Of late a garden industry has developed amongst some alleged conservatives and all variety of squishes -- they seem to be calling themselves "thoughtful conservatives" to distinguish themselves from the rest of us -- criticizing Glenn Beck. Why alleged political pundits would worry about Beck's show I haven't any idea. He's an entertainer with a significant business, they aren't. In the interests of full disclosure I will own up to listening to about 20 minutes of his radio show every day and my mother-in-law watches his television show. I find Beck to be without doubt the funniest man on radio today. So I'm not an authority on him, though I suspect his critics aren't either. I am, however, at least conversant with his shows.
The criticism is apparently that Beck's listeners aren't discerning enough to listen to Beck without being psychologically damaged and anyone who goes on Beck's show is a big poopy-head who should be denounced.
Peter Wehner, writing in Commentary, dubs Beck the "most disturbing personality on cable television" and follows it up with David-Brooksesque analysis:
It’s hard to tell how much of what Beck says is sincere and how much is for show. Whatever the case, and even taking into account the entire MSNBC lineup, Glenn Beck has become the most disturbing personality on cable television. One cannot watch him for any length of time without being struck by his affinity for conspiracies and for portraying himself as the great decoder of events. Political movements are not just wrong; they are infiltrated by a web of malevolent forces. Others see the shadows on the wall; Beck alone sees the men casting them. The danger when one paints the world in such conspiratorial terms is that it devalues the rational side of politics. It encourages a cast of mind that looks to expose enemies rather than to engage in arguments. Few things, after all, are as they appear.
Beyond that, of course, is the sense of impending doom, of the coming Apocalypse, of our world being on the edge of calamity. If taken seriously, this has the effect of creating fear, hopelessness, and feelings of helplessness.
All this is quite troublesome in its own right. But what ought to worry conservatives in particular is that Beck not only has the unusual capacity to discredit virtually every cause he takes up; he also confirms the worst caricatures of the right. What was true before is doubly true today. It looks to me like it’s only a matter of time — and I suspect not much time — until he blows apart professionally. If and when that happens, one can only hope that conservatism as a movement will have created enough distance from Beck to mitigate the damage.
I don't know if Wehner has noticed this but Beck is fairly successful. Arguably, he's one helluva lot more successful as a radio host than Wehner is at most anything. I don't intend to go into a lengthy exegesis on Beck's pronouncements but 1) his Apocalyptic message resonates with a lot of Americans for a reason, 2) his exposure of Van Jones and the other various "czars" has been on the money, and 3) Beck had the moral courage to carried the exposé of ACORN into the MSM, something allegedly "conservative" critics failed to do. So while he exaggerates for effect and some of the things he said can leave one scratching their heads one has to keep in mind that, unlike Wehner who struggles to hold our attention for a couple of hundred words, Beck has to keep an audience entertained -- and advertisers kept happy -- for several hours per day. And he does it.
What is sort of incredible about Wehner's analysis is that he finds Beck's schtick more disturbing than the clown show on MSNBC during the Bush Administration. This leads one to believe that Wehner is either clueless about MSNBC prior to 2008 or he's simply dishonest. I emphasize the years because to expect MSNBC to be their usual unhinged selves with their man in office is just an exercise in self-beclowning.
Today the usually rational Jennifer Rubin, the tame, house conservative on the Washington Post's editorial pages, takes it a step farther. Apparently a few days ago Beck, for reasons I can't completely fathom (see reference to head scratching above), decided that it would be okay to make the analogy of Islam : Radical Islam :: Judaism : Reform Judaism.
[Transcript] OK, you have to -- hang on just a second. When you talk about rabbis, understand that most -- most people who are not Jewish don't understand that there are the Orthodox rabbis, and then there are the Reformed rabbis. Reformed rabbis are generally political in nature. It's almost like Islam, radicalized Islam in a way, to where it is just -- radicalized Islam is less about religion than it is about politics. When you look at the Reform Judaism, it is more about politics. I'm not saying that they're the same on --
In response, Rubin completely jumps the shark:
Each time I write a post critical of Fox News host Glenn Beck, scores of conservatives e-mail or comment that he's "not as bad" as the left portrays him and that, besides, there are worse figures on the left.
The "left is worse" argument doesn't fly. And I, for one, am never shy about pointing out hypocrisy by the left - as I did in response to an anti-Beck letter organized by Jewish Funds for Justice. But the argument that "the other side is worse" does not justify Beck's conduct, either.
And if that's not bad enough, Beck had to apologize for comparing Reform Judaism to radical Islam.
So what should thoughtful conservatives do? Police their own side. Rather than reflexively rising to his defense when questioned about Beck, why don't conservatives call him out and explain that he doesn't represent the views of mainstream conservatives? Conservative groups and candidates should be forewarned: If they host, appear with or defend him, they should be prepared to have his extremist views affixed to them.
Fox News has every right to have whomever it wants on the air, but, likewise, conservatives have every right to and should disassociate themselves from his brand of rhetoric.
Taken at its worst, it is exactly what it seems to be: a tone deaf analogy that Beck seems to realize is a bad idea before he doggedly continues to shovel towards China. To take this nonsense to the pages of the Washington Post simply demeans our collective intelligence.
Seriously. I appreciate Rubin's iddy biddy feelings being hurt but as a Roman Catholic I have encountered worse crap than that in a front page post on RedState this week. She needs to either grow up and develop a sense of perspective, or get the hell out of this line of work.
I have some demands of my own. I think Rubin should apologize for the intemperate and sensationalized coverage the Washington Post has given to issues such as the Catholic Church, Evangelicals, gun control, the Sandinistas, unilateral nuclear disarmament, race relations, the Tea Party movement, and Barack Obama. I think she should apologize for every Tom Toles cartoon during the Bush Administration. I think she should apologize for the daftness of Dana Milbank and Harold Meyerson. I think she should commit seppuku in atonement for taking employment at the Washington Post. And my demands are every bit as rational and likely to happen as hers.
This is just a stupidly ridiculous statement. Beck reaches several million people every day, people who are politically engaged and generally part of the conservative base. Anyone who wishes to speak to the conservative base is eventually going to be a guest on one of Beck's broadcasts.
William Kunstler, who is now comfortably retired to either Dante's Eighth or Ninth Circles -- depending upon your views of the man -- probably did as much as any single man could to damage the United States. For those old enough to remember, everytime a lunatic or terrorist sprang up there was Bill Kunstler, and later his mini-me Ron Kuby, to defend them. His defense strategy seemed to only rarely address the facts in the case. Instead at every opportunity he put the US government on trial and made government actions, and indeed American history, the issue.
Once he was called out on his relentless attacks on the United States and his deafening silence on Prague Spring, the suppression of Solidarity, oppression in Cuba, etc. His answer was, "I don't believe in criticizing socialist governments."
Those are words to live by these days. If Wehner and Rubin and other than holier than thou benchwarmers want to condemn our side, knock yourself out. You'll get nothing but richly deserved contempt and ridicule from those of us in the fight.