And then they concoct some kind of free-associational web of pseudo-connections that can be presented, in pseudo-professorial fashion, by the mellifluous and oh-so-earnest Mr. Beck, giving his audience --who must be presumed to know almost nothing about the real world at the national or global scale-- the false impression that they are being provided some sophisticated mapping and conceptual insight into the true workings of a frightening world in which many enemies are out to victimize them and to tear down all the sacred American and Christian structures that they rely on for their security and their sense of meaning.
I raise the matter of keeping a straight face because I think it is reasonably certain that Glenn Beck himself does not believe any of his verbal manure. (It may be recalled that he implied as much in an interview he gave Forbes some months ago.) He's a snake oil salesman, but with a more creative pitch, as he's in the position of having to continually debut new product lines in the paranoid mythology department.
Whether or not Glenn Beck believes his absurdities, I think we can assume that the person atop the media empire that pays his wages knows that Beck is spewing pure madness into the American body politic. Whatever Rupert Murdoch's shortcomings may be --and in moral terms, they are profound-- he is not crazy. And anyone who operates his media empire would have to be completely bananas to credit any of Beck's weird and scary fantasies.
So that all raises the question: Why does Murdoch's Fox News provide this platform for Glenn Beck?
That assumption seems to fit everything else that Fox News does. But Beck's crazy paranoid theories are not the same as the usual Republican propaganda that Fox News puts out. Their news is unfair and unbalanced, and they make stuff up, but it is not crazy. Beck presents a world that is in some fundamental ways different from --because so much crazier than-- the merely vicious partisan world the news shows present.
So why add Beck to the line-up, if the world's are different?
Here's my hunch.
The right wing media in general have both seized AND CREATED an audience whose consciousness is in a place sufficiently primitive that the dysjunction of those worlds does not prompt in that audience any awareness of contradiction. We know that because the falsehood of so many of the unfair and unbalanced right-wing lies is just about self-evident: a moment of clear thought, even by someone without much knowledge, would expose many of the regular claims of Fox News as lies. Yet millions believe them, absorb them.
This primitivity of consciousness --in part the fruit of twenty years of mental/emotional degradation by right-wing propaganda-- then allows a network like Fox News to put on a multiplicity of worlds, knowing that they will be absorbed serially, on their own terms, without interfering with each other, like watching a double feature of two very different movies. One of those movies, therefore, can be Glenn Beck's invitation to madness. And then the audience can return to mere dishonesty and bias and absorb that, too.
Meanwhile, Beck has had his impact. And what is that impact?
I see Beck's role, in other words, as a distinct one, but nonetheless an organic part of an overall right-wing media strategy. He digs the well into the most toxic parts of the human soul, and then the others can draw from it simply by lowering their buckets: hate and fear, i.e. hatred of liberals and fear of anything "other," of anything different, anything that would entice people toward a sense of positive possibility.
So toxic are the psychic energies Beck seeks to evoke that we can conclude this about the bosses of Fox News who give him this access to our national consciousness: