My Doppelganger Glenn Beck

Glenn Beck and Frank MoraesOn this day exactly 51 years ago, radio personality Glenn Beck was born. That just happens to be the exactly day that I was born. In most ways, I am not pleased about this. As I discussed yesterday, his attempt to co-opt the legacy of Thomas Paine was vile. Of course, he’s done the same thing with Martin Luther King Jr. Like a lot of modern conservatives, Beck thinks that he is the real radical. In a sense, he’s right. But the radicals of the past who he looks up to were working to help the weak. Beck is a radical in the name of helping the powerful.

I am impressed with Beck in that he is a searcher. Unfortunately, some time ago, he discovered The Truth™. And so all his searching goes into the service of discovering what he thinks is the truth. And it has sent him down the rabbit hole that is the world of conspiracy theories. The basis of everything for Beck is Cleon Skousen’s The 5,000 Year Leap.

But you have to give the man credit for combining his own bizarre collection of beliefs with a messianic sense. While my father’s girlfriend laid dying, she was glued to Beck’s television show. She had to be there every day — the same way as people in cults. She felt that Beck was transmitting secret truths to her. She died before seeing his downfall. But he’s still hugely successful on the internet. There are a lot of people like my dad’s girlfriend. They never tire of the oracle. I, of course, see him more like this:

Happy birthday Glenn Beck.

2 thoughts on “My Doppelganger Glenn Beck

  1. Happy Birthday, Frank. I do not comment on every post but I read all of them. This little blog that could is in my personal top tier of nonfiction, current affairs writers/sources. You are right up there with Paul Krugman, Thomas Frank, Te-Nahisi Coates and Salon.com.

    Regarding Glenn Beck, I think that much of his popularity is based on the love-hate relationship that conservatives, especially older conservatives, have with higher education, in general, and liberal education in particular. A number of folks simply could not go to college because they had to work and/or raise families and/or fight in various wars and they had to do so right from the age of 18 and onward. They played sour grapes, they wrote off higher education as a “PC Factory” and as as “indoctrination mill” where America-hatin’, commie, lesbian students study underwater basket weaving and professors mock good christian people. Those working-class conservatives float chain e-mails where they could share the fantasy that some Marine on a GI Bill gets up and punches said atheist professor and shows him to be a fraud.

    In 2009, here comes Glenn Beck with his chalk board, his glasses, his soft and deliberate cadence (to start the lectures at least) and his discussions about history and philosophy and big ideas. Obviously it was all a pallid imitation of a real liberal education but it had the appearance of it. Glenn Beck is able to bottle the joy and pride and sense of wonder in learning that many of us felt as undergraduates.

    His whole spectacle was especially sad and tragic because he showed that the masses are usually very willing and able to engage with big ideas but because our society is so stingy about providing college education to working class people, millions had to and have to skip that experience. As a result, much later in life, they flocked to this pitiful facsimile of a liberal education. As if that were not bad enough, these old, working-class conservatives have all the swagger and certitude of a college sophomore with all of the academic knowledge of a high-school sophomore and it’s all rounded off with the reactionary craziness that comes from extreme age and religiosity.

    People can be mature in most spheres of life and still be adolescents in other spheres. We now have a bunch of Beckians who now feel that their antiquated and unhinged prejudices bear the patina of genuine intellectual inquiry. People who are steady hands and work, raising family and being generally good people and citizens are now young republicans when it comes to their political views and you know that those people vote without fail. Political and public policy immaturity combined with senior citizen voting patterns make for one very bad combination.

  2. First, thank you for your kind words. It’s often unclear who I’m writing for. This site is such a mishmash. But I figure people who share more or less my world view will find some stuff they will enjoy. I actually have some fun imagining who those people might be. I’m especially interested in people who aren’t religious and yet still understand religion. And that seems to be the biggest block. There just aren’t that many people in the region. But still, I think of the site like a buffet: people can take what they like and leave the broccoli for someone else. Regardless, I am grateful for my regular readers. And I’m very impressed with the regular commenters — like you. Many sites have problems with trolls and other idiots. But Frankly Curious really does get great comments. Often the comment sections are far better than the articles.

    As for Beck, I think he speaks to the times. We are living through some difficult times. In the 1930s, we had the antisemitic Reverend Coughlin. But in the 1950s, we had the great Eric Hoffer. People are looking for simple answers to the problems we face. Mostly, we pick demagogues. But I’m hopeful that we are ready for another Eric Hoffer.

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