Even though I had no idea who Glenn Beck was, I had a feeling I would hate his show as soon as CNN started advertising for it. Call it a bad vibe, or a premonition, or just the fact that something about the short clips in the ads struck me as worthless. But it would be unfair to actually dismiss it without viewing his show, right? So I did watch his show, and as I expected, I hated it. But why? I suppose it could be his particular views, but I’ve known plenty of people with views like that in real-life, and I got along with them.
So what was it about his show that pissed me off and made me hate it? Curious, I tried watching a second show. Once again, I hated it. What’s more, I even started hating the commercials themselves, and even any mention of his show. When the vapid news anchors started spouting ads for his show at every turn, it set my teeth on edge. “Watch the Glenn Beck show for his unique take on current events”, they would say.
“Unique take”, eh? I heard that phrase a few times and I think I figured out why I hate his show. When I watch regular news, I want to see information I would not be able to easily get on my own, or that I wouldn’t bother seeking out. Or I want to see footage from foreign correspondents who are on the scene and can show me things that I obviously couldn’t see on my own. When I read Businessweek Magazine, I’m expecting them to offer insights and information that are new and interesting, and which I couldn’t pick up casually if I hadn’t read it there.
But what does Glenn Beck’s “unique take” on life offer? That’s the problem: there’s nothing “unique” about it at all. Instead, he offers the same kind of useless half-assed unresearched blue-collar opinions that I heard countless times at the cafeteria table when I used to work in tool-and-die shops. In short, there are millions of Glenn Becks out there; he represents the voice of the Guy In Overalls. But I’ve worked with plenty of guys in overalls; I don’t see any fucking reason to turn on CNN to watch a whole show devoted to one particular example of the breed. He doesn’t offer any special background or knowledge to offer any particular insight into the news, and he doesn’t offer news itself. All he offers is the opinion of the Guy In Overalls demographic, and that is anything but unique.
You know, you can call me an elitist, but I figure that if some guy gets a national TV show to discuss current events, he should be able to offer some special credentials to make his opinion more interesting or well-informed than mine. Otherwise, why should I watch it? To hear the kind of half-assed knee-jerk opinions that I could easily get from my mailman? No thanks. There’s something wrong with news channels when guys get TV shows precisely because they don’t have any special background by education or experience to cover the news. Of course, there’s also Glenn Beck’s belief that he’s genuinely funny; that’s yet another thing he shares with far too many guys in overalls.
EDIT: Today is September 13 2009. It has been three years since I wrote the above post. Interestingly, I notice that criticism tends to be what conservatives would call “politically correct” complaints about my lack of respect for people who aren’t qualified experts in a field, as compared to people who are. It’s not that I think they necessarily know nothing, but blue-collar workers should stick to pontificating on subjects they are qualified in; if I want to know which type of cutter to use when milling Stavax tool steel, I won’t hesitate to ask a milling machine operator. But they should quite frankly shut up when they feel the urge to explain why all the experts are wrong about some subject outside their particular oily expertise. And yes, I do think that people who can’t do calculus are not as smart as people who can. Boo hoo.
According to FOXNews’ commentators who defend knuckle-draggers like Joe The Plumber (and ironically love to use the term “politically correct” on others), it is wrong to treat uneducated people any differently than educated people. Of course, no rational argument can be advanced for this position, so the critics tend to use the tactic of moral righteousness: my statements about uneducated people must mean that I’m a terrible person, a sad person, an angry person, a hostile person, a vicious person, etc. It doesn’t even matter whether a statement is true; according to the thought police, the truth or untruth of the statement has nothing to do with the question of whether I should dare say it. Welcome to the idiocracy.