Time Magazine has an excellent analysis of the Glenn Beck phenomena as this week's cover story. Lead writer David Von Drehle and the Time reporters are remarkably "fair and balanced" in their coverage of Glenn Beck and his appeal to a large and largely disaffected portion of America.
The article is hardly a "puff piece" as some on the left have claimed. The magazine cover photo alone portrays Beck as a clown or even a mad man, not a business or political leader or a intellectual icon.
Still, Joseph A. Palermo, writing over at The Huffington Post is outraged. He calls David Von Drehle's article "a clinic for journalism students who wish to learn about faux balance, false equivalencies, straw men, and omissions of important facts."
While I'm not going to get in between Palermo and Von Drehle, I feel the real story here is the lefts virtually insane obsession over Beck and his fellow conservative talk show and television personalities. This preoccupation that verges on fixation is unhealthy for the critics, the left wing progressives and maybe for all America.
This obsession is so wrong and so misplaced on so many different levels. First, by concentrating their fire on personalities like Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, Sean Hannity and (curiously) Bill O'Reilly, they miss huge opportunities every day to focus on issues and ideas and the real personalities that shape today's policies. Some blogs and even television shows devote nearly 100% of their space (or airtime) to demonizing these personalities.
By writing and blogging and talking all day every day about Beck and Limbaugh, progressives actually give them immense power. Beck's popularity and importance and audience size are all fueled by the constant and generally misplaced (and often completely false) attacks by Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow and the bevy of Hollywood Glitterati writing over on Huffington.
Indeed the efforts by progressives to get advertisers to stop advertising on the Beck Telecast on Fox have only increased Beck's popularity and viewership. While similar boycotts have, in the past, actually cost personalities their jobs, it has increased Becks popularity and strengthened his position at Fox.
As a side note, President Barack Obama's boneheaded move to exclude Chris Wallace and Fox New Sunday from his Sunday barrage of appearances to promote his Health Care Restructuring is the absolute worst public relations decision ever made. He has done more real damage to his agenda by this lame and schoolyard childish insult than he can possibly gain by his appearance on the other five programs. President Obama seriously needs new advisers!
Back to the topic. By concentrating their fire on Beck, opportunities are missed to actually promote the progressive agenda. While Beck spends his time and ammunition on issues, programs, ideas and philosophies, the (not very) credible personalities on the left spend their time whining about Beck and O'Reilly.
Even the Democrat Party has fallen into this tragic trap.
As Beck observes at the end of this clip, doesn't the DNC realize he's not running for office?
Such attacks only increase Beck's power and popularity. Worse yet, the ad above displays the DNC's complete ignorance of Beck and his stand on the issues. Beck was and is extremely critical of President Bush and especially Bush's use of CZARS. The ad itself ends up promoting Beck and his position!
Worst of all, when progressives demonize a personality, they blind themselves to both his appeal and his position on important issues. If you put on colored glasses, you blind yourself to what's actually happening. Once you've put a Glenn Beck in a corner, you feel safe in ignoring everything he says. This ignorance is always at your own peril!
Rather than simply ridicule Beck, progressives ought to try to understand why his ideas resonate with millions of people. They aren't all nut cases or whack jobs. They have genuine concerns, good ideas, real problems and valid and important points of view. Turning Beck into the enemy won't ever change any one's mind. Posing good, valid and well thought out counter positions on the issues might.