We are not slowing down here at the Junta. After the smashing success of our meeting on contemporary art, we are jumping to a contemporary media figure as a subject of discussion. Glenn Beck is known as the new star of conservative radio and Fox News TV, where he is seen and heard by millions. Now our own Alex Zaitchik has written a new unauthorized biography of Beck, and he will lead this Junta on understanding the background of this polarizing character.
Common Nonsense: Glenn Beck and the Triumph of Ignorance
What kind of disc jockey would telephone the wife of a competitor and, over live radio, belittle her and her husband about her recent miscarriage? What kind of patriot would con his listeners into donating $450,000 to finance a series of Rally for America events that turned out to be nothing but a personal promotional tour? What kind of talk-radio host would falsely describe the president of the United States as a communist and black nationalist out to enslave Americans? The purveyor of such tactics—and worse—can only be America’s newest household conservative name: Glenn Beck.
In Common Nonsense, investigative reporter Alexander Zaitchik traces Beck’s personal history, from his troubled childhood through his years as a “morning zoo” DJ to his sudden and meteoric rise to the top of the conservative media heap. He pays special attention to Beck’s transformation from alcoholic, cocaine-snorting, failed disc jockey without a political thought in his head to wealthy, bile-spewing, right-wing demagogue whose radio and television shows form the core of a multimillion-dollar media empire.
Drawing on interviews with Beck’s childhood friends, radio coworkers, and TV colleagues as well as Beck’s own published accounts of his life, Zaitchik reveals the cracks in Beck’s personal creation myth. He pinpoints the moment when Beck, then working in Tampa and about to be fired from his first-ever talk-radio job, discovered right-wing rabble-rousing as his route to long-sought fame and fortune. He shows how Beck adapted the timeworn gags and manipulations of radio hucksterism—including the audience donation drive—into powerful tools for propaganda and personal enrichment. He also demonstrates how Beck’s screeds about ACORN, czars, and socialists are carefully honed to intensify his listeners’ fears and spur them to action at a time and place of his choosing.
Beck’s manipulations are not aimed exclusively at conservative Tea Party activists. One of his favorite gambits, Zaitchik reveals, is to make outrageous statements—such as calling President Obama a racist—to provoke angry and overwrought reactions from the Left. He knows that nothing burnishes his reputation as a right-wing hero victimized by political correctness more effectively than a barrage of scoldings from the “liberal elite.”
You can laugh at his crocodile tears, shake your head at the “facts” out of which he spins his wild theories, gape in wonder at his abrupt transitions from cheap sentiment to vicious attack and back again—but do not underestimate Glenn Beck. Read Common Nonsense and discover how this smart, ambitious self-promoter and his devoted flock poison our political discourse and weaken our democracy.
This meeting will be held Wednesday, May 19, at 7:30pm. Details to follow.