Mark Ellis
So long, Glenn
By Mark Ellis
June 27, 2011

I do understand; Glenn Beck is not going anywhere. He'll be around.

But as of June 30th he won't be on my television at 11pm Pacific any more, and I guess you could say I'll miss the show. Kind of the way I missed Rod Serling's Night Gallery when it went off the air. Come to think of it, that's probably one of the things that made Glenn Beck resonate for me. Due to my work schedule I could rarely catch the 2 pm broadcast, so I usually watched Beck after dark.

The consensus about Beck's departure from Fox News pinpoints two problems. Beck's ratings dropped and he could not attract advertisers due to his against-the-grain postulations and off the reservation theories. The ratings drop is relative of course; most cable shows would kill for the Beckmeister's approximately 2 million households, down from 2.5.

Beck himself has alluded to his sense of feeling limited by the strictures of a big network television show. The truth is doubtless somewhere in between.

I came to the show as a 20 year student of the EIB Network, a charter subscriber to the Limbaugh Letter, and a full-fledged Ditto-head. When FNC premiered I became a fan of the network and of the O'Reilly Factor in particular. Sean Hannity was the guy I switched the dial on when he subbed for Rush, but watching Hannity and Colmes I quickly became Hannitiized.

Conservative talk and Fox would burgeon over those two decades, but I pretty much stuck with my Big Three — El Rushbo, O' Reilly, and Hannity — with side trips over to Mark Levin, Michael Savage, and Portland's conservative talker, Lars Larson.

The thing that struck me about Beck was that for the first time I felt like I was watching and listening to a political commentator from a younger generation. It really had nothing to do with chronology. I was accustomed to the declarative, male-centric gestalt of Limbaugh, O'Reilly, and Hannity. And my father for that matter. These men argued from the core position that come hell or high water, the center would hold. That American life as I knew it would go on despite the permutations of our era. Even when things got heated the Big Three discourse fell within the realm of what Beck might call "the normalcy bias."

Beck's style, his modes of expression, the unremitting subtext of betrayal by authority, was new to me. I worried while watching Beck, not only about the things he was warning about but about Beck himself. He seemed vulnerable. I sensed that there was something New Age about the education he'd received and the milieu he came of age in that was not the same as mine.

Watching the show required some mental calisthenics. I did not want to be told that there was no difference between Republicans and Democrats. I resisted the prophecies of doom. When Beck talked about fasting and praying in the context of a coming catastrophic devaluation of the currency, I emailed the show joking that while I was down with the praying I was going to wait on the fasting until after the devaluation.

Later, after I became a regular viewer, I began to wonder if it might not be a good idea to stock up on canned chili and bottled water.

There were times when I laughed along with Beck's naysayers. Who can forget the famous "Tickle Me Elmo" interview with Congressman Eric Massa? Give me a break. Often Beck's imagery and narrative felt as comfortable as something from my own generation, like when he brought his father's chair to the set. More often Beck was unsettling, and fit in well with rainy Portland nights and the inevitable cycles of bad news.

One night he presented a juxtaposition of the Empire State Building and the gash that is the site of the 9/11 attacks. He talked about the American can-do spirit, contrasting how quickly the famous skyscraper had been erected with the interminable wait for the architectural closure so needed at Ground Zero. When Beck connected with me, which was always hit or miss, he connected powerfully. That night he did.

Thankfully, the WTC Memorial will open on schedule, September 11, 2011.

I'll remember the Fox show, the passion, the vulnerability, the bad dreams and the chalk boards that looked the same as when I was in school, but warned of new and troubling things.

© Mark Ellis


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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