Right-Wing Fox Host Glenn Beck Thinks He's the Second Coming of Howard Beale -- What a Joke
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Fox News' latest sensation Glenn Beck has invited comparisons of himself to Howard Beale, the barking-mad TV host in 1976's black comedy Network, who urged viewers to throw open their windows and shout, "I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore."
Beck recently told the New York Times ( 3/30/09): "I think that's the way people feel. That's the way I feel." Beck has even played clips of Beale's scenes on his show (Beck, 3/23/09).
Declaring one's kinship with a fictional TV host famous for undergoing an on-air emotional disintegration would not normally recommend one to anchor a real national television news show. But Beck is on Fox.
And Beck is not entirely unlike the deranged Beale; both men describe the world in paranoid and apocalyptic terms while attempting to play on populist sentiment. But Beale, even in full-fledged madness, could still be relied upon to occasionally say something truthful and worthwhile. It's unlikely that Beck would ever choose to speak truth to power the way Beale did when he learned that his cynical network was being bought by an even larger and more cynical conglomerate:
Indeed, Beck's jumble of false, contradictory and disingenuous commentary in the service of corporate power seems precisely the kind of programming Beale envisioned in his worst nightmares.
The Beale comparisons began after Beck jumped from CNN Headline News to his current job at Fox. Through years as a talk radio host and then Headline News anchor, Beck had been more or less faithful to the standard hard-right, GOP-aligned politics of conservative talk radio--he is well-practiced in such obligatory skills as immigrant-bashing, warmongering and Islamophobia (Extra!, 11-12/08)--though his embrace of violent rhetoric and fascist imagery has always put him at the extreme end of the talk radio spectrum. Beck's record includes fantasizing about strangling Michael Moore with his bare hands, seeing Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D.-Ohio) "burst into flames" (AlterNet, 11/21/08) and warning that "Muslims will see the West through razor wire if things don't change" (CNN Headline News, 9/5/06).
But since his Fox launch, Beck has recast himself as a populist who eschews both major parties. In a profile about his new show, Beck exclaimed to the New York Times (3/30/09), "Whatever happened to the country that loved the underdog and stood up for the little guy?''
Along with his populist pretensions, the new Glenn Beck promotes ultra-right conspiracy theories and other apocalyptic and paranoid scenarios. For instance, Beck suggests Barack Obama is a "Manchurian candidate" because he uses a teleprompter (like virtually every other modern politician): "Who's writing every word for this man?…We have a fraud in office, at least that's the way it feels to me" (Think Progress, 3/25/09).
Beck has also suggested (Fox & Friends, 3/3/09) that the current government is taking us down the road to "socialism, totalitarianism, beyond your wildest dreams." Beck cited as evidence the Birchite rumor that FEMA facilities were being converted to concentration camps: "I wanted to debunk them," said Beck (Fox & Friends, 3/2/09). "We've now for several days done research on them. I can't debunk them!" (Beck later renounced his support for the rumor and took credit for debunking it--Beck, 4/6/09.)
What's more, this mad hash of right-wing populist paranoia is delivered in an urgent, hyper-emotional style, occasionally interrupted by the host's weeping. "I'm sorry," he cried on his March 13 You Are Not Alone special. "I just love my country. And I fear for it."