Sunday, 10 April 2011

Glenn Beck 2.0 (or is it 3.1.7 at this point?)

First off, apologies as I haven't kept up on this blog as I'd like to, but that's going to change right now.

So, Glenn Beck, favorite punching bag of callow liberals like myself, is out on his ass at Fox News. Well, to be fair, Mercury Radio Arts (Beck's company, named in honor of Orson Welles) apparently still has a contract to produce content for Fox:

According to, Beck’s production company, Mercury Radio Arts, will continue to work with Fox News on a new partnership where Beck will assist with development and production of a variety of television show productions for Fox News as well as other digital media holdings. No details were given on what the partnership might look like for Glenn Beck or Fox News.

This is not even close to the end of Beck. My passion for horror cinema has given me a pretty apt simile to use here: Beck is like Jason the first time a teenage would-be victim lights him on fire or shoots him or drops him off a bridge. You just know that Big Daddy Vorhees is going to be back sooner rather thna later for some bloody vengeance.

I don't think Beck will be focusing on blood or vengeance in the near future, as both topics are entirely unrelated to the Beck Primary Directive, which is to make oodles of cash through brilliant self-promotion and a talent for multi-platform marketing that is astonishing. Beck is a rare radio talent; hell, he might even turn out to be one of the last great radio talents. I say this not because I agree with his politics (I don't think anyone *really* agrees with his politics, because his worldview is entirely incoherent), but because even a filthy Anarchist Marxist Progressive like myself has to admire Beck.

The year before last, Beck blew out Uncle Scrooge's moneybin by clearing $32 million, spread across Beck's platforms - radio, TV (well, until last week), and a variety of online products ranging from a newsletter to the so-called "Insider Extreme" subscription to pay-gated online content. Beck has launched a "University" (really a series of online lectures by right-wing revisionists), a news/content aggregator modeled on the Daily Beast or Tucker Carlson's Daily Caller (Beck's iteration is called 'The Blaze'), and has continued to steadily pump out bestselling books of fiction and nonfiction alike*.

Using only the cult of his personality, a grab-bag of tired 'Morning Zoo' tricks and skits and voices, and a strung-together conspiracy theory with more holes in it than a swiss cheese diorama explaining how Bush was responsible for 9/11 - using these resources, Beck can effectively write his own ticket at this point.

So: farewell, Glenn Beck, and I give it three months before he's in front of a TV Camera with his own "news" show again. I think Beck is like the family dog that savages its owner: he's got the taste of cable punditry in his mouth -- he wants more.

I've mentioned it in passing, but Alexander Zaitchik's Common Nonsense is THE must-read book about Beck. Not only does it trace the important developments in his apocalyptic brand of right-wing talk, it also reads all on its own as a fascinating history of the business and development of commercial radio throughout the 80s and 90s, culminating in our current state of affairs with Clear Channel (in a really interesting side note, Zaitchik makes a pretty convincing case that Clear Channel is the Frankenstein behind Beck's monster.

*I really have been meaning to read Beck's super-cool thriller, "The Overton Window" (which basically sounds like it wss written by the love child of Ayn Rand and Tom Clancy). As soon as I do, I'm sure I'll have one or two things to say on that subject.

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