Is Fox News' Glenn Beck going to turn out to be the Icarus of the current political moment, flying too close to that giant fiery ball of crazy in the sky and falling back down to Earth? He's gotten into some trouble recently after attacking churches who advocate social justice, which is ... well, nearly every Christian denomination. "I beg you look for the words social justice or economic justice on your church Web site," he said. "If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words. ... Am I advising people to leave their church? Yes!" He went on to explain what those are code words for: socialism and Nazism. Yes, Nazism. Churches from across the political and theological spectrum have condemned Beck, and even representatives of his own Mormon faith were appalled. Then we learned yesterday from Howard Kurtz that "there is a deep split within Fox between those -- led by Chairman Roger Ailes -- who are supportive, and many journalists who are worried about the prospect that Beck is becoming the face of the network."
Well, Fox folk, you made your bed, now you have to lie awake in it at night imagining that the Illuminati are sending you secret mind-control messages through your toaster. Something like this was bound to happen eventually. In Beck's world, there are three kinds of people: the clueless masses, gliding through the world with eyes closed to the levers that control their lives until it's too late; the small group of unhappy warriors who have glimpsed behind the curtain and seen the terrible truth (i.e. him and his viewers); and the participants in the evil conspiracy, out to destroy our way of life as they cackle and twirl their handlebar mustaches. If you think I'm exaggerating, watch this little clip compendium.
If you've constructed your world that way, then anyone who falls out of your favor on a given day can't just be described as wrong or foolish. Beck's audience doesn't tune in to hear that his political opponents are mistaken -- they tune in to hear that they're evil. And not only that, they're all part of the same terrifying conspiracy to destroy us all. Yesterday it was Barack Obama, the day before that it was Teddy Roosevelt, and today it's Christians who care about the less fortunate. Who knows, maybe tomorrow it'll be puppies. It doesn't really matter, so long as the conspiracy is always brewing and the enemies always on the march.
On Beck's show, there's no half way: You're with us, you're against us, or you're a sheep. And every time he takes a step like attacking churches for engaging in social justice, more people realize they want nothing to do with him.
-- Paul Waldman
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