One of the many marvels the Internet has brought us is free education. For instance, let's say you wanted to listen to a lecture about thermonuclear dynamics, or bioethics, or the history of ancient Rome. You could go over to MIT's Open Courseware site, where you can watch hundreds of lectures for free. Or do the same at Yale's YouTube channel. Or look through one of the many sites that gather free online lectures and courses together. America has the world's best universities, and much of what those universities offer can now be accessed from anywhere, for free.
But what if all that makes you a little suspicious? What if you're worried that all that stuff might just contain secret crypto-socialist-fascist-liberal-elitist propaganda meant to infect your mind? Where could you turn?
Glenn Beck University, that's where.
Let it never be said that Beck lacks entrepreneurial spirit. His website is covered with ways for you to fork over some of your hard-earned cash to him, from ordering his book to buying Beck-themed merchandise to getting tickets to see Beck live with Bill O'Reilly (tickets are still available at $126.50 plus a $20.50 "convenience" charge) to investing in gold (see Stephanie Mencimer's alarming article on how Beck and Goldline essentially run scams on his listeners). As for Beck University, that's going to run $75 a year, which is what it costs to become a member of "Glenn Beck Insider Extreme," which also gives you access to streaming audio, archives, and more Beck than you can shake a stick at. (Shakin' sticks are available for $24.95. Just kidding.)
It's actually pretty clever of Beck to market what's essentially a bunch of podcasts from sympathetic conservatives as a "university." Not only does it make it seem more substantial than it is, it also plays right into his fans' suspicion (regularly stoked by Beck, of course) that like journalism, the academy is a boiling cauldron of liberal indoctrination. You've got to give Beck credit -- few talk show hosts have come up with more creative ways to part their fans from those fans' money.
-- Paul Waldman