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.

BECK: Yes.

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.


4 Responses to “They Got What They Wanted But They Lost What They Had”

  1. geoff Says:

    Noam Chomsky is too ‘fringe’ to get on American TV at all, but Glenn Beck gets his own show. Hilarious.

  2. Chucky Says:

    It is not hilarious — it is standard operating procedure in the Liberal Media.

    Glenn Beck does the dirty work of Time Warner and Clear Channel. Noam Chomsky does not.

    Remember that the next time CNN is caught employing US Army PsyOps in the newsroom.

  3. gwaltrip Says:

    CNN was smart to hire Beck, as conservative talk shows make money, maybe because a majority of Americans are conservatives.

    As for the ridiculous comment that Beck “disparages liberals, gays, Democrats, blacks, immigrants, and Muslims at will” is laughabale – no specifics are given, because the comment is just a generalized liberal slur at a conservative. In any case, there is nothing wrong with disparaging liberal philosophies or political positions, because they are almost always harmful to US security, the economy and our freedoms.

    As for disparaging gays, that would depend on the gay, and would be based on something other than his sexual preferences. Many gays are liberals. See above.

    As for diparaging “immigrants,” I am sure you are referring to illegal immigrants who break our laws with impunity. Not the same as xenophobia for foreigners, but it does illustrate well liberal misrepresentation of conservative positions.

    As for disparaging blacks, do you mean blacks in general or race-pimps like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton? We know the answer, don’t we?

    As for disparaging Muslims, I assume you mean the Muslims who are hostile to our democracy, either as terrorists who kill innocent people or as cultural jihadis who seek to suppress any debate or disclosure of the long and bloody history of the evil religion and the millions of people it has killed down through the centuries.

    You know, debating liberals is like playing slow pitch softball. You can hit the ball out of the park every time. You guys aren’t even an intellectual challenge.

  4. Chucky Says:

    “Conservative talk shows” = Right-Wing Demagogues.

    Glenn Beck made his name as MC of pro-war rallies sponsored by Clear Channel. He uses his TV and radio platforms to denounce opponents of Bush as traitors. There is a word for such behavior — FASCISM.

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