Glenn Beck

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Glenn Beck (1964-) is a U.S. political opinion broadcaster and author, with a show on Fox News, and his own website, books and national tours. Among the top three talk hosts in listener size, he is strongly identified with American conservatism, and has started a movement called the 9-12 Project, strongly critical of liberal ideas and suspicious of large government.

Among Fox opinion commentators, Beck differentiates himself as a highly emotional "revivalist in a troubled land", with an apocalyptic vision, as opposed to Bill O'Reilly as an "outsider" and Sean Hannity as an ideologue. Conservative writer David Frum called Beck's success the “...product of the collapse of conservatism as an organized political force, and the rise of conservatism as an alienated cultural sensibility. It’s a show for people who feel they belong to an embattled minority that is disenfranchised and cut off." Beck calls himself an entertainer that challenges his critics: "I’m a rodeo clown...It takes great skill.”[1]

Tom Rosenstiel, of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, speaks of his appeal in historical terms: “There was a lot of radio evangelism during the Depression. People were frustrated and frightened. There are a lot of scary parallels now.”

Early life

There is little question that he started broadcasting at the age of 13. [2] There are, however, various versions of his early life. He grew up in Mount Vernon, Washington, a farm town that, in the 1960s, had a considerable counterculture component, although his father, William Beck, was known as a conventional bakery owner. Quoted by Salon.com, Beck said it was ethnically homogeneous: "the source of his lingering discomfort around Jews and other ethnic minorities. 'I'm the whitest guy you will ever meet," Beck never tires of saying. "The first time I saw an African-American, my dad had to tell me to stop staring.'" The family was active in the local Catholic church, and he and his sisters attended religious schools. [3]

Mother's death

Redemption

The theme of redemption recurs in his own, and other accounts, of his career. According to his website, at age 30, he "was consumed by alcoholism and drug addiction. Coming to terms with his past and staying sober shifted his life direction." [2]His second wife, Tania, required him to convert to Mormonism before they were wed.

He suffers from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and credits religion and Alcoholics Anonymous for his stability. [4]

Relations with Fox News

While he is not the highest-rated opinion broadcaster, he has been the most internally controversial to Fox staff. He is clearly supported by network president Roger Ailes. There is concern, among more traditional journalists, that his image is going beyond even the pro-Republican and conservative positioning of Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity. The Washington Post quoted television analyst Andrew Tyndall as calling Beck an "activist" and "comedian" whose incendiary style has created "a real crossroads for Fox News."

They're right on the cusp of losing their image as a news organization. "Do they want to be the go-to place for conservative populist ideas on television, or do they want to be a news organization? Ailes has done a good job of doing both.

One of the conflicts is his perceived separation from the Fox News team; he works in his own Mercury Radio Arts offices, not in the Fox building.[5]

On-air comments

Beck's on-air commentary uses dramatic imagery, which different observers call everything from showmanship to demagoguery to loss of emotional control. In 2010, he began presenting, with a blackboard and classroom style, his views on U.S. history, describing it as Beck University.

Violent imagery

In a skit with a woman wearing a mask of U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, on 6 August 2009, he spoke of poisoning her.

So, Speaker Pelosi, I just wanted to — you gonna drink your wine? Are you blind? Do those eyes not work? There you — I want you to drink it now. Drink it. Drink it. Drink it.

I really just wanted to thank you for having me over here to wine country. You know, to be invited, I thought I had to be a major Democratic donor or a longtime friend of yours, which I’m not.

By the way, I put poison in your — no, I — I look forward to all the policy discussions that we’re supposed to have — you know, on health care, energy reform, and the economy.[6]

On a CNN interview of Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota), the first Muslim elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, he questioned Ellison's loyalty to the United States. Beck said, with respect to Iraq, "You are saying, "Let`s cut and run." And I have to tell you, I have been nervous about this interview with you, because what I feel like saying is, "Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies." And I know you`re not. I`m not accusing you of being an enemy, but that`s the way I feel, and I think a lot of Americans will feel that way."[7]

He mused about killing left-wing filmmaker Michael Moore on his show of 17 May 2005.

I'm thinking about killing Michael Moore, and I'm wondering if I could kill him myself, or if I would need to hire somebody to do it. No, I think I could. I think he could be looking me in the eye, you know, and I could just be choking the life out -- is this wrong? I stopped wearing my What Would Jesus -- band -- Do, and I've lost all sense of right and wrong now. I used to be able to say, "Yeah, I'd kill Michael Moore," and then I'd see the little band: What Would Jesus Do? And then I'd realize, "Oh, you wouldn't kill Michael Moore. Or at least you wouldn't choke him to death." And you know, well, I'm not sure.[8]

Social justice

In March 2010, he said,

I'm begging you, your right to religion and freedom to exercise religion and read all of the passages of the Bible as you want to read them and as your church wants to preach them . . . are going to come under the ropes in the next year. If it lasts that long it will be the next year. I beg you, look for the words 'social justice' or 'economic justice' on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words. Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes!"

Later, Beck held up cards, one with a hammer and sickle and other with a swastika.

Communists are on the left, and the Nazis are on the right. That's what people say. But they both subscribe to one philosophy, and they flew one banner. . . . But on each banner, read the words, here in America: 'social justice.' They talked about economic justice, rights of the workers, redistribution of wealth, and surprisingly, democracy."[9]

There has been strong reaction from some of his Mormon coreligionists. Phillip Barlow, the Arrington professor of Mormon history and culture at Utah State University told the New York Times that while "A phrase like 'social justice' can be hijacked... One way to read the Book of Mormon, is that it's a vast tract on social justice. It's ubiquitous in the Book of Mormon to have the prophetic figures, much like in the Hebrew Bible, calling out those who are insensitive to injustices." Kent P. Jackson, associate dean of religion at Brigham Young University said "My own experience as a believing Latter-day Saint over the course of 60 years is that I have seen social justice in practice in every LDS [Latter Day Saints] congregation I've been in. People endeavor with all of our frailties and shortcomings to love one another and to lift up other people. So if that's Beck's definition of social justice, he and I are definitely not on the same team."[10]

Jim Wallis, editor-in-chief of Sojourners magazine and associated with the Christian Left, quoted Beck, in the Washington Post, as further defining social justice as "the forced redistribution of wealth, with a hostility to individual property, under the guise of charity and/or justice."[11]

Historical misreadings

Beck's shows have often advocated political theories that border on conspiracy theory. Beck has recommended the work of the intensely anticommunist political writer W. Cleon Skousen, a professor at Brigham Young University, especially the 1981 book The 5,000 Year Leap. Critics have argued that Skousen – and Beck – have an ahistorical attitude to American history, quote mining the Founding Fathers and misreading the history of the Progressive movement. A number of commentators have noted Beck's positioning of himself as the 'history teacher' of the Tea Party movement. Sean Wilentz, in The New Yorker, cites a number of the charges against Beck including his citation of a passage from Eustace Mullins book "Secrets of the Federal Reserve" which, Wilentz charges, is "a startlingly anti-Semitic fantasy of how a Jewish-led conspiracy of all-powerful bankers established the Federal Reserve in service of their plot to dominate the world".[12]

Eric Massa

Bruce Springsteen

On his 11 March 2010 show, Beck said

You get filled with patriotic pride, and then you find out that Bruce Springsteen’s "Born In The U.S.A." is anti-American. ‘Born down in a dead man’s town/ the first kick I took is when I hit the ground/ you end up like a dog that’s been beat too much/ so you spend half your life just covering up…’ (He reads the entire lyrics in an incredulous tone of voice; manages to mispronounce 'Khe Sanh')Hmm. Yeah! [crosstalk] … It’s time for us to wake up out of our dream state. Out of the propaganda… This is the thing that people who come from the Soviet bloc or Cuba, they’re all saying, ‘How do you guys not hear this? How are you not seeing this?’ Well, because we don’t ever expect it.”[13]

Ironically, Ronald Reagan, whom Beck claims as a hero, had used the same music as a campaign theme song until Springsteen issued a cease-and-desist.[14]

Beck University

The historical perspective includes assertions that the U.S. was formed as an explicitly Christian nation. David Barton, founder of Wallbuilders, has been one of his consultants on content. "...you know, David, everybody has a time and I have a feeling your time is coming. I don't know what your role is. I don't know what you're going to be doing, but my gut tells me you are one of the most important men in America for this message today. [15] A 1994 book by the Anti-Defamation League, quoted by MediaMatters reports that Barton, in 1991, was a speaker to Christian Identity meetings.[16] This information does not appear on the ADL website, only in the printed book.

9-12 Project

For more information, see: 9-12 Project.

On March 13, 2009, Beck announced the creation of the 9-12 Project as a movement whose name invokes U.S. response to the 9-11 Attacks:

On 9/10 we were burying our heads in the sand or we were playing politics. It was about Republicans or Democrats. On 9/11 we were freaking out and no one knew who attacked us, where did this come from, what is this. On 9/12 no one in the government had to tell us what to do. We just did it.[17]

According to his open letter of November 2009, Beck said, [18] "Today, I have stopped looking for a leader to show us the way out because I have come to realize that the only one who can truly save our country… is us." On his show, he said "Coming this January, my whole approach changes on this program. This next year is going to be critical, and I think it's going to change and I think we are going to set it right, at least set our course right. And if that means the Democrats or the Republicans are destroyed along the way, well, good. Good. " [19]

The project has no explicit funding, but its website content is produced by Beck's production company, Mercury Radio Arts, and hosted on Fox News' servers. There is considerable synergy between this and the Tea Party Movement. [20] The project website, indeed, quotes analysis of an upcoming Republican senatorial primary as a confrontation between the Republican establishment and the tea party.[21]

Some of Beck's announcements also tie with tours publicizing his book, Arguing with Idiots.[22] Critics have said that Beck's change in direction, from general encouragement of his listeners to organize to active participation in action, tie to publicity for his book. Beck's direct participation in political activities may put the project under the jurisdiction of campaign finance law. [19] Further complicating the political finance situation are campaigns for office by people associated with the project., such as Dan Eichenbaum in North Carolina's 11th Congressional District[23] running against incumbent Democrat Heath Shuler.[24]

Relations with Fox News

While all of the Fox News major opinion broadcasters have side business interests, Beck is the most autonomous. He is the only one not to have his offices in the Fox building, but rather in his production company, Mercury Radio Arts. Fox President Roger Ailes, according to the New York Times, "has complained about Beck’s hawking his non-Fox ventures too much on his Fox show. Ailes has communicated this to Beck himself and through intermediaries. It goes to a larger tension between Fox News and Beck in what has been a mutually beneficial relationship...." Ailes "has also been vocal around the network about how Beck does not fully appreciate the degree to which Fox News has made him the sensation he has become in recent months. In the days following Beck’s Lincoln Memorial rally, which by Beck’s estimate drew a half-million people, Ailes told associates that if Beck were still at Headline News, there would have been 30 people on the Mall. Fox News devoted less news coverage to the rally than CNN and MSNBC did, which Beck has pointed out himself on the air."

" Several Fox News journalists have complained that Beck’s antics are embarrassing Fox, that his inflammatory rhetoric makes it difficult for the network to present itself as a legitimate news outlet."[25] In an unusual case of going outside Fox, several people inside Fox spoke with Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz, concerned that Beck was becoming the face of Fox. Kurtz wrote, "Beck has become a constant topic of conversation among Fox journalists, some of whom say they believe he uses distorted or inflammatory rhetoric and that undermines their credibility." He quoted television critic Andrew Tyndall, as saying Beck hadd created "a real crossroads for Fox News...They're right on the cusp of losing their image as a news organization. "Do they want to be the go-to place for conservative populist ideas on television, or do they want to be a news organization? Ailes has done a good job of doing both." [5]

Advertiser relations

While Beck's overall ventures grow, Fox finds it more difficult to sell advertising where he is involved, and his pure television ratings are down sharply. te"His show now averages two million viewers, down from a high of 2.8 million in 2009, according to the Nielsen Ratings. And as of Sept. 21, 296 advertisers have asked that their commercials not be shown on Beck’s show (up from 26 in August 2009). Fox also has a difficult time selling ads on “The O’Reilly Factor” and “Fox and Friends” when Beck appears on those shows as a guest. Beck’s show is known in the TV sales world as “empty calories,” meaning he draws great ratings but is toxic for ad sales. If nothing else, I sensed that people around Fox News have grown weary after months of “It’s all about Glenn.” "[25]

His calling called Barack Obama a racist over the Henry Louis Gates, Jr. arrest [26] has triggered a boycott by some advertisers. According to MediaMatters, 80 advertisers reportedly dropped their ads since he called President Obama a "racist" who has a "deep-seated hatred of white people." [27] Writing in The Atlantic, Conor Clarke does not see this as a free speech issue: "It seems to me that the right to free speech does not give you the right to massive corporate underwriting. Glenn Beck can defend "the white culture" and call Obama a "racist" in poverty and in private." Clarke said he can accept, however, the Fox statement that "'While the advertising boycott has generated substantial media coverage', Fox News said it has not impacted the network's revenues or Beck's audience. 'The advertisers referenced have all moved their spots from Beck to other programs on the network so there has been no revenue lost.'"[28]

Supporters argue that this is left-wing bias by a "left-wing African American advocacy group named colorofchange.org. The group, founded by self-described communist Van Jones, now the Obama Administration’s ‘green jobs’ czar, claims to promote inclusion of minorities in the process of developing an environmentally-sound economy." A website, DefendGlenn.com, is encouraging a counter-boycott of firms that have dropped their advertising. [29]

Conflict of interest allegations

His current advertisers do include gold sellers Goldline International, which offers investing in precious metals as a hedge against catastrophic economic events. While his personal financial interest in Goldline is described as obvious on his radio show, it has been questioned if he keeps proper separation when speaking of apocalyptic events on television, events against which gold buying is considered a hedge. [30]Goldline's website calls him an endorser,[31] and product endorsements is generally forbidden for Fox broadcast personnel. Joel Cheatwood, senior vice president for development for Fox, said an exception was made for him: "When we hired Glenn at Fox News, we hired him with the understanding that he had a well-established, burgeoning radio business, and we had to be accepting of certain elements of that." [32]

August 28 2010 Rally

Beck sponsored a rally, with the theme "Restoring Honor", on the National Mall on 28 August 2010.[33] It was on the same day and at the same location where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his "I have a dream" speech, which Beck said he did not know when he picked the date. He promised it would not be political, and, while Sarah Palin was a keynote speaker, the presenters focused much more on values than on partisan politics.

The Christian Right, however, is uncertain about his message. [34] Part of their concern is that he is a Mormon, which most conservative Christians do not consider a proper Christian denomination. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, who was there, along with Focus on the Family founder James Dobson talked with him, as individuals, and felt his faith was heartfelt. Land, of their conversation with Dobson, "We walked back to the hotel after and said: 'That was extraordinary,' "I've never heard a cultural figure of that popularity talking that overtly about his faith. He sounded like Billy Graham."

References

  1. Brian Stelter and Bill Carter (30 March 2009), "Fox News’s Mad, Apocalyptic, Tearful Rising Star", New York Times
  2. 2.0 2.1 About the Glenn Beck Program, Glenn Beck Program
  3. Alexander Zaitchik (21 September 2009), "The making of Glenn Beck: His roots, from the alleged suicide of his mom to Top 40 radio to the birth of the morning zoo (Part 1 of 3)", Salon.com
  4. "Glenn Beck", NNDB
  5. 5.0 5.1 Howard Kurtz (15 March 2010), "A Network Divided: The Glenn Beck Factor", Washington Post
  6. "Beck jokes about "put(ting) poison" in Nancy Pelosi's wine", MediaMatters, 6 August 2009
  7. Glenn Beck (14 November 2006), "What Should be Done with Iran? First Muslim Congressman Speaks Out", CNN
  8. "Radio host Glenn Beck "thinking about killing Michael Moore"", MediaMatters, 18 May 2005
  9. David Sessions, "Glenn Beck Urges Listeners to Leave Churches That Preach Social Justice", Politics Daily
  10. Lynn Arave (12 March 2010), "Mormons, other Christians decry Glenn Beck comments on social justice", Deseret News
  11. Jim Wallis (27 March 2010), "Christians stand up to Glenn Beck", Washington Post
  12. Sean Wilentz (18 October 2010), "Confounding Fathers: The Tea Party's Cold War roots", The New Yorker
  13. Spencer Ackerman (12 March 2010), Glenn Beck Vs. Ronald Reagan & Bruce Springsteen
  14. Todd Leopold (16 June 2004), "Entertainment Analysis: The age of Reagan", CNN
  15. Glenn Beck (29 April 2010), Glenn interviews David Barton, Beck University, Glennbeck.com
  16. Beck's historian delivered talks to racist, anti-Semitic Christian Identity groups, MediaMatters, 7 October 2010
  17. Glenn Beck (17 March 2009), "Glenn Beck: The 9/12 Project", The Glenn Beck Program
  18. Glenn Beck (23 November 2009), 11/23: Glenn Beck Reveals The Plan in Open Letter, 9-12 Project
  19. 19.0 19.1 Kenneth P. Vogel (21 November 2009), "Beck's plan: Rally followers, sell books", Politico
  20. "Tea Party Washington D.C. PHOTOS: Conservative Protesters Rally Against Big Government", Associated Press, 12 September 2009
  21. Aaron Blake (11 November 2009), "Republican's exit could clear the way for Tea Party vs. GOP incumbent Bennett", The Hill
  22. Kenneth P. Vogel (20 November 2009), "Beck to announce 'big plan' for 2010", Politico
  23. , "Founding Member of 9-12 Project Stands for Election to Congress", PR.com, 9 December 2009
  24. About, Dr. Dan for Congress
  25. 25.0 25.1 Mark Leibovich (28 September 2010), "Being Glenn Beck", New York Times
  26. Michael Calderone (28 July 2009), "Fox's Beck: Obama is 'a racist'", Politico
  27. "So who's still advertising on on Beck?", MediaMatters, 15 December 2009
  28. Conor Clarke (25 August 2009), "Why Hasn't the Glenn Beck Boycott Hurt Fox News?", The Atlantic
  29. "Glenn Beck supporters fight back against left-wing boycott", Orlando Republican Examiner, in Boston Globe, 17 August 2009
  30. Ryan Witt (13 December 2009), "Goldgate part one: Glenn Beck and Gretchen Carlson have something in common at Fox News", Boston Globe
  31. Goldline is Glenn Beck's Choice for Gold, Goldline International
  32. Jeff Bercovici (7 December 2009), "Thar's gold in them shills! Fox raps Glenn Beck's endorsement deal", Daily Finance
  33. "At Lincoln Memorial, a Call for Religious Rebirth", New York Times,, 28 August 2010
  34. Michelle Boorstein (31 August 2010), "Glenn Beck may be unlikely leader for conservative Christians", Washington Post Staff Writer