Saturday, September 04, 2010

Common Nonsense

A few months ago I heard a great podcast interview with Alexander Zaitchik about his new book, Common Nonsense: Glenn Beck and the Triumph of Ignorance. The interview was very eye opening and inspired me to read the book.
I’ve always felt that Glenn Beck was just a failed shock jock who couldn’t keep up with the likes of Howard Stern. So he switched to am radio and started using the same shock jock strategies and even some of the same skits to shock am listeners.
Zaitchik successfully illustrates that Beck is a brilliant marketer. He is always looking at how he can spin anything to promote himself. As a FM DJ he called and taunted the wife of a competing station on the air because she had recently had a miscarriage. When other people are genuinely distraught about a national tragedy, Beck is trying to figure out how he can make the event improve his brand. And for those of you who would like to claim that this was the “old Glenn” before he found Jesus and converted to Mormonism, I have seen no change at all in his strategies since. He switched sides on the Teri Schiavo case after he realized that siding with Michael Schiavo would be a death nail for his new am gig. He vilified liberals for opposing Bush’s polices “..while we have troops in harm’s way” yet didn’t think twice to compare Obama to Stalin and Satan while pretty much all of those troops are still “in harm’s way”.
I’ve always felt that’s Beck’s tears were just a tool to manipulate. Sure they may have been genuine at first, but they have grown to be a great marking strategy. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that his emotional outbursts started shortly after he converted to Mormonism. Anybody who has attended an LDS, first Sunday service will recognize the pattern. You go up and stand before everybody and the firmness with which you believe something replaces logic, facts and evidence. Tears are just the ace in the hole. There can be no further argument on that issue once somebody has cried. I am sure that most of what happens on Sunday is genuine. With Beck I’m not so sure. Zaitchik interview several of Beck’s co-workers who detail examples of him getting all choked up before a commercial break then ordering a pizza on the phone and then turning the tears back on when he’s back on air. I’m just not buying it.
Another little strategy of Beck’s that he has commandeered from the LDS is church is his persecution complex. If people picket him or criticize it only can mean one thing. He is doing the right thing. Beck capitalizes on protests and disagreement and he has no desire for them to go away. His books are literally covered with quotes from those who oppose him. He eats it up.
His claim that his 8-28 rally was just “coincidentally” scheduled for the anniversary of Dr. Kings speech is very hollow. In my mind there are two options: 1. He didn’t know it was the same date. In which case he’s a moron and should have known. Or option 2. He knew full well and was planning on capitalizing on the controversy. Considering his history of doing things that upset his opposition and using their protests as free advertising I have to accept the later. As a shock jock he worked up PETA supporters into a lather and then relished the free publicity they gave him.
The really disgustng part of Beck’s rally and his whole “reclaim the civil rights” rhetoric is that it’s just patently false. Had he been a contemporary of King's he’d have been standing right beside his John Birch Society role models W. Cleon Skousen and Ezra Taft Benson condemning King as a communist.
In the book Zaitchik was referring to a couple Cleon Skousen books and he called them, “…elaborately imagined, feverishly argued, and poorly researched.” I think the same could also be said for everything I’ve hear come out of Glenn Beck’s mouth. I think Beck is counting on the ignorance of his audience. He expects them to just connect the dots the same what his conspiracy theory mind connects them on that chalkboard without any further research.

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