Tears of a Clown: Glenn Beck and the Tea Bagging of America

Tears of a Clown: Glenn Beck and the Tea Bagging of America

Dana Milbank

Language: English

Pages: 272

ISBN: 0385533888

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank takes a fair and balanced look at the unsettling rise of the silly Fox News host Glenn Beck.

Thomas Jefferson famously wrote that “the tree of Liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.” In America in 2010, Glenn Beck provides the very refreshment Jefferson had in mind: Whether he’s the patriot or the tyrant, he’s definitely full of manure.

The wildly popular Fox News host with three million daily viewers perfectly captures the vitriol of our time and the fact-free state of our political culture. The secret to his success is his willingness to traffic in the fringe conspiracies and Internet hearsay that others wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole: death panels, government health insurance for dogs, FEMA concen­tration camps, an Obama security force like Hitler’s SS.

But Beck, who is, according to a recent Gallup poll, admired by more Americans than the Pope, has nothing in his background that identifies him as an ideologue, giving rise to the speculation that his right-wing shtick is just that—the act of a brilliant showman, known for both his over-the-top daily out­rages and for weeping on the air.

Milbank describes, with lacerating wit, just how the former shock jock without a college degree has managed to become the most recognizable leader of antigovernment conservatives and exposes him as the guy who is single-handedly giving patri­otism a bad name.

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gases, Beck tore away papers pasted to his chalkboard. “You’re going to see a black and white world, man, that is nothing but destruction and ugly,” he forecast. “I don’t know why no one else will tell you the truth about all these things … It is only when you take down the mask of sunshine and lollipops that you will see the real thing, the real image: destruction!” Even Beck had to realize the apocalypse thing was getting a bit too much. One night, after his doomsday talk was mocked by Stephen

WANT TO VAPORIZE YOU!!” Beck was leaning forward in his chair, waving his arms madly and shrieking. “You’re lucky I don’t have some sort of equipment where I could vaporize you right now because I’d keep pushing the button over and over and over and over and over again!” Beck calmed momentarily, and said, “Now that, sir, is what I would call comedy. Do I really want to vaporize you?” Beck returned to his screaming: “YES I DO!!” Beck flipped on his theme music, then leaned back in his chair. He

but for Beck it still haunts. “As I study history,” the erudite host proclaims, “I see that a lot of the problems—most of the problems, in fact—stem from Woodrow Wilson and the progressive movement.” Progressivism, he says, is “the cancer,” the movement behind both Nazism and communism, a creed under which “people are secondary to the Earth and animals,” a group of people who are “full-fledged eugenic racists,” barbarians who “will cheat. They will lie. They will steal. And they have, in the

in today’s America, does anybody even care?” Not if the 5 P.M. ratings on Fox News are any indication. Beck was growing increasingly bold. “I don’t think people buy into the cries of racism,” he proposed one night in September 2009. “People are sick and tired of it,” agreed his guest, conservative writer David Horowitz. To test this theory, Horowitz tried some incendiary lines: “Blacks are the human shield of the Democratic Party … that makes the Democratic Party a party of racists … The

hitting Charlie Rangel over the head with a shovel, and shooting Michael Moore—all in good fun, of course. He says on air that people in the Obama administration are trying to kill him. And he uses terms of war to describe his fight with the political opposition: “A lot of people in America are probably feeling a little defeated,” he told Fox viewers as the health-care legislation neared final passage. “But I want you to know: Do not feel that way. The battle was lost, the war is not over. The

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