They Got What They Wanted But They Lost What They Had
May 10, 2007
Eric Boehlert assesses the slow-motion train wreck that is Glenn Beck’s show on CNN and finds the network has bargained away a big piece of its journalistic credibility in exchange for . . . well, not much:
The good news was that Beck’s special, “Exposed: Climate of Fear,” was a commercial flop, finishing dead last in total viewers among CNN, Headline News, Fox News, and MSNBC programs that night. The weak showing simply highlighted Beck’s recent, albeit little-discussed, ratings woes. Just months after being hyped as the fastest-growing prime-time program in cable news, Glenn Beck has become arguably the most stagnant prime-time program in cable news.
For CNN, the repercussions of the backslide are immense and go far beyond the advertising dollars and cents involved.
That’s because whereas CNN last year traded away its good name in exchange for debuting Beck’s factually challenged and hateful brand of broadcasting, at least CNN execs were getting a ratings boost out of the Faustian bargain. Today, Beck’s still making a mockery out of CNN’s reputation on a daily basis, as he disparages liberals, gays, Democrats, blacks, immigrants, and Muslims at will. But in return, CNN’s now stuck with a Beck program that’s trapped in neutral and shows signs of sliding into reverse.
Well played, CNN.
If you want more details on other sparkling examples of Beck’s intelligence at work, Slacktivist has an extended takedown of a recent session devoted to the tortured theological views of Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, authors of the Left Behind series, in which he offered this genuinely bizarre take on EZPass lanes:
BECK: Joel, the things like EZ Pass. Imagine what Hitler could have done with EZ Pass?
ROSENBERG: The Book of Revelation, the apostle John, envisions a world as God, I think prophecy is an intercept from the mind of God. And the apostle John envisions a one-world economic system and everybody having a mark on their right hand or on their forehead that allows them to buy and sell goods and services.
Well, we now have the technology, both with credit cards and EZ Pass systems. You don`t really have to stop at a toll booth. You just — your car is actually swiping through just like an ATM card swipes through. And there — scientists are actually testing now these types of chips, because if you lose all of your — you lose your wallet, you lose everything now.
ROSENBERG: And why not just embed things?
BECK: I remember in the late 1990s, Madeleine Albright — I believe it was Madeleine Albright — went and saw an RFID chip that you could use for finance where you could go into a store, just grab what you want and walk out, and you’d be checked out automatically.
As Slacktivist points out, Beck isn’t just a stranger in a strange land. He’s a full-time resident:
Follow the fever-stream, EZ-Pass, Hitler, mark of the beast, former U.N. Ambassador. Beck knows this stuff from the inside. He believes it. All of the weird conspiratorial logic we’ve seen at work in the books is at work here. The U.N. as federation of planets. The paranoid suspicion of “peacemakers.” The vigilance against the Antichrist as a wolf-in-sheep’s clothing. It’s all right there. On CNN. From the CNN host.
Boehlert notes that Beck’s description of himself as “a rodeo clown” is unexpectedly apt: rodeo clowns are there to distract the bull and keep it from reaching its target. The acrid stew of discredited notions and industry spin that filled Beck’s show on global warming certainly would have done that to anyone hoping to get straight information on climate change. The good news is that the show’s ratings went straight down the toilet.
CNN is panning for fool’s gold if it thinks it can pump its ratings by going after the wingnut market. Fox News has that segment locked up, and here’s why: wingnuts don’t really want news. The term “news” implies something new — it carries the promise of fresh information. New information, delivered with attention to detail and concern for covering all angles of a story, will challenge prejudices and received wisdom. Wingnuts don’t want their prejudices challenged, they want them confirmed.
Fox News is preaching to a small, loyal choir. Going after wingnut gold is a chump’s game. Your gains, if any, will be strictly short term and slight. Your losses will be heavy, and long term.