Glenn Beck is very good at what he does. What he does happens to be extremely stupid; but not all of us are lucky enough to be good at worthwhile things.
His talent is recklessly misinforming and riling up America’s gullible. And he’s amazing at it. Just look at the myriad ways his work is stupid — hypocritical scorn and condescension, empty fear-mongering, blatant emotional pandering, naked money-grubbing, conspiracy theories that don’t even have the decency to include UFOs. Worst of all, he’s not funny, which would have made the other stuff acceptable.
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Like the dumbest of Native Americans, he uses every part of the stupid.
The thing that irks me most, however, is his misuse of history: the incredibly dumb and occasionally great things our ancestors did. History is frequently heartbreaking, often hilariously insane and everyone wears silly clothing. I love it and consider myself an amateur historian (because there’s actually more money in it than in being a professional).
Glenn Beck thinks he knows a lot about history. In reality, he knows just enough to think he knows a lot. As a result he’s constantly giving history lessons explaining why history shows the most important thing in history is Glenn Beck. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that. I myself wrote a book titled “Then Came Kalan: Civilization’s Apex.”
The problem is when he compares himself to actual historical figures like Thomas Paine and the Founding Fathers — which would make a great band name — who braved imprisonment and death to found a great nation. Beck cries on TV and performs a one-man show about a sweater. They’re not exactly in the same league.
It’s too bad he doesn’t know his history better, because he really is carrying on the function of an important American tradition: that of greedy, deluded, self-important jerks. Sixty years ago, he’d have been a commie-hunting career-ruining gossip; 60 years before that he’d have been a frontier medicine-show snake-oil huckster; and 60 years before that he’d be paying for Indian land with germ-ridden blankets. It’s a hallowed institution, and he should be proud of it because it makes him a very important part of history — the part we’d all rather forget.
– Elliott Kalan is an Emmy-winning writer for “The Daily Show.”
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