Wednesday, September 17, 2008

One Ignorant Fool

I saw Glenn Becks true ignorance and shortcomings, when he had Chris Gardner on his show and Chris rebuffed one of his ludicris assertions, and he immediately wrapped up the discussion and ended the segment. I thought this except from Hughes for American, was profound. Glenn Beck: Moron, menace or both?
Glenn Beck, one of conservative radio's most outspoken gasbags, made the jump to television Monday. Beck's new television show premiered on CNN Headline News. It only took Beck one show to jump the shark. So catch the train wreck before it's too late, because his 15 minutes of fame are fleeting.
Hailed as the perfect addition to the Headline News nightly lineup, Beck's show offers viewers a glimpse into how network executives view their attempt to recharge their sagging ratings: Hire a third-rate, right-wing hack and have him impersonate two parts Bill O'Reilly, one part Jon Stewart and one part Ryan Seacrest. Moron accomplished.
What remains to be seen is how long CNN will stand by Beck, who will no doubt continue to embarrass himself and the network on a nightly basis. If they care about journalism, not long. If they care about continuing cable news's slow march toward irrelevance, this could take a while.
"It's just a stupid cable show hosted, quite honestly, with a middle-aged, you know, recovering alcoholic with absolutely no fashion sense," Beck began his show with Monday. With that inspiring introduction behind him, Beck proceeded to give viewers a taste of the man soon to inspire his own debunking department at Media Matters .
Beck's first show was an exercise in inanity. Using tired right-wing rhetoric, he mocked a study that drew a direct line between whiny children and whiny Republican adults. "So, to sum it up," Beck said, "according to the even-handed folks at Berkeley: Ronald Reagan, frightened, unhappy little wuss; while Michael Moore, son of Mother Theresa and Jesus." Wow. No one's ever gone there before, Glenn. Praise Ronald Reagan, knock Michael Moore? Nope, I've never heard a Republican break such innovative ground. And, since your logic is so unassailable, I'll allow one man's opinion to refute a robust university study.
Taking things a step lower, Beck proceeded to mock guest Eric Schlosser, author of a new book intended to educate children about the food they're putting in their bodies. As Schlosser discussed the beetles that, when ground up, produce the pink tone in a strawberry milk shake, Beck took sips from one while Schlosser looked away. Then, as Schlosser discussed why you may want to avoid certain hamburgers, Beck greedily devoured one as he distracted the author. A real grown-up move, one sure to advance the debate. But advancing the debate would be something new to Beck, who, you'll remember, called the victims of Hurricane Katrina "scumbags" and talked about personally "choking the life out" of Moore.
Watching his second show, it's apparent that maturity and awareness aren't two of Beck's strong suits. Tuesday, for instance, Beck embarrassed himself during a discussion of illegal immigration, referred to President Bush's so-called Iraq communications failures as "Helen Keller without hands" and wondered aloud why we were bothering to rebuild New Orleans. He also took the time to interview "American Idol" participant Paris Bennett.
I wonder what Bennett, herself African American, thinks about Beck responding to George Clooney's speech at the Academy Awards by impersonating an actor in blackface, saying, "You were so right, massa! Back in 1939 when I was sittin' there on the silver screen with my watermelon, eatin' it up and dancing with little Shirley Temple with my tap shoes on, you were so right. Mammy, you were right." Think she'd be happy to be Beck's guest?
Terrible content aside, what's perhaps as important to me is what Beck's hire means to journalism. Now, I would never consider Beck a journalist, but his show appears in prime time on a prominent cable news operation, so someone in power considers him one. Or, more likely, they don't, which gives lie to the entire notion of a news network, doesn't it? It appears to me that CNN executives, like their peers elsewhere, are more interested in the financial bottom line than the factual one.
To get a leg up, non-Fox News networks try their hardest to imitate the flagship of the right-wing noise armada. So, in that frame, hiring Beck makes perfect sense. Just like it made sense for MSNBC to hire Rita Cosby. Or for them to rescue Tucker Carlson from the right-wing scrap heap. But here's the thing: This tactic works until it doesn't. And it doesn't fairly quickly, as Carlson and Cosby (and soon Beck) languish at or near the bottom of the nightly cable news ratings.
While the Fox imitators of the world chase after missing white women and park themselves alongside the tragedy du jour , executives miss a growing trend: It pays to be progressive. While journalism, thanks to decisions like these , is in a slow and steady decline, a standout like Keith Olbermann shines because he bucks this trend. That he's gaining against a right-winger like O'Reilly is proof positive that there's a massive audience out there just waiting to be catered to. An educated, progressive, politically motivated audience. But instead, we get Beck. Thanks. Thanks a lot.
"We're not going to get bogged down in liberal versus conservative or Democrat versus Republican because it's really not left versus right," Beck said at the top of his first show. "It's about right versus wrong, and the things that you actually care about." But do Americans really care about what Beck delivers? Somehow, I doubt it.
Thank you Kid Pirate Satellite for this...

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