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Glenn Beck: A Savvy Fraud Who Knows Just How to Please His Audience of Conservative Suckers

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Headlined to None 4/27/09

Beck wasted no time positioning himself on the crest of a frenzied post-9/11 super-patriotism. In March of 2003, Beck used his show to organize a series of "Rallies for America,"- which he attended in stretch limos. At the time of the rallies, Paul Krugman and others accused Beck of doing the bidding of his employer Clear Channel, which had connections to the Bush Administration. But Beck doesn't need anyone to tell him to tour the country and jump on a bunch of stages if it can raise his profile and allow him to out-patriot his competitors.

The "Rallies for America"- were the precursor for Beck's newest self-promotional patriotic initiative, the "9/12 Project,"- which is an attempt to literally stamp his brand on the very memory of 9/11. If this seems shameless, it is. But it makes perfect business sense if you're Glenn Beck. The post-9/11 period is exactly concurrent with his meteoric and lucrative career on the national stage. He arguably does not exist as a megastar without the attacks on New York and Washington, the wars that followed, and their warping effect on the nation's politics and economy. Without 9/11, Beck's newest Premiere contract would almost certainly not be worth $50 million.

Glenn Beck likes to brag about this new contract, and to talk about money in general. Six sentences into his memoir, The Real America, and he is already mentioning that Howard Stern and Rush Limbaugh still make more money than he does. In a stage monologue about his conversion to Mormonism, recorded shortly after he negotiated his latest contract with Premiere, he tells a middle-class audience that, by the way, he just made $50 million.

Of course, strong and even ruthless capitalist instincts are no mark of shame on the right. Beck views the pursuit of wealth as the duty of every "Real American"---and Christian. His conservative fans no doubt agree with him. But Beck is not a lifetime life-time conservative who happened to make a lot of money in the capitalist system he loves. For most of his adult life, he was, in his own words, "a bitter, hopeless alcoholic who hated people."- He long ago started putting money before country, and there's every reason to believe that he still does. His metamorphosis into a rightwing values-crusader matches up neatly with the birth of his Wellesian/Limbaughsian dreams of national talk radio fame and entertainment empire. He understood 15 years ago that the way to own a sprawling mansion estate in New Canaan, Conn., is to rant about the sprawling Malibu estates of Hollywood liberals.

Beck's obsession with getting as rich as possible also runs through his Mormon Christianity, which he adopted in 1999, which incidentally is the same year he got married and launched his new talk radio persona. In The Real America, Beck briefly describes his semester studying religion at Yale at age 30. (His enrollment was made possible by a letter of recommendation written by Joe Lieberman). Here's Glenn Beck, theologian:

    It's interesting to me that Jesus said, 'Inside my Father's house there are many mansions"-' That means that wealth and riches are not bad things"- God believes you deserve a mansion. Do You? "- There is a universe full of money. There are riches beyond your wildest dreams. God doesn't give you a taste of ice cream unless he's willing for you to have the entire cone.

Beck's pursuit of "the entire cone"- goes far toward explaining his Apocalyptic politics. Beck is the nation's best-known and most mainstream peddler of End Times fears and apocalyptic scenarios (excluding climate change). This obsession is epitomized in a segment on his show called "The War Room,"- in which panelists discuss various nightmare scenarios and how to prepare for them.

For Beck, the End Times shtick is literally pure gold. The precious metals dealer Goldline, whose fortunes rise on anxieties of social and economic collapse, has hired Beck as a spokesman and is one of his biggest sponsors. His website is also sponsored by Newsmax (another right-wing media fear-monger whose ad offers a "free emergency radio"-[for when] terrorists attack."-) and a company called Survival Seeds, which warns of imminent food riots. It is perhaps no coincidence that Beck's new corporate logo resembles nothing so much as a radiation symbol.

Nothing is sacred in Glenn Beck's business strategy to grow his company by stoking rightwing anger, anxiety, and paranoia. This is true even of those things he wants us to believe he holds most sacred. The poster for his upcoming comedy tour is the same Revolutionary War-era severed-snake symbol that Beck chose as the logo for his dead serious "9/12 Project."- He just swapped the words "Laugh or Die"- for the original "Join, Or Die,"- then stamped it with his corporate logo.This fluid, self-serving, and multi-platform use of a hallowed symbol--from teary-eyed professions of selfless "9/12"- patriotism to the promotion of his crappy observational comedy--is classic Beck.

So make fun of him all you want, but Glenn Beck is not crazy. He is a very wealthy and possibly visionary fraud, the Bernie Madoff of conservative anger and fear in the Obama era. He is laughing and crying in the plush backseat of his stretch limo right along with you, all the way to the bank.

Alexander Zaitchik is a Brooklyn-based freelance journalist and Alternet contributing writer. He invites former colleagues and associates of Glenn Beck to contact him at Requests for anonymity will be respected.
© 2009 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
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Alexander Zaitchik is a freelance journalist.
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He is not a Steven Colbert, but the first time ... by Freddie Venezia on Tuesday, Apr 28, 2009 at 11:33:54 AM
Glenn Beck would be just as comfortable leading De... by cg on Tuesday, Apr 28, 2009 at 2:16:06 PM
Well done.  A very good analysis of Glenn Bec... by Mad Jayhawk on Wednesday, Apr 29, 2009 at 10:31:38 AM
Colbert and Stewart make satire, which everyone un... by Lover of Truth on Wednesday, Apr 29, 2009 at 2:55:37 PM
Beck, along with the other right wing extremists s... by Rebublican on Saturday, May 2, 2009 at 12:09:08 PM