I try really, really hard to not write anything about Glenn Beck. In 2009 when he was hitting his peak during President Obama’s first year and Time, Newsweek, and columnists of every stripe were going on and on about Beck and what a sideshow freak he was, what his real agenda was, I resisted the temptation of the faux slobber-fest as long as I could. I was never moved because I see Glenn Beck for what he is. He’s like Eminem, Charlie Sheen, or even Eric Cartman: white guys who say and do things that ‘polite,’ moderate white society is afraid to admit that they say or do. So the mock outrage at Beck’s behavior has always struck me as thinly veiled admiration at his ability to expose his himself everyday at 5 p.m. without consequence. But now, that slavish ‘analysis’ of his antics has given way to a new manufactured Beck story: Is his time at FOX News coming to an end?
The latest fluff story regarding Beck is that ‘unnamed sources” at FOX are contemplating not renewing his contract after it expires in December of 2011. Journalists point out that Beck’s ratings have fallen by over a third in the last several months and that he’s lost over 300 sponsors due to some of his more outrageous political stunts and attacks on the Obama Administration. However, the man still brings in over 2 million viewers everyday at 5 p.m. which is more than all of his other cable news competitors combined. Beck isn’t going anywhere. Only liberal networks are dumb enough to fire their top talent over ratings or scandals. The right has learned the power and financial viability of loyalty to their talent no matter what the transgression.
So what’s the real reason behind this non-story? There are two alternative theories and a third that is actually the truth. Glenn Beck has two unique and decidedly contradictory sides of his public persona that the media love to sup on whenever there is a slow news day. He’s the bad boy conspiracy theorist and FOX News commentator who says all sorts of outlandish things. At the same time, he is derided and reviled by the very “conspiracy” community that he has supposedly taken mainstream.
A New York Times article argues that Glenn Beck used to be more ‘fun’ and that now his show is nothing but gloom and doom conspiracy theories. So back when he was saying racist things about the president with a wink and snicker it was all fun and games – but now that he’s discussing the house of cards that is our current economy he’s no ‘fun’ anymore.
Ironically, this view is bolstered by the very conspiracy theorists that once derided him. While Beck was associated with the likes of 9-11 truthers and Alex Jones by the mainstream press, most of these pundits and organizations hated Beck and considered him to be a tool of the right wing power structure. But somehow in the last several months Beck has moved from being a co-opted tool of the right at FOX to a pied piper for the patriot movement and a phony leader for the Tea Party. Watching his most recent programs makes you wonder whether he knows his time is short and if he has decided to lay it all out in the knowledge that the date has already been set for his departure from Fox News.
So which is it? Is Beck getting too ‘real’ for the corporate suits at FOX News as the conspiracy crowd began predicting way back in October of 2010 or is it that his new direction has ‘bored’ America according to unnamed folks talking to the New York Times? I would say it’s neither. Both stories are missing the obvious.
News channels see ebs and flows in their ratings as the political winds change, Rush Limbaugh rose to fame due to Bill Clinton being in office, and really faded into obscurity during the last few years of the Bush administration. MSNBC hit their stride as the ‘alternative’ news station to Bush after the mid-terms of 2006 and rose in the ratings. The angry independents and right wingers that made up much of Glenn Beck’s audience have had their appetites satisfied for now after resounding success in the mid-term elections. You no longer need Glenn Beck as catharsis when you have Rand Paul in the Senate, but that doesn’t mean he’s fallen from grace as the clown prince of FOX News.
No, this non-story has popped up precisely because faux liberals and ‘moderate’ journalists want their court jester back. The best way to do so is to suggest that he might be on the way out, so that ratings will creep up as viewers return with rubber-necking curiosity to the car crash that is Glenn Beck. He’s nothing special ladies and gentlemen, and he’s not going anywhere. You can now return to your equally pointless coverage of Charlie Sheen.
This article originally appeared in TheLoop21.com under the headline “America’s Obsession with Glenn Beck’s Job Prospects.“