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Tilting at Windmills

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April 8, 2010

A PEEK BEHIND THE BECK CURTAIN.... It's been an ongoing point of debate for a while: is Fox News' Glenn Beck actually deranged, or is it just an act to appeal to far-right consumers? I'll admit to going back and forth on the question.

But Forbes profiles the strange media personality in its new issue, and gets an interesting comment from the talk-show host himself.

With a deadpan, Beck insists that he is not political: "I could give a flying crap about the political process." Making money, on the other hand, is to be taken very seriously, and controversy is its own coinage. "We're an entertainment company," Beck says. He has managed to monetize virtually everything that comes out of his mouth.

That monetization has proven incredibly lucrative. Beck's Mercury Radio Arts, dubbed "Glenn Beck Inc." by Forbes, generated $32 million over the last year, and only $2 million of that total came from Fox News. The majority was the result of book sales, speaking engagements, merchandising, and assorted Beck-related publications (magazines, website, newsletter).

"I don't necessarily believe that [what Beck says] is reflective of his own personal politics -- I don't even know if he has personal politics," said Michael Harrison, publisher of Talkers, a trade magazine devoted to talk radio. "I see him as a performer."

What's more, Zaid Jilani reminds us that this isn't the first time Beck has suggested he doesn't buy his own shtick. He has described himself as "a rodeo clown" and conceded, "If you take what I say as gospel, you're an idiot."

I guess the only surprising thing is that Beck would admit that he doesn't "give a flying crap about the political process," in effect acknowledging that he considers his minions -- who've been convinced by Beck to care deeply about the political process -- a bunch of suckers.

Steve Benen 2:55 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (44)

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I certainly consider beck's followers suckers or worse...Beck with $32 mil a year is like a 5 year old with a loaded pistol.

Posted by: beyond left on April 8, 2010 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

This is what I don't get about the consumers of right-wing media--Beck is only the latest to admit that he's an entertainer interested in making money. Limbaugh said essentially the same thing a few years back. But their fans insist that these people speak the gospel truth. Unbelievable.

Posted by: Lifelong Dem on April 8, 2010 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

It is astonishing that none of these "Its just a show, folks!" comments never make it into the heads of Beck's listeners. He said something similar in GQ last year, I think.

Pretty remarkable--his crowd wants a leader so bad they won't even listen to said leader telling them its all fake. Life of Brian, anyone?

Posted by: rob on April 8, 2010 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not sure which is worse: that he believes the incredible crap he talks, or that he doesn't.

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on April 8, 2010 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

No surprise here. Making $$$ from stupid people works in both religion AND politics!

Posted by: lrtc on April 8, 2010 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we've been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We're no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. it is simply too painful to acknowledge -- even to ourselves -- that we've been so credulous.

Posted by: Carl Sagan on April 8, 2010 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

Hmmm, Mercury Radio?

That was Orson Welles (and Beck is no Welles). The Mercury Radio players did produce War of the Worlds, which convinced a lot of gullible people who don't listen or think the world was coming to an end. Think Beck is sending a subtle message?

Posted by: martin on April 8, 2010 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

I've never understood how anyone can believe he's serious. Not only is he acting, but he's a lousy actor and everything he says drips with insincerity. I don't care if everything he said was 100% accurate, his delivery is absolutely dreadful. I wonder if his supporters are outraged that the Academy has never rewarded William Shatner for his skills.

I'm honestly concerned about anyone who can watch his performances and not see what I'm seeing. Some people's brains simply lack the ability to discern this sort of thing, particularly as they get older. That's why so many elderly people are susceptable to con artists, as they can no longer tell when someone's lying to them. Of course, this affliction doesn't just strike the elderly, though it's more pronounced as they age.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on April 8, 2010 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

they believe because they want to believe. they believe because the nonsense he spews fits their world view.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on April 8, 2010 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

He gets away with saying it because the true believers know that that's what he has to say so that they will leave him alone.

Posted by: snoey on April 8, 2010 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

This isn't new. Right wing politicians and media personalities frequently say things that indicate a profound contempt for their consumers. Rove used to do it all the time. They know they can do it with impunity because the alternate reality bubble the consumers live in, and that is the source of the producers' money and power, won't let it through.

Posted by: Another Steve on April 8, 2010 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not sure that there's any difference between the attitude of the right and the left towards Beck. We can laugh at people taking him seriously when he's told them flat out that's he's faking it for money but are we any more sensible when we react to him? Why does Media Matters pay so much attention to him? Why did Yglesias spend time today critiqueing Beck's latest attempt to prove that Obama is a socialist? There's no substance there to critique so why even discuss it?

Posted by: johio on April 8, 2010 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

Peeking into Beck's inbox

How much does the rodeo crown believe in the rodeo?
This much: Don't kill the golden goose.

Please note that Beck walked his viewers back from violence the other day.
As did Sen Tom Coburn when he said to a hissing pot of teabaggers: "Nancy Pelosi is a nice lady."

Which brings me to my point:
Ever wonder what sort of crazy-mean shows up in Beck's email box?
Ever wonder if he gets a bit worried about some cavalier response he bounced back?

What if...

Tomorrow's teabagger kook du jour is shown to have corresponded with Beck?
Or Coburn? Or Hannity? Or any other instigator of: "Hate thy liberal"?

That might overcook the golden goose....

Posted by: koreyel on April 8, 2010 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

One of the reasons I love Rush is that he is by far the best at what he does.

He honestly says that his job is get his advertisers to pay a fortune to him for the ads AND for those same advertisers to be extremely happy to pay him so much money. He even calls the commercial breaks "obscene profit center time outs".

Rush and Beck are entertainers. For some reason, I can't stand listening to Beck but I love listening to Rush. Of course, I listen to Rush for less than 20 minutes at a time, a few times a week. I am not sure I could stand more than that.

I get my news from NPR and reading newspapers on the web and from blogs.

Posted by: neil wilson on April 8, 2010 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

I've always thought Beck could reverse his politics on a dime if he thought it would bring him more attention. That's the thing - it wouldn't. There are just not enough bitter, petulant, uneducated, self-pitying, scared fools on the left to make Beck's (and Hannity, Limbaugh, Savage, etc.) kind of demagoguery profitable.

Posted by: DelCapslock on April 8, 2010 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

Anyone old enough to remember that episode of WKRP in Cincinnati where Johnny Fever got a gig on TV as disco personality "Rip Tide?" Essentially, he thought he was play acting, but the unctuous style of "Rip" started influencing his behavior with his friends. It's what I think of when I think of Glenn Beck. In the passion of any given moment, he believes what he's saying with all his heart and soul. He believes liberals are the ruin of this nation. He believes Obama is a socialist, a fascist, a whateverist. When he's off-air, he might mellow out and realize it's all show...for a moment. But he can adopt that persona and believe wholeheartedly in the inanity he spews. I believe it's the behavior of a sociopath, and his admissions in Forbes reinforces that belief. And what makes it incredibly dangerous is that there's always a twisted desire in sociopaths to see how far they can go. In a way, his claims that he doesn't really believe the crap he spews is even more dangerous than if he believes it wholeheartedly.

But ultimately, if push came to shove, Glenn Beck would stand behind every single word he ever said on TV or radio...unless someone could prove that he'd make an extra 10 bucks a year condemning all he's said before ad embracing progressive politics.

Posted by: slappy magoo on April 8, 2010 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

I agree 100% - aren't we just as gullible for giving him this space of wasted time?

Posted by: whichwitch on April 8, 2010 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

Beck's job is fleecing the rubes for money. Palin's is fleecing them for money and votes. This is understandable; what angers me is the media taking these floppy-shoed seltzer-squirters seriously. I mean, CNN hires Erick Erickson. If Beck could make money selling frozen dog shit on a stick, his little trucks would be all over our neighborhoods.

Posted by: Nick on April 8, 2010 at 3:35 PM | PERMALINK

Coulter is the same way.

Posted by: MNPundit on April 8, 2010 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

The comments to that article are frightening. How people could read someone admit that he doesn't give a damn about anything other than fleecing followers to get rich and still somehow remain part of the cult is beyond comprehension.

Posted by: Shalimar on April 8, 2010 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

I'm pretty sure Beck's adorers would just point to people like Stewart and Colbert and say "it's o.k. for liberals to watch comedians on comedy central" stop victimizing us.

Of course, "those comedians" use things like facts to point out truths, while Hannity and Beck spin things out of whole cloth. Sadly, the minions on the right were never good at catching false equivalencies which is why "draw a false equivalence" is one of the first rules on the first page of the official Rove playbook for modern conservatism.

BTW our kabuki-theater media not wanting to confuse or abandon the minions on the right is complicit in the overall scam. USA = GREED

Posted by: oh my on April 8, 2010 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

"Stupid is as stupid does..."

This Republic is filled with stupid people. Period.

Posted by: Stevuio on April 8, 2010 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe rodeo clowns should sue him on the grounds that (a) they are personally brave and (b) they actually do some good to some other humans.

On the question of the face becoming the mask, Calvin Trillin did a story years ago on a guy in Texas who reviewed hilariously drive-in movies in the persona of a complete yahoo called Joe Bob Briggs, and eventually guy became the yahoo he pretended to be.

Posted by: john sherman on April 8, 2010 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

in effect acknowledging that he considers his minions -- who've been convinced by Beck to care deeply about the political process -- a bunch of suckers.

Well, I'm glad he does because that's exactly what they are. Easily manipulated suckers. America has, unfortunately, never had a shortage of them.

Posted by: electrolite on April 8, 2010 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK

One of the (many ironies) of this current political climate is someone like Stephen Colbert who's whole sctick is to satirize right-wing tools comes off more believable then the supposed real right wing tools.

That is to say if I was a foreigner and you took out the Colbert audiance and asked me who was engaging in political satire, Stephen Colbert or Glen Beck I'd actually say Glen Beck was the comedian.

Posted by: Archon on April 8, 2010 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

This comment is going to send Colbert over the edge. Just when he thought he had the market cornered on pseudo-right wing talk radio jocks, Beck has just announced he's uber-Colbert. If you don't care about the Country, what a fucking ride Beck is on. You can buy a lot of magic underwear with that ca-ching, maybe even forgiveness.

Posted by: Scott F. on April 8, 2010 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

"If you take what I say as gospel, you're an idiot."

paging Victoria Jackson--

Posted by: Allan Snyder on April 8, 2010 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, he is an entertainer and is determined to make a profit. And, like Murdoch and Limbaugh, he makes his money by generating controversy ergo which you cannot do by accepting the status quo... it means vigorously challenging the status quo.

In this case, the status quo happens western civilization and the progressive movement. So he and Limbaugh et al bash and rant and scream and shout. They have undoubtedly learned from the great demigogs of the 20th century in boiling down a problem to a one line "simple solution."

But remember they have to challenge the status quo and shock people to make money. This means that in the 1950's they would have been raging for McCarthy. In the 1920's for the socialists. In the 1900's they would ahve been right with Hearst in creating yellow journalism.

In teh 1960's they would have been bashing the establishment of Nixon and Johnson.

I find it obscene, yet of sociological interest, that Murdoch, Glenn and Limbaugh can convince the worker bees that they have common cause with the very weathy who run the industries which pay them low wages, want to prevent them from having health care, and want destroy OSHA.

Of course, teh cry of the rabble rouser has always been "You are oppressed and the STATE is taking away your wealth." This was true when when Louis XVI lost his head. When Lenin et al overthrew the fledgling Russian Republic, and when Castro overthrew Bastia.

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on April 8, 2010 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

nice post @ slappy magoo

You are right of course. People aren't capable of compartmentalizing their lives. The left hand knows what the right is up to, and ultimately works in concert with it.

This is actually one of the reasons why I think the automobile has done more to undermine American civility than any other cultural element. People drive like they are at war with each other. That's been going on for 40 years. Ultimately that attitude seeps across compartments. The republican party now depends on that seepage: in other words, every dog for himself, and anything that reigns in the individual, like government, is bad. Civil discourtesy is all the rage. Who would have thought that shouting down an ill woman in a wheelchair at a townhall meeting would be the new norm?

Posted by: koreyel on April 8, 2010 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

and this will come as a surprise to anyone? They're all frauds and con men.

Posted by: SaintZak on April 8, 2010 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

My dad watches/reads Beck, I wonder if he also reads Forbes...

Consider this evidence #549 why I need to wean dad off of Beck and onto Frum. At least Frum cares.

Posted by: PaulW on April 8, 2010 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

Never, NEVER underestimate the ability of the human mind to rationalize away inconvenient truths -- "Well, Glenn may think he's only kidding, but the Lord Jesus is putting those words in his mouth to save this good Christian land!"

And that was just off the top of my head. I'm sure his cult of followers can come up with a million rationalizations for his dismissal of his own shtick.

Posted by: Gummo on April 8, 2010 at 4:30 PM | PERMALINK

People watch Beck for the same reason they slow down for a gruesome wreck. . .

Posted by: DAY on April 8, 2010 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

If Americans could marshall the resources necessary to bring down Herr Beck, we could annihilate the Tea party itself.

Guillotine the head---and the body will die.

Posted by: S. Waybright on April 8, 2010 at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK


Its much MUCH worse that he doesn't believe his own schtick. as we've all known. He is knowingly priming the lunatic fringe pump for nothing more than a bit of "coinage". This person is going to be indirectly responsible for a lot of violent crap and he thinks its funny, as long as he makes money off of it.

Posted by: Simp on April 8, 2010 at 5:50 PM | PERMALINK

Who are the bigger fools, the ones who believe everything Beck says or the ones who believe everything Obama says? We on the left can sit back and chuckle about the rubes who buy into Glenn's shtick but there are plenty on the left who refuse to admit that Obama has reversed himself on numerous campaign promises. Politics, even at the best of times, is mostly bullshit. These days I'd say the bullshit meter is pegged at 100% on the left AND the right.

Posted by: Kid Charles on April 8, 2010 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

Are you saying Beck is trying to out-Colbert Stephen Colbert?

Does that mean Beck is eventually going to come clean and tell all the wingnuts that they've been had?

There'd be quite a few heads exploding that day.

Posted by: The Fool on April 8, 2010 at 6:11 PM | PERMALINK

I compare Beck to a tele-evangelist. I think he basically believes in what he says. It doesn't matter if his details are off or if he presents facts in an entertaining way. He cares about the big picture view and a vehicle to become very rich.

Posted by: Objective Dem on April 8, 2010 at 6:34 PM | PERMALINK

He can hardly be exculpated for just making his money by playing to his listeners worst tendencies, rather than believing himself. Then again, what portion of Colbert's revenue comes from people who believe what he sometimes says. He flips around so much Beck may be his moral superior.

Posted by: Michael7843853 on April 8, 2010 at 6:54 PM | PERMALINK

The world-weary "hey it's all a joke" comments are part of the schtick- they get to step back and play the cynical Sam Spade-type, which gives their slightly-more-aware followers a chance to preen themselves
for being in the inner circle and being allowed a glimpse behind the scenes while still swallowing the basic message.

Posted by: MikeN on April 8, 2010 at 7:38 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, I think MikeN seens thru Beck and into the deeper ploy. After all, plenty of people do really take him seriously. In any case, someone needs to play up and quote him saying political: "I could give a flying crap about the political process" so he'll look insincere and cynically exploitative (even if they don't know the words) to this baser followers. Maddow, Stewart, Colbert: you have a job to do.

Posted by: Neil B on April 8, 2010 at 7:50 PM | PERMALINK

He can hardly be exculpated for just making his money by playing to his listeners worst tendencies, rather than believing himself.

Yes, he can. It's easy. Glen Beck is a scam artist who exploits the ignorant and harms our country by pushing paranoia and lies and polluting our political discourse for his own profit. See how easy it is when you've actually got moral standards?

Then again, what portion of Colbert's revenue comes from people who believe what he sometimes says?

Almost none, these days. But, nice double reverse flip long jump coming up with a false equivalence.

He flips around so much Beck may be his moral superior.

Colbert is a professional comedian who does not claim otherwise and only a complete idiot would not realize this. Beck is a con man who lets his audience think he is telling them the truth. He hurts millions of people by spreading lies about issues like health care, climate change, and war.

One man hurts no one, the other contributes to the pain and misery of countless victims. Not really in the same league, morality-wise.

Posted by: Midland on April 8, 2010 at 11:40 PM | PERMALINK

So, if you pay your taxes you're being suckered by a government that, at least on paper, is trying to help the very least of us have food, shelter, clothes and medicine. If you buy a book by Glenn Beck you're voluntarily handing over your hard-earned money to a man who has gotten rich beyond his wildest dreams by strumming the chords that excite the most gullible minds.

Glenn Beck is making a fortune by convincing people that it is better to give him money than it is to give to the government to support the poor. He's not saying taxes are bad because our defense budget is out of control. He's saying they are bad because they help feed and clothe and shelter disadvantaged American children.

The conservative movement is like that old book called "How To Make a Million Dollars." It's all about "letting people keep their hard-earned money." The problem is that none of the followers will ever realize that the easiest way to make a million dollars is to write a book called "How To Make a Million Dollars" and sell it to the suckers who can't read or write.

Posted by: chrenson on April 9, 2010 at 6:51 AM | PERMALINK

Amazing journalism, take 4 quotes out of context, not even full sentances, and write an article summing up a person. Your readers are guilty of drinking the same kool-aid you are talking about.

Posted by: Seth on November 1, 2010 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK



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