Sunday, October 24, 2010

Milbank explains the "strange man," Glenn Beck, on The Last Word

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The final guest on The Last Word, hosted by Lawrence O'Donnell last Wednesday, Oct. 20th, was WaPo reporter and author of Tears of a Clown: Glenn Beck and the Tea Bagging of America, Dana MilbankO'Donnell asked Milbank if Beck posed for him to get the cover photo of the unauthorized biography. Milbank conveyed what is in his book, that Beck had Vick's vapor rub put under his eyes to chemically induce the tears for a photo shoot for GQ.

GQ?!? Isn't their slogan "look sharp; live smart?"  This looks real sharp! Maybe it should be QG: Questionable Gall.

   fake tears of a clown

The interview continued:

Lawrence O'Donnell: What is the most disturbing thing you learned about this very strange man?

Dana Milbank: It's a very difficult thing to say because one chapter after another presents you with things more disturbing than you can imagine. You mentioned a couple, the notion that our government is operating a concentration camp in Wyoming. Calling the President a racist...Perhaps the most damaging thing that Beck is doing is his Hitler "tick" as I call it. I did a updated tally for each night. 640 mentions on his show since the beginning of the last year of Hitler, of Nazis, fascists.  This on average twice per episode...Bringing Hitler and Nazis into the debate is a way of labeling your opponent is something that is done in the most extreme of situations because it essentially shuts down the debate. You can't have any reasonable discussion. So it speaks volumes that Beck does this on average at least twice a night. 

LO: And you've found some connections between Beck's on-air rhetoric and the language of his Mormon faith. What did you find there?

DM: It's a controversial area because certainly some of the fundamentalist Christian followers that Beck has, they find appealing his end-times philosophy, but they don't necessarily agree with his Mormon theology. He speaks in what I think you call a coded language, so that people who subscribe to these Mormon theories, they're pretty obscure Mormon theories...One is called The White Horse Prophesy that's been kicking about for 150 years or so, and it says that there will be a time when the Constitution is hanging by a thread. The leaders of the Mormon church will step in and save the Constitution. Beck, of course, doesn't say that the Mormons will step in and save the Constitution and doesn't mention the White Horse Prophesy, but frequently brings up this reference in a sort of a coded way to his viewers on the air and ... occasionally to Mormon guests who repeat the phrase back to him.

LO: How did Glenn Beck become Glenn Beck? His resume, which I've kind of glanced at in different forms over time, includes stand-up comedian, radio shock jock, alcoholic, reformed alcoholic ... he rattles this stuff off. I'm just trying to remember things he has said about himself.  How does that biography take shape over time?

DM: Well, he's very much used it to his advantage. It's a compelling story, even if you hate Glenn Beck. He turned his life around maybe about a dozen years ago and gave up the cocaine, gave up the alcohol, got himself a new wife and found religion. Now he's proposing a sort-of 12 step program for America. That's part of his success is that he can speak in the language of this 12 step program. I think what's interesting to note is that before all this, Beck was a self-described liberal, had a pony tail, supported abortion rights. It seems that he got out in front of what he saw was this growing conservative movement. You can't know exactly what's in the guy's head, but we do know that he has changed his views when it is convenient.

LO: Well, none of us knows more about what's in his head than Dana Milbank.

This is one point where Lawrence O'Donnell may well be wrong. Milbank learned a lot about Mr. Beck, but combining his book with Alex Zaitchik's Common Nonsense: Glenn Beck and the Triumph of Ignorance and the wide range of essays and blog posts that have been written about Mr. Beck has lead to tremendous insight into the yellow propagandist, hypocrite, reactionary media star, rabble rouser, fake "populist" and hero to the backlash movement against President Obama. This close examination is just getting underway. Beck has helped create a different way of understanding the world, and that warrants scrutiny and analysis. People actually believe that Obama is a socialist surrounded by "radicals."  As indicated previously, his supporters will reject the facts about Beck and his absurd narratives, but the bifurcated world of radically differing understandings about our world is just beginning to be understood. These different world views present readers with an opportunity to pick one (Beck's or the real world's) and help expose the one that Beck creates as based upon fiction, some facts sprinkled in with his recovery from a mental disease: alcoholism.

Before more people start buying Beck's strange world view, 
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