Posted by: theoptimisticconservative | April 11, 2011

Glenn Beck, Everyman: Why I’m Not Worried

As Green Room regulars know, I am not an unqualified fan of Glenn Beck.  If I don’t cringe as much as some other legacy conservatives at certain of his over-the-top theories, it’s because I agree wholeheartedly with the proposition that he doesn’t represent the face of conservatism.  I’m not afraid of being mistaken by anyone whose opinion matters for a philosophical twin of Mr. Beck.

But that’s not why I’m not worried about his future in media.  Michael Van Der Galien expressed concern today that leftists will think they have succeeded in silencing him.  I’m not worried about that either, because I think the leftists who may be crowing over him have no more media power than he has, and in most cases probably less.

Beck may, in fact, be getting off of a traditional media vehicle, in a field facing declining margins and competition of increasing variety, at just the right time.  Fox News offers some variety and a viable alternative to the other 24-hour news channels, and we are blessed to have it.  But while we in the middle-aged contingent think of Fox as the “new” network, it’s still a conventional network, with all the baggage that brings.

And the media playing field has already shifted.  Opportunities are wide open for entrepreneurs to reach audiences outside of the established-network paradigm.  Oprah is undertaking one such venture, and it appears Beck is looking at launching another.  Somebody’s going to make it work.  No one thought, back in the late 1980s, that Rush Limbaugh could build and sustain a profitable AM radio audience, but he not only did so, he made the form and the medium a moneymaker for others.

I disagree with significant aspects of Beck’s message.  But there’s a sense in which he’s acting out – to a unique degree – the new-media possibility of Everyman reaching his fellows, on his own terms, to hash out the issues of the day.  That operation is qualitatively different from the paradigm of journalists, opinion writers, and broadcasting professionals putting together presentations according to the conventions of a specialized expertise.  I may not agree with everything that comes out of an enterprise like Beck’s, but I can appreciate that if it is to remain itself, it has to have some level of freedom from conventional editorial judgment.

It’s an interesting idea.  The possibilities of alternative media can only be fully realized by those who are most strongly motivated to take advantage of the relative freedom they offer – as opposed to relying on the proven path of convention.  Beck may be the guy who can make a go of alternative media “programming.”

I do think he will perform best if his Everyman trajectory carries him away from overreliance on the conspiracy-and-collusion construct to explain what’s going on around us.  There are always groups of people trying to take advantage of the vulnerabilities that societies allow themselves to fall into, but the remedy is not to focus in impotent anger on the “spooky dudes,” it’s to get  society’s house in order.  The battles in Congress over federal spending; the state battles over pubic unionism; the local battles over the public schools; the nationwide battle to unseat the legislatures and judges that have given us our current style of government – these prosaic fights are the ones that will make the difference.  Soros & Co. may be organizing on one side of them, but winning the battles is still a matter of political suasion and voting.

Tolerance for conspiracy theory is a minor pattern in Western society, and we can be grateful for that.  It’s a much more significant factor in the Middle East and Asia.  If Beck goes much further down that path, he will lose his appeal to the wider audience he still enjoys.

But I’m not convinced that there is value in his intellectual enterprise being constrained by the conventional approach of the old-media establishment.  Under such constraints, his thinking process would have no opportunity to find better balance and greater wisdom on its own.  In doing the latter, there is value.

There is value in doing it publicly too.  Glenn Beck plays a unique role in presenting facts and conclusions and making explicit the theoretical constructs by which he operates.  Too many Americans have never been taught to consider political and social issues by that method.  All of the other talking heads on the news channels comment according to ideological positions whose foundations are tacitly understood – on the right-hand side of politics, mainly by people over 50 – and rarely examined.  Beck is a public-schooled Everyman trying to parse the unspoken premises hovering over a national debate that takes place now largely in shorthand and code.

We will see if he finds his medium in the future.  Whether I agree with his conclusions or not, I think he is necessary.  I wish him well.

J.E. Dyer blogs at Hot Air’s Green Room and Commentary’s “contentions.”  She writes a weekly column for Patheos.



  1. Oh, come on now! No need to confuse yourself with all the big words. It’s much simpler. Beck was sacked by Fox because his increasingly paranoid rantings didn’t even manage to meet the legendary low standards of “fair and balanced” inc.

    • You are saying that Fox deemed him “fairly unbalanced?”

      By the way, “You could look it up” comes from Casey Stengel. Beck may be drifting a little close to the copyright edge.

  2. For a Paulite to speak of paranoid rantings is very rich.

  3. “Glenn Beck plays a unique role in presenting facts and conclusions and making explicit the theoretical constructs by which he operates. Too many Americans have never been taught to consider political and social issues by that method”

    and having a fool present nonsense and lies as important truth and passing it along is no great boon to the public.

    you’ve done no service to yourself or your readers, opticon, by having clung to Beck’s bullshards as long as you did.

    • “and having a fool present nonsense and lies as important truth and passing it along is no great boon to the public.”

      — First Paulite, and now you… project much?

      A story just for you DSD…

      A newspaper restaurant critic headed to the outskirts of town to sample a new rustic place that was receiving rave reviews from some of the staff at the paper…

      Well the reporter, who usually prided himself on never darkening the doorstep of pedestrian suburban establishments, programmed the address into his GPS and went off to do his favorite thing… criticize someone for something that they did….

      The review that appeared in the paper… was laced with invective… “the fish was horrid, tasted of canned cat food, and was unpalatable… The croutons were hard and tasted vaguely of old liver and corn meal… and the alfalfa salad had no dressing and was served in a box… the plating was horrid.. the decor was dark and the floor unswept. He made a point of writing the address in bold and swearing that his GPS would never be programmed for such a horrid eatery again… ever!!

      The morning after the paper was published, the front desk received a curious phone call.

      “Hey.. You the editor of the Times?” the drawl heavy voice at the far side of the line queried.

      The receptionist, playing along said “Yes, I am.”

      The voice laughed… and said, “this is Stan over at Backdoor Feed Shop, I just wanted to thank y’all for the free publicity…”

      “Oh?” The receptionist was puzzled.. she took calls of the ad department and she had never heard of the Backdoor Feed Shop. “I am not sure that I know what you mean.”

      “Weell” drawls Stan, “Ya sent that snooty food guy to our place yesterday, he came in demanding the menu, and ordered food like this place was my cousin Ricky’s place, I thought he was joking so I set him up with some of our best catfood, some liver dog kibble, and Tiny’s left over alfalfa… Tiny’s my horse… Well the fool ate it… and then I come to find out from the big line of customers at the door checking the place out… well… that he wrote a story up about it and everything… everyone was laughing so hard, they thought it was a gag story or something. But the word got out and I just sold out my entire stock of cat food, and half of my kibble… Thanks!!!”

      The receptionist thanked Stan for the call, and promised to relay the message to the critic… and then hung up the phone laughing…

      Later that afternoon the critic came back to the office… and the receptionist couldn’t even finish a greeting without giggling… but she straightened up.. and took a breath… before telling the critic.. “The Feed store called, they loved your story… they sold out today.”

      The critic walked away scratching his head… clueless… waiving his toothbrush and complaining about the rotten tuna taste that was still in his mouth.

      Or maybe it was ground, canned frog?

      Peace, Love, and Bobby Sherman there.. DSD…

      • and again, muleskinner, we prefer Billy Sherman when dealing with your ilk.

  4. Wallowing in the Sarlac pit that is MW, hasn’t improved your instincts, Lagushka, I would take 10 Glenn Becks to one O’Reilly or half a Shepherd Smith. who pass for what is regarded as punditry. The fact, that Soros was attempting to redesign the entire global financial system this weekend, doesn’t pass anybody else’s lips of note.

    • Yup Miguel. Soros and other shady financiers are trying to take over the world and only you and Glenn to stand in their way.

      Or, just possibly, Fox axed him because his ratings (rantings?) were going south. The tide seems to be going out on hate and lies. Even the Opticon (who sticks to her shibboleths longer that most) has abandoned the Beck ship now that it is slipping beneath the waves. Pity she wasn’t motivated by principle.

  5. I would advise against taking ten Glenn Beck’s, miggs. One is an OD of a worthless waste product.

  6. BEck certainly deserves a Pulitzer for his staff’s research efforts, and some other prize for the activism that he has been able to instill. He has been frighteningly on point in speaking truth to power, even when it challenged some institutional backers

  7. Glenn Beck, Inc. may be “everyman” to some people, a very small fraction of Americans, but one of his problems is the mistaken belief that he IS “everyman”. The problem IS neither was Elmer Gantry nor Andy Griffith in “A face in the Crowd”. He speaks to a very limited audience that is getting smaller by the day. Roger Ailes recognized that fact and, after meeting with historical fact-checkers (i hope so anyhow), decided that Glenn Beck, Inc. was a bigger liability than an asset. The misinformation that Beck posits on a daily basis is gobsmackingly naíve, incomplete, and indicative of laziness even for a pseudo-intellectual.

    Have you ever noticed that whenever Glenn Beck, Inc. has on as a guest someone not of his beliefs (wink), that Beck tries to intimidate them? For instance, whenever Beck has a sit-down with a couple, or few, REAL historians that Beck has to prod them into agreeing with him even when they don’t. Beck will then lean in close to them and the real historians, not wanting to embarrass their host, usually couch their dismissal in terms so as not to offend. Beck then sits back like he scored a goal. It’s both sad and comical.

    As for Glenn Beck, Inc.’s refrain “look it up for yourself” and “do your own research” he knows that most people are too lazy to do any of that and are content to let the “cool medium” be their guide – no matter how errant it may be.


    • Who’s a “real historian”? For instance, Carl Bridenbaugh’s work didn’t exactly agree with that of his predecessors, despite his comprehensive methodology. Charles Beard’s ideas changed the understanding of American history for decades but then Forrest McDonald tried to refute them, perhaps with some success. How about Gabriel Kolko? Or Christopher Hill? Or Roy Childs? Are they “real historians”? And who gets to give them the label?

  8. J.E.,
    You seem to be aggregating a dedicated cohort of wing-nuts. I hope you don’t lose them as their entertainment value only adds to your website.

    Also, J is steadfast in his claim that he returned the cabana key. I’ll talk to Biff later to see what’s up.


    PS I think only Rafael understands the goat thingy. 🙂

  9. Fox is an imperfect vehicle, with it’s populist Hearstian sensationalism, like Huck and it’s more Luceian establishment mien, it’s more successful than MSNBC or CNN, the
    Pravda and Isvestia of this regime, but it is still subject to the extortion that Rucker, Van Jones, et al are able to engage in,

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