The Beck Analogy


I’m not a devoted fan of Glenn Beck.  I sometimes have his radio show playing in the background when I’m writing, and perk up when he breaks out the high-pitched baby voice, because what follows is usually hilarious.  I listen enough to know it’s not really news when he gets into hot water – it would be news if he spent a week on the air without getting into hot water – but I missed his latest soak in the boiling Jacuzzi of controversy.

Streiff at Red State brings me up to speed.  After confessing himself an intermittent listener who finds himself “scratching his head” on occasion, he relates the story of how “Beck, for reasons I can’t completely fathom (see reference to head scratching above), decided that it would be okay to make the analogy of Islam : Radical Islam :: Judaism : Reform Judaism.”  Basically, Beck made a tortured analogy comparing the political activism of Reform rabbis and radical Muslim imams, because in both cases, it’s “less about religion than it is about politics.”

Torturing an analogy to that degree is a violation of the Geneva Conventions, but the response portraying this as the last straw for Beck’s career is absurd.  I get the impression that a significant chunk of Beck’s audience among the pundit class, including both liberals and some conservatives, is only listening because they want to be there on the day that last straw breaks.  I would imagine Beck views them the same way NASCAR officials regard those who only show up to see the fiery crashes: as long as they buy some beer and pretzels, they’re welcome to a seat.

Why should Glenn Beck be less welcome on the air than Al Sharpton, a vicious anti-Semite who got people killed by inciting riots?  Sharpton is an honored guest in both media green rooms and Democrat Party functions.  Has Beck referred to New York as “Hymietown,” the way Reverend Jesse Jackson did?

Richard Trumka, head of the AFL-CIO, has a history of organizing violent strikes and labor demonstrations with a body count.  Far from being ostracized for this ugly history, he is the most frequent guest at the Obama White House.  Has Beck done anything to compare with Trumka’s resume?

Beck says some weird stuff, and makes his share of mistakes, but has he done worse than slander a Congressman by claiming he “actually received advance notice that the Oklahoma City bombing was going to happen,” the way Rachel Maddow of MSNBC did?  Does he just make up phony statistics off the top of his head, the way Maddow declared that “of the top ten people donating money in that election, seven of them were giving to Republicans,” when the reverse is true?  Why is Beck supposed to be one misstep away from career oblivion, but Maddow is safe as houses?

The “last straw” is evidently much thicker for liberals, who are allowed to quarantine their worst excesses from the rest of their credibility.  Meanwhile, Glenn Beck fans are given a choice between defending everything the man ever said, or supporting his removal from the airwaves.  It’s not just a persecution of Beck, since every conservative pundit and politician is measured by the same standard.  The choice between unquestioning support and full-throated denunciation is a false one.  Beck’s wilder statements should be measured against his verifiable accuracy, not allowed to obscure it.  His verifiable accuracy has already blown a Green Czar-sized hole in this Administration.  Perhaps the day will come when he really does jump the shark, but a lot of his most strident critics are already so far above the Great White that they can barely see its dorsal fin.