Glenn Beck's Fox News show has reached its "Final Chapter," per both Beck and FNC. He'd been losing viewers, and, thanks to the concerted efforts of Stop Beck, advertisers for a while. His radio show was losing markets, too--New York City, Philadelphia, several towns in Connecticut, Madison, Wisconsin. For the past couple of years, it had seemed like Glenn Beck never went home, just had a cot and a cooler in the NewsCorp building someplace so he could take the occasional break between bloviations. Now it seems like he can't be jettisoned quickly enough. All I can think is, it can't happen to a nicer guy.
I have long loathed the efforts of groups like the American Family Association and Parents' Television Council, which attempt to get any media they disagree with removed from their line of sight. The AFA is largely responsible for those screens that "protect" childrens' eyes from magazines like Glamour and Cosmopolitan in a checkout line. They try to persuade advertisers to leave shows like Glee, so they become radioactive to network executives. They're against any positive depiction of gayness, bisexuality, religious beliefs that contradict their own, sex in college, etc. I never wanted to become one of those people.
I say that because I was reluctant to join in efforts like StopBeck.com, and was never an enthusiastic participant. I believe in freedom of speech. I don't pride myself on causing another person to lose their livelihood. But then, Beck embarked on a crusade to get Obama administration officials fired, figuratively getting Van Jones' scalp as he resigned from the White House Council on Environmental Quality. His fans also went after Frances Piven, a CUNY professor. There are other examples, but those glare to me. Beck has no problem robbing others of their livelihoods for simply disagreeing with him, and he doesn't need to stick with plain facts to get it done.
At least once a week, I'm required to turn off the flat-screen TVs on my office's walls at 5 pm. Beck's show is, was, on at 5, so I'd see him on "the Fox TV." (We also have CNN, HNN, and MSNBC TVs.) I was amazed at how loopy this guy sounded. He always seemed to have something incredibly hateful to say. I found his snarky, sneering, bug-eyed delivery highly unpleasant besides. It didn't surprise me to learn that he'd been a "morning zoo" radio host earlier in his career.
It dismayed me to realize that this was the man my mother kept quoting. For my brother and I, the worst thing about Beck was how much our mother liked him. She'd always been conservative, but she became increasingly credulous, and said things that seemed extremely off-the-wall to us. Her skeptical streak, which she'd raised us with, got smaller. She became much less tolerant of debate, and she'd take our disagreement personally.
In one episode, Beck managed to insult atheists, environmentalists, and organic farmers in one shot. My mother shared her new ideas with my brother...an atheist, environmentalist organic farmer. He cried to me, and they didn't speak for weeks. I went a few weeks without speaking to her when she told me what Beck had taught her about LGBT civil rights groups' role in undermining America. We were so hurt--she trusted this charlatan over her own children! She should have known better than anyone else that my brother had always wanted to farm and I just loved my wife!
She enthusiastically quoted the history Beck taught her, and I lost all the color in my face when I realized it came from David Barton, who claims to be a historian and has a long track record of "improving" history for his right-wing audience. After a while, we learned to change the subject or "have something boiling on the stove" when she'd quote Beck. She got wise to that, and it made her angry, too.
My brother and I would laugh at how we sounded so much like her when we were teenagers. She'd feared our music, our TV shows, our friends. "You know, she's getting older and more impressionable," we'd joke. We didn't want to be that way toward her. But we learned from our friends, in the real world and online, that we weren't alone in fearing the influences on our parents after Obama's election. The recession had been unkind to her, and she'd had to scramble to recover. (I don't want to share more than that.) She'd always preferred Fox News, but she had it on constantly while working from home. Several friends and siblings got interested in the Tea Party movement. Soon, Mom volunteered for conservative causes and became a Tea Partier herself. She made new friends there.
So, we know it's not just Beck. We know a lot of things worked together in her, and that it's been fairly common. We know she'd always felt bad that my brother is an atheist and I'm a Pagan, like she'd failed as a Christian mother. Her Tea Party friends kind of reinforced that. We think she's ashamed of us.
That said, we keep hoping that maybe, just maybe, the end of Beck's show will be the beginning of tolerable, even pleasant, conversations again. She's doing much better financially now, and a bit too busy to volunteer for every campaign. It's better when Mom's away from that TV constantly blaring Fox News anyway. It's easier to debate opinions than outright lies. It's easier to have a discussion when one is not positioned as part of some evil anti-American agenda. It's wonderful when we don't have to have a discussion at all, because she's not afraid that the world's going to hell in a handbasket while we worry about weather and watch hockey. We see some of the more lovable parts of our mother sometimes--for example, her humor, her amazing work ethic, her generosity. (She loaned us money for a hotel room and airfare for my uncle's funeral.) I love to discuss NASCAR and country music with her.
As I type this, I tear up. Unlike Glenn Beck, I am not using Vicks Vapo-Rub to do it. Beck is one of many media personalities and politicians--not all on Fox News--who took advantage of justifiably angry, fearful people and whipped them up into a frenzy. They distracted these people from their real problems with scapegoats and shiny objects. They convinced them that their country was not just changing, but going into the abyss, and had them screaming, "I want my country back."
My brother and I are among many people in their twenties and thirties who wondered what the hell had happened to our parents. We had been taught to respect teachers, police officers, and fire fighters; now we were told they were greedy unionists who were paid too damn much. We had been taught to respect the office of the President of the United States even if we didn't care for the current occupant's policies; now we were told that he was destroying our country. We had been told to eat sensibly and go play outside; now we were hearing advocates of those things dismissed as enemies of freedom. And so on, and so on. Frankly, we're at the point where we want to scream, "I want *my* country back."
So, as Glenn Beck leaves, we breathe a sigh of relief. He did so much damage to American political discourse in such a short time. There's a long way to go, but perhaps this is a sign that our country can eventually go sane again. That we can disagree without being disagreeable. That we can see our neighbors as perhaps a little strange, but not an enemy. That if someone's being drummed out of their job, it's because of something they actually did wrong. And Glenn Beck, you did a metric fucktonne of wrong.
Don't let the door hit you where nature split you!
For a somewhat funnier take on this--because, as my paternal grandfather said, "Some things are much too serious not to joke about"--click here.