who are unlikely to be influenced by the over-the-top hysteria of someone like Beck. If anything, this type of ranting is likely to turn off the people who decide elections. And it hardly makes Republicans look good when they’re defending a guy who:
pretended to pour gasoline over a guest’s body as he brandished a book of matches beside him, who regularly employs the affectation of tears, who deliberately cultivates the mannerisms of an unstable loon, and who most recently pretended to throw a live frog into a pot of boiling water.
Setting aside my own hopelessly naive notions of civility, fair play, and the importance of honest public discourse, is there even any political benefit to defending this type of lunacy? And, even if there are political benefits, shouldn’t we see more Catholics denouncing people like Beck, rather than offering tepid defenses?
Also, this story concerning Beck and the miscarriage of a fellow broadcaster’s wife is simply disgusting.