The Fear Chamber

In this Sunday’s New York Times magazine, political reporter Mark Leibovich profiles the meteoric rise of America’s favorite fear monger, Glenn Beck (his colleague at FOX News, Shepherd Smith, once introduced Beck’s program as “the Fear Chamber”).Palin and Beck

Beck’s ubiquity in right wing circles and this summer’s Lincoln Memorial rally make it easy to forget that his rise to fame has been recent and rapid. Beck, raised Roman Catholic before converting to Mormonism with his second wife, began his career as a shock jock morning FM radio host. After he overcame heavy drinking and depression, he left his two daughters in Connecticut to begin a talk-radio program in Florida, where CNN Headline News convinced him to try television. Moderately successful in that medium and sensing that he could have a bigger audience and more ideological companions at another network, Beck moved to FOX in January 2009. 

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Beck enjoyed earnings of over $30 million last year, with only about $2.5 million from his FOX television program. His ability to cross promote his talks, radio program, books, and rallies has made him a media, and perhaps a political, heavyweight, whose legions of followers turn to for education, talking points, analysis, “facts,” and, perhaps unknowingly, entertainment.

Leibovich’s profile highlights the truly disgusting side of Beck (he once called the wife of a rival radio host on-air to mock her after a miscarriage), to the noble (he and his wife finance and run several rehabilitation centers in the northeast), and back to the disgusting (his remarks that President Obama may hate white people or that the White House is run by Communist Marxists). Whether one loves or loathes Beck, his ability to exploit the current political climate for his own ends is remarkable. Will Beck play the role in 2010 that Rush Limbaugh did in 1994’s GOP sweep of Congress? Will he lead a movement or is he a blip on the radar? Is he good for the country? The last is a question whose answer seems even to elude him (he even penned a note to Sarah Palin asking the former governor her thoughts). Excluding an epiphany demonstrating to him that his rhetoric is indeed harmful, hurtful, and ultimately destructive to the country he claims to love, Beck’s reach doesn’t seem to be fading anytime soon. Beck, like Palin, has tapped something that resonates with large segments of the population, and we’ll have to see what he does with his newfound and increasingly loud and powerful voice. 

 

 

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Michael Cremin
8 years ago
Excluding an epiphany demonstrating to him that his rhetoric is indeed harmful, hurtful, and ultimately destructive to the country he claims to love, Beck’s reach doesn’t seem to be fading anytime soon.

Or, perhaps his epiphany will demonstrate that because he's encouraging Americans to read the Constitution, explore the thinking of our Founders, and placing their trust in God's providence, he is actually doing some good. Consider-I know it will be difficult-that, maybe, just maybe, all of Glenn Beck's fans aren't morons.
Henry Mansell
8 years ago
If the blog is about Glen Beck, why the photo of Sarah Palin?
Beth Cioffoletti
8 years ago
True prophets are able to cut through great tangles of lies.  They are rarely popular.  Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin repeat lies.  The people take comfort.  Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin reap the rewards of repeating lies.  I find this movement, which has exploded with media attention, alarming, and appreciate the honest journalists who seek to shed light on what is happening.
Vince Killoran
8 years ago
The aspect of Beck that I think would make it most difficult for Christians to accept come by way of his endorsements.  

I was listening to his radio show last week and during the infomerical part he spoke at great length about buying gold and food "insurance"for the coming collapse of civil society.  Such fear mongering, such a siege mentality doesn't seem to fit the New Testament message of openness and engagement with the world around us.
8 years ago
I never listened to or watched or read Glenn Beck except after his name came up a couple times in the last few months.  And then I read what he had to say.  He certainly got the social justice hypocrisy right and he got the Black Liberation theology right.  So that is two for two when I went to find out what he said, he was making sense got his facts correct.  I still don't know what he has said lately but depend upon the staff here to keep me posted.
 
 
He must be getting to the people at America because he has become one of their whipping boys.  The attempted vilification of him and Sarah Palin here does not ring true with the Catholicism I was taught in Catholic schools ending with the Jesuits.  How times have changed with this particular group.  Why not discuss ideas instead of praising hit pieces by liberal media.  Or how often are the threads here hit pieces dressed up a little nicely.  I would say quite a few but certainly not all since there are some outstanding posts here.  Let's concentrate on the outstanding posts and leave the politics off this site because it reveals a not too pretty image of those in charge.
 
 
Just to point out the irony in this post, Mr. O'Loughlin says
 
''back to the disgusting ...that the White House is run by Communist Marxists ''
 
 
First or all, Obama has a socialist/communist background.  That's on the record.  It is also not saying that is what he is at the moment.  Second, it was only a few weeks ago here when other authors were expression admiration for Marxism on this site.  So maybe, Mr. O'Loughlin should talk with them to see if pointing out that there have been some Marxists in the White House is disgusting or just accurate and maybe a positive thing for these authors.
 

Beth Cioffoletti
8 years ago
"Palin's and Beck's arguments should be judged on the merits of their arguments.  Who Palin and Beck are as people is irrelevent in evaluating the validity of their arguments."

I agree wholeheartedly.   Here is one of the recent "arguments" that Glenn Beck has put out there:

Glenn Beck:
"All the preachers that surround the president, they are progressives and they are big government progressives. When you combine church and state, and you take a - you take a big government and you combine it with the church, to get people to do the things that the state wants you to do, it always ends in mass death."

Who are these progressive, big government preachers who surround the president, combining church and state, and getting people to do things that will end in mass death??!!  The premise of this statement is not based in fact, and yet it ends in instilling fear.

I am glad to see these kind of statements evaluated.  That is the role of the press in our country.
8 years ago
Another day, another "Beck/Palin are the source of all evil" blog post.

I am conservative.  I do not listen to Glenn Beck.  I think Sarah Palin is vapid and will not vote for her should she lead a ballot.

I would suggest that others, less conservative than me or otherwise, who are "alarmed" by these two people do the same.  Problem solved.  If you want to read conservative opinion, you can find good valuable conservative opinion in George Will, Ross Douthat, Reihan Salam, Charles Krauthammer, etc.  Just look for it.  If you don't want to read conservative opinion, stick to the usual suspects: Olbermann, Maddow, and that reall fat guy who always yells at people on MSNBC.

Media is a free market (the HORROR).  Consumers of media are free to decide for themselves if they see anyone ranting on TV is to their liking or not.  Apparently a large number of consumers like Beck's message.  Again, free country.  If you don't like it, put an alternative out there to compete against him.  Instead, as usual, the liberal intellegentsia wastes time and resources trying to discredit people like this and the people who listen to them.  This attempt to discredit them only ends up backfiring.  I applaud Bill Clinton for having the foresight to say Democrats should take the Tea Party people more seriously and stop trying to discredit them as unsophisticated, racist mobs manipulated by the omni-present nefarious multinational corporations. 
Vince Killoran
8 years ago
I would argue that it's irresponsible to ignore major media figures who have political clout.  And, I agree with Beth's approach: evaluate Beck's (or anyone with similar influence) positions and approaches. 
Tom Maher
8 years ago
The same old tired "Catholic" type analysis:  everything must be a moral drama of  good vs. evil when most issues are simply and plainly factual and technical.  Why should speakers be even suspect of being anything but sincere?  But instead when anything new comes along the first thing asked: is it good or is it bad?  If you don't know you must, like a sentry at the gate protecting a city in a war, shoot anyone not completely identified and understood.  Too bad. This keeps the audience ignorant and confussed of what is new in a very rapidly changing world where new ideas and social conditions are all around us. 

The idea that Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin are bad people is very self-deceiving and misses what their arguments are.  Palin and Beck have a lot to say that can not be so easily dismissed by name-calling ad hominem attacks.  It is false to say their message can be summarized as fear.  Palin and Beck have powerful and timeless arguments that criticize the role of governement in society and the ill impact of governemnt programs and government policy. Some of the ideas being crticised  are enshrined and unchallenged liberal social dogma for 70 years or more.  But criticism of govenment should be expected in an open society especially in an age of the internet and other new media outlets where new fresh ideas  can now are be heard. 

It is a fact of life that the old CBS, NBC ,and ABC radio and television monopoly on news and information since the 1920s has been broke and is in sharp decline.  Most people do not use these traditional media outlets with their  liberal views and values as their main source of information anymore.  Popular new media outlets used by Palin and Beck now challenge the liberal assumptions of these old media networks.  But in an open society this is a very good thing. 

But more imporant the new media outlets are providing new information content very much in demand from people like Palin and Beck.  Palin and Beck should not be deemonized for actively and abily participating in a wider open forum.  If the ideas they are attacking have merit and depthm arguments should be made to defend them on the merits. And  Palin's and Beck's arguments should be judged on the merits of their arguments.  Who Palin and Beck are as people is irrelevent in evaluating the validity of their arguments.     

Helena Loflin
8 years ago
I've thought about it.  All of Beck's fans are morons.  The man is as ignorant and deceitful as the day is long.  Only Right-Wing Authoritarian followers, never known for their critical thinking skills, could defend his malicious lying, hateful mockery and relentless fear-mongering.

But, hey, it's a win-win for Beck.  He gets to laugh at his moronic fans all the way to the bank.  
John Raymer
8 years ago
Since all of Glen Beck's fans are morons, what does that say about all of us who write on this blog? Is it really true that only a fool argues with a fool?
Ronald Pagnucco
8 years ago
If you read the American historian Richard Hofstadter's article (or book of the same title), The Paranoid Syle of American Politics, you may wonder exactly when it was written. Beck's blackboard conspiracy theories, alternative histories, etc. are nothing new in American politics, and versions of paranoid style politics are found on the right and the left; certainly Catholics should remember that paranoid poliics have been used against them. The paranoid style may be a somewhat effecive political strategy sometimes, but it has also backfired, and I think we are seeing that to some degree right now. I think the way to undermine the paranoid syle is what it has always been: education and critical thinking, walking through the statements and showing their fallaciousness. We also need public figures, especially conservative ones,  to explicitly challenge the statements of Beck. We should use this opportuniy to work harder to educate people in political history and in critical thinking - how not to be taken in by the misleading orations by public figures; for Catholics, education in Caholic Social Teaching is also very important. Happily, some conservative Catholics criticized Beck when he criticized churches advocating "social justice," but I am not sure all American Catholics would understand why they criticized Beck.
8 years ago
I wonder if anyone who has written a negative comment here about Glenn Beck has read the article by Leibovich.  For the most part it is laudatory.  I just spent almost an hour reading it, it is over 8,000 words long and little is openly negative.  Mr. O'Loughlin has managed to cherry pick a lot of the negative comments or episodes for his very short piece.  


Since I knew very little about Beck except what has been said here, the article was an eye opener.  He has led a very dysfunctional life but here he is whether for good or for bad, atop the American Media Circus.  How long he will last will be interesting.  It will also be interesting to see what additional shots people will now take at him.
Beth Cioffoletti
8 years ago
I read the NY Times article about Glenn Beck several days ago and agree that it was enlightening.  I commend Mr. Leebovich and hope to see more articles and discussion about Mr. Beck.  Since religion, and his specific misunderstanding of  social justice, are a major component of Beck 's rant, I find it important to critique what he says.  The more that we talk about this, the better for all of us. 
Beth Cioffoletti
8 years ago
Walter, I am not aware that Reverend Wright has any influence over (or contact with) President Obama now.  Could you cite examples?  Also, could you direct me to some speeches/sermons of Rev. Wright where I can see the context in which he "publicly calls out to his congregation and assembled videographers for God to damn America, and then reaffirms his intent when questioned"? 

Thank you.
Helena Loflin
8 years ago
The wise discuss.  Fools argue.
Beth Cioffoletti
8 years ago
What do you do, Jimmy Winston?  Argue or discuss?  There's a bit of a fool and a wise person within each of us.

It seems to me that in a discussion (or argument), it is important to honestly express your perspective and be open to what the other has to say in response.  Judging pretty much brings everything to a standstill, with each party retracting to his/her corner, and the possibility for breaking into new understanding is lost.
Stanley Kopacz
8 years ago
Commies in the White House?  You mean, like Timothy Geithner? 
8 years ago
Beck is an uneducated ideologue.  He rants and spouts a lot of stuff.  Since authors and other commenters here have been bringing his name up, I started to read more about him and what he has been ranting about. So far he has gotten a lot of things right and also probably goes way over the top on more than one occasion.  The fact that he gets a lot of things right in his rants must be disconcerting to someone like Dana Milbank.  For example, he was right on 
 
the hypocrisy of the use of the term social justice in our society and you can witness that here on this site.
 
his description of Black Liberation Theology and its anti white rhetoric and its association with Jeremiah Wright.
 
that Woodrow Wilson probably represents the lowest point in the American presidency.  Wislon was a racist an essentially a dictator in the same fashion as was Mussolini who followed him by only a few years.  Mussolini was the fair haired boy of the progressives as were the communist. 
 
that the progressives of the early part of the 20th century are the same as the progressives today.   Certainly some of what they advocate is different such as eugenics which was a popular progressive program but they both thought they knew better and wanted the government to impose their will on the people.  The term liberal was adopted in the late 20's because progressive had gotten a bad name.  So they are bringing it back because liberal has gotten a bad name.
 
that Obama has some socialist/communist ties in his background.
 
All of the above can easily be established and are at the center of what the Milbank article claims is nutty.  So maybe it is Milbank that needs a history lesson.,
Beth Cioffoletti
8 years ago
If I were a black person in America, I think that I might have a hard time coming to grips with the inherent racism that has made up American history.  Our country was built on the backs of slaves.

If I were a black man in America today, where more than 10 per cent of young black are imprisoned, where opportunity for financial success is far lower than that of the rest of the men, I think I might have some problems.  I might even be angry.  I might have to find a way to voice that anger.

I'm not saying that Rev. Wright is justified in his rhetoric, I'm just saying that I can understand it, especially in the context in which he speaks it.

One of the finest young black writers today is Ta-Nahishi Coates, who writes for the Atlantic magazine.  A couple of weeks ago he wrote what is probably the finest essay on compassion that I have ever read.  He is attempting to behold the beauty of the Southern families who saw no such beauty in himself and his family.  He is attempting to let go of his well earned grievance. 

I don't know that I could do it if I were in his shoes.  The essay is here if you are interested. 

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2010/09/compassion/63156/

It gives some idea of what Black Americans are up against, and may explain what Rev. Wright is all about.
Beth Cioffoletti
8 years ago
As for the "two great male influences" in Obama's life - and I base this on my reading of Dreams of my Father - I would say that they were his grandfather, Stanley Dunham, and his stepfather, Lolo Soetoro.  Both of these men were a constant and involved presence in his life throughout his childhood and adolescence.
Beth Cioffoletti
8 years ago
You're right, Walter, few of us can live up to calling of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  He is a true prophet and spiritual giant.  He did not curse America, but he minced no words in criticizing the giant system of racism, militarism and materialism that underly much of the American way. 

I am still reviewing Reverend Wright's sermons, and have yet to form an opinion.  He seems to cover a lot of ground.

I did see the movie, Precious, a few months ago.  The mother was, indeed, a deeply wounded and tormented person.  I'm not sure that I would place all the blame on "the great welfare state".  Those who torment others have been tormented themselves. 

I think you'll be surprised by the profound honesty and humility of Ta-Nahishi Coates' essay on compassion.
Beth Cioffoletti
8 years ago
Regarding Rev. Wright, I can see how some people find his theatrics alarming, but when I listen to his words, I find that I agree with much he says.  For instance, he talks about how the US bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the world has yet to be horrified.  I've often wondered about that myself, how the USA got away with vaporizing a million innocent people.
8 years ago
'' Our country was built on the backs of slaves.''


While blacks were treated extremely unfairly, this country was not built on the backs of blacks. Slavery existed in Southern states and they remained economically backwards because of that for generations. 


You could also make a pretty strong case that the  dysfunctionality  in  the black community flows from programs that progressives implemented first in the 1930's and then again in the 1960's.  Their present day plight has little to do with slavery though that did leave a distinct mark.  It was not just the blacks that were affected by these progressive attitudes and programs but all poor in general.  I suggest those interested read Myron Magnet's

The Dream and the Nightmare. 
Beth Cioffoletti
8 years ago
"' Our country was built on the backs of slaves.'
While blacks were treated extremely unfairly, this country was not built on the backs of blacks. Slavery existed in Southern states and they remained economically backwards because of that for generations."

My cousin, who is a Benedictine priest, has researched the origins of our family, which emigrated from Ireland to Maryland in the early 1600s.  From there they went to KY in the early 1800s.  They were simple farmers, and life was hard.  They were not wealthy people, but they were all slave owners.  My cousin says that we would have never survived the winters were it not for the help and labour of the slaves.

You might be interested in Wendall Berry's book, the Hidden Wound, JR.  Berry claims that the wound that was inflicted upon Blacks in America has its mirror image on the soul of the White race.  In other words, the dysfunction of the black community cannot be seen as separate from the dysfunction in the white community.
8 years ago
Most of the country got along just fine and in harsher climates than the South without access to slave labor.
 
 
Till the 1930's black illegitimacy was about 5%, about the same as whites. Then the progressives unleashed their programs first in the 1930's and then in the 1960's and today the illegitimacy race amongst blacks is 70%.  Go to to Detroit to see the worse of it but there are examples in any large city.  If there is wound in anyone's soul, it should be in the souls of liberals as a result of all their dysfunctional programs they unleashed on the poor which made their lives much worse.
 
 
That is why I maintain that the programs of the progressives are just the opposite of social justice.

Beth Cioffoletti
8 years ago
Granted, we are all wounded by racism, JR, and you might have a point about Northerners not needing slaves to survive.  It's clear, though, that the economy of the South was built on slave labor.

You also might be right that tax breaks for small business are the best way to provide jobs.  But the liberal/progressive (whatever you want to call it) effort to provide opportunity to those who would not have had it (no matter how many jobs are available) has immensely helped those Blacks who have succeeded.  Just ask Clarence Thomas.

What strikes me as profound is how integral the Blacks are to the story of America and from its earliest days, and how central racism is in our national psyche, even today.
Leslie Rabbitt
8 years ago
What scares me more than what Beck says is that he says it.  Even more disturbing is how many Americans are eating it up.  So many of his comments demonize "the other" and "the stranger".  I am dismayed by the Beck soundbites that have sprinkled the news.  These often cross the line from mere uncharitable commentary to hate speech, delivered with passion.   We would do well as a nation to turn away from focusing on such expressions and pray with great charity for Mr. Beck's peace of soul.    Orate, fratres!
Tom Maher
8 years ago
The problem with the "peace and justice" moralizers demonstrated in these exchange of comments is a partisan, one-sidedness bias in their moralizing.   This is the same kind of self-righteousness demonstrated in the Salem witch trial where innocent people were determined to be witches and were executed and their property taken from them.   This self-righteous moralizing and judgement of others is false and without moral or basis in reality and needs to be carefully avoided. 

More down to earth Sarah Palan and Glenn Beck have the inalienable right to free speech as individuals.   They do not need to be of a certain class, group or religion to express their political ideas.   Nor is their any qualifying minimum conditions they must satisfy to be able to speak freely.  Their free speech needs to be respected and defended.  Palin and Beck are part of our open and free society.

It is extermely backward for Catholics to set themselve up as judges in their self-righeousness to condemn other people for their flaws let alone imaginary crimes such as witchcraft.    Condemnation of people is a very foul and unworthy business that is only destructive. Catholics need to be careful.   A more sober and judicious attitude is needed to restraint wild moralizing and to tolerate other people's points of views.   The business of judging people with whom we disagree such as Beck and Palin as good or bad is not justified and is inherently lacking of justice,,restraint and realism and prone to false self-deceptive conclusions.   It is very unwise to judge and condemn people without strong and certain basis in reality.  
Beth Cioffoletti
8 years ago
No one is condemning Beck or Palin, Tom - just analysing what they are saying on a public platform to see if there is any validity to it, and some conjecturing as to why they are saying what they are saying.  There is nothing immoral about this, it is a sign of a health.

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