Nicholas Roberts/The New York Times/Redux
When Glenn Beck “parted company” with Fox News in June of last year, he took his Glenn Beck-ness with him. He took his tears, and his chalkboards, and his patriotic unction. He took his world-historical sweep and his zodiac of personal demons. He took his edifying projects and his long-haul feuds, his hobbyhorses and hobgoblins. He took his face, his voice, the vials of his wrath, the quivering curds of his indignation—he took it all, and he left the network. Gone! There was no replacement for Glenn Beck. None was possible. The portal simply resealed itself, and there we were again—we the people, the watchers of Fox, back with the everyday lineup of guffers and bluffers.
Where did Glenn Beck go, on his nimbus of madness? To the Internet, that’s where. In September 2011, mere months into his exile, Beck launched a Web TV network called GBTV. It was risky, very risky, a precipitous venture from a precipitous man. Dozens of new employees, millions of dollars invested—and what would it do to the brand? “Beck premiered today,” crowed Keith Olbermann, “having lost about 90 percent of the audience he had at Fox!” And it was true: Beck was down from a daily average of 2.2 million Fox viewers to a hard core of 230,000 GBTV subscribers. But oh, the feeling that he might have blown it—this was champagne to Glenn Beck. It mingled strangely in his mind with a whiff of divine ordination. “I’m about to take on massive debt,” he confided huskily during an October episode of The Glenn Beck Program on GBTV. “It seems absolutely crazy to me, and I’m not going to keep asking if that’s right.” We could feel the pressure of oncoming tears: his face was getting that glandular look. “I will listen and obey … I have prayed and prayed and prayed for the answers that I’m going to give you today … I’m a guy who is making crazy business moves right now. I left the biggest and best cable news network at the pintacle of news in the world!” That’s right, folks, the pintacle. The pinnacle of the pentacle. It doesn’t get any higher than that.