Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Apocalypse Now

Well, you knew this was coming. Glenn Beck's ratings have fallen dramatically over the past year -- in inverse correlation, it seems, with the insane conspiracist buffoonery his show has ratcheted up to near deafening levels. So, with that in mind, it was only a matter of time before Beck's Daily News-O-Caust got the hook at Fox.

The Huffington Post: Glenn Beck To "Transition Off" Fox News Program/4.6.11

Of course this doesn't mean that Beck's going away; he's just dumping one inarguably untenable arm of his multi-media empire. Given the kind of Beale-esque shtick Beck's afternoon show at Fox had morphed into, and his blatant disregard for the obvious discomfort he was causing the supposedly serious people in the Fox adminisphere, there was just no way that relationship could last. This was especially true considering that Media Matters and other left-leaning watchdog organizations had made it their mission to strip every bit of advertising flesh off the show's bones and were for the most part successful at doing just that.

But looking back on the curious case of Glenn Beck -- his rapid rise and just as rapid fall at Fox and as an undeniably influential pop culture icon -- it's impossible not to have somewhat mixed feelings about his departure from the show that was part carnival freakshow, part old-fashioned tent revivalism, part tin-foil hat spook-storytelling, and all narcissistic lunacy. Yeah, Beck's unwillingness to never give his audience of terrified white, Christian zombies so much as a wink or a tip of the cards to the fact that he worshiped P.T. Barnum far more than the Founding Fathers had dangerous consequences. That can never be denied, and the smaller his megaphone, probably the better. But I always did give the man credit for doing living, immersive performance art better than just about anyone since Andy Kaufman. And in some very strange way he deserves credit for pulling off what many of his critics never could: embarrassing and subverting Fox from the inside. He was, quite frankly, an agent of chaos at the network -- and for a while it was fun to watch Murdoch, Ailes, Hannity and Fox's cadre of professional right-wing assholes spin themselves round in circles trying to figure out what the hell to do about their incorrigible problem child.

Plus, let's face it -- he made for great copy.

Now all that's left to see is whether Ailes has him assassinated live on the air.

By the way, Joel Cheatwood -- who was the Fox exec who oversaw Beck's show and who recently made the decision to leave Fox for Beck's personal production company -- was the first news director I worked under, at the start of my career. He was the mastermind behind WSVN's style-over-substance rise to both fame and infamy back in the early 90s. I'm actually a fan of Joel's, but for the record I think dropping out of Fox to follow Beck down the rabbit hole may wind up being a very, very big mistake. Time will tell, I guess.

(Update: Gawker gets a gold star for this headline: Say Goodbye to Glenn Beck, the Paul Revere of Idiots/4.6.11)


Dr. Squid said...

an undeniably influential pop culture icon

For whatever reason, I originally read that as "flop culture icon".

You're welcome.

Chez said...

Love the guy or hate him it's really a fascinating little example of just how ephemeral notoriety is in our new media culture these days. Everything moves so quickly, the news and fame cycle is so fast, that you can honestly be on top of the world one week and be a pariah the next (see Golden Voice Homeless Guy, Charlie Sheen). It was just a little over a year ago that Beck's ratings were through the roof and he was on the cover of Time. Now, his TV show's basically been canceled.

supermaren said...

I know this is a little self-serving, but I did predict a couple weeks ago that Glenn Beck would begin the zombie apocalypse:

Matt Osborne said...

You don't understand the damage this man did until you come to Alabama and try to board a plane: they play him on a jumbotron over the TSA queue. He's on in every gym, ER, doctor's office, etc. When I talked to tea party activists last year they all swore by his show because "you can't argue with his facts!" The glasses and the chalkboard made him look nonbelligerent while he committed intellectual violence. His entire shtick came down to "white culture." Beck's narcissism fed the narcissism of his white, boomer audience. The secret global conspiracy to hate our freedoms? It was ALL ABOUT THEM. And here in Alabama, the Wallace and Reagan Democrats suddenly couldn't bring themselves to vote for *ANY* Democrat anymore. I've just gotten back from Montgomery, where the fallout is considerable; it's even more radioactive in DC right now.

But his basic problem was that Beck had to continually top himself. One week it was a boiled frog, the next it was a chainsaw and a bunny. Having gone over the top from the beginning, he just got further and further "out there" until he was like an inflatable waving-arm tube man.

Chez said...

Agreed. The entirely self-absorbed lack if consideration for the damage he was doing made him positively irresponsible, to say nothing of dangerous. The idiots who clung to, and continue to cling to, his bullshit ratings like they're gospel are terrifying.