Last week's final episode of The Glenn Beck Program marks only the 9th episode in which Beck cried no tears. The normally wistful Beck seemed almost happy as he looked back on his two years (doesn't it seem longer?) on Fox News and he congratulated himself for all the important things he's informed us about on his daily chalk board-fueled contemporary civics lesson.
Before I go any further, I should point out that I don't hate Glenn Beck. A man like Beck appeals to me, perhaps because he's a big-picture type of guy, and he often presumes that one thing can mean lots of other things. This type of thinking seems important during the pre-apocolypse, and even though our politics may differ, I can appreciate what Beck stands for. Despite the fact that Jon Stewart is one of my heroes, and I have frequent lucid dreams about punching Bill O'Reilly in the face... Glenn Beck is the sort of right-wing nut that I can admire.
There's a difference between maniacs and jerks. I have simply no use for jerks. They do disappointingly little to advance our understanding of ourselves, and are usually unpleasant to deal with. Maniacs, however, are the "yardstick of civilization". The word maniac is derived from "mania", which--a quick trip over to TheFreeDictionary.com reminds us--is "excessively intense enthusiasm, interest, or desire; a craze". It's somewhat common knowledge amongst both the left and right wings that Glenn certainly has THAT. But for some reason, this designation is used more often to discredit him than to justify him.
People say, "Glenn Beck is just an act. He hams it up for the cameras." It's true that he's a performer, but I'm not sure I can appreciate this categorical separation between a performer and a true maniac. Was Chris Benoit not a performer? Wesley Willis? Evel Knievel? Gary Busey? The entire Polyphonic Spree? There are certainly a bevy of genuinely unbalanced performers of all types. In fact, short of writers and dentists, performers are probably among the most poorly adjusted emotional professions. Come to think of it, the only performers who immediately come to mind as obviously PRETENDING to be maniacs are Gallager, Roberto Benigni, Dane Cook and maybe, MAYBE... Weird Al Yankovic.
Plus all you have to do is watch Glenn Beck visit Bill O'Reilly's show for a few minutes to see the jerk/maniac dynamic come alive. Despite sharing important seats on the right wing commentary throne, O'Reilly will always do his pushy journalist thing while Beck just goes on tirades about god knows what. Rife with metaphors, giggling non-sequitur jokes, and massive conspiracies, Beck's average sentence is enough to make control-freak O'Reilly's head spin. While O'Rielly always tries to look smarter than his interviewee, Beck always tries to swallow up the conversation with vague, big-picture comments about the coming powder-keg. One of them always looks more professional. The other always looks like a whack job, but an honest whack job.
Even their respective "losing their temper" viral youtube vids show you clear distinction between a bossy asshole and a manic-depressive. Bill O'Reilly's "Do It Live!" shows a cry-baby jerk-off yelling at his crew, and Glenn Beck's "Get Off My Phone!" shows a truly unraveling-at-the-seems ideologue whose inability to process the divorce between himself and the left wing sends him into a spiral of massive proportions. [And by the way, the points Beck makes in "Get Off My Phone" are actually pretty good points. Were it not for the post-emotional explosion, one would be hard pressed not to call Beck the winner of that particular debate.]
"Get Off My Phone", in addition to being ungodly entertaining, shows us Beck's true colors. For better or worse, Glenn is up-to-the-minute genuine. No true calculation would tell even the most melodramatic phoney to cry nearly as often as he does. Recently, we've seen a number of reports about how much more money Beck can make without his measly 2 million dollar show if he simply focuses on books and lecture tours. But he's taking Glenn Beck online to "Glenn Beck TV", where--for a subscription fee--only his most loyal followers are likely to follow him. It's reminiscent of Howard Stern setting up shop on Sirius radio. Except Glenn must know that only his most inflamed core of proto-Americans are going to be joining him, and I doubt he would have it any other way.
Israel is the latest of Beck's many, many fixations. In never truly comprehensible terms, Beck has talked about how Isreal is the victim of... some terrible ubiquitous paradigm. Signing off, he talked about the courage it must take to live in such a violent country, surrounded by evil. He talked about how only the most courageous people must live there and how he's heading over there to try to tap into that central core of courage. I don't know what any of that means, but Beck is almost certain to suffer from Jerusalem Syndrome while he's there, which is a very real psychiatric disorder afflicting certain visitors to Jerusalem in which the visitor suffers from delusions of prophetic or messianic grandeur. Sounds like a safe bet, no?
If O'Reilly and Beck are Batman villains, culture warrior Bill O'Reilly is Liam Neeson's Ra's al Ghul. Glenn Beck--whose derailing jokes, bizzare schticks and absurd conspiracy-mongering annoys O'Reilly, Jon Stewart, and everyone--is Heath Ledger's Joker. And that's a super-villain I have to respect.