Is Glenn Beck Finished?
In his eight months at Fox, Glenn Beck has repeatedly prophesied the advent of both Socialism and Fascism. He's wished for Osama bin Laden to attack America. He's hosted 911 truther Alex Jones on his show, and helped fan the bizarre conspiracy theory that FEMA plans to imprison dissidents in internment camps. He paces, rants and cries on the air like a crazy person. Once, he pretended to set someone on fire.
Beck's weird theatrics and paranoid right-wing rants have earned him the 3rd highest ratings on Fox (Bill O'Reilly still regularly beats Beck, Sean Hannity beats him sometimes), even as liberals, many corporate media pundits and most non-crazy people shrink away with equal parts bewilderment, horror and disdain. The week before last Beck averaged 2.4 million viewers a day, edging out Hannity for the number 2 spot.
But a Color of Change campaign urging advertisers to drop Beck has already been so successful that Fox may have to reconsider whether Beck is worth it, despite his popularity with the right-wing fringe. At last count, 36 advertisers have pulled their advertising from Beck's show. These include: GEICO, Radio Shack, SC Johnson, Progressive Insurance and Sprint. Last Monday Wal Mart – hardly a poster-child for progressive politics – also dropped Beck's program.
Color of Change, an African-American grassroots organization devoted to ensuring that the interests Black Americans are represented in political life, launched their petition against Beck in response to the talk show host's predictably over-the-top, bizarre contribution to the debate surrounding the arrest of Professor Henry Louis Gates. On a July 28th guest appearance on Fox and Friends, Beck pulled a popular right-wing trick – whining about reverse racism when confronted with real racism – and absurdly claimed, "The President has exposed himself as a guy … over and over and over again … who has a deep-seated hatred for white people … or the white culture…. I don't know what it is".
Even Brian "we've diluted our gene pool" Kilmeade gaped in shock, and asked Beck how the President could hate white people when almost his entire cabinet was made up of them. Beck clarified his point: "I’m not saying he doesn't like white people. I'm saying he has a problem. This guy is, I believe, a racist."
Beck's comments set off a firestorm of controversy. "Has he gone too far?" headlines abounded. Talking heads slammed Beck for absurdly arguing that a man raised by a white mother and grandparents hated white people. Even fellow conservatives like Joe Scarborough expressed outrage. Like the standard fare peddled by many luminaries of right-wing hate talk, Beck's accusation insinuated the President's "otherness", hinting at some nefarious plot to bring about general doom by way of Islam/socialism/fascism/racism/ACORN.
For Color of Change, Beck had crossed a line into flagrant race-bating.
"What Beck has done is use his platform to stoke fear and incite a certain kind of paranoia that can actually lead to violence and really negative consequences in terms of public discourse. That's essentially his schtick" says James Rucker, co-founder and Executive Director of Color of Change.
In fact, Beck's comments are reminiscent of the shocking hate speech that popped up at McCain/Palin rallies during the election. As Rucker points out, "All [Sarah Palin] had to say was, "Who is this guy really? And you had this idea emerge that he was a Muslim, and so on. That resulted in people shouting "Kill him! Traitor!" That's essentially in so many ways is what Beck is doing."
One difference between then and now, of course, is that these days, riled up right-wingers with ties to militia groups are bringing weaponry to Presidential events.