Friday, September 18, 2009

Is Glenn Beck Healthy for the Right?

Following the anti-Obama festivities of the weekend of September 11, 2009, headlined by Glenn Beck’s 9.12 Project and march on Washington, one must certainly attest that the radio and TV host wields some amount of influence on the grassroots Right and beyond. Beck’s exposure of the depravity of ACORN and a rare willingness to sharply criticize the Bush administration make him stand out among the conservative commentariat. But could Beck be just as much of the problem of the Right as its solution?

Watching in 2009, it might appear as though Beck would be a suitable spokesman for a Bush-less Republican Party. He wails against the bank bailouts and the readiness with which Dubya expanded the government. Beck’s eagerness to attack the Bush administration is commendable and many of those attacks are those which Republicans and conservatives need to hear because if someone’s goal is to cut government, restore individual liberty, and be governed by laws instead of men, the first fact that must be grasped is that today's Republican Party is not your friend.

The problem with windbag talkers like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, and their minor league impersonators, is that they never seriously challenge the status quo of their party. This is done to the point that conservative talk radio may as well be called Republican talk radio. After all, these are the folks who jumped on the bandwagon for pro-choice, state-run health care Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. The speed with which they followed the empty suit perfectly illustrates how empty the vessel of contemporary American conservatism is. And it is why the talk radio medium ought to be generally, but not completely, ignored.

Is Glenn Beck different? It’s true that he frequently has Ron Paul as a guest, as well as his son, Rand. Judge Andrew Napolitano, who readily calls Republican and Democratic politicians the criminals that they are, is a regular guest host. Another regular is Professor Kevin Gutzman, a contributor to, among the most anti-Bush and anti-GOP establishment webzines, Left or Right, to talk about states’ rights, an issue faux conservatives avoid like the Bubonic plague. Plus, Glenn Beck openly criticizes the Republican Party when the sycophants are still tip-toeing around the fact that maybe Bush might have, possibly, done some things that might not have been quite okay.

I actually somewhat like Beck. His schtick can get a little tiresome, going from crying to yelling to having a fire-side chat all in the same afternoon, but he also does some relevant reporting. Everyone following the news right now has heard about Beck’s reporting of the ACORN scandals. He’s the only TV or radio personality I can think of who has actually taken a skeptical view of the Federal Reserve and the insane monetary practices of printing a trillion dollars. He’s also the only TV host I’m aware of who actually has members of Ron Paul’s Campaign for Liberty for segments on his show. To people like Rush and Hannity, Ron Paul is still a four-letter word.

Beck’s 9.12 Project is admirable and rather uncontroversial. “Common Sense” was a decent read and was actually pretty independent-minded, calling out both parties for their extravagance but most of it falling on the Democrats.

However, a recent mash-up video has surfaced where Beck can be seen calling Ron Paul a “crazy, kooky guy,” suggesting that last year’s bank bailout “wasn’t nearly enough” and that he “supported the Patriot Act.” Interspersed were neocon party lines of Ahmadinejad as Hitler who was making preparations for a second holocaust. (Also see this video where he contemptibly smears Ron Paul supporters for having a “money bomb” on November 5, Guy Fawkes Day, as domestic terrorists, oddly foreshadowing the Obama administration’s reports about potential right wing domestic terrorism which Beck would ironically denounce.)

Such a video obviously has the potential to be easily taken out of context and spliced together in Michael Moore fashion to make Beck look like a despicable flip-flopper. Indeed, anyone could be embarrassed by seeing their worst predictions all glued together. For example, in a needlessly rambling blog from over a year ago, I implied support for the war in Afghanistan over the one in Iraq, a position I certainly do not hold today.

Since the material from the nefarious video was originally uttered, Beck has admitted that he did support the Patriot Act but regrets it. In a more surprising video, Beck reveals that

“I guess the scales are falling off my eyes. . . . In 1900 with Teddy Roosevelt . . . we’re going to tell the rest of the world, ‘We’re going to spread democracy.’ . . . in Latin America, we really became thuggish and brutish. It only got worse after the next progressive came into office . . . the next one was a Democratic progressive, Woodrow Wilson, and we did, we empire built. The Democrats felt we needed to empire build with one giant, global government, it was originally . . . League of Nations . . . then it became the United Nations, one world government. The Republicans took it as ‘We’re going to lead the world and we’ll be the leader of it.’ I don’t think we should be either of those. I think we need to mind our own business and protect our own people. When somebody hits us, hit back hard, and then come home.” (emphasis mine)

If there is one issue that continues to unite the mainstream Right, outside of opposition to Obama, it’s the unwavering support for Bush’s wars. Even if it took him more than seven years, Glenn Beck should be commended for speaking out against enduring military occupations. May he keep it up.

But it’s still quite precarious that Glenn Beck has shed his more odious positions once the Republicans were thoroughly repudiated. His antics are a bit annoying, bordering on bad soap opera acting, but he still displays better independence than his more unoriginal talk radio colleagues.

So, is Glenn Beck healthy for the Right? Maybe, maybe not. Is he part of the solution or is he part of the problem? If he’s part of the problem, he’s far less of it than Rush, Hannity, Levin or Coulter.

Conservatives have been betrayed in an unrepentant fashion for the entirety of this century. If the evolution of Beck’s positions mean anything, it means that he might be a spokesman and a platform for an effective and genuine anti-government movement. It also means he’s someone who’s worth keeping at an arm’s length for any Republican Party that wants to move past the errors of the Bush administration.


matthiasj said...

This video says it all...

Kentucky Preppers Network

Steel Phoenix said...

Thanks matthiasj, my thoughts exactly.

Glen Beck is a cancer, not upon the Republican party, but upon those who support and follow him. He will come crashing down hard one of these days and take a lot of people with him.

I see a lack of sincerity and integrity, and a nefarious purpose in most of what he does. He is taking advantage of the weak minded and stirring things up better left alone.

I can't handle most of the right wing media any more, they are a bunch of immoral hypocrites, corrupt partisans, and egotistical asses. About the only one I can handle any more is Pat Buchanan. He's gone a little off the deep end lately, but he respectful, has a rock solid consistency, and he is genuine to the core, much like Ron Paul.

Left Coast Rebel said...

Great post Carl. As is typical with your writings,(because they are so good), I need to read this a few times before I offer up some analysis. Nice work though.....

The Law said...

Wow. As a "lefty" (as you know) I will try my best to curb my enthusiasm, and instead offer insightful commentary to a brilliant post.

Is Glenn Beck the problem or the solution? Like so many people I considered to be good people in the republican party like Tim Pawlenty, he is at his best when he is not pandering to the base of the party. When flipping through AM radio, I sometimes chance upon Glenn Beck, and sometimes he says things that make me say "yes!!! I totally agree with you!"

This occurs when he cuts out his BS (crying, wallowing, melodramatic anger, etc). Then something in him snaps. Something in his mind says "Oh yeaaaaa, I'm in the entertainment industry, so I have to put my neo-con hat on!" This is when Glenn Beck becomes a dangerous caner to the conservative movement. He can be a smart guy sometimes. Rather than use his smarts to educate and inform, he panders to shock media that boosts ratings, incites fear, and spreads misinformation. When he does this, he's really no better than Hannity.

I work in the entertainment industry, and have been in the meetings when we decide how we want to present a show, so I know exactly how this works. The issues is really about reconciling telling the truth and offering an accurate portrayal of the political climate versus appealing to the board room execs by delivering shock news and distortion of the truth to boost ratings. If you want to keep your job, you have to listen to your boss, even if you're heart doesn't believe in it.

It's not just Glenn Beck, it's Olbermann, Cavuto, and Maddow. Especially in the case of Maddow who is easily the smartest of the bunch (she is after all a Rhode Scholar with a PhD) their shows having increasingly (or exceedingly) become news entertainment, not new information. It is no wonder that news credibility has PLUMMETED in the last few years.

Soloman said...

I saw your comment over at Rebel's page and read your post.

I would like to, with all due respect, let you know that I find parts of this post as contemptible as statements I read over at Huffington Post (and I don't care for most of what I read there) if you are going to stand by what you say, and here's why.

The first video you offered (the same as offered by matthiasj, who must not have read your post or he'd realize this) might as well have been made by - a disgraceful organization to say the least. That is such an out-of-context, use only the part of the statement that fits my agenda clip that it makes my stomach turn. Context truly matters, and to use a video that clearly cuts a person off mid-sentence is not a sound way to make a valid point.

While many may disagree 100% with the Patriot act, as is their right, to say Beck supported it 100% is patently false. He has said from day one that he supported such a concept only in a time of crisis, and only would support the idea of such a potential infringement on civil liberties as long as it was closely monitored by the DOJ and as long as it had sunsets that were strictly enforced.

You completely miss the point Beck was making in the second video clip you use as information to make your argument. Beck was not smearing Paul in any way - in fact, he was completely complimentary of Paul and his movement of supporters. Beck was simply making the point that unfortunately, people can often confuse the idea of a historical event (such as Guy Fawkes Day) being used as a reason for an event (such as a million dollar fundraiser) within a modern day movement, and see the modern day event in the wrong light.

Therefore, the back end of your statement was correct - Beck did foreshadow the Obama DHS report (which was actually written to near completion under the Bush admin) and he was trying to do Paul supporters a favor in the process, not disparage them.

Beck has labeled himself a "Conservatarian" and so to expect him to fall in line completely with Ron Paul type Libertarians or mainstream Republicans is foolish. It will never happen.

Beck does have great purpose right now, as he is doing the work of a workforce that has fallen asleep at the wheel. For that he must be commended and respected. As with all media personalities, Beck is to be taken to some degree as a form of entertainment. However, as proven by his 9-12 movement, the Van Jones story, and the ACORN exposure he's been a huge part of, Beck is a serious individual with solid beliefs, behind the crocodile-tears and Barbie-Doll props on his TV set.

Carl Wicklander said...

Matthiasj: yep, that video is what most inspired this essay. It was also part of the post itself.

Carl Wicklander said...

Steel Phoenix,

I'm just skeptical of Beck. He's certainly saying better things now vs. his CNN days. I'm willing to wait him out. As far as Pat Buchanan goes, I've been a little disappointed in his recent support of Cheney and waterboarding. I still think he's solid on the other aspects of foreign policy, though.

One more thing: are you still blogging? It's been awhile since you've posted. Just wondering.

Carl Wicklander said...

LCR, I look forward to your thoughts!

Carl Wicklander said...

The Law,

Thank you for your kind words.

Tim Pawlenty is another person I'd like to keep at a distance. He was a little too quick to cozy up to McCain for me to really trust him.

I often have the same reaction to Beck that you do. "Yes! That's completely correct!" I'm just wary of putting complete trust in him - we conservatives have been terribly ripped off. It's like in the X-Files: "I want to believe."

Carl Wicklander said...

P.S. Rachel Maddow was one of the few liberals I could have a grudging respect for. No more.

Carl Wicklander said...


Thanks for visiting.

About that mish-mash video, my exact words were:

"Such a video obviously has the potential to be easily taken out of context and spliced together in Michael Moore fashion to make Beck look like a despicable flip-flopper."

I even included a link to an old blog post of my own where someone could say that I was a supporter of the war in Afghanistan and denounce me as a hypocrite.

I also did not say that Beck smeared Ron Paul himself (although one clip features him telling a Ron Paul supporter that he was a "crazy, kooky guy."

Here’s what I wrote:

". . . he contemptibly smears Ron Paul supporters for having a ‘money bomb’ on November 5 . . ."

The salient point here is that Beck made this claim a week after the event took place. There was no violence on November 5, 2007. Why would he make a point like that a week after the fact, especially when nothing that he feared even took place? To my knowledge, nothing of that sort has happened at all in the past 2 years. If you continue that video, guest David Horowitz smears the website for "being in bed with the Islamofascists," a claim Beck makes no effort to even question. It doesn’t take much exaggeration to imply that Horowitz told a national audience that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is writing guest editorials for libertarian websites, which is not what I am saying.

Beck was also not completely complimentary of Ron Paul’s supporters. He is the one in the second video who assures that Ron Paul supporters are included in a discussion of political violence.

Beck speaks passionately about a lot right now that I do support myself such as the corruption at the Federal Reserve. I also wrote that he’s done a lot of good recently:

"Beck’s exposure of the depravity of ACORN and a rare willingness to sharply criticize the Bush administration make him stand out among the conservative commentariat."

"Beck’s 9.12 Project is admirable and rather uncontroversial. 'Common Sense' was a decent read and was actually pretty independent-minded, calling out both parties for their extravagance but most of it falling on the Democrats."

I certainly don’t hate him. I have very harsh words for Rush, Hannity, Levin, etc., but Beck is indeed the one that I like the most, or perhaps, he’s the one I dislike the least.

I would say that Glenn Beck is the one personality speaking the most passionately right now. That doesn’t mean he necessarily has solid beliefs. The point of this piece is that he’s changed a considerable amount of his positions in the very recent past. But then again, I’ve adjusted my own views, too. The hope I expressed is that Beck has adopted better positions.

As I said in my comment to The Law, I want to believe.

TRUTH 101 said...

The ability to organize large crowds that are seemingly in favor of your issue or candidate, whether or not they understand or support your issues or candidates, is extremely important, vital, in this age of 24/7 media.

I don't remember any Democrats speaking at the Tea Party events. So this was used by and for the right to spread it's message. Glen Beck was a large part of spreading the word about these events. He is a vital tool. Without him, Limbaugh and others that are willing to say anything that brings an audience the Republican Party is totally irrelavent right now.

The Democrats are fortunate to have Obama as President because he is very media active. I like Maddow and find Olberman entertaining, but their scope is very limited. Left leaning radio is nonexistent in many parts of the country. Fox is available in many more cable TV markets than MSNBC.

Like Beck or not, it is politically savvy to use him.

Steel Phoenix said...

"One more thing: are you still blogging? It's been awhile since you've posted. Just wondering."

Heh, easier asked than answered. I have somewhere in the range of a dozen blogs, and I change my current focus often. I also have a full time job, house, relationship, etc. I fully intend to keep writing for theallegator, and have started several posts since my last one, but haven't followed through. I imagine one of these days I'll write like mad for a few weeks and then fall off again.

Commenting is a lot easier than writing a blog post because it is a lot easier to poke holes in something someone else says than it is to create content, as the Republicans are currently finding.

Jennifer said...

I don't listen to Beck, not because of his content, but because of the drama. The ranting and raving is just not for me. Saying that though, he's awaking people's eyes to what is going on. He's making changes by exposing corruption. The few times I've heard him, I took what he said, and let it roll around in my brain. Then I went and investigated what I thought needed investigating. To take anyone's word as law, especially regarding the government can be foolish. To listen to Beck, and then go off spouting whatever he tells you is also foolish.

Is it healthy....yes and no!

Carl Wicklander said...


I'm willing to put up with Beck's act if his previous political positions (war, Patriot Act, bailouts) are left in the past. He may very well be the one person in the media who can get out a Ron Paul-ish message. I'm not knocking him; I'm mostly pleased. Some of my Ron Paul compatriots absolutely HATE Beck. Because he's done some things recently that I approve of, I'm willing to give him a chance. Some are not willing at all while some are ready to anoint him as the new savior of the Right. All I'm saying here is, "Not so fast."

Carl Wicklander said...

Steel Phoenix,

I hope you'll be back at The Allegator - I've always enjoyed your blogs and the occasional sparring that comes with it. I was just afraid we'd lost a Ron Paul/Pat Buchanan patriot.

Carl Wicklander said...


I agree that Beck's done some good. A year ago, he was just another right wing talking head to me with nothing special or unique about him. I'm willing to give him a chance. So my answer to whether he's healthy or not is, let's see.

w-dervish said...

Carl Wicklander said... If there is one issue that continues to unite the mainstream Right, outside of opposition to Obama, it's the unwavering support for Bush's wars. Even if it took him more than seven years, Glenn Beck should be commended for speaking out against enduring military occupations. May he keep it up.

The thing is that now it's Obama's war. Which is why he was for it before but against it now.

It's my opinion that Glenn Beck says whatever he thinks will get him the highest ratings and earn him the fattest paycheck. There is absolutely nothing to commend Beck on.

Steel Phoenix said... I see a lack of sincerity and integrity, and a nefarious purpose in most of what he does.

Exactly. I don't think he believes half of the crap he spews. He's a fraud looking out for his his own interests.

Carl Wicklander said...


You may very well be right about Beck and what are now Obama's wars. My first inclination is to question Beck and several of his newfound positions. Like I wrote, I found it rather precarious that he has acquired what I consider better views once the Democrats were fully back in power. The only benefit of the doubt I'm giving Beck on this is that he's standing out from the crowd regarding wars, at least on the occasion I noted.

Before Palin was picked for VP last year, war was the only reason any conservative I know had for supporting McCain.

I also say this because everybody on the Right seems up in arms that Obama is not sending McChrystal's request of 40,000 soldiers posthaste, so it's not that my fellow conservatives have done a 180 on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even though Afghanistan is now becoming known as "Obama's War," the Right is still supporting these ill-guided adventures in imperialism.

So far, Beck has been the only personality on the Right that I've noticed that has even questioned the military intervention exercised by Bush. Mark Levin, another conservative talker who seems on the rise, lacerated Beck for having the audacity to do such a thing. George Will is another one who's taken a rhetorical beating for suggesting that Bush might not have been right all along.

My question was whether Glenn Beck might be good for the Right. I say perhaps, but he's got some baggage that makes me want to keep him at a short distance before I crown him with anything because my fear is that like so many others who claim to be conservative, he may just be a hypocrite and opportunist.

Jeremiah Whitmoore said...

Mr. Wicklander,

Excellent Article,

The problem I see with Beck is twofold. One, He rarely ventures into unsafe territory. He is too much part of the establishment to actually battle it.

Secondly, He is insincere. He will agree with a neocon warmonger guest just as much as he will with Ron Paul. His facetious personality (comedy tours, fake tears, tennis shoes in a suit) make him easy to mock.

There is still hope for Glenn, since he is malleable and open to new ideas. But for now, he's only a bit better then Hannity, Levin, and Ingraham. But then again, somewhere in the world lives the world's tallest midget.

Carl Wicklander said...


You're absolutely right. I can't even watch Beck when he's talking to Jonah Goldberg, David Horowitz, or John Bolton. It seems odd that he would still talk to people like them, but then again, he's still on Fox. That's one reason for caution. Although Beck has apologized for things he's said about Ron Paul and libertarians which is far more than anyone else in his profession.

Andrew Ian Dodge said...

First of all the tea party movement does not need a "celebrity" spokesman and doesn't want one. Beck seems to be trying to imply that and some of his fans have made efforts to take over the movement "for Beck." His grandstanding and attitude on 4/15 and beyond rather irked me. I do not think he is good for the right in general.

I don't like his style and he comes across as less than genuine to me. I hear from people who have met that he is a nice and genuine guy. His TV persona comes over as anything but...

Carl Wicklander said...


Thanks for the visit.

I've been generally supportive of the Tea Party movement over the past year. My latest post is about how I'm seeing them being co-opted by the Republicans. I hope this won't happen or won't get any worse.

I've just been cautious about Beck. He's done and said some good things but in a lot of ways he just seems like another vacuous political celebrity who might just lead his followers to ruin.

Shawn Levasseur said...

It helps if you realize that Beck, Olbermann, Limbaugh, etc. are all entertainers, not leaders.

The problem is that so many believe them to be leaders. It causes fans to morph into a cult of personality, and detractors to define all of their opponents by these lowest common denominators.

The best of these media personalities understand that they are entertainers first, and tend to be the most successful (Limbaugh fits this mold, in my opinion) When they belive that their purpose is to steer the actions and thoughts of the public is when they really are at their worst. (Air America's existence is based on the idea of ideaology first, ratings second, and profit a distant third. Not suprising that they've had such a rough going.)

Personally my favorite talkers have been the more thoughtful, better mannered ones. The late great David Brudnoy headed that list for me when he was on Boston's WBZ radio.

Anonymous said...

Just to give my two cents: I don't like most of right wing talk radio because I think they pander to social conservatives to get them to sign onto the GOP agenda which is amoral/immoral.

At first, I made an exception for Glen Beck because he was the only one who mentioned Natural Law and that our rights come from God and not man. That was before I heard that he bad-mouthed Ron Paul. Now I think he is just leaching off the Tea Party movement. Still politics is such that you have to take your allies where you can find them.


Anonymous said...

EXCELLENT riposte, Soloman!