Glenn Beck’s latest rally will happen on July 28 in Dallas, Texas. Most of the people in and around D.C. don’t really care one way or the other, except that we are thankful that he isn’t doing it on the Mall again. As much as people complained about the smell of patchouli and marijuana that emanated from McPherson Square during the Occupy D.C. protests, the smell of KFC and Marlboro Lights from Mr. Beck’s rally wasn’t much better.
This particular rally is another exhortation to the masses to restore…something. Honor, Freedom, Love, Courage, Pride, Smokin’ Guitar Solos, Meerschaum Pipes, Book Sales, Whatever. Doubtless there will be lots of speeches, prayer and merchandizing to help this restoration along. It seems that all of his solutions to what ails our great nation involve the buying of a book, or a t-shirt, or a ticket to a rally, which is an interesting way to try and enact social change. Glenn Beck might be sincere, but it’s hard to imagine that people would have followed Gandhi if he charged 10 rupees a month for the “Insider Extreme Package.”
Yet people do follow Glenn Beck, and they follow him by the millions. People tie themselves in knots trying to figure out why he’s so popular and influential, but there really isn’t any mystery there. He’s a perfect blend of paranoia, shabby ideas and unthinking mediocrity dressed up in shiny new packaging. From the start of his career to where he is now, there is absolutely nothing original about him.
If you were to put on a blindfold and throw a dart at a map, wherever it landed (let’s call it “Dart Town”) you would find a morning zoo DJ. One of those guys who plays obnoxious music at six in the morning, insults listeners who call in, and torments an overweight intern who just can’t seem to get anything right. This is how Glenn Beck got started.
In Dart Town you will also find a guy standing outside of the Department of Motor Vehicles, handing out pamphlets for Lyndon LaRouche, or the John Birch Society, or some other fringe group that plays the style of paranoid Mad-Libs that always seem to ring true to under-educated conservatives: “(NOUN) is coming for your (NOUN).” The ATF is coming for your guns. The EPA is coming for your trucks. PETA is coming for your cheeseburgers. Obama is coming for your Bible. Etc. Etc. Mix and match. Get creative. They’ll believe it anyway. This is where Glenn Beck gets his material.
Dart Town also has its fair share of people who gather around bottles of whiskey or fully-loaded bongs or powder-stained mirrors, and one of them will sketch out conspiracy theories on just about everything, from the Illuminati to the Federal Reserve to Henry Ford to the JFK assassination. Glenn Beck embraced sobriety a long time ago, but it seems he took the drug-addled conspiracy diagraming with him when he left the drugs behind.
There are only a handful of people in Dart Town who believe the pamphlets or the conspiracy theories, but there are a lot of Dart Towns in America. Just as the internet makes the world a lot smaller for people who collect vintage records or porcelain figurines, the world is also smaller for the handful of folks in all the Dart Towns who believe that Obama is a Mao-worshipping fellow traveler, or that the government has placed everyone who owns a gun under 24 hour surveillance, or that Van Jones is a leftist Kaiser Soze, or that we are besieged on all sides by plots, treason and tyranny. Glenn Beck is their guy.
It’s interesting to note that Glenn Beck was hired at Fox News about a month before Obama’s election. I’m willing to bet the higher-ups at Fox News made two calculated decisions, one of them political and the other practical. They needed someone who made Sean Hannity look reasonable by comparison, and they also figured that people wearing tin-foil hats would watch the news too, if only Fox could find somebody who was on the same paranoid, teeth-grinding, gun-cleaning wavelength as them. Glenn Beck was their guy, too, right up to the point where the only people who were willing to advertise on his show were shady gold selling operations. It turns out that fear sells, but not enough to make the 5-6 PM time slot as profitable as they wanted.
Feel free to call Glenn Beck anything you want. You can call him a hero, a villain, a con-artist, an activist, a genius or an idiot, but you shouldn’t call him original. We’ve heard all of this stuff before. Just because 80,000 fringe-dwellers are gathered in one place doesn’t make their beliefs any less bonkers. Fringe is fringe. Nuts is nuts. And tickets are on sale for around $40, maybe less if you are an “Insider Extreme” member.