"This Is Important Stuff"

by Conor Friedersdorf

Above is a Glenn Beck clip that Michael Moynihan calls "the dumbest thing ever broadcast on (non-cable access) television." If you've never tuned into Beck's show, it's worth watching, because you might be under the misimpression that he's just a Bill O'Reilly-style blowhard, or that he just regurgitates GOP talking points like Sean Hannity.

Only after grasping his singular madness can you comprehend why the most vexing passage from his monologue is this:

I'm not going to give you the two minute sound-byte. I'm not going to treat you like you're a moron. I'm going to treat you like you really do want to understand what's going on in the world. We'll piece this thing together. It's going to take a few days. But I invite you to DVR this show every night. Don't miss an episode. Tell your friends, "Don't miss an episode." This is important stuff.

As I've said before, lots of Glenn Beck listeners aren't in on the joke. Unlike Roger Ailes, Jonah Goldberg, and every staffer at the Heritage Foundation happy hour, they don't realize that the Fox News Channel puts this man on the air fully understanding that large parts of his program are  uninformed nonsense mixed with brazen bullshit. When a Fox News host tells these viewers, "I'm not going to treat you like you're a moron," playing on their insecurity about other media outlets talking down to or lying to them, they take it at face value. What sort of callous, immoral person allows these viewers to be played for fools?

Conjure in your mind a retired grandfather. He served in World War II, voted twice for Ronald Reagan, and supports the Tea Party. Awhile back, he started watching Glenn Beck – was it because that young man from National Review mentioned he would be on the program, or did he want to see Sarah Palin be interviewed? In any case, a lot of conservatives he trusted seemed happy to go on the show and never gave any indication that it wasn't a perfectly legitimate news program. Besides, Fox News generally seemed to share his ideological convictions. He even watched an interview with Roger Ailes once. The guy seemed reasonable enough. Certainly not the sort of person who would knowingly air the ravings of a known charlatan night after night.

Back when this man ran his own small business, he once caught an employee lying to a customer in a way that improved the bottom line. He fired him immediately. It seemed as if it was obviously the right thing to do. So it never even crosses his mind that a whole news network cheered by lots of people he trusts would profit by feeding the most blinkered kind of obviously wrong information to millions of people.

"I'm going to treat you like you really do want to understand what's going on in the world," Beck tells this man. "We'll piece it together."

I appreciate that this is my hobbyhorse, and that others think that the faults of cable news networks are an unimportant matter. But the fact that Roger Ailes and his associates air this kind of nonsense –couched in these kinds of assurances! – is indefensible. It is hard to think of anyone who disrespects and takes advantage of conservatives more than they do. And although they make mounds of money, they ought to be objects of disgrace, akin to any other manipulative huckster who preys on the elderly.

Did these people never have grandparents?