A Tough Spot

by Conor Friedersdorf

It should be remembered that one reason editors like Rich Lowry don't confront talk radio hosts in the way that I'd like is that they're in a tremendously difficult spot, trying to balance the demands of putting out a magazine with intellectual integrity against an audience that doesn't want their icons questioned. Let's look at some of the comments from the post where Lowry briefly noted that Bill Kristol has a point about Glenn Beck:

– SO GLAD I never renewed my subscriptions to either Weekly Standard OR National Review!! (Circulation depts - look my name up, I had them) Both Kristel and Lowry make claims about Glenn Beck which are not backed up by any facts. Kristel - Lowry - please look at the words of the Islamists and tell us they don't want to dominate world politics and geography. Better yet, spend at least six months in Saudi Arabia as we in the U.S. military did during Desert Storm, and maybe gain a different perspective on the goals of Islam.

– There is no way I can express my disappointment in Lowry!! I had hoped that he has some integrity and would look for truth or at least some substantiation before joining an attack on someone. I do not think Beck would have ever been so small as to attack Lowry and he only mentioned him on his show after Lowry's unfair and uneducated attack on Beck. I am ashamed of any conservative and can never respect one who speaks or writes before learning the facts. Shame on you Rich Lowry! You sould bone up and apologize to Beck!!

– Really Rich? "a well-deserved shot at Glenn Beck’s latest wild theorizing"?
Have you actually watched any of the programs Beck has done on Egypt? Maybe it's because I held exactly the same views, based on my own information and beliefs, before watching Beck echo them, but I do not believe that Kristol's cozy foreign-policy-establishment critique of Beck is in any way "well-deserved" or based on anything more than the same naive view of real-politic that has, in the past, for one example, resulted in the fall of the Iran. What is "wild theorizing" about what Beck has said?

– I think that Kristol, Barnes, Lowry and others should do more investigative journalizing instead of antagonizing those who are on the same side. What's with that anyway? The Democrats don't do it to one another, but some of the "conservatives" seem to take pleasure in the "eat your own" items on the menus. Or maybe, they are not as principled as they pretend to be and just want to sell their weekly readers. These people I call "moderates" which means what's good for me is okay even if it's bad for others and the Country as a whole. No principles, just wanting to fill their wallets. Think "cash for clunkers." Terrible idea for the Country, but how many citizens took advantage of the bribe from Obama and the democrat vote buyers?

Attack Glenn Beck, maybe sell more Weekly Standards? Why don't you attack the policies of this administration? That's what Reagan would advise you to do. Bill Kristol, "tear down this wall" you neo-cons have built for yourselves! Listen to others who are a little more distant from the trees!

That last one sounds familiar. Welcome to the club, Rich and Bill. We are all Conor Friedersdorf now! Another commenter, CK MacLeod, notes:

Last year, NR and TWS thought they could get by with just a little bit of Islamophobic panic-mongering - and so legitimized it. You now have a conservative rank and file that you'll need years to de-program, a public image you'll need a generation to re-create, and a movement always on the verge of tearing itself apart between the embarrassing and the embarrassed. The comments here are typical of the best thing the left has going for it heading into 2012 and beyond. Good job!

Call it the Andy McCarthy effect. Once you give conservatism's premier platform to a man who argues that President Obama is allied with our radical Islamist enemy in a Grand Jihad against America, it tends to undermine your ability to cultivate a reality-based audience that won't turn on you at the first sign of criticizing Glenn Beck. Obviously, the comments section on one post is not a fair representation of the NRO readership. But it is a useful look at the perils of going along with conspiratorial nonsense – and an indication that to his credit, Lowry risked more than one might expect by posting that item, sad as that is. (Does Jonah Goldberg still think Beck is a harmless "libertarian populist"?)

Incidentally, Glenn Beck's ratings are way down, so despite the commenter uprising in that NRO post, it seems to me that the Lowry/Kristol/Friedersdorf/Continetti position on Beck is increasingly common among rank-and-file conservatives.