Right-Wing Fox Host Glenn Beck Thinks He's the Second Coming of Howard Beale -- What a Joke
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That special, he said, was about unifying Americans in the spirit of "9/12," a reference to the way Beck says we all came together the day after the September 11 attacks. Beck seems to have forgotten that his warm and fuzzy feeling on September 12, 2001 turned fairly quickly to loathing, as he admitted on his radio show on September 9, 2005: "You know it took me about a year to start hating the 9/11 victims' families?"
But the entire premise of Beck's show is to divide the country through the routine use of "us and them" dichotomies. "It seems like the voices of our leaders and special interests and the media [are] surrounding us," said Beck during the special. But "the truth is," he said, "they don't surround us. We surround them. This is our country."
The program played on popular economic fears and resentment over having to pay for corporate bailouts, framed in a larger portrait of a world in chaos: "It just seems like the whole world is spinning out of control," said Beck. "War. Islamic extremism. Europe on the brink. Even pirates now."
But don't look to the government, he warned: "Our government is supposed to work for us. But it hasn't heard us in a long time." The anti-government disdain that pervades his programs is "not about politics," says Beck. "You've been concerned about this country through the last administration and this administration--if you're like most people, both administrations."
Beck's claim that Americans feel betrayed by both the Bush and Obama administrations is one of the central lies at the core of his show--and not just because "most people" approve of Obama. (An April 1-5 CBS News/New York Times poll found Obama with an approval rating of 66 percent--exactly three times Bush's historically dismal 22 percent approval rating poll upon leaving office.)
More disingenuously, Beck clearly doesn't believe in his own "pox on both their houses" bit. If he did, his show wouldn't be a regular, friendly stop for former Bush officials, boosters and prominent neoconservatives. In his short run, Beck has already hosted Bush alumni Alberto Gonzales, John Bolton, Karl Rove and John Yoo. Other GOP and neoconservative stalwarts who have already appeared more than once in the show's first few weeks include Rudolph Giuliani, Ann Coulter, Jonah Goldberg, Byron York, Michelle Malkin and David Horowitz.
While Beck lobs softballs to Bushies, Obama and his administration come under unrelenting, if frequently nutty, attacks. In one monologue (4/1/09), Beck raised right-wing fears about how "they" or "the government" were "going to nationalize our banksput the government in charge of private payrollsmove to nationalize our auto industry." He concluded that his earlier assessments of the nation's ills had been wrong: "Our government is not marching down the road towards communism or socialism. They're marching us to a brand of nonviolent fascism, or to put in another way, they're marching us towards 1984--'Big Brother,' he's watching." This monologue took place over a video backdrop of thousands of Nazis marching under swastika banners.
Beck was careful to say of his anti-government charges, "It doesn't matter which administration we have in office." But it obviously matters to him. If there is any evidence that Beck ever suggested, while the Bush administration was still in power, that it was "socialist," "communist," "fascist" or marching toward totalitarianism, we are unable to find it--even if he seems perfectly willing to throw the former president under the proverbial bus in the current, expedient moment.
It's much the same with Beck's populism. Subjects like poverty, homelessness and low wages don't even register as concerns on his show, which regularly features friendly interviews with champions of the corporate elite, including Stephen Moore, Amity Shales, Arthur Laffer and Ben Stein. The "populist" Beck attacked foreclosure victims at the top of his You Are Not Alone special and complained that the United States had "the second-highest corporate tax rate in the world."
If the anti-tax "tea parties"--with their mixture of populist rhetoric and corporate advocacy (Think Progress, 4/14/09), their lip-service to a bipartisan critique and their actual fidelity to the Republican Party--bear more than a passing resemblance to Beck's new formula, that's no coincidence. Beck's influence over this movement has been substantial, and he tirelessly promoted the "tea party" events on his radio and TV programs. (The tea parties were brought up in 22 of his TV shows from February 20 through the day of the protests, April 15--when Beck did his show live from a tea party at the Alamo.)
With few exceptions, what Beck's various campaigns and positions have in common is an antagonism toward the Obama administration, the Democratic establishment and anyone to their left. This is not only clear in the way Beck identifies with corporate interests and Bush stalwarts; his approach was made clear in an L.A. Times interview (3/6/09) in which he said Roger Ailes told him, "The country faced tough timesand Fox News was one of the only news outlets willing to challenge the new administration."
"I see this as the Alamo," Ailes said, according to Beck. "If I just had somebody who was willing to sit on the other side of the camera until the last shot is fired, we'd be fine."
Poor Howard Beale, on the other hand, was eventually taken to the woodshed by his boss, who ranted at him: