Is Glenn Beck Sinking?
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Beck's radio footprint, his biggest pride and the base of his business, is also taking a hit. His former home station, Philadelphia's WPHT, dropped him last November. New York's WOR followed last month, citing poor ratings.
Beck now appears caught in a vicious cycle that may cause, if not his much-anticipated downfall, at least an overdue neutering of his influence. A significant chunk of Beck's audience has grown weary of his act, which like any stimulation eventually suffers from diminishing returns.
Some may have tired of his Chicken Little screeches, which always seem to segue into commercial pitches for gold and other survivalist products available on his website. Still others may have been turned off by his use of old anti-Semitic tropes in the pursuit of the nation's biggest internal enemies. On his January 13 show, Beck identified nine people who he considered among the most dangerous thinkers and activists. Eight of them were Jews, including George Soros and Frances Fox Piven.
And so, in order to get those viewers back, Beck has apparently banked on a strategy of upping the paranoid ante, which is likely to simply further chip away at his remaining audience.
Beck has never been a pundit so much as a mouthpiece and an entertainer. His writers feed him right-wing opposition research and talking points, which he kneads into a conspiracy pretzel seasoned with his own store of religious-apocalyptic salts. Until recently, the resultant snack looked like a new formula for conservative catnip. Beck, it seemed, was on his way to building an iconic and enduring franchise -- the Ray Kroc of McCrazy.
But lately his customers have been gagging on this snack and not coming back. Beck's response has been to supercharge the recipe with more of the same. If the last few weeks are any indication, the new recipe tastes even more like dog food than before.
Alexander Zaitchik is a Brooklyn-based freelance journalist and AlterNet contributing writer. His book, Common Nonsense: Glenn Beck and the Triumph of Ignorance , is published by Wiley & Sons.
Peter Dreier, professor of politics at Occidental College, is coauthor of "The Next Los Angeles: The Struggle for a Livable City" and "Place Matters: Metropolitics for the 21st Century."