Thursday, January 12, 2012

Say what?

"I don’t get involved in politics." - Glenn Beck

Heard this self-delusional statement today while listening to Thomas Frank talk to Amy Goodman for Democracy Now. The following exchange takes place after Goodman plays audio of Beck saying he's not into politics, into endorsing candidates, but that Rick Santorum may be the next George Washington and will be able to resist the great urge to become a dictator. An urge, apparently, that only Santorum can resist.

AMY GOODMAN: And that is Glenn Beck. Talk about the significance of Glenn Beck, forced off of Fox. You’re talking about the comeback of the right and the significance of the role he plays, the role the Koch brothers play.

THOMAS FRANK: Well, those are some of the biggest actors in what I’m talking about here. But I just wanted—I was struck by what Glenn Beck was saying there, that whenever you listen to him, even if it’s a short snippet like that, there’s always this incredible sense of dread that hangs over every sentence he utters. He said that, you know, the temptation for the next president to not turn over the reins of power back to the public is going to be great? What is he talking about? Dictatorship? That’s like—that’s—and Santorum is the one guy in America that can resist the urge to become a dictator? I don’t—I don’t get things like that. I mean, I do get it. I just finished writing a whole book about it.

There is a way that Glenn Beck really caught the cultural sensibility of 2009 and 2010, you know, this very unlikely—the first time I ever tuned him in, in 2008, he was on CNN at the time, and I was—you know, I had the same reaction to him that I just had when you brought up Rick Santorum. It’s like, how could this be? You know? Who would hire this man to be on television? It just seemed preposterous to me. And he really caught the wave in 2009, that when the—after the thing that really—you know, the economy fell apart in 2008, and you had the government stepping in with the enormous bailouts, you know, this completely unaccountable just spending of taxpayers’ money to get their Wall Street buddies off the hook, you know, stand the banks back up and let them go back to their—and this was—this was a shocking moment. You know, it’s the kind—I say in the book that it was the sort of moment that crushes the faith of a nation, you know? And Glenn Beck was there with this very dark vision that he has where things are always, you know, we’re on the verge of tyranny, there’s conspiracies everywhere. And there he was with this trademark vision of his, and it really seemed to catch the public mood in those days. And so, in my mind, he was one of the most important figures in the comeback of the right, because he really gave the—you know, if you would go to Tea Party rallies in those days, and I went to a bunch of them in order to write the book, the language you would always hear from the podium and the theories you would hear from the podium, the peculiar ideas, the visions of history that you would hear from the podium, were all recycled stuff from the Glenn Beck program. He was really the—he was really the one with the ideas.
Will Bunch noticed the same thing, with Beck being the backbone of the conservative backlash, in his own book on the subject.

Indeed, if you've read Beck books, listened to his radio show and watched his tv show the last couple of years, you'll know that he's dedicated his media fiefdom to being a political activist with the dedicated goal of mainstreaming the fringes of American paranoia. Presumably, if you're a critic of Beck and have followed him you're aware of that; if you're a fan then you apparently have a tremendous capacity to compartmentalize: to take him seriously when he says he's not involved in politics yet to show up at his 9/12 rallies with the plan of taking back your country from "them."

To think of Beck as someone who doesn't get involved in politics requires to forget the role he has played in politics the last couple of years.

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