A Bath of Glenn Beck-ian Bathos

So this is funny. Yesterday when I first woke up I noticed a story about Glenn Beck’s latest health crisis. For all I know it’s true, though I have heard about so many sensational, shocking things on Glenn Beck’s CNN HN, Fox, and now Blaze shows over the years that didn’t quite pan out that I had to wonder.

For example there’s this one from last summer: “This country is, I believe, going to be rocked in the next 24 hours with some things that are going on in Washington and beyond that we found out about yesterday and that we will be telling you in detail in the next 24 hours….you are going to witness things in American history that have never been witnessed before….My people have seen one document, one….that will take down the whole power structure, pretty much everything.”

Anyway, I dashed off a comment on my Facebook author page (there’s a button over there on the right if you’re interested in seeing it) and forgot all about it. Here’s what I wrote:

The first time I ever noticed [Glenn Beck] was in 2008, when he had hemorrhoid surgery that went wrong. I was channel surfing at my father-in-law’s house, and there he was on CNN Headline News, showing videos of himself hallucinating. Talk about TMI!

By the end of that year, he had moved to Fox, Obama was elected, and he became a media giant. In 2012, when Fox was getting ready to dump him, he announced that he had macular dystrophy and might lose his sight within the year. He’s so sinister and smart and yet he’s also like a giant baby in his need for attention. I’m sorry for his troubles, but at the same time I can’t help wondering if he doesn’t have Munchausen syndrome.

It was all true–I had had no idea at the time that he would come to occupy such a large space in The New Hate.

Last evening, I looked at my iPhone as I was walking across the Manhattan Bridge, and to my astonishment I saw that Glenn Beck had commented on my post and shared it with his Facebook friends. He was long-suffering and sad: “It is interesting how far down the rabbit hole of lack compassion we have traveled,” he wrote. “People make all kinds of sick videos for attention and our culture cheers. I share true stories that can actually help others by breaking down the walls of fear and silence about our health and you accuse me of all kinds of evils. If this is the world healthy people live in, I am proud to be sick. I wish you peace and wholeness.”

By this morning, some 50,000 had read my post, and more than 400 had replied. Suffice it to say they weren’t very happy with me. This afternoon, I dashed off another little comment:

So what have I learned from my 15 seconds of infamy? That Glenn Beck’s reach is amazing–when he shares something on Facebook, it goes out to tens of thousands of people, hundreds of whom, anyway, share his essentially Manichaean world view. There are the absolutely good (them and Glenn Beck) and the absolutely degenerate and depraved (me and Barack Obama, and maybe Salon.com and MSNBC). Many bear witness to their hatred of my wickedness and cruelty, some with what they see as justifiable fervor (one commenter confessed that he sometimes wishes all liberals were sent to camps and exterminated), some with love (many have offered me their prayers).

But here’s the thing. As rich and powerful and beloved and Godly as Glenn Beck may be, as faithful and loyal his followers, even a completely obscure liberal writer like me, someone with just a handful of Facebook likes, a couple of books to his credit that didn’t sell particularly well, and a funny elitist-sounding Jewish name, has the power to wound him.

Who knew?

If you read Alexander Zaitchik’s terrific Common Nonsense: Glenn Beck and the Triumph of Ignorance, you might remember this anecdote, which sort of puts things in perspective. When Beck was a shock jock in Phoenix, his rival Bruce Kelly pissed him off.

As Zaitchik relates the story, Beck “got his revenge with what may rank as one of the cruelest events in the history of morning radio.”

“A couple couple days after Kelly’s wife, Terry, had a miscarriage, Beck called her live on the air and says, ‘We hear you had a miscarriage,'” remembers Brad Miller, a former Y95 deejay and Clear Channel programmer. “When Terry said yes, Beck proceeded to joke about how Bruce apparently can’t do anything right–he can’t even have a baby. It was low class,” adds Miller, who is now president of Open Stream Broadcasting. “There are certain places you just don’t go.”

Let me just say this: I wish him peace and wholeness.

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