Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Glenn Beck, Performer and Provocateur
By Alan Caruba
I watched Glenn Beck mesmerize the audience at the CPAC meeting that had begun so well with serious conservative speakers such as former Vice President Dick Cheney. However, it ended as a libertarian fun fest and Beck strikes me as the clown prince of libertarianism.
I find it beneficial when a conservative can demonstrate a sense of humor as he or she discusses the great issues of our day, but I also find it uncomfortable when someone like Ann Coulter presents a “speech” that is more a series of one-liners than a coherent examination of current events.
Watching Coulter forever adjusting her long tresses behind one ear or the other makes me a little crazy because she does it non-stop. Like Beck, she constantly skates between being a serious commentator and a contestant in a state beauty contest.
Beck is, above all, a performer. He made his bones on talk radio, migrated for a while to CNN, and then to Fox News where he is enormously popular. His manner is that of the smart kid in high school who secretly wishes he was the captain of the football team, but has to settle for being able to keep the other kids laughing because he can devilishly imitate Mr. Brown, the math teacher, to perfection.
He’s all googly-eyes and deep sighs. He’s in near constant motion even when he is seated. Every time he starts to choke up and/or tear up, I want him to man up.
He tells us, too, that he was formerly an alcoholic, was once totally broke, and only attended one class for one semester of college. Give him credit for rising above all that, but remember, too, that his primary talent in life is to sit behind a radio microphone or stand in front of a television camera and “perform.”
His specialty these days is to expose the slimy characters surrounding President Obama and that is almost too easy to do. I give him credit for doing what the mainstream press has failed to do from the day Obama, an unknown Illinois Senator, announced he was running to be President after having barely begun his first term in office.
Talk about “audacity”! Obama had written two memoirs before the age of 45, nobody knew who he was and there was literally no paper trail to say where he was born, what schools he attended, etc! But he could deliver a heck of a speech.
Beck, too, is a skilled speaker. On a purely personal level, it gives me the creeps to hear his greeting at the beginning of each show, “Hello, America”, as if all of America was waiting for him to explain communism, capitalism, and the issues that many others are also explaining on air and in print.
His on-air personality is more akin to a tent-show evangelist skillfully working up the crowd to a frenzy so that they will find salvation. I have been to those tent revivals and they are great entertainment, but as a character in the movie, “Elmer Gantry”, says, “I have been saved many times” meaning he has relapsed and attended such meetings many times.
Beck’s followers get to attend five days a week with repeats on the weekends.
Who, though, am I to argue with the enormous popularity of Beck’s books or the sold-out performances of his shows? My problem is that the late great comedian, George Carlin, also sold out entire theatres and wrote a number of bestselling books. But Carlin never pretended to be anything other than a comedian.
Beck turned the final day of CPAC into an orgy of accusations in which Democrats, Republicans, independents, progressives, and everybody else were to blame for the terrible state of the nation. In this deeply conservative event, Beck determined that everyone was the problem. In that, he was and is deeply mistaken.
The nearly million people who showed up in Washington, D.C. on September 12, 2009 to protest Obamacare are not the problem. They were the cure. There are plans for another march on Washington and this time it will be to demand that Barack Hussein Obama quit. That’s right. They will demand he resign!
That is so quintessentially American you just want to cheer!
I only occasionally watch Glenn Beck these days. He's on during my dinner time.
© Alan Caruba, 2010