As usual, Glenn Beck is in the news for causing outrage, but I there is a difference recently. Many people, including myself, have predicted that it is inevitable that Beck would go too far at some point, if not entirely go over the edge. For the time being, he is still managing to hold onto his sanity, but he has steadily been losing support.
Advertisers have been leaving Beck’s show for a while, but Beck retains his corporate support because the attention he brings still translates into profit for Fox News in general. Plus, as long as he is serving the political purposes of the powers that be within the conservative movement, it’s worth supporting a show that isn’t justifiable in terms of profit. More telling is that recent articles have pointed out that there is dissent within Fox News. Some people working there think Beck is problematic for Fox News and for serious journalism. Management there have Beck on a short leash and so putting him on air is a calcuated risk. Is it paying off?
Certainly, Fox News became wildy successful during Bush’s administration for obvious reasons. They might’ve been fine if they had just coasted on that success, but instead they’ve pushed the fear mongering and hate mongering which has worked for them so well. The problem is that the public is finally getting tired about this kind of media outrage and frenzied bipartisanship… and this is Beck’s personal formula of success. At some point, Fox News will have to cut Beck free or else increasingly lose profits. I think they’ll keep him around at least until the next presidential election. Beck is the GOP’s big cannon. Also, it would be dangerous for them to let him go because then they could no longer keep him controlled and keep him on message.
At the moment, the real force of criticism against Beck is coming from the American public. He is just now getting to that point of going too far. Two issues recently exemplify this.
First, Beck had a recent show where he criticized some of the bastions of mainstream American culture including Bruce Springstein. Beck has become so paranoid that he sees Commies and Nazis everywhere. Many people have shared his general fear of some nefarious problem within our culture, but he will lose support when he pulls his attention away from politicians. Everyone loves to bash politicians. Bashing the Boss is, however, unacceptable. Springstein was for a long time seen as the voice of the working class, the Rock n’ Roll representative of middle America. Beck is treading on thin ice.
Second, Beck had another recent show where he attacked the Christian tradition of social justice as un-Christian. That is a very bad move. Christians are Beck’s base and this gives an opportunity for Progressive Christians to get heard. Jim Wallis once had hope that Bush was being honest when he campaigned on bipartisanship, but of course was disappointed. The GOP has no place for Christians who aren’t fundamentalists. Beck played off of this culture war that Bush ramped up, but people can only take so much of the endless outrage. In recent years, the right has been losing battle after battle in the culture wars. There influence is still great, but the influence of religious left has been growing. Even fundamentalists Christians are starting to question the role of religion in politics and starting to question whether the ends justifies the means.
Beck doesn’t really matter in the big picture. I’m increasingly convinced that he is just a symptom of a deeper problem. The American public isn’t well informed about most issues and they’re easily swayed by hate and fear. As long as that is the case, ideologues such as Beck will pop up whenever our culture becomes gripped by paranoia. It happens in cycles (Strauss and Howe claim it happens in predictable cycles). There was Father Charles Coughlin in the 1930s ranting against the same scapegoat/enemies that Beck rants against today. As the economy improves and the memory of 9/11 loses its edge, Beck will lose his popularity and he will just be another dark blotch on American history.
On a less serious note, the best defense against Beck’s brand of fear-mongering is humor and parody. Along with Fox News, Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert also rose to prominence during Bush’s administration. Liberals in general have taken note and people like Beck have been rightfully mocked. A high quality example of this is a recent video (link below) that demonstrates the inanity of Beck’s message. Enjoy!