Why Cable Television Needs Glenn Beck

Mark Matousek

Paul Moseley | Fort Worth Star-Telegram | MCT

Glenn Beck speaks to the crowd at FreePAC, a grassroots gathering of Tea Party and conservative activists and supporters on Thursday, July 26, 2012 in Dallas, Texas. Among the featured attendees were U.S. Senate candidate Ted Cruz, and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah.

Political television is boring. Most correspondents are bland, “just the facts, ma’am” types, forbidden from offering any commentary whatsoever. While we need those newscasters to prevent the media from devolving into a petty ideological battle similar to the one currently being waged on Capitol Hill, they can’t provide the entertainment value offered by the more partisan networks—namely Fox and MSNBC. Yet the top commentators on these networks (Chris Matthews, Sean Hannity, Rachel Maddow, Bill O’Reilly) come across as smug and combative, turning off everyone who doesn’t already agree with them.

So what’s left for the rest of us who want lively political coverage devoid of bitter arrogance? Sure, there’s “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report,” but for the past year and half, there has been an unmistakable void in the world of political television, a void that can only be filled by Glenn Beck. Now before you tear apart your copy of Student Life in disgust, let me be perfectly clear: I’m not here to promote or even defend Glenn Beck’s radical conservatism. Rather, I’m merely arguing that as a form of entertainment, cable television is better with Glenn Beck than without him. For those of us who don’t consider the emotional abuse of toddlers on TLC mindless fun, Beck fulfills our desire for sheer, unbridled insanity.

I’ll admit it. I used to follow Beck religiously, not for the primal satisfaction of watching a grown, relatively articulate man indirectly compare Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler but rather because I was a member of his crazed cult. Rest assured, I eventually started reading real news and soon learned the error of my ways, and for a couple of years, I hated Beck for turning me into the type of ignorant sap that he claimed to despise.

But a couple of months ago, amidst the endless tedium that is presidential campaign season, I felt something that I never thought I’d feel again. I missed Glenn Beck. I missed his highly irrational, tear-soaked monologues. I missed his delusional conspiracy theories. I missed his feuds with Jon Stewart and Keith Olbermann. I missed his dizzying, chalkboard-aided dissections of liberal culture. Can you imagine how much more exciting the election coverage would have been with someone like Beck to latch onto every absurd, dead-end story imaginable? Instead of settling for day after day of the same tired talking points, we could have had multi-week investigations into the lives of every liberal acquaintance Obama has ever made. It would have been hilarious, and I’m sad that we were deprived of such a privilege.

Last Thursday, Beck wrote a scathing post on his website that gave a brief taste of what could have been. The piece, entitled, “Five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America, again,” is classic Beck—as inflammatory as it is oddly hopeful. Highlights include Beck’s assertion that the Labor Department skewed unemployment figures because, “[he’s] been in the business long enough to know they’re cooking the books.” If that’s not rock-solid evidence, I don’t know what is. In addition, he criticizes President Obama for not going after the Black Panthers (do they still exist?), for showing sympathy for Trayvon Martin, and for associating with “Muslim Brotherhood radicals.” He advises parents to “get your kids out of school…find a different way to educate your children.” And just when you think he can’t get any crazier, he unleashes a tirade against Disney. Yes you read that right, Disney, in which he claims, “I don’t ever sit my kids in front of Disney, the Disney channel and think, ‘OK, they’re safe.’ Not even—not even for a second.” The channel that provided a significant portion of your childhood entertainment? Radical, leftist propaganda. Sorry, but you’ve been indoctrinated.

Beck defies parody because he is a parody, and an incredibly captivating one at that. In an election season defined by monotony, Beck’s outsized personality would have proven a welcome respite. On behalf of frustrated political junkies across the country, I urge you, Mr. Beck, to come back. We need you.

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