My Thoughts on Glenn Beck (And Jon Stewart Too)
Glenn Beck is undoubtedly one of the most polarizing figures in America today. I understand that just saying his name is enough to raise the blood pressure of many. And I also understand that there are many who like him, and agree in large part with his views. After much thought, I will now attempt to offer my opinion of this controversial figure.
Here is an interview with Catie Kouric that I found. I looked for a half hour to find a Beck video that was not extremely biased for or against him. If you want to get a little taste of who Beck is, this should serve you well since it is coming straight from his mouth.
I am having an extremely difficult time writing about Glenn Beck. I’ve just been sitting here for a half hour trying to figure out how to approach him. Do I break him down into Pros and Cons? Do I talk about the things that we agree or disagree on? You know what, I just figured it out. I am going to simply write down what comes to mind. Here it goes.
Glenn Beck is heard by many millions of Americans every day. For this reason, we must take him seriously as an influence maker, even if we can’t take him seriously. Those who strongly agree with Beck are likely to take his word, most, if not all of the time. Many view him as a leader within the Tea Party, which is a significant force in modern American politics. So, whether he likes it or not (and I believe he does) Beck is one of the loudest voices of conservatives today. In a way, he is representing me, since many of our views are shared. We are wary of big government, and we respect the Founding Fathers, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. We both believe that history can certainly teach us about the present. And, we are largely opposed to the policies of the Obama Administration.
Unfortunately, there are many occasions where I can’t tell if he is being serious or facetious. He sometimes reminds me of Andy from The Office. It always seems like you’re getting a performance, and not the real man. His expressions are over the top. Many times I get the impression that he is saying something just to get a reaction out of his audience. In short, he is extreme. Or, to put it another way, ridiculous. However true many of his statements are, Glenn Beck is ridiculous.
Beck has been compared to Jon Stewart on more than one occasion. At one point in the Katie Couric interview she even asks him about that comparison. This is very interesting. Jon Stewart is the host of a comedy/news show called The Daily Show. The Daily Show is a satire of the “real” news and never claimed to be a legitimate source of information for the public.
I want you to read an excerpt from a transcript that comes from an interview between Jon Stewart and the hosts of, the now cancelled, CNN’s Crossfire.
STEWART: It’s not honest. What you do is not honest. What you do is partisan hackery. And I will tell you why I know it.
CARLSON: You had John Kerry on your show and you sniff his throne and you’re accusing us of partisan hackery?
CARLSON: You’ve got to be kidding me. He comes on and you…
STEWART: You’re on CNN. The show that leads into me is puppets making crank phone calls.
STEWART: What is wrong with you?
CARLSON: Well, I’m just saying, there’s no reason for you — when you have this marvelous opportunity not to be the guy’s butt boy, to go ahead and be his butt boy. Come on. It’s embarrassing.
STEWART: I was absolutely his butt boy. I was so far — you would not believe what he ate two weeks ago.
STEWART: You know, the interesting thing I have is, you have a responsibility to the public discourse, and you fail miserably.
CARLSON: You need to get a job at a journalism school, I think.
STEWART: You need to go to one. The thing that I want to say is, when you have people on for just knee-jerk, reactionary talk…
CARLSON: Wait. I thought you were going to be funny. Come on. Be funny.
STEWART: No. No. I’m not going to be your monkey.
The point is, Jon Stewart knows that he is a performer. He certainly has some political views that he shares openly, but he is very clear that he is a performer. Now, whether he likes it or not (And he probably does) Jon Stewart is respected and people listen to his opinion. He is an influential person with a podium. He is even having a counter rally to Beck’s rally to restore honor. He is calling it the rally to restore sanity. So, they do share some striking similarities. But, and this is a big one, Jon Stewart does not try to make himself into the purveyor of political and worldly truth on the scale that Beck does. Jon Stewart is the wise fool. He knows he is a fool. Beck is intelligent. He is passionate. I believe he is even mostly genuine. And, I believe a large part of his views are correct. But, and this is a big one, he is attempting to be the fool and the truth bearer. You cannot have it both ways. It is irresponsible.
Now, I leave you with this clip from The Daily Show in which Jon Stewart mocks Glenn Beck. I hope you are able to laugh at this. Hopefully it reinforces the last point I was trying to make about the difference between them. (Side note: Excuse the first part from Countdown with Keith Olberman. This is the only video I could find. I’m actually pretty irritated by what that guy says to introduce the video. A tour de force? Really? Anyway, disregard.)