Ganging Up on Glenn Beck
It doesn’t surprise me that the educated gentlefolk of the left hate Glenn Beck. Since Obama won the presidency back in November, this baby-faced, quasi-bipolar, ready-to-weep TV and radio personality has morphed into something even stranger than he used to be.
I’d listen to Glenn Beck’s radio show a few times a week during my morning drives. He was a master of his craft… still is. Able to swoop effortlessly from outlandish comedy to mesmerizing melodramatics, he could make you hang on every word as if you were listening to the Gettysburg Address delivered by its author. He could say more with five seconds of silence than most radio personalities do in half an hour of gabbing.
Then came the strange and unsettling metamorphosis. Something about Obama’s election darkened his soul. (Either that or his bosses told him to crank up the partisan rhetoric.) Beck had never been especially partisan before. He was more of a libertarian maverick, sympathetic to the right but not bound by Republican articles of faith (like preemptive war and love of investment bankers).
Now he began to rant regularly about socialism, Obama, leftist tyranny, the evils of nationalized healthcare, and the inevitable silencing of dissident right-wing voices. He painted a bleak picture of an America stripped of liberty and justice by the demons of the left. He essentially slipped into the role of right-wing populist demagogue, urging his angry followers to rise up against ObamaNation through tea parties and noisy town-hall meetings.
When Obama initially sided with Henry Louis Gates after the Harvard scholar’s arrest for disorderly conduct, Beck turned livid. In an interview on national TV, he called the president a “racist” with a “deep-seated hatred for white people.”
That was too much for some folks. James Rucker, a HuffingtonPost blogger and executive director of ColorOfChange.org, a black activist group, has launched an attempt to drive Beck off the air by undercutting his sponsorship. In a letter to 600,000 COC members, he wrote:
Together we can stop Glenn Beck. Starting today we’re calling Beck’s advertisers, asking them if they want to be associated with this kind of racist hate and fear-mongering. When they see tens of thousands of people signing on behind that question, we believe they’ll move their advertising dollars elsewhere, damaging the viability of his show and possibly putting him out of business.
As of yesterday, 75,000 followers had signed the petition and ten sponsors (including big-gun advertisers like GEICO, Procter & Gamble, Radio Shack, ConAgra, Roche and S.C. Johnson) had agreed to pull their ads. Rucker triumphantly announced his victories on HuffingtonPost. Most of the left-leaning audience shouted huzzahs in their comments, though there were a few dissenters. I was one of them. I wrote:
As irresponsible and inflammatory as Glenn Beck can be, he has a right to air his views. Petitioning his sponsors to drop him is tantamount to attempting to silence him. When we start to muzzle people we don’t like, we’re sliding toward precisely the kind of authoritarian state that Beck and his followers are squawking about.
To which a loyal Huffingtonite responded:
Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…