By Ryan Henson
I envy Glenn Beck. I envy the certainty his ignorance grants him. I envy his ability to distill the most complex global and domestic political, economic and social problems into a few words on a chalkboard. I wish that I too had such easily fulfilled standards for intellectual inquiry and thoroughness. Life would be a lot easier if I was Glenn Beck.
Alas, I am not Glenn Beck and I’ll stop pretending now that I’d like to be him (except of course for the money). Beck is such a polarizing figure that it seems almost redundant to write an article about him. So much has been written about the Fox News star in generous, lavish praise as well as in spitting, venomous disgust. Beck’s supporters follow his every move and word with tear-stained eyes and a zeal that borders on religious while his detractors fume with a mixture of contempt, loathing and disbelief that such a goofy dude with such a feeble brain is allowed a gold encrusted, mile-tall soapbox every weekday at five. Needless to say I’m in the latter camp.
Beck is an easy guy to like. He is a recovering alcoholic and self proclaimed former “dirt bag”. He cries on national TV because he cares so deeply about America. Everything he says he seems to genuinely believe in and I don’t doubt the authenticity of the water works. It’s because he believes so completely and blindly in the ideas and arguments he spouts so charismatically that worries me the most because his doe-eyed viewers just eat it up like some kool-aid flavored slop.
Beck’s one of those “everymans” that conservatives love to hold up as a kind of ideal American. People relate to him, because their brains work like his does. Just like Beck, they may have not gone to college. They struggle with complexity and so prefer arguments that ignore nuance and qualification and embrace numbing simplicity and straw men. They respond instinctively when their fear buttons are pushed. Someone starts talking about the economy and they can’t really grasp the arc of the story, can’t organize the actors and their relation and implication to one another in a way that makes sense to them. So they get frustrated, but it’s a vague frustration since they aren’t quite sure what to be frustrated about.
So Beck gives them a bone and says something like the government wants to take over everything a la Mao, Hitler, Stalin you name it. Now that they can get their head around, they understand that that would be bad and so get angry about it. They start believing that there is a road connecting more regulation for the countries financial sector and Orwell’s Big Brother. Beck draws a line on a chalkboard illustrating this slippery slope to communist and totalitarian ruin and bam, they are back in grade school. It all seems so clear, so logical. The causal link seems so undeniable, and Beck makes sure that they believe it is inevitable.
There is no room for compromise or consensus. Progressives all want the same thing, to destroy everything that is good and honorable about America. Assertions like this are the reason Beck is so corrosive to genuine, and meaningful discourse in America. He’s nothing but more white noise pumped into a sea of static.