There’s a guy in my neighborhood who was always known as being the sort who went all in on things. If it was worth doing it was worth overdoing. Hobbies became obsessions to the point of distraction. When he discovered alcohol it was the same pattern. Drinking quickly went from social to a lifestyle. Then came drugs and the party life was an all consuming thing for him. The gonzo party guy was the over the top drug and alcohol guy to the point where his life was at risk.
Just like with all of his obsessions, he suddenly stopped drinking and using drugs. He quit the lifestyle and quit drinking entirely. Unlike most people who struggle with quitting, sobriety became his obsession. He was not going to be just another former addict. He was going to be the ultimate former addict. In short order he went from gonzo party guy to gonzo sobriety guy, lecturing everyone about the ills of drugs and alcohol, preaching the good news of sobriety to everyone.
Like a lot of former drunks, he drifted into religion. Maybe its the obsessive compulsive behavior or something else, but former addicts often find Jesus. It could simply be that many therapy meetings are held in churches. This guy got into religion and soon became the most devout person possible. He talked about maybe becoming minister. Instead of preaching the good news of his sobriety, he was now preaching the Good News.
Since religion always bumps up against politics, his religion led him into various causes that brought him into contact with politics. The familiar pattern started all over again. He threw himself into the topic, reading and studying everything he could about history and ideology. Being a religious guy, he naturally gravitated to causes and politics that were anti-Progressive. The gonzo party guy was now the gonzo political guy. His life was now politics and everything that came along with it.
By now you can probably figure out that I’m not talking about a guy in the neighborhood. I’m describing Glenn Beck, the deranged radio and TV host. I describe him as deranged because he has always existed on the edge between over the top political commentary and Jim Jones People’s Temple madness. It was never said explicitly, but the reason he left Fox was that the people in charge were a bit worried that he was descending into madness. Despite his ratings, they were glad to see him go.
Beck, of course, has done a lot to prove that Ailes was right. Beck has gone off and created a little media empire of his own out in Texas. From time to time he has claimed to have talked with God and claimed to have been struck down with a debilitating disease. Half a dozen years ago the Lord was taking his sight. A few years later he was claiming some sort of vocal chord issue. These maladies are highly dramatized and then disappear.
Those familiar with radio preachers recognize this act. Back in the old days, radio and TV preachers would claim God was going to take them if the audience did not raise money for the new school or the new Mercedes or whatever the preacher wanted. In Beck’s case, it’s possibly just attention seeking, but there’s a strong case to be made that he is as nutty as a fruitcake. He never attaches a money making effort to his mystery diseases so it appears he really thinks he is Job.
In this election, Beck has eliminated any doubt about his mental fitness. He was telling audiences that Ted Cruz, of all people, was the Lord’s messenger sent to save humanity. Even more absurdly, he claims Donald Trump is the Anti-Christ. Presumably the Ted Cruz – Donald Trump campaign in the primary was some sort of post-modern version of the final battle between good and evil. The final battle would happen in a TV studio rather than a hilltop in Israel.
Beck has now been suspended from his radio show for teaming up with another howling lunatic to encourage the assassination of Trump. I’m unfamiliar with Brad Thor, but my guess is he is a dickhead. I’ve yet to meet anyone named Brad who was not an asshole. I’m told he is a popular pulp fiction writer, but I don’t read thrillers so I cannot comment on his work. He stalked me on twitter for a few days for some reason, but I don’t use twitter enough to care.
One of the problems that fringe movements always suffer is that they attract a lot of nuts. The reason is the nuts are free to join a cause that will have them. The mass movement that is just getting started needs people so it welcomes all comers. The result is a fat naked guy doing the boogie at your big convention. It’s why all successful mass movements enter a period where they deal with their loons. This is either a purge or a marginalization. Take note alt-right.
In the mass media age, a similar problem infects the media outlets. There is the gaping maw demanding to be filled with content. There is a finite amount of sensible writers, speakers, performs and so forth. The demand quickly outstrips the supply so that means weirdos and lunatics are invited into fill the space. Technology now makes it easy for every nut-job in America to reach a broad audience. An obsessive nut-job can mange to get quite good at it.
Glenn Beck should not have easy access to a large audience. He should be broadcasting over short wave or handing out hand written flyers on street corners. But, satellite radio needs content. Media investors want a vehicle to exploit the audience a Beck attracts. Cable shows need a reason for people to watch so inviting an unhinged loon is a quick way to create content that creates interest. Unlike the political movement, there’s been no way to purge the dangerous loonies from mass media.
I mentioned the other day that intolerance is wildly underrated. Much of what ails the West is due to the people in charge failing in their basic duties. Instead of enforcing the codes and customs that keep society on an even keel, they have found excuses to tolerate all sorts of bad behavior. It’s how we ended up with hip-hop music and talking hemorrhoids like Al Sharpton celebrated in popular culture. That may seem harmless, but it’s also how you end up with nutters like Beck and Thor encouraging people to shoot Donald Trump.
This will not end well.