In the current issue of Playboy – yes, Playboy – Thomas Frank profiles conservative pundit and author Glenn Beck.
It’s natural that Thomas Frank would be drawn to Beck, who is among the leaders of the conservative populist rebellion against the Presidency of Barack Obama. From our vantage point in Chicago, Beck’s fans remind us of many white Chicagoans who just couldn’t believe that their government was being run by a black man back in 1983, when Harold Washington was elected mayor.
Back to Beck himself – as one of the few talk show hosts in recent memory who has organized major political rallies, Frank is quick to point out that this self-described “rodeo clown” has real influence:
According to the liberal media watchdog group Media Matters for America, the unfounded rumors to which Beck has given encouragement include: The Obama administration is supposedly setting up a secret, parallel army; the Treasury is possibly issuing secret bonds; the secret motivation for the Democrats’ health care initiatives is an urge for “reparations.” The grand conspiracy that fathers all others is invisible, of course, and Beck is always careful to acknowledge he doesn’t know for sure, but he seems to find clues everywhere: in offhand statements by the president, in the board members of liberal groups, in the art found in and around Rockefeller Center in New York City. (My own conspiracy theory: Beck is just maybe a shill for gold interests, which prosper when disaster fears run wild, inflation seems imminent and the price of gold rises. As I write this, gold is trading near its all-time high, and Beck is appearing in ads for something called Goldline International.) But here’s the thing: For all his raving, Glenn Beck is not a marginal figure. His ideas are embraced by leaders of the Republican Party. He is defended by prominent conservative pundits and columnists. Men who held positions of enormous public power in the Bush administration appear regularly on his program, where they never seem to resent Beck’s fulminations against deficits or bailouts.
To enjoy the rest of Frank’s takedown of Beck’s credibility, go here.