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Tilting at Windmills

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September 24, 2009

BECK FACES BACKLASH -- FROM THE RIGHT.... As right-wing media personality Glenn Beck has grown in influence, conservative criticism has been, at best, muted.

In early August, Rep. Bob Inglis (R) of South Carolina, who isn't exactly a moderate, encouraged his constituents to "turn the TV off" and stop listening to Glenn Beck. The audience booed the conservative congressman relentlessly. A week later, David Frum, a conservative pundit and former Bush speechwriter, suggested Beck's rhetoric may be, quite literally, dangerous.

But these remarks were largely overlooked, and were not echoed by other conservatives. It seems, however, that we're starting to see a change.

On Tuesday, MSNBC's Joe Scarborough blasted Beck, and argued that the Fox News personality may be fomenting violence. "You cannot preach hatred," Scarborough said. "You cannot say the president is racist. You cannot say things that have very deadly consequences." He added, in an apparent reference to the Oklahoma City bombing, "I was in Congress in 1995. I know where this can end." Scarborough also called on Republican leaders to "call out" Becks' "hatred."

Right-wing radio host Mark Levin called Beck "pathetic." Rush Limbaugh referred to Beck's role in promoting conservative protests as "cheap and disingenuous." Peter Wehner said Beck's "interest in conspiracy theories is disquieting" and his daily attacks are "not good for the country." Wehner called Beck a "roiling mix of fear, resentment, and anger." Conservative columnists Kathleen Parker and David Brooks told Chris Matthews that Beck is "baiting" and "empowering" racists.

Today, Levin said of Beck:

"If you're not going to be politically sensible and have a strategy and have an end-game, you'll keep winding up on weekly magazines, you'll keep making a lot of money, but in the end you won't make a difference."

It's interesting to watch Beck's ideological cohorts (competitors?) trash the self-described "rodeo clown." In fact, it seems as if Beck may be marginalizing himself in a way that will, if we're all really lucky, make him permanently toxic to those who take politics seriously.

For that matter, it should send a signal to mainstream outlets: don't let Beck become your assignment editor. Even conservatives think he's nuts.

Steve Benen 4:35 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (34)

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Actual political power - that is to say, politicians heeding and broadcasting his advice - is the icing on the cake. As long as people are watching him, listening to him and buying his book or whatever other merch he hawks now or in the future, that's all that matters.

Posted by: slappy magoo on September 24, 2009 at 4:38 PM | PERMALINK

Love it when the wingers start eating each other.

Posted by: converse on September 24, 2009 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

Note that all the conservatives now criticizing him are also his competitors.

They're not unhappy with what he is saying...they're just pissed that he's starting to get more attention than them ans starting to have more influence than they do.

Posted by: mfw13 on September 24, 2009 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK

The day will come, sooner or later, when the FBI will raid a cabin.

And they will find a dog eared copy of Beck's book.

Let your imagination fill in the rest. . .

Posted by: DAY on September 24, 2009 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sure there were "respectable" conservatives in the 1930s who were outraged by Father Coughlin's fascist anti-semitic weekly broadcasts.

Didn't stop him, or his fans.

Nothing changes.

Posted by: Gummo on September 24, 2009 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

I think you're overvaluing any criticism coming out of Beck's competitors or even righty politicians. I think Beck's audience is really scared now and deep into conspiracy-land. He's touched a populist nerve on the right and I don't think it's going to be possible for the corporate masters to control the monster they created.

Posted by: Mark on September 24, 2009 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

The Left shouldn't let the right fob all of their wrongs upon Beck. We should continue to focus their own words upon them. They are a mass which should not be able to wriggle out of the vitriol they've spewed.

Posted by: Crissa on September 24, 2009 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

Anyone remember Morton Downey, Jr. He comes to my mind whenever Beck is the subject.


Posted by: bayville on September 24, 2009 at 5:02 PM | PERMALINK

Limbaugh and Levin are jealous of the attention and the ratings Beck is getting, pure and simple.

Do you think if they cared about "fomenting hatred" they would still be on the air?

This has the added bonus of letting them look like "serious" conservatives in the eyes of the David Broders of the world. Plus it will give them a little breathing room when one of the crazies starts shooting up a town hall with a copy of Beck's latest book in his hand.

Posted by: Vic on September 24, 2009 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK

Methinks the MSM cable powers that be had a chat with their on air "talent", in the wake of the Kentucky census worker hanging that same channels were not reporting.

It's a little late for Morning Dolt to be awakening to this issue, isn't it?

Also: why don't more people know about Father Coughlin? Isn't it time to provide a little history lesson there?

Do any of you have relatives who will admit to thinking Joe McCarthy was just what the country needed?

They're the template for Beck's audience, a few years ahead.

Please do not let this man and those like him foment a great tragedy.

Which no one could have seen coming. No one.

Posted by: Elizabelle on September 24, 2009 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

These guys are all competitors and Beck told Katie Kouric the day before Scarborough (with Lindsay Graham agreeing) made his comments that McCain would have been a worse president than Obama and is a "weird progressive" like Teddy Roosevelt. He also said he might have voted for Hillary if she were the nominee against McCain. He's a heretic and the competition.

Posted by: markg8 on September 24, 2009 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

Rupert Murdoch, one of the worst authoritarians in America, is probably pleased with Beck. That's all that matters. The latter enchants the suckers and they flock to Faux. Rupert doesn't care. He seems mostly interested in reducing this country down to a collection of corporate estates.

Posted by: -syzygy- on September 24, 2009 at 5:15 PM | PERMALINK

I've always thought that the "You can't yell 'fire' in a crowded theatre" argument to be the best case against unrestrained free speech. I have never watched his show, but from what I have read Mr. Beck is indeed yelling 'fire'. I suppose there have always been Beck's, but I can't remember a time when they were given mainstream outlets and acceptance.

Rupert Murdoch has done more to dumb down and poison public discourse than any other man in the modern era.

Posted by: James on September 24, 2009 at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK

Limbaugh calling out Beck. I had to laugh. That's really the pot calling the kettle black.

Posted by: sparrow on September 24, 2009 at 5:34 PM | PERMALINK

Conservatives have 2 reasons to be wary of Beck: his conservative-but-not-Republican coloring outside of the lines, & his presumed mental instability. (The former is mostly a response to the failure of Bush & the Delay Congress, & may be less durable, & less a problem for Republicans in the long run, than it now seems.) But they recognize that he's hit upon a big market & source of power, & other more orthodox & less unstable conservatives would be crazy not to try to reproduce his success w/o his liabilities. Can anyone thread the needle? There's more than one way to skin a cat, & I'm sure talented aspiring demagogues are going to school on his successes already.

Somebody mentions Morton Downey Jr, who self-destrructed. But after him came Limbaugh, who hasn't. If Beck ultimately fails, who will play Limbaugh to his Downey?

Posted by: K on September 24, 2009 at 5:35 PM | PERMALINK

I hardly think the wingers bashing Beck - with the possible exception of Scarborough - are doing this out of some high-minded concern for the fate of the Republic. It is simply not credible for one screamer to call out another screamer for screaming too loud, or in the wrong way, or something. They really wouldn't care if we had another Oklahoma City. They'd defend it. So I'm with the commenters who say this is about jealousy and competition. The almighty dollar is the only thing that genuinely concerns these people.

Posted by: bobbo on September 24, 2009 at 5:42 PM | PERMALINK

Sweet of Morning Joe to care, but having been in Congress in 1995, he should have spoken up in June at the latest. He should have at least have the decency to expand his critique to include Michelle Bachman, Jon Kyle and the majority of the S.C. congressional delegation.

Posted by: Rob on September 24, 2009 at 5:47 PM | PERMALINK

I just watched the Scarborough clip. It is great...perfect! Said just what needed to be said. And, let's not get paranoid crazy ourselves! I disagree with Joe Scarborough on 99 out of 100 points but I never doubted that he is a decent man. And, he does not want another Oklahoma City. And anyone who would is beyond the pale.

Posted by: James M on September 24, 2009 at 5:49 PM | PERMALINK

Uh oh, must be some interesting rightwing extremist chatter in the ether - otherwise, why would all of these dillholes be scrambling to cover their asses and distance themselves from Beck at ground zero?

Posted by: ckelly on September 24, 2009 at 6:10 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with a lot of the commentators that Levin's criticism should not be included with Frum's and Scarborough's. While the latter *might* be genuinely appalled at Beck's antics, Levin is just upset that Beck is beating him at his own game. Outside of Savage, there isn't a more angry and immature man on radio than Mark Levin.

Posted by: Aaron on September 24, 2009 at 6:12 PM | PERMALINK

Anyone who hasn't seen Andy Griffith as Lonesome Rhodes in A FACE IN THE CROWD needs to catch it on TCM. Very timely film.

Posted by: Speed on September 24, 2009 at 6:21 PM | PERMALINK

Put me down as shocked that Beck's competitors are asking people to turn him off in favor of themselves....

At best these knuckleheads are trying to inoculate themselves against future boycotts.

In any case, it's all bottom-line motivated.

Posted by: Disputo on September 24, 2009 at 6:24 PM | PERMALINK

I went to shop at Costco today, in the book section was a huge pile of Glen Beck's books. Came home still mad, so I called Costco and complained. Guess it won't do any good, but it made me feel better.

Posted by: JS on September 24, 2009 at 7:12 PM | PERMALINK

Take a look at Levin's money quote - strategy/endgame/make a difference.

The righties are afraid that the outrage and anger might spin out of control and go from Obama/Democrats to its corporate masters. Republicans love to harness their zealots but only if they are all reading from the same top 1%/corporate bible. Most of the teabaggers are random nutters who oppose everything but there is a contingent that is specifically pissed at Wall Street and over the financial bailout.

Posted by: manpower on September 24, 2009 at 7:29 PM | PERMALINK

Vic @5:06 nails it. Especially the last point.

Posted by: bikelib on September 24, 2009 at 8:33 PM | PERMALINK

All Beck needs to resurrect his career is to appear on Dancing With The Stars next season.

Posted by: karen marie on September 24, 2009 at 8:37 PM | PERMALINK

DAY @ 4:50 PM said:
"The day will come, sooner or later, when the FBI will raid a cabin.

And they will find a dog eared copy of Beck's book."

It doesn't seem to have hurt O'Reilly, Hannity, and Michael Savage:
"(Knoxville Police Department Investigator Steve) Still seized three books from Adkisson's home, including "The O'Reilly Factor," by television commentator Bill O'Reilly; "Liberalism is a Mental Disorder," by radio personality Michael Savage; and "Let Freedom Ring," by political pundit Sean Hannity.

RIP Greg McKendry & Linda Kraeger.

The Corporate-Owned Media simply will not recognize domestic terrorism for what it is.

Posted by: BuzzMon on September 24, 2009 at 8:49 PM | PERMALINK

Your list didn't include Michele Bachmann. Surely she must have denounced Beck as well, right? As even the crazies start putting distance between themselves and Beck, she wouldn't want to remain his lone supporter, would she? Inquiring minds would like to know.


Never mind.

Posted by: Chopin on September 24, 2009 at 8:50 PM | PERMALINK

Ironic Scarborough referencing the hatemongering from the Right that led to OKC in 1994, because at the time, his fellow hatemongers lambasted Clinton for calling it out.

So now we know how long it takes for conservatives to admit the obvious. That means they'll be warning us about Bush's lies on Iraq in about 2025.

Posted by: Qbert on September 24, 2009 at 8:56 PM | PERMALINK

This is a good clip, from SNL WEU tonight:

BTW Beck may be getting in trouble more for picking on corporations and other populist moves, than from the righties really caring about how awful he is. Also, Tiger Woods on his top ten worst bastards list! Beck's a "wet brain" all right ...

Posted by: Neil B ♪ on September 24, 2009 at 9:33 PM | PERMALINK

The sad truth is that these commentators are merely using Beck's slightly more vile rhetoric as political cover for their own. Criticizing him allows them to maintain the illusion that their own commentaries are "reality based." By condemning one of their own, they can claim that they themselves are unbiased.

Posted by: Jason on September 24, 2009 at 9:51 PM | PERMALINK


Posted by: reino on September 24, 2009 at 11:51 PM | PERMALINK

Glenn Beck calls himself a "rodeo clown." A rodeo clown is athletic, courageous and helpful. Funny, too. No resemblance there.

Posted by: Jerry Elsea on September 25, 2009 at 6:48 AM | PERMALINK

@JS, what's to be mad about? It's not Costco's fault no one's buying Beck's stupid book! :)

Posted by: Katie on September 25, 2009 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK



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