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Don’t Blame Glenn Beck

By the time you read this, Glenn Beck will have been off the airwaves of Fox News for more than six months. MSNBC will have had one less idiot by which to compare themselves to in hopes of the viewer ignoring logical fallacy. Jon Stewart and his team will have spent .0003 seconds longer in the research room to find political hypocrisy. But lost in Beck’s total irrelevancy – unless you count internet TV “socially relevant”, in which case you’re also probably one of the five people who watches disgraced Keith Olbermann on Current TV – is the true villain of his demise. FOX News has run the gauntlet from one-sided reporting to loaded questions to outright lies, but putting Glenn Beck on TV for one hour a day plus his appearances on other FOX News shows was their most irresponsible action by a mile. Why? Take a trip with me through Beck’s Wikipedia page.

At the age of fifteen at a lake near Tacoma, Washington, Beck’s mother and her friend drowned in what the police posited was almost certainly a suicide attempt. This tragedy was followed shortly thereafter by his stepbrother’s suicide. One can easily understand how these events would rock Glenn Beck to the core, so his subsequent decline into alcoholism after his high school graduation is no surprise. Over the course of the next twenty-five years, Beck would be fired, quit, or resign from nine different radio jobs, and almost every time it was because of a radically offensive comment made by Beck. In addition to moving all over the country (each job was in a different city), Beck’s wife developed cerebral palsy. Beck’s alcohol addiction worsened and he developed a drug addiction. Beck became suicidal in 1994 and considered going out the same way Cobain did, according to Salon Magazine. For fuck’s sake, in 2010, Beck was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy and ADHD. I understand giving people a chance, but was there a single worse occupation for Beck than national radio and television host? Since he was a teenager, his life had been a tragedy that even Lifetime would find too unbelievable. While it is incredible that someone who had been shit on that much by life is still alive today, while it is inspiring that Beck went through AA and got himself clean, it is not acceptable for FOX News (and his other nine employers for that matter) to flash the red “ON AIR” sign and let the world be exposed to his worldview. In essence, they were asking him, “So, Mr. Beck, you have experienced two suicides, drug and alcohol abuse, two debilitating disorders (your wife’s and your own), suicidal tendencies, and an utterly depressing career… what do you think about the state of America today?” Oh, well now that you asked, FOX, I guess America is just sunshine and lollipops. Pip pip!

Beck’s past doesn’t excuse his constant comparisons of everything to Fascist Germany or his comments that ruthlessly attack serious issues and conditions without merit. But we shouldn’t be privy to those opinions at all in the first place. FOX and anyone who hired Beck damn well knew his past, but they also knew that inflammatory and incendiary comments are HGH for ratings, so long as the aftershock isn’t big enough to put egg on their faces, and thus Beck was trotted out for the masses without a second thought. We can frown on Beck for accepting the piles and piles of cash that FOX gave him, but it’s not even an argument that we would trust our own voices and opinions on air if it meant fame and fortune.  Initial hesitance to accept such an offer would seemingly stem from public speaking being the number one fear in America, but remember that Beck was either filming in front of no audience or speaking into a microphone in a dark room. That’s not really public speaking at all, and, in a way, that was a huge detriment to Beck. Consider Jay Leno: when his jokes are bombing, he reads the faces of his audience, and he’ll usually make a quip just a little more evolved than “rough crowd!” Beck didn’t have that and FOX didn’t want that, because that slows down the crazy. Same goes with books. Think of how much interaction Beck had with actual people and then think of his dumbest idea that came to fruition. (Hint: it was the rally that caused Colbert and Stewart to put aside their faux differences and create a rally to mock that rally.) Beck’s firing wasn’t indicative of a straw that broke the camel’s back; it was indicative of Beck’s popularity growing until FOX’s convenient little system of exploitation couldn’t be contained effectively. So it may be fair for you to say, “Glenn Beck is a total idiot” because, if he believes his own ideas, he is; but if it wasn’t for the shamelessness and lack of judgment from FOX and others, you’d be voicing an opinion about a star-crossed stranger who, despite his opinions, never provoked such hostility.

On a final note, I understand that Beck was not dragged into the studio at gunpoint to record and that it was his goal to become a radio personality. But somewhere along the line, someone should have seen his mental instability brought on by years of misfortune and said “no, you can’t work here”. For instance,  I would love to manage an NBA team despite any qualifications to do so, and I would certainly run said team into the ground, but I wouldn’t decline the offer if the powers-that-be gave it to me. Perhaps if Beck hadn’t grown up watching Disney movies, he would have known to not follow his dreams.

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About the Author

Chris O'Toole (Colorado State '12, Chapman '15) recently finished a Screenwriting MFA. He has written for Livestrong, CBS, and other publications. Love, hate, and job offers can be sent to: otool102@mail.chapman.edu