When Glenn Beck will praise Hillary Clinton in an interview with Katie Couric and state that he would have voted for her instead of John McCain had she been the nominee, then one is forced to question how much of his gasping, weeping, over-the-top vitriol is real. Moreover, when Beck will also note, in the same interview, no less, that Barack Obama, a man who he recently smeared as being both racist and motivated by a hatred of white people, was a better choice than John McCain in our past Presidential election, I can't help but think we've all been had. While I know not every media figure, pundit, prognosticator, and soothsayer falls into the entertainer category, but somehow I think in this context the very word "entertainer" is deceptive and insufficient.
I'm not sure any of us, regardless of party allegiance or ideological persuasion feels "entertained" when we are privy to someone's vicious, bigoted rant. Entertainment in this context is a subjective term. It's not "entertaining" for me to see or hear a person make emotionally loaded and potentially dangerous charges based on nothing so much as a shred of evidence. Some people enjoy watching people make fools of themselves in reality television shows. I don't. I find it impossible not to feel bad for them. Some people possessed of a disturbing sadistic streak enjoy amateur YouTube videos that chronicle someone's very real fistfight or the latest act of pointless public violence captured by a surveillance camera. I don't. If someone on my side started making throwing out extremist, extemporaneous, baseless insults at the expense of Republican politicians, I'd probably change the channel and more than likely turn the television off altogether.
Forgive me if I think sometimes that we've been had. Forgive me if I think sometimes that the joke's purely on us. Glenn Beck has become an excellent target for progressive ire but now I wonder if he's even worth our attention from henceforth. Ann Coulter, thankfully, seems to have been so discredited or at least so distanced from the national stage in recent months that we haven't had to react to her latest asinine opinion. Nature, as the saying goes, abhors a vacuum. In her place came Beck. The comparison many have made and one Beck himself has welcomed is that the man is some kind of modern day Howard Beale. Not so, not so. The Mad Prophet of the Airwaves, despite his disheveled and eccentric behavior could be counted on consistently to strike at a revealing truth about ourselves. If Glenn Beck strikes at anything, he shows an impressive command of reactionary pseudo-intellectualism, the kind espoused by the sort of people who type up rambling twenty point manifestos and distribute them on street corners or at bus stations.
The real Howard Beale was engaged in the business of dramatically presenting credible and prescient rants. I can't recall any instance in the film Network where the character lies, contracts himself in an interview, or states anything less than discomforting wisdom. Had he been an actual public figure, one wonders what sort of withering criticism he would have received from all corners and particularly how the league of right-wing commentators would have responded. One also wonders how the mainstream media, Beale's primary focal point, would have covered and defined Beale for its audience. As it stands, it might do us well to examine the keystone monologue of a film that, while it might be thirty-three years old now, has morphed from satirical fiction to present reality.
So, you listen to me. Listen to me!
Television is not the truth. Television's a goddamn amusement park.
Television is a circus, a carnival, a traveling troupe of acrobats, storytellers, dancers, singers, jugglers, sideshow freaks, lion tamers, and football players.
We're in the boredom-killing business.
So if you want the Truth, go to God.
Go to your gurus.
Go to yourselves!
Because that's the only place you're ever gonna find any real truth.
But, man, you're never gonna get any truth from us. We'll tell you anything you wanna hear. We lie like hell. We'll tell you that Kojak always gets the killer and that nobody ever gets cancer at Archie Bunker's house. And no matter how much trouble the hero is in, don't worry. Just look at your watch. At the end of the hour, he's gonna win. We'll tell you any shit you want to hear.
We deal in illusions, man. None of it is true!
But you people sit there, day after day, night after night -- all ages, colors, creeds.
We're all you know!
You're beginning to believe the illusions we're spinning here!
You're beginning to think that the tube is reality and that your own lives are unreal.
You do whatever the tube tells you --
You dress like the tube.
You eat like the tube.
You raise your children like the tube.
You even think like the tube.
This is mass madness, you maniacs!
In God's name, you people are the real thing.
We are the illusion!