SHAMELESS – The Case Against Glenn Beck

Published: April 1, 2011

By Jim Lichtman
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When it comes to opinion media, what raises my ethical hackles most comes from Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and Glenn Beck – three individuals responsible for much of the fear, unreason and cynicism that flourishes today.

This excerpt comes from the chapter on Glenn Beck, from my new e-Book entitled, Shameless: The Ethical Case Against Three Out-of-Control Critics and the Need for Civility Now, More than Ever.

In a 2009 Harris poll among 2,276 adults surveyed online, when asked, “Who is your favorite TV personality?” Fox News’ Glenn Beck beat out everyone except Oprah Winfrey.  That’s right, Beck beat out Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien, Ellen DeGeneres, Hugh Laurie (that weird guy from House), Charlie Sheen (that much weirder and wilder guy formerly from Two and a Half Men), David Letterman, and Bill O’Reilly.

Back up a minute.

The pollsters didn’t ask, “Who is your favorite political pundit, commentator, or news analyst?”  They asked, “Who is your favorite TV personality?” …

“With a weekly average of 9 million listeners,” Forbes writes, “Beck’s is the third-highest-ranked radio talk show in America, behind Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.” …

Glenn Beck is the same man who, on July 28, 2009, uttered the infamous words, “This president, I think, has exposed himself as a guy – over and over and over again – who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture. This guy, I believe, is a racist.”

On October 1, 2010, CNN fired Rick Sanchez one day after the Cuban-American anchor told a national radio audience that Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart was a “bigot.”  “I’m telling you” Sanchez told interviewer Pete Dominick, “that everybody who runs CNN is a lot like Stewart, and a lot of people who run all the other networks are a lot like Stewart.” …

After Beck appeared on the morning show Fox and Friendsand called the president of the United States a racist, Fox released a statement saying that “Glenn Beck expressed a personal opinion which represented his own views, not those of the Fox News Channel,” Bill Shine, senior vice president of programming for Fox News, said in a statement. “And as with all commentators in the cable news arena, he is given the freedom to express his opinions.” …

That’s it.

Had I been the head of Fox, I would have immediately yanked Beck from the airwaves, allowing him to come back only if he offered specific, verifiable proof of his accusation or was willing to make a sincere, public apology to President Obama and the American people, and give assurances that he would not engage in such talk in the future. …

This is just one of dozens of inane and contemptible statements that Glenn Beck is allowed to make in service to his own (conservative-Christian-Mormon-God-speaks-through-me) agenda. In honor of the former Top Forty DJ, here are some of the more “beloved” utterances from the eminence of enlightenment:

“When I see a 9/11 victim family on television, or whatever, I’m just like, ‘Oh shut up’ I’m so sick of them because they’re always complaining.” (Premiere Radio Networks, The Glenn Beck Program, September 9, 2005) 

“I say we nuke the bastards. In fact, it doesn’t have to be Iran; it can be everywhere, anyplace that disagrees with me.” (Beck,when asked for his views about bombing Iran, Premiere Radio Networks, The Glenn Beck Program, May 11, 2006)

“I haven’t seen Jesus and what he would do on a talk show on Fox, but I’m going to try.” (Fox News, Glenn Beck, April 21, 2010) 

Broke – The Plan to Restore Our Trust, Truth and Treasurebroke out of the publishing gate October 26, 2010. I read the inside flap: “The Facts. The Future. The Fight to Fix America – Before it’s too late.”

Sounds like a trailer to some Bruce Willis action movie. …

“My intention is not to lecture you,” writes Beck on page 247.  (Unfortunately, Professor Beck lectured me through the first 246 pages before I got to that statement.)  Beck’s central thesis is that America is broke from crushing debt due, in large part, to the policies of progressives like Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

However, according to an assessment by the liberal, “web-based, not-for-profit” group Media Matters for America, “[Beck’s] treatment of the Reagan administration makes no effort to hide the fact that Ronald Reagan was a profligate spender who ran up huge deficits. But while the rest of the book traffics in anti-debt hysterics, Beck attempts to spin Reagan’s debt-building as necessary, perhaps even salutary: ‘It financed the Cold War military buildup that helped free the world from communism.’

“No such rationalizations are offered for Woodrow Wilson’s or Franklin Roosevelt’s social spending. Beck’s pages-long attack on the economics of Social Security carefully ignores the fact that the program reduced the poverty rate among seniors by about 70 percent. For Beck, spending on the military is acceptable, but spending on the social safety net is Bolshevism.”

But wait… that’s not all! …

After plunking down a whopping $18, I watched, Glenn Beck’s Broke: Restarting the Engine of America, at my local theater.

Broke was filmed, our affable host tells us, in front of a packed 3,000-seat theater in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The head count in the 2,000-plus-seat theater where I saw the film was 21… (counting theater staff).

Beck walks on stage to loud, kinetic applause from his Pittsburgh fans.  Everyone in my theater held their applause, until he walks over to introduce a classic 1965 Mustang, (my group applauds the Mustang, loudly).

The car is a metaphor for the problems facing America.  Back in the good old days, Professor Beck explains, an individual could pop the hood, spot the trouble and fix it himself.  Today’s engines are sealed, preventing the individual from doing anything except rely on experts; “experts,” Beck points out, who got us into much of this mess to begin with. …

So what are Beck’s solutions to America’s problems?

“One, Americans must accept what is coming… Let go of the things we feel entitled to, like MedicareSocial Security, healthcare, etc.”  And “Two, we must have ‘firm reliance on Divine Providence’ and ‘mutually pledge our lives, fortunes, and sacred honor’ to protecting our republic,” Beck says as he quotes The Declaration of Independence.

That’s it.

Overall, Beck presents a dazzling array of charts and statistics meant to overpower and alarm and they do!  The debt we’ve amassed is staggering and overwhelming.  I’m just not convinced that someone who screams, shouts, jokes, and nearly cries makes the kind of credible and compelling case necessary to tackle the issues we face.  Absent specific solutions, Beck’s presentation doesn’t deliver. …

“I went to Yale University for one semester when I was thirty,” Beck writes in The Real America, “I wish I would have finished – I could guarantee I would be much more qualified to offer some of the opinion I spout every day… because a formal education helps to discipline the mind. The real benefit of college is not to be taught what to think but how to think.”

While Beck is clearly struggling with the “how,” he has no problem telling his audience “what to think.” …

Beck’s Ethical Report Card 

Trustworthiness: F  According to 21 statements checked by PolitiFact (Feb. 28, 2011), Beck’s “truth” is rarely accurate or straightforward. In one account that PolitiFact deemed “Pants-on-Fire” false, Beck proclaimed Wilmington, Ohio “ground zero” of the recession. …

Responsibility: F  Like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck ignores any thought of self-discipline (much less Christian charity) in making statements like “I say we nuke the bastards (regarding Iran),” and comparing Obama’s “spending money on embryonic stem cell research [to]…eugenics,” as well as declaring “[American] universities… are as dangerous with the indoctrination of the children as terrorists are in Iran or North Korea.” …

Click here to download the entire book for free.




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