Wednesday 08 September 2010
Vivian Weinstein
A short time ago, US right-wing pundit Glenn Beck started out as a none-too-successful morning DJ with a bare education who hadn’t a thought about politics. He loved to party and was a mean-tempered, self-centred cocaine addict.

He developed a nostalgic vision of the US (that never was) of his grandfather’s day, sitting on a porch rocking chair in a country, “the heartland,” with a relatively small government and about four million white people.

There were no “evil progressives” leaving one to wonder how slavery ended or child labour or who brought about social security or the right of women to vote, among other things.

Beck expresses a strange populist, paranoic, conspiratorial vision of a world divided into “them” and “us.”

Such beliefs, along with delusions of grandeur, righteousness, and self-importance, power and emotional instability have been seen by those who have worked closely with him.

He is well known for using the airwaves to humiliate people personally. He has always had bursts of anger and difficult relationships, needing constant affirmation and attention.

One of Beck’s most infamous incidents was when a friend’s wife was on the phone just after having had a miscarriage and he put her on the open mic and humiliated her.

He moved into the spotlight when regulations were loosened and a few corporations took over most of the radio and TV news and talk channels. He began to talk politics, about which he admitted he knew nothing.

He was getting a growing audience and was rallying for far-right ideology. His humour was always berating the “elite” educated and he was the champion of the ordinary person. His programmes attracted millions of listeners, distrustful of big government while he was protective of big corporations.

When he converted to the Mormon faith, he ended a lifetime of drugs and picked up the “testimonial” tears he is so famous for.

He quickly identified with the most fringe philosophical elements of the Mormon faith in the person of Cleon Skousen. Skousen raged against the intellectual elite, called black children “pickininnies” and the slave-owners “victims.”

Beck made Skousen’s works, which have been called a “joke” by journalist Alexander Zaitchik, required reading for his followers. From oblivion and from the dust heap they are now on the US best-seller list along with Beck’s own books.

Beck cries out: “We need to rescue our constitution and go back to the founders,” despite the fact the constitution was written as a secular document with no religious references.

The constant contradictions matter little in Beck’s books such as Common Sense, a sort of parody on Thomas Paine’s famous pamphlet of the same name that helped spark the American revolution.

Beck is thrilled with his following, lack of truth notwithstanding. Beck shouts support for Wall Street, which he calls the “victim.”

Beck tries to isolate the urban poor and black people from the “heartland.” He called Katrina victims “scumbags” and unemployed people “unamerican.”

He sees the corporations involved in the government getting bigger but calls for a world which would leave corporate power free to pollute air, water and land. He would end government regulations protecting worker safety, food and the environment and he denies global warming.

He supports corporations that support him but talks angrily against corporations that supported Obama or that dropped advertising on his programme when he became very offensive and a huge movement was launched against him by liberal public policy advocacy group Moveon.

Beck is making millions leading his movement to “take the government back.”

From whom? The first black US president.

Such racist – although Beck denies that he is racist – paranoid, conspiracy theorists have existed before in times of hardship. Zaitchik feels that the Beck phenomenon is temporary due to “its operatic nostalgia, opiate history, and tin can Orwellian imagination.”

However when Beck sells so much untruth and hate and lies to a largely fringe element that is armed,it cannot be brushed off so easily. His divisive use of people and incitement has not gone unnoticed by Jews and others knowledgeable of the rise of Hitler’s Germany.