Saturday, August 28, 2010


Some of the words Glenn Beck uses and the ideas he espouses are admirable ones. He speaks of goodness, of righteousness. He speaks of personal freedoms and of optimism. Unable to keep his patriotic emotions from getting the better of him, he speaks of love of country. 

So why do I feel that when the cameras turn off, he morphs into a modern-day Lonesome Rhodes? 

If you haven't seen "A Face in the Crowd, " a 1957 movie starring Andy Griffith and Patricia Neal, you can't get the reference. Griffith plays Rhodes, a hobo-turned-cult personality who rises from utter irrelevance to become a power in the country, culturally and politically. 

When he's on-air, he's affable, a self-effacing pitchman with common-man ideals. 

But when the cameras stop rolling, he's a power-mad con artist with no respect for the people who hang on his every word and buy whatever he tells them to buy: products and ideas and people. 

"I'm not just an entertainer. I'm an influence, a wielder of opinion, a force ... a force!" 

"This whole country's just like my flock of sheep! ... Rednecks, crackers, hillbillies, hausfraus, shut-ins, pea-pickers -- everybody that's got to jump when somebody else blows the whistle. ... They're mine! I own 'em! They think like I do. Only they're even more stupid than I am, so I gotta think for 'em. ... You just wait and see. I'm gonna be the power behind the president ..."
When I consider other people, it is in my nature to eschew cynicism. I look for, and expect to find, the good in human beings and in their intentions. I believe that the benefit of the doubt is the crux of a workable society.
So why do I harbor such suspicions about Beck? Why the perceived ulterior motives of a truly dangerous bent? Why can't I shake the feeling that, deep down, he's a snake-oil salesman?
Like Lonesome Rhodes, Beck is a pitchman, but being paid to shill for a product is hardly new or nefarious. He's unbendingly fiscally conservative, which I respect even if I don't necessarily agree with. He's a recovering alcoholic, but I admire those who confront their demons and work every day to keep them at bay.
True, Beck has offered plenty of bizarre fodder to raise suspicions: likening Al Gore to Hitler (in a much less genocidal way, of course), comparing stem cell research to eugenics, pondering on-air whether he could kill Michael Moore or maybe hire a hitman to do it instead ...

The chalkboard scribble is also far from comforting.

But, honestly, such drivel isn't what makes me want to pull back the curtain to get a real look at the Wizard; at least in those odd statements, I felt Beck was being truthful with the American public about his feelings and beliefs.
I'm much more fearful of his seemingly innocuous statements.

I, too, love freedom. I, too, have great pride in and hopes for my country. I, too, am grateful for the many and continuing sacrifices being made on our behalf by our servicemen and servicewomen.

But unlike Beck, I know I don't have a stash of snake oil hidden in my closet.

Donald Duck meets Glenn Beck 

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