08 April 2011
If Glenn Beck lost, who won?
The impending end of Glenn Beck's nightly Fox News program is being portrayed as a meteoric fall of a demagogue, and on an objective level it's hard to argue with the assessment. Over the past year, during which time he loomed in liberals' minds as a kind of antichrist (or anti-King, given the timing of his Washington rally), his program lost ratings and advertisers, with some of the latter explicitly boycotting the show. Beck is a tailor-made villain for the "liberal" media, which likes to see people like him as the leaders of demagogic extremism. Accordingly, Beck's departure from daily television is being portrayed as a defeat for the "right" as a whole. More than that, it's being portrayed by some interested parties as the victory of a concerted "progressive" effort to drive Beck, an alleged hater, from television. But while their pressure probably has much to do with many advertisers quitting the Beck show, can progressives take credit for the drop in Beck's ratings? It depends on who was watching Beck in the first place. In the progressive account, Beck is presumed to have attracted gullible independents and populists, many of whom were eventually repelled by his hateful or merely crazy rhetoric. But do people who are not on some level, in their own minds, "conservative" actually watch Fox News? I suppose that some do because they like to get infuriated by the talkers, but if getting infuriated was the object I'd assume that they're still watching Beck. My own hunch, based on the little second-hand information I have on Beck's beliefs, is that he lost otherwise loyal Fox viewers as it became clear that he was not an orthodox Republican propagandist. He seems to have been too particular, idiosyncratic, or "crazy" to follow a party line. He may have been a spokesman for Tea Partiers for awhile, but I suspect that the latter have moved on to new idols like Donald Trump, about whom Beck recently expressed his own skepticism. To sum up, my guess is that the "right" itself repudiated Beck for its own reasons to the point that he was deemed no longer ready for prime time (or thereabouts). If so, to call Beck's apparent fall a defeat of the right by the left, or a defeat for the right at all, is an idle boast that indicates a bipolarchy mentality. But whether the right is made stronger by what looks like its amicable purge of a loose cannon, or whether Beck has been freed to change the ideological landscape by staking out his own territory, remains to be seen.