When the Washington Post notices a conservative personality with a front-page Style section profile, they are acknowledged that he may have Arrived. But that doesn't mean the profile will be nice. David Segal's profile of CNN Headline News and syndicated radio host Glenn Beck starts out on the front page as noticing Beck is a tad more moderate in persona than Bill O'Reilly, acknowledging his own faults and finding gray areas, and "he won't offer the righteous condemnations you'd expect from the God-fearing conservative that he constantly reminds viewers he is."
But turn inside, and Segal has profiled Beck for the purpose of a public whipping by leftists over Beck's questioning of Muslim Rep. Keith Ellison: "I have to tell you, I have been nervous about this interview with you, because what I feel like saying is, 'Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.' And I know you're not. I'm not accusing you of being an enemy, but that's the way I feel, and I think a lot of Americans will feel that way." Segal lines up the liberal critics:
Three groups have written to ABC urging the network to keep Beck off "GMA," the Associated Press reported yesterday. "That blatant anti-Arab, anti-Muslim bias has been given credibility on a larger news show is something that concerns us," Arab American Institute spokeswoman Jennifer Kauffman told the AP.
When "The Daily Show" re-aired the clip of Beck's question to Ellison, host Jon Stewart followed up with this thought: "Finally, a guy who says what people who aren't thinking are thinking."
The Beast, an alternative newsweekly in Buffalo, was even tougher, putting Beck on a list of 2006's most loathsome people, along with this description: "Even the leather-winged shouting heads at Fox News look like intellectual giants next to this bleating, benighted Cassandra. It's like someone found a manic, doom-prophesying hobo in a sandwich board, shaved him, shot him full of Zoloft and gave him a show."
Can we get any more desperate to find conservative-bashers than an alternative newspaper in Buffalo? After Segal reports Beck and his wife converted to Mormonism, he goes back to where he's comfortable, whacking the conservative oaf:
But if Beck has left jerkdom for good, what explains that Keith Ellison question?
"If I could take back the wording of that question, I would," he says, sounding genuinely contrite. He then says he was trying to make the point that moderates of every religion -- his included -- need to face down the extremists in their flock. How exactly his "prove to me" challenge was supposed to tease out that point is a mystery...
Maybe an attention-deficit host is exactly what an attention-deficit public wants. Listen to a few of Beck's shows and what strikes you most is the enormous ratio of words to substance -- how Beck can monologue for minutes at a time and leave behind almost nothing except the impression of great vehemence.
It's striking, too, how Beck can contradict himself without even noticing. On the same day as his pornography segment, Beck exults over news that Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has called him "CNN's chief corporate fascism advocate," evidently because he thinks Beck is a global-warming skeptic. Not true, says Beck, and though he's flattered by the attention, he's irked that Kennedy apparently hasn't bothered to watch his show. (Kennedy, in a brief interview, says he recalls Beck voicing doubts about global warming a few weeks back.) "The point here is that people who disagree with me don't actually watch or listen to this show," Beck tells his viewers. "They're hearing what they think I would say, what they think someone like me -- you know, a conservative hatemonger -- would say."
David Segal is not this hard on liberals. (He described Connecticut Kos-monaut Ned Lamont as a "fiscal conservative.") David Segal is not this hard on communists. He has hailed Che Guevara chic. He has hailed rapper Teddy Riley of The Coup for making Bolshevism a hoot. None of these trends or their supporters have any connection to "jerkdom," just "cool."