Note: The following was originally published as a Facebook note on September 23, 2009, when Glenn Beck was still employed by Fox News, and he was one of the hottest names in the media.
Q: “What do you think of the people Obama has chosen to work in his Administration?”
A: “I think so far he’s chosen wisely. I am not an Obama fan, but I am a fan of our country. The day after the election, I frankly pissed off a lot of my real die-hard Republicans when I said, ‘He is my President. He is your President.’ We must have him succeed. If he fails, we all fail.
“I really think that these parties have done a very good job of dividing us. I don’t know personally a single Democrat who is a dope-smoking hippie that wants to turn us into Soviet Russia. I don’t know a single Republican who wants to steal your children’s schoolbooks, take the food away and give all of it to Big Oil. Those are cartoon characters. We are Americans. We’ve got to pull together because we are facing dark, dark times. I don’t trust a single weasel in Washington; I don’t care what party they’re from. But unless we trust each other, we’re not going to make it.”
— Kate Pickert’s Time Magazine Q&A with Glenn Beck, December 11, 2008
I was reminded of the quote above from this week’s cover story in Time Magazine, with a cover photo featuring Beck in full “in-your-face” mode while examining whether he and other controversial talk radio hosts are bad for America. If you haven’t read it yet, it’s a pretty interesting article.
In the article, reporter David Von Drehle did a fairly remarkable job of being objective given the ferocious winds blowing in our media landscape today. Von Drehle easily could have played into the hands of those who would just love to pounce and say that the mainstream media is completely biased, and given the extreme right plenty of ammunition in the process. I’ve seen Von Drehle’s article get a raking over the coals from the liberal Media Matters web site for not being tough enough on Beck and other “entertainers” who have helped angry Americans vent their frustration much the same way the character Howard Beale did in Paddy Chayefsky’s brilliant “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!” scene from the 1976 film “Network.”
[NOTE: If you’ve never seen it before, below is a video of Glenn Beck recorded during the Time Magazine photo shoot. Notice how Beck says he thinks his eyes are “getting used to it,” meaning the Vicks Vapo-Rub being applied beneath his eyes in order to get him to shed tears. So when, if ever, are the tears that he sheds on camera real?]
After only being able to read the first half of Von Drehle’s article last week on the web before the magazine hit the stands and mailboxes, I was left with the same impression as those who were posting in Media Matters. But when I got my hands on the magazine itself and made it all the way through the second half, I found it to be much more even-handed. Toward the end, it asked something very important: “The inevitable question is, How much of this industry is sincere?” That question led to the quote that led off this note. How can Beck seem to go so far from one extreme (“We must have him succeed. If he fails, we all fail.”) to the other (choose any of Beck’s more recent “Obama as communist/socialist” and “Why all the czars? Fear the czars!” rants) in such a relatively short period of time?
I watched a sit-down interview Beck did with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly after this latest Time article came out; O’Reilly commenting that it didn’t blast Beck, but at the same time it wasn’t a “valentine.” Beck’s comments from last December were mentioned in his talk with O’Reilly. Beck didn’t deny making them, but he also didn’t explain how his views can switch so dramatically.
Meanwhile, the article notes the staggering amounts of money the giants of the talk radio industry are raking in through their shows. Beck alone may have lost a sizable amount of sponsors in the last couple of months, but he’s far from being strapped for cash.
He has become a corporation unto himself, through his website, his appearances on the public speaking circuit, his books (his latest, “Arguing With Idiots,” having just been released Tuesday with plenty of free self-promotion on his shows), his radio and TV shows, his own Mercury broadcast studio, etc.
Above all, I am left with a stunning feeling of amazement as to how these “entertainers” (I do count MSNBC’s [now on the Current Channel] Keith Olbermann among them on the left, but at least he has a genuine background in journalism behind him and he does go on to back his claims with actual quotes and facts from independent sources, and certainly Al Franken fit that bill before he went on to take a Senate seat from Minnesota) can capture such a wide audience so readily and give so many in that audience the firm belief that they are being fed hard facts instead of opinions and pure speculation.
Well before David Von Drehle’s article in Time magazine made the comparison, I was thinking of how prophetic Chayefsky’s “Howard Beale” character from “Network” actually was.
There’s Beale, the rising star of the television “infotainment” world, walking into a building and going up to his network’s studio, rain-soaked. He sits down at his desk, the cameras focus on him, and he begins [the main Beale dialogue also appears below the video] …
“I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression. Everybody’s out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel’s worth, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there’s nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there’s no end to it. We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TV’s while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be. We know things are bad – worse than bad. They’re crazy. It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don’t go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, ‘Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won’t say anything. Just leave us alone.’ Well, I’m not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get mad! I don’t want you to protest. I don’t want you to riot – I don’t want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn’t know what to tell you to write. I don’t know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you’ve got to get mad. You’ve got to say, ‘I’m a HUMAN BEING … my life has VALUE!’ So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, [shouting] I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!’ I want you to get up right now, sit up, go to your windows, open them and stick your head out and yell – ‘I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!’ Things have got to change. But first, you’ve gotta get mad! … You’ve got to say, ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!’ Then we’ll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it: [screaming at the top of his lungs] ‘I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!’”
It’s not just conservatives that are mad as hell these days. All sides are now figuratively opening their windows and shouting it out at the top of their lungs. For cryin’ out loud, we’re mad as hell at each other. How much independent thought are we putting into that anger, looking at ALL sides of an issue, before we decide exactly what it is we’re so angry about? Are we making sure we’re searching for facts and truth as absolutely as we can find it before our rage gets to that boiling point? Or are we playing a game of “follow the leader?”
I ask these things after seeing a couple of videos over the weekend from the previous weekend’s 9/12 March on Washington, heavily promoted by Beck on his shows. In these videos, made by a freelance filmmaker (admittedly looking at it from a liberal side), one of the most fascinating things to come out of them were the views of some of the attendees, “real people” in the crowd, who really couldn’t say, or struggled to say at best, exactly what their fears and angers were about and any reasons as to why those feelings were there, unable in most cases to come up with any proof behind the reasons they feel angry.
If we fail to search out the truth to the best of our abilities, if we fail to think things through given all the evidence we can possibly find for ourselves, if we rest too comfortably in the belief that our modern-day media heroes will do that searching for us and all we have to do is listen to what they say, we run the risk of making another “Network prophecy” come true.
“All human beings are becoming humanoids,” Chayefsky said through Beale. “All over the world, not just in America. We’re just getting there faster since we’re the most advanced country.”
A FINAL NOTE: Glenn Beck’s Fox News show ended June 30, 2011. Fox News Chairmn Roger Ailes and Beck himself had different spins on why his Fox show ended. “His [Beck’s] goals were different from our goals … I need people focused on a daily television show,” Ailes said.
“This show has become a movement. It’s not a TV show, and that’s why it doesn’t belong on television anymore. It belongs in your homes. It belongs in your neighborhoods,” Beck said.
More independent media experts insist that Beck’s show ended for one simple reason: plummeting ratings. Too many people had just grown too weary of the … well, the “watch your family because the liberal wolves are going to eat them alive” kind of mentality.
So, now, Glenn Beck works out of the comfort of his own studios, free to call his own shots on his still-nationally syndicated radio show and doing his video shots on the worldwide web where subscribers happily fork over their cash, he still cranks out books with his name on them and he can still sell his coffee cups and other merchandise licensed in his name. He’s set for life. He found his great gimmick.
This former “morning zoo” deejay is no dummy. Welcome to the jungle!
- Glenn Beck: Time Magazine ‘Monsters’ Are ‘Damn Near Treasonous’ For Naming The Protester As Person Of The Year (mediaite.com)
- Beyond the Book: Glenn Beck and the Paranoid Style (backatbeck.wordpress.com)
- GBTV’s New Reality Series Is Exactly What You’d Expect A Glenn Beck-Produced Reality Series To Be (mediaite.com)