Glenn Beck has managed to elevate himself to a unique position in American demagoguery. He descends from a genetic family that includes Father Charles Coughlin, Morton Downey Jr., and Rev. Jim Jones, with a little of Tammy Faye Bakker’s trademarked tearyness thrown in. He has broadened his reach by virtue of his radio and television shows, his book publishing, and his Internet sites. He aims to rival the omnipotence of the Messiah he thinks he is becoming.
Unfortunately, Beck has also assumed a position that Mark Twain once ascribed to the weather: Everyone talks about Beck, but nobody does anything about him.
The problem is that there aren’t many avenues of attack available for Beck’s opponents. He cannot be exiled from the Internet. His books will be feverishly hoarded by his devotees. Radio is already hopelessly enshrouded in Dark Ages conservatism. And on television, the most sensitive medium to market forces, Beck has found a home where he is welcome despite a successful advertiser embargo.
It’s television that poses the greatest challenge. Beck’s presence has taken root at Fox News. His invulnerability to lack of revenue, and even ratings declines, is a revealing example of the problem faced by his critics as well as his bosses at Fox and/or News Corp. Not that Fox is interested in jettisoning their deluded prophet. But moving up the ladder there may be evidence that the patience of some News Corp honchos could be wearing thin. Members of Rupert Murdoch’s family, who will inherit his media empire, have not been shy about their distaste for the wild-eyed antics of Beck and his ilk. Murdoch’s son-in-law publicly said that he was ashamed and sickened by Roger Ailes.
However, there is a dilemma that any Beck foe would encounter within or without Murdochia. And that is the cult-like devotion of Beck’s disciples. If Fox made an attempt to cancel his program, or even reschedule it to a less attractive time slot, the blow back from the BeckPods would be hurricane force. It wouldn’t make any difference if there was a legitimate reason for the move related to revenue or ratings. Beck’s Brigades would assert that it was censorship, oppression, tyranny. They would, of course, blame it on President Obama and his coterie of czars. And they would make Fox pay the consequences for caving in. This puts Fox at Beck’s mercy. The consequences of firing him, even with justification, would be too severe.
Consequently, the only way to liberate us from the cesspool of maniacal scare-mongering that is Glenn Beck, is for him to deliver the fuel for his own downfall. Only if he were to bitterly betray his carefully constructed persona would his disciples accept a rejection of him by his media masters. That means some sort of financial impropriety, inexcusable hypocrisy, or best of all, a sex scandal. Seeing as how the first two have occurred with some regularity, that leaves only the third option as plausible.
A couple of weeks ago a writer at the Huffington Post published an article wherein he offered $100,000 to anyone who could produce a sex tape of Beck (who would have the intestinal fortitude to watch?) or provide other evidence of misbehavior. The article was quickly deemed to be inappropriate and was removed from the site for violating its standards.
But when it comes to inappropriate publishing, The Globe Magazine has no such standards to constrain it.
The current cover features a teaser for an article that reveals the “Glenn Beck Sex Tape Scandal and the Mystery Woman Behind It.” [Spoiler Alert: The Mystery Woman is Michelle Obama.] The Globe’s “source” alleges some sort of plot by the First Lady to defend the President by getting rid of his chief critic. Leave it to the Globe to invent a phony sex tape myth that makes Beck the victim of a panicky White House.
While the Huffington Post and the Globe have both ventured into the inane, they have also recognized the most likely path to putting Beck on the fast track to has-been obscurity. Finding the ethical chink in Beck’s celestial armor is the only way to cast him off without arousing the ire of his congregation.
Let’s face it, Beck is no saint. There is almost certainly a closet in his estate(s) that is jam-packed with skeletons. And setting them loose would be a great service to America, to democracy, and to mankind. I’m not going to announce a bounty on Beck’s head as HuffPo did. I’m merely pointing out that the bar to removing Beck from the mediasphere is pretty high, even for the folks at News Corp. And I’m predicting that, if Beck does get canned (as he deserves), it will be because of some revelation that is too embarrassing to overcome, not because of a rational decision related to business or a renewed interest in honesty and journalistic ethics.
I can’t wait.