At Your Beck and Call

It’s sad when politicians run campaign ads saying they will do one thing, and then when in power they do something else. It’s only mildly humorous when TV show hosts do it.

Glenn Beck campaigned on changing the tone in Washington, eagerly saying things to the tune of “Can’t we disagree without calling each other a communist?” Commercials with quotes like this ran right up until Beck got his program near the presidential inauguration on Fox News.

What a difference a few days made! Glenn Beck quickly changed his stance from above the fray to into the wild. He would become the face of the Tea Party movement, actively linking the Obama Administration to Marxism and Communism.

Fast forward to the present: Glenn Beck is a popular figure in the conservative movement, receiving much more attention then he ever did on CNN.

On February 20, Glenn Beck gave the keynote address at the popular CPAC convention, a conservative political conference. He opened his keynote by describing his “hate for Woodrow Wilson.” Beck has consistently railed against the evil he sees as progressivism. He would later go on to say that Rush Limbaugh is his hero, along with Ronald Reagan.

If you are keeping score at home, you’ll recall that Bill O’Reilly consistently defends Beck by saying Beck is an “everyman” and not a “party” guy. Beck likes Rush and Reagan, and he hates progressivism. Yes, this is certainly the epitome of the everyman. The everyman that has a political show, keynotes at CPAC and makes millions of dollars.

To prove that hypothesis I did a scientific poll of one person and asked my friend if he thought Woodrow Wilson was a bad guy. He responded by saying, “Who? The old guy from Dennis the Menace?”

Okay, maybe that scenario did not happen, but I’m pretty sure that thought experiment is representative of what an actual “everyman” thinks of former President Wilson. They simply don’t know.

I’m sure Bill O’Reilly would point out that Glenn Beck doesn’t affiliate himself with political parties and is quick to disapprove of both Republicans and Democrats. Beck even said in his CPAC speech that the Republican Party had become synonymous with big government and spending.

So what would be Beck’s solution? Create a new independent party that was full of moderates? Or maybe grow the Republican Party? That seems like something an “everyman” would do.

No, quite the contrary. Beck said that the Republican Party did not need a bigger tent – bigger tents are something the circus does. “America is not a clown show,” said the self-described rodeo clown.

That rodeo clown conundrum is a particular problem for Beck. He wants to be taken seriously as a trustworthy watchdog, a modern-day Paul Revere. Yet at the same time he hides his accountability by making comments such as “Why would anyone take me seriously?” These two positions obviously contain quite a bit of tension.

Some might equate this position of tension as akin to the role Jon Stewart plays with his satirical “The Daily Show.” However, let’s remember that “The Daily Show” is on a comedy channel while Beck’s program takes place on a major cable “news” network. I think there is an extra set of standards that one must uphold in such a position. Let’s also remember that Jon Stewart doesn’t dive into the conspiracy theory theatrics that have made Beck famous.

Chalkboard and all, Beck may be able to make points that resonate with conservatives and libertarians, but I find it hard to believe this is the face conservatives want to parade out. Like Sarah Palin, there is the charisma, but there is also the unfortunate accompanied loony specter.

Jaye Anthony Estrada is a fourth-year biological sciences and political science double-major. He can be reached at estradaj@uci.edu.