Dear Glenn Beck

I recently wrote a letter to my pal NPR.  I chose to criticize the overall framework and editorial slant of its newsroom.  I tried to leave its other programming alone.  There is too much diversity over too broad a range of channels associated with NPR to mount some large scale critique on the organization as a whole.  It's a bit easier to pick on you, because you don't have what I would call a diversified portfolio.  However, what you do, you do very, very well.

All the same, I suppose, like me, you are on a grand mission for the truth by any means necessary.  No doubt you consider yourself an independent thinker, unaffiliated ideologically with any one cause or purpose.  It is this appearance of autonomy which defines you, along with a generalized, healthy distrust of Government.

I write to you today not to pore over a history of your broadcasts in an attempt to discover some overarching core belief.  I do not intend to parse transcripts of your labyrinthine blackboard deconstructions in search of your soul.  That, I believe, is futile... it brings us no closer to Glenn Beck.  It's the trap many of your critics fall into.  It's easy to associate someone with Fox News and be done with it.  It's easy to associate a famous personality with one huge evil idea, and use that as evidence that his ideas are bunk.  As an example, you could associate President Obama with Socialism in order to discredit everything he says, but we all know you would never stoop to such cheap parlor tricks.

I write to you today to tell you that I've figured you out.  It's much simpler than anyone realizes.  You see, Glenn, I've been listening to you lately, and what I hear has nothing to do with the content of what you say.  There is, in fact, very little content in what you say.

You are a showman.  Therefore, it is about how you say what you say.  It is more about your delivery method than what's inside.  Your distribution method matters more than what you're handing out.  Your voice is that of a golden throated hypnotist.  Better yet, you are smart enough to know it, and you use your voice in brilliant ways.

This is a strange comparison, Glenn, but you have something in common with  Morgan Freeman.  I know you'd rather align yourself with Gordon Freeman, Half Life 2's wrench wielding protector of earth against an alien horde and villainous government agents, but I think Morgan Freeman is your true compatriot.

Your voices are blessed with hypnotic, persuasive frequencies.

Morgan Freeman's sonorous voice could convince me to chop off my own hand.  Morgan Freeman could tell me the sky had turned purple, and I would see a dour grape hue spreading up from the horizon.  He's that good an orator.  And so are you.  I know you, with your doughy visage and your squinted eyes, look as if you'd spit out your words like Mike Ditka, but you've spent a lifetime in radio.  With each year, you get better.  Getting people to accept that you might be right is less about making a logical argument and more about presenting what little information you have in an effective dramatic structure.  In that regard, I'd go as far as to say you're peerless.

Your showmanship is most evident in how you omit.  Your on-air pregnant pauses, even ten seconds of silence, are charged with electricity and urgency and chaos.  Your voice keeps people hanging on, even people who disbelief your notion that the current Administration wants to Socialize the country.  Even your histrionic ranting is charged with silence and despair, disbelief and drama.  The listener cannot turn away.  Why?  Because you aren't barraging us with your conclusions.  This would surely turn us off to you.  Instead, you hand us disparate objects of scorn in a confident and charismatic way, then by commission, using the best dramatic tools at your disposal, you connect the dots and imply a connection.

All this gets me thinking, Glenn.  Why are your critics so obsessed with proving you wrong?  Do they realize this is a fool's errand?  Whether you are wrong or not doesn't even matter.  Instead, as long as you continue to exercise enough control over your faculties to remain an expert showman and entertainer, you will hold court over large numbers of people, and anything you say will matter to them.

Creating a cult of personality is what today's talk radio and on-air punditry is all about.  To create a successful cult, you need a good voice, the intelligence to use it wisely, and the savvy to know when to imply rather than to state.  Gather yourself a team of researchers, align yourself with a general notion of what you stand for (e.g. Big Government wants to take your money) and use everything at your disposal to construct a narrative around this idea.  This, Glenn, is what you have done.  Yes, your ratings have slid recently, but you are still one of radio's reigning kings.

When people hear you, or hear about you, they need to be thinking: "That's the magician.  That's the hypnotist.  That's the circus clown."  Your business is not punditry or news... it's entertainment, pure and simple.  By the time we have untied the bow and torn away the distracting wrapping paper and scissored the paper on the pretty box, the box being empty almost doesn't matter anymore, does it?  But you know all this, don't you?


Popular Posts