I’m fascinated by the success of Glenn Beck, Fox TV’s talented entertainer/comedian/commentator.
Here’s a guy who has figured out how to get rich quick.
Take a group of Americans – it may only amount to 5 percent or 10 percent, but that’s still millions of people – who are worried about their paychecks, their mortgages, their kids’ lack of respect and the general degeneration of society.
Play to their emotions, their fears, their distrust of government and their longing for the good ol’ days. Alternate between shouting, crying, pleading and shouting some more.
Don’t worry about facts, because inuendo works so much better. Don’t provide information, just ask questions – pointed, cynical, suggestive questions that let the viewer jump to whatever conclusions they choose.
Glenn Beck is a master entertainer. I get a chuckle every time I watch him, which is generally when a friend sends a link to one of his more vitriolic diatribes.
He’s often compared to Rush Limbaugh, and the comparison is apt. Both are talented entertainers who have found a niche market that is making them very, very rich men. The difference is that Limbaugh pays a little more attention to facts. He may conveniently ignore information that doesn’t suit the point he’s making. But he generally builds logical arguments based on real information.
I saw one estimate that Beck’s making $20 million a year, between his radio and TV shows and books. Like Limbaugh a former radio DJ, he has found a formula that pays a lot more than playing top 40 hits.
All this comes to mind because of the Time magazine cover story last week on Mr. Beck. The blogosphere is full of liberal folks ripping Time for not being more critical of Beck, and conservative folks ripping Time for being too critical.
As I’ve mentioned before in this blog, we seem to be living through an unprecedented time of polarization. Americans see the world through two different sets of glasses. The same set of facts is interpreted very differently, depending on which pair you’re wearing.
Exacerbating the situation is the vast variety of media now available. Americans no longer sit in their living rooms, all watching Walter Cronkite, all hearing the same messages.
They choose their media, and more and more people are choosing to expose themselves only to media messages that reinforce their own opinions.
So if you get most of your information from Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck doesn’t seem so crazy. A little wild at times, but he’s fighting for me, isn’t he?
Excuse my own cynicism, but I think it’s fairly obvious Glenn Beck is fighting for his bank account. He’s found a very lucrative niche, selling a modern brand of entertainment/snake oil.
Since the time of our founding fathers, there always has been a large group of Americans who distrust government and are longing for a champion who will put the bureaucrats in their place.
I say, if you like Glenn Beck, go ahead and watch him and read his books. But understand what he is and be forewarned. It’s entertainment, not fair news commentary. He’s getting rich selling a product. You’re the pigeon, I mean, consumer.