November 2, 2009
Glenn Beck, FOX's 'Rodeo Clown'By Lee Cary
It may look like fun and games to the people in the stands, but this is serious business, and not just any clown can do it. (Anonymous comment on rodeo clowns)
Much of what aggravates the Obama administration about FOX News is what Joe Biden would call a three-letter word: B-E-C-K.
Beck calls himself a "rodeo clown." That fits. A rodeo clown distracts the bull's attention to defend rodeo riders at risk. Beck believes the nation is at risk and he's out to distract the raging bulls, or the progressives in power.
In other cultures, matadors in tight pants use a red cape to taunt the bull into fatigue before the kill. Rodeo clowns face the bull wearing flexible, goofy-looking clothes and running shoes. When they succeed, they end up diving into the clown lounge. It's a heavy barrel of thick steel with a dense foam rubber lining inside. After the rodeo, they pound out dents made by the horns of one-ton head hunters (bulls that like chasing two-legged animals). Rodeo clowns look and act a bit like circus clowns. But when they're into their clown shtick, they keep both eyes on the bull. Despite the garb, they're really not about clowning around.
Some think Beck is a circus clown who emotes for affect as he toggles back and forth between funereal seriousness (critics say conspiratorially wacko) and Steve Martin slapstick. But he's no circus clown. And the bull's not laughing.
Beck's magazine is entitled The Fusion of Entertainment and Enlightenment. To his fans, that fits. He aims to enlighten his audience like no other political commentator of any flavor, on any channel, except Limbaugh.
It's unlikely that the White House inner circle of image-makers sees anything entertaining about Beck. It is likely, though, that the enlightenment side of Beck's shtick commands their attention and evokes their disdain. After all, he filleted and fried Green Jobs Czar Van Jones. That got the attention of New York Times Managing Editor Jill Abramson. When the legacy media had to report on the story after Van resigned she said, "We should have been paying closer attention." Somebody start a list. She also said the NYT was "a beat behind on this story." Stay a step behind the rodeo clown, Jill, and you end up rodeo kill.
Beck has been ending his shows lately with the words, "Goodnight, Mrs. Dunn, wherever you are" -- referring to White House Communication Director Anita Dunn, whose admiration of Mao Zedong Beck recently outed. Many viewers may not recognize that as a parody on Jimmy Durante's signature sign-off, "Goodnight, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are." Beck's occasional inside-the-Beck-brain humor is part of his charm to his fans.
For weeks, he's been constructing sort of a Unified Theory of Obamativity. He started charting it on a chalkboard, like Professor Jacob Barnhardt (actor Sam Jaffe) did in the 1951 version of The Day the Earth Stood Still until Klaatu the space traveler (Michael Rennie) entered the professor's study and easily finished the equation. This week, Beck is up to three chalk boards.
His fusion of entertainment and enlightenment is working, and it's driving up his ratings.
Beck, more thoroughly than any other FOX commentator, aims to connect the dots in a complex equation representing what "fundamentally transform America" means to the Obama administration. He's not fixated on the President because he knows Obama isn't leading the parade; Obama's riding the horse that's leading the parade. The horse is socialist progressivism. Beck looks for the most revolutionary progressives where the President has placed them. The traditional cabinet seats are reserved for the party apparatchiks like Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services. She taught us how to sneeze into our sleeves. Please, Kathleen, no toilet hygiene lessons.
Long a force in American politics, the progressive movement is reshaping the Republic in ways dreamed of by progressives throughout the 20th Century, flirted with during the New Deal and the Great Society, and now running at full throttle. More thoroughly than any other commentator, Beck stresses history and context. He invites academic historians of the Progressive Movement and the Great Depression onto his daily radio and television shows. He pumps out bestselling books like a hen does eggs. In short, he's the energizer bunny in his opposition to the progressive initiatives of the 44th President of the United States and his minions.
Beck had better watch out.
Once upon a time there was another popular media personality who bucked a progressive President during an economic downturn. Father Charles E. Coughlin, a Roman Catholic priest, broadcast weekly radio sermons beginning in 1926. Coughlin preached social justice based on monetary reform. He was an early supporter of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, enthusiastically backing FDR's promise to reform the country's financial system. When the change that Coughlin hoped FDR would bring didn't come, he turned sour on Roosevelt. He called him "the great betrayer and liar," and he spoke (video) against the Federal Reserve. Millions huddled around their radios to hear Coughlin's weekly program drift from religion into politics. They sent him tens of thousands of fan letters weekly. They heard him say,
The Roosevelt administration couldn't pressure Coughlin off the air by leveraging other religions personalities against him. So,
Coughlin's anti-Jewish statements seriously tarnished his historical image and sharply distinguish him from Beck. But his widespread popularity and perceived threat to a progressive President's plans make him similar to Beck (and Limbaugh), along with a handful of other conservative radio and television commentators.
Beck's self-deprecating demeanor includes 'fessing up to his past sins. So unless he's hiding a felony conviction, his detractors won't find anything to discredit him by investigating his background. They're more likely to keep leaning on the sponsors of his shows, hoping to shut him up. Meanwhile, administration officials aim to marginalize FOX News by ignoring their correspondents and personalities.
To date, Beck shows no signs of letting up. FOX shows no signs of reining him in. And Rahm-Axelrod and friends aren't likely to relent in their campaign against FOX until Beck and others tap the brakes and zombie up like the other media outlets.
Sooner or later, someone is bound to blink.