Friday, July 1, 2011

Glenn Beck: Why Can't I Hate You?

The final episode of Glenn Beck's daily television program aired on Fox News yesterday. In honor of the occasion, I am reposting, with revisions, my post from two years ago, "Glenn Beck: Why Can't I Hate You".

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Glenn Beck.

For those of you who do not know of Glenn Beck, he is a conservative pundit. Glenn Beck is the most recent to hit the popular stride, following in the hallowed path of Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh. Beck isn't quite as hard-lined right in his beliefs as his forefathers, but that's part of what I don't like about him; You don't get the impression that Beck actually believes in what he's saying so much as he knows he isn't a liberal, and he knows he can get attention by not being a liberal as loudly as possible. Like America during the Cold War, he's not defined by what he is, but by the fact that he's no commie.

Here's my thing about Glenn Beck: I want to hate him. In fact, I think a bit of me does. Most of me, even. What the hell? All of me. I hate Glenn Beck. I also hate Rush Limbaugh. I despise, on an even deeper level, Anne Coulter. They have, all three of them, made names and fortunes for themselves by saying things I'm not even the slightest bit convinced they believe. And there are few things I find more deplorable than that.

But this is all irrelevant, because I can never tell them I hate them. I can never say to Glenn Beck, "Glenn Beck, sir, I hate you." Even if, when you say it, it is a completely rational, thought out, well-contemplated notion, it does not matter. Because you cannot use words like "hate" around Glenn Beck.

Using words of intense passion around men and women like Glenn Beck gives them an excuse. It gives them an excuse to say things like, "I told you so." If you react to their extremism with extremism, if you try to fight fire with fire, they throw their hands up, and they say, "Well, sir, if you're going to be irrational about this, and you're not going to be considerate and civilized, and give me the common courtesy of real conversation, I'm not going to take part in this." You have to remain right in the middle of the road, and uninteresting. If Beck riles you up, you are playing into his hands.

And before I am accused of playing along a party line, it is not Beck's beliefs that cause me issue, disagree with many of them though I do. I assure you I disagree just as much with Bill Crystal, the editor of The Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine. But I have seen Mr. Crystal interviewed on several occasions, and he is always polite in the face of dissent. He is able to have a conversation about his views, to hear the other sides and to defend his in a manner which is dignified both for him and for the person he's talking to. Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Bill O'Reilly on his bad days, cut people's mics, or talk over them, or end the segment.

If I say "Glenn, I really hate you," in many ways I am paying him the greatest compliment, and providing him with the greatest service, possible. And so I have to keep it all inside, where it can stew, and boil, and grow, until finally the day comes where I can't hold it in anymore, and I look Glenn Beck square in those beady little eyes of his, and I say, "Glenn Beck, I hate you." And on that day, he'll look at me and say, "See, I knew it, people like you just can't handle being disagreed with, can they?," and he'll have won.

That's why I can't hate Glenn Beck; because I really, really do.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree with you entirely, but I also want to point the sad irony: Glenn Beck (and his ilk) are the only people in the mainstream media talking about class and the American worker. Glenn Beck is strangely anti-corporatist, pro-"American worker," and anti-big business, sort of. The entire Tea Party is like 50% right in the way they treat Wall Street and the culture of corporate welfare. They are staunchly pro-worker because, despite the liberal attempt to paint them otherwise, they are mostly composed of poor workers.

What happened? Glenn Beck and others have co-opted what is essentially a popular movement into a populist movement. They have co-opted it enough that the anti-corporate sentiment is channeled into pro-capitalist parties and organizations. Its a crude comparison, but its how the early fascist parties co-opted socialists into what is essentially a reactionary, pro-status quo movement.

I think Glenn Beck is an opportunist and a clown, but he has tapped into the legitimate frustrations of millions of American workers. Unfortunately, he has taken this angst and pushed into the most dangerous category: anti-immigrant nationalism. That is the greatest tragedy here. Workers are being screwed every day and their biggest spokesperson is a guy who think FEMA death camps are an IRL thing and that there is a vaguely-Jewish shadow government pulling the strings in Washington.

I think we need a left-wing alternative to Glenn Beck, and I'm not talking about liberal left like Maddow or Olbermann, but people who can mention "class" on the air without being the butt of a joke. I'm pretty sure the way most Americans learn about class and Marx now is through Glenn Beck, and that's sad.