(REAL TIMES MEDIA)—I’m a Glenn Beck fan. I know that he’s become Fox News Channel’s most notorious gadfly, and that he accused Barack Obama of hating White people and regularly sheds tears on his television show, but that’s why I like him. America needs to hear voices like Glenn Beck, because if he weren’t on the air, he might do something really dangerous, like run for office, or actually create policy and that’s 100 times worse than anything he’s said on the air.
Beck’s show is replete with calls for taking over or taking back the government from the evil czars that control it. Liberals go crazy when Beck talks like this, and think that he’s inciting racial tensions in the country. I’m not so concerned. Whenever I hear him speak of “taking back” the government, I’m reminded of that famous ’60s song by The Last Poets about revolution. Beck fits the lyrics pretty well if you switch out the ethnic slurs:
“Glenn Beck is scared of revolution
But Glenn Beck shouldn’t be scared of revolution
Because revolution is nothing but change
And all Glenn Beck does is change”
Guys like Glenn Beck talk revolution because they’re afraid of change, and a Democratic president who got into office on a “change” platform is a tipping point for them. But I’ve known guys like him all my life; they’re always changing with the political winds. They’re NASCAR dads in the 1990s, “Bushies” after 9/11 and “South Park Republicans” in the new millennium. Always angry and frustrated that things are changing in this country in a way they don’t like, but too weak, emasculated and cowardly to do anything more about it than talk. Think Ed Norton’s character from “Fight Club,” before he became Tyler Durden. Of course now guys like Beck finally have their war, the one they can fight without really putting themselves in danger but can get angry about it nonetheless. Terrorists want to get us, jobs aren’t secure even for the educated, the nation is drowning in debt and they have to depend on a erudite Harvard-educated Black man as president to get us out of this mess. That’s a living nightmare for guys like Beck, who always believed the American Dream would be theirs to manage or mangle, come hell or high-water.
So the question is, what is there to like about a man who represents the spineless backbone that much of suburban America is made of? He’s honest! Glenn Beck is sincere, unvarnished and ultimately comforting in his inadequacy. He doesn’t hide from the fact that his personal life is strewn with drug abuse, failed marriages and a late conversion to a faith that many of his own viewers distrust (Mormonism). Beck is no ideologue. He’s like Sarah Palin or George Bush. He believes certain things but can’t really explain why, but he’s sure he’s right and I can respect that more than some of the other charlatans he shares the air with.
I’d much rather share a beer and talk politics with Glenn than a blowhard like Sean Hannity, who seems to have no sense of humor about politics and hates those who disagree with him with an alienating intensity. Or a phony like Bill O’Reilly who comes from money and education, but portrays himself as the scrappy Irish kid with working class roots. The closest O’Reilly’s come to working class Irish in the last 10 years was watching “The Departed” on Blu-Ray. And Rush? Any man who’s been on welfare, drugs and got caught with illegal Viagra on a flight back from Haiti has no credibility to anyone who isn’t a dittohead.
Ultimately, the best thing about Glenn Beck is his utter shameless embrace of his own impotence. He’s loud, he’s angry but he’s harmless. Men like him have never brought about real change. Men like Glenn Beck are always behind revolution, like way behind, in the bleachers watching others. Beck, despite having over 30 sponsors drop his show in protest, continues to have the highest rated show on Fox. He’s White, educated, successful and he lives in the most powerful, free and resilient nation in the history of civilization and yet he can play the victim for 48 minutes every afternoon. And that’s why I can like him, to paraphrase The Last Poets again, Glenn Beck is scared of revolution. Our nation has a long history of political cowards. So I can sit back and enjoy him for the entertainer he is, because revolution is brought about by men of action, and Glenn Beck is nothing but words.
(Dr. Jason Johnson is an associate professor at Hiram College in Ohio.)