Tomorrow's New York Times features a lengthy profile of right-wing pseudo-populist talker Glenn Beck. While it half-heartedly takes some obligatory -- and when I say obligatory, I mean they feel exactly like that -- potshots, on the whole it could have been crafted by the PR department at the Fox News Channel, which must be doing some back-flips this evening. The tenor of this predominantly puff piece is captured in the headline: "He's Mad. Apocalyptic, Tearful, and a Rising Star on Fox News."
This is not to say that Beck isn't newsworthy -- his huge jump in popularity since he was shown the door by CNN's Headline News and moved to his rightful home at FNC, and his so-real-it-may-even-be-ilegal calls for an anti-Obama insurrection merit some kind of coverage -- but this article by Brian Stetler and Bill Carter feels in the midst of March Madness like a giant airball. My biggest complaint is that the article reads like Beck landed on Planet Fox in a flying saucer a couple of short months ago to save American Jesusland -- without the much-needed context that this is just the latest act for an "entertainer" who is a clown at his best and spews hate at his worst.
Here's an example. The story notes uncritically:
On March 12 Mr. Beck introduced the 9/12 Project, an initiative to reclaim the values and principles that he said were evident the day after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. On a special broadcast he asked: "What ever happened to the country that loved the underdog and stood up for the little guy? What happened to the voice of the forgotten man?" He paused, then added, "the forgotten man is you."
Really? Did the "values and principles" of America after 9/11 include publicly trashing the widows of 9/11 victims? Because Glenn Beck -- remarkably -- did exactly that, something that you'd think would be at least mentioned in a lengthy New York Times profile, especially given the context of his recent transparently bogus effort to wave that bloody shirt. This is what Beck said on the radio on 9/9/05, or just two days before the fourth anniversary:
[Y]ou know it took me about a year to start hating the 9-11 victims' families? Took me about a year. And I had such compassion for them, and I really wanted to help them, and I was behind, you know, "Let's give them money, let's get this started." All of this stuff. And I really didn't -- of the 3,000 victims' families, I don't hate all of them. Probably about 10 of them. And when I see a 9-11 victim family on television, or whatever, I'm just like, "Oh shut up!" I'm so sick of them because they're always complaining. And we did our best for them.
Before you give Beck some slack for making one outlandish comment, you should understand the context that this was a part of a much longer rant...trashing Hurricane Katrina victims. No, I didn't make that up. And yet this man continues to work in American media and is in fact climbing his way up the ladder of fame and fortune. Meanwhile, the good people at Media Matters have chronicled some 256 cases of outrageous remarks, including misleading statements and outright lies, by Beck over the years. Did Stetler and Carter bother to check any of this out? It doesn't look that way.
Beyond that, the whole premise of this re-invention of Glenn Beck as a populist is flat-out bogus. Beck and presumably his masters at Fox News are happy to work the torches-and-pitchforks crowd, as long as he steers them in the direction of Barack Obama, and not the corporate grifters and Wall Street scam artists who -- under a prior White House that looked the other way -- actually created the mess hurting "the forgotten guy" that Beck claims to be remembering. If Beck were the voice of America's populist rage, wouldn't he have something to say about obscene bonuses paid to AIG executives?
He did. He defended them:
But what's happening with AIG? Our supposed leaders are trampling each other to see who can abuse their power the fastest. That is exactly what our founding founders were afraid of and it's why this is a dangerous precedent: If contracts have no meaning, then the whole system will collapse.