I knew that Alexander Zaitchik's new book about Glenn Beck was going to be a doozy, but in this excerpt posted at AlterNet he unloads two whopping barrels loaded with explosive rounds into Beck and how Utah Mormon culture (a certain strain of it) has flavored his shtick - a theme that others, including myself, have been hammering for a while now. Some choice bits:
Those who study Mormon rituals and rhetoric say that the fingerprints of bearing testimony can be found all over Beck’s public tearfulness. “Beck’s ability to ‘cry on cue’ appears to be a combination of Mormon culture and the practiced delivery of a media professional,” says Daymon M. Smith, a Mormon doctoral candidate in anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. “He is using Mormon tactics to spread Mormon ideas, such as the gospel of Cleon Skousen, under the cover of secular political revelations.”
“Beck’s emotional performances are very like Mormon testimonies,” agrees David Knowlton, a Mormon cultural anthropologist at Utah Valley University. “Beck has married two rhetorical styles: the quiet, Mormon sense of emotion present during key moments in testimony, and the bombast of more mainstream evangelical performances. Mormons and evangelicals simply do not trust reason to the same degree they trust feeling. George W. Bush also tapped into this with his elevation of gut over mind.”
On Thursday evening, October 15, 2009, Brother Beck’s Mormon Masterpiece Theater treated Fox viewers to an especially memorable production. The one-act performance had no official title, but it quickly became known on liberal blogs as “Glenda Watches a Coke Commercial, Cries, and Goes to a Suburban Keg Party.”
Beck began the performance with two well-known television advertisements from the early 1980s: one for Coca-Cola and one for Kodak. The spots represented the first time in weeks that major-brand advertising had been seen on Fox News between 5 and 6 p.m. When Beck’s eyes misted over after playing the spots, it seemed that the memory of such advertising was too much for him to take...
Then came a long, choked-up pause, during which Beck appeared to resist the urge to bite his knuckles. He launched into a rambling allegorical tale about how his viewers are a lot like teenagers at a party on a Saturday night, out way past curfew. They smell of weed and booze, but they didn’t really do anything wrong. Still, they are going to be in trouble when they get home. They will be grounded and forced to stay home on the following Saturday night.
If Beck were capable of driving his most flummoxed viewers to suicide, this would have done the trick. In the Internet discussions the segment sparked, many participants found themselves at a complete loss. “While watching this,” wrote one person in a liberal discussion group, “I could almost hear the shotguns being cocked and loaded across the country.”
Indeed, there was something about this segment that was fundamentally unanswerable. The sentimentalism of the bit was so cheaply canned, so reflexively narcissistic, and so historically obtuse that it was less a piece of theater than an act of violence. With this bit, Beck’s love of vulgar sentimentalism hit terminal freak velocity. Anyone who looked directly into its light was sucked through a vortex and deposited into a strange land where Free Willy is Citizen Kane, and a sepia-toned Kodak commercial is capable of capturing all that is good and true about an America that never was.
A final note: Zaitchik is playing nasty with this one. When Common Nonsense drops a week from Monday, I'll be picking up a copy. That said, Zaitchik? Passages like this one:
It wasn't supposed to be like this. Mid-nineteenth century Mormons gathered together to build gleaming cities in the desert into which they imagined the rest of the world would one day flow, drawn by reputations of learning and high culture. Alas, the Mormon cities of today are spirit and intellect crushing wastelands of stricture and schmaltz. The roads leading into Salt Lake City and Provo are dotted with billboards covered in slogans like "Escape from the world" and the faces of people like Glenn Beck.
Are just plain ignorant. You can take your sneering lumping in of *all* of Utah (and of Mormon culture) and go get fucked, buddy boy.