God bless Glenn Beck, our national fool

Glenn Beck is a fool. I do not mean by this that Mr. Beck is an idiot — he is … Continued

Glenn Beck is a fool.

I do not mean by this that Mr. Beck is an idiot — he is a reader and plainly bright. Instead, with his stagey manner, entertaining gambits, and hyperbole, Beck has made himself into the court jester for the Age of Obama.

One cannot watch a Glenn Beck program with a totally straight face, but then one cannot contemplate our debt and the irresponsible behavior of both political parties impassively either. One either needs jeremiads or jests and we are sadly short of men with the dignity and integrity of the prophet Jeremiah. Only those without fiscal sin can cast the first stone and there is hardly a man left in Washington who can afford to have his fiscal house examined.

We are left then with the voices of the clowns. Clowns are often a bit dodgy and they are allowed to make seedy arguments, but many a jest turns out to be truth. Fools entertain us, but they educate us while we laugh. This edutainment has limited value, but sometimes foolish rulers have to be answered by fools foolishly if they are to end their folly.

When the fool of the Middle Ages brayed like a donkey and galloped about the court, he was not being serious, but might get through to the King that the Sovereign was being an ass. In America the citizen is King and we get the rulers we deserve. Beck acts like an ass at times, but does so in a manner calculated to make millions of sovereign citizens wake up to many of our problems.

Glenn Beck is edutaining a generation with his antics. He is not my idea of entertainment, just as Colbert or Stewart, other fools of our political life, don’t make everybody laugh, but he does serve a function. He is not my idea of fun, he may not be your idea of fun, but if he buys the Republic one hundred more years of fiscal sanity by his clowning than I say: “God bless, Glenn Beck.”*

Beck’s essential message is that both political parties have been corrupted by power and that a vile combination of big business and big government threaten our liberty. This message is not oft heard as one party kowtows to big business and the other creates ever bigger government. Beck trusts nobody and if his paranoid style is taken seriously it might be dangerous, but he is always winking at his audience to let them know he is never totally serious.

He loves liberty and a balanced budget, no fooling.

“Social justice” is a good thing. Every Christian is for justice and if Beck means that only individuals should be just, then he is wrong. But Beck is recognizing that many Christians on the left use the phrase “social justice” as an excuse to baptize their preferred solutions to injustice. We all want a just society, but disagree on the steps we should take to get it. How much injustice can we do to the rich, for example, in order to help bring justice to the poor? He is no fool to worry. For every Robin Hood who rights wrong by robbing from King John to give to Farmer John, there are five socialist bureaucrats who will rob from rich and poor to make government rich.

Of course, Beck over generalized on his show, but that is the job of the jester. He paints in bright colors to enable us to see. Beck starts discussions about social justice that illuminate our common concern that institutions be just, but also that the means used to achieve institutional justice do not become unjust to individuals. Institutions and society must be just, but this call for justice cannot be used as an excuse to expand government at the expense of our liberty.

That is the deep truth in the jests of Beck about social justice.

President Obama would be wise to chuckle at Beck’s tears and hyperbole, but hear the authentic populist worries that have fueled his rise. Every king is lucky when they have a good fool and Glenn Beck is Obama’s jester. He has gained a sizable audience by saying loudly in public what many people think in private. Joblessness is the bane of the early years of Obama’s presidency and Beck understands the frustration of many of the fearful members of our culture. President Obama should make use of Beck, his court jester, because a jester unemployed is nobody’s fool and a leader who ignores his clown is soon a nobody.**

*To paraphrase words of a wiser man than I in another difficult political time . . .
** A truth first presented to me in the luminous film The Court Jester with Danny Kaye.

John Mark Reynolds
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  • roportin

    I love him. He does make me laugh and he does make me think. I think he’s terrific.

  • elthrasher

    Hey, that’s the way to get a regular column in the WaPo. Just spew some utter garbage using a poorly-fitting metaphor and shock everybody by saying something that’s obviously bad is good. What a great article. Thanks so much for your opinion.Glenn Beck incites his viewers to violence and lies to them about the horrible things Obama and the government will do to them. This is going to bring us fiscal sanity? Right, we got so much fiscal sanity from the Bush administration that Beck supported so wholeheartedly. Come on. How could you possibly take the time to write this sludge without realizing how horribly flawed your premise is?

  • JimMF

    Good article, John. However, I would disagree that Glenn Beck is just a court jester. Glenn’s show is intended to enlighten those who are not paying attention to the evolution of American government.Freedom, opportunity, and fiscal solvency, the keys to American success, are at stake with an over-spending, over-regulating federal government. Nothing is more despicable than political power gained by purging self-reliance, self-respect and honor out of the citizenry and substituting it with the crippling disabler of government dependence.The question is: Who, regardless of party, has gained political power by enlarging government and promising gifts from the public treasury?Answer that question, and you have identified the saboteurs of American exceptionalism (my word). THEN, VOTE THEM OUT OF OFFICE!

  • nychap44

    It is really hard to view a person who earned $32 million last year as a fool.

  • bob52

    Glen Beck is a fool except for the money he makes talking to the real fools. This so-called philosophy professor is an idiot and plainly dim. It’s hard for me to believe that people with even average intelligence can even sit through a half hour of Beck unless there is something no one has the guts to admit at work, such as racism, selfishness, greed. The funny thing is, a lot these people call themselves Christians. I suppose Jesus Christ would have tuned in too.

  • jaxas70

    I took me all of a minute to watch Glenn Beck and conclude that I was wasting my time. Look. If you like that sort of slapstick tomfoolery, then knock yourself out. For me, that sort of shtick reminds me of Vaudeville. There are still people around who think Vaudeville is funny.Glenn Beck appeals to that 18% of the public the new CBS/New York Times poll identifies a those who support the Tea Party protesters. Notwithstanding their small electoral impact, they make good copy, bring in ratings and increase circulation because all of them eat, drink and live this sort of stuff. The problem they have is that they can only sustain themselves as long as there is a media interest in them and the media interest in them is fueled by the fact that this is an election year.

  • jaxas70

    I would suggest to anyone who claims to love Glenn Beck that he or she should immediately consult a psychiatrist. Beck is about as lovable as a puffer fish. they may seem attractive from a distance but when they feel threatened–and Beck is of a breed of paranoid conspiracy mongers who constantly feel threatened–they swell up and sport toxic thorns that can make you sick.Beck–like others of the breed–appear on the American scene ever so often, particularly when conservatives lose power. They are at their most toxic worst when someone ascends to political power who does not look, walk, talk, think and smell like they do.

  • monkeynavigated

    It’s not “edutainment” if you lie; and Beck has no problem with promoting falsehoods. Your comparison with Jon Stewart is a poor one; you could do worse than to watch just the Daily Show and Colbert to get your news. For a prime example, watch the recent segment on how most companies in the US pay NO taxes, even with record gains. The segment contrasted the coverage given to that story vs the coverage given to the Strawman story on how half of the US doesn’t pay taxes. Under their scrutiny, the actual population not paying taxes is much more defined (the bulk being working single moms, heads of household who make under 30000 a year and seniors on fixed incomes). The Daily show points out the hypocrisy of coverage as well as the salient facts of the matter. Plus, it’s pretty funny.

  • ChipShirley

    Glenn Beck is an utter racist who thinks whites and Jews are supposed to rule the world.He also thinks he is the Mormon Messiah.His shouts for no taxes are not in support of the working person they are a bigoted claim on behalf of the rich and corporations whom he no doubt is payed by under the table.

  • easttxisfreaky

    Regardless if one is entertained by Beck’s style…his message contains truth that is withheld by mainstream media…the propaganda machine of the Democrats and administration.The Progressive Party Democrats (you can’t belong to one…affiliation with Democrats IS affiliation and promoting the Progressive Agenda of bigger government, further restriction of citizen rigts…without pushing the Progressive Party agenda. If you don’t know what this agenda is – maybe you need to spend time finding out…quickly.Pushing the “socialist justice” agenda is simply promoting the erosion of individual rights and taking from those that produce and enjoy the fruits of their labor – to give to those who choose not to. Obama seeks to take more and more from those who produce and to set himself up with a huge underclass…in order to garner votes and to undermine our free enterprise system.Lumping student loans and taxes (like the 3.8% tax on the sale of your home)…and pushing speciality hospitals into oblivion are only a few examples of the destruction of the machine that has supported our country in freedom. Social justice are just Progressive terms that would tear down and make slaves of us all.Give me liberty and Beck, or give me death.

  • tarle_subba

    yet another “don” who purveys his rightwing ideology, and who either has no standards for judging and evaluating arguments or who is a fool, like glenn beck is one.

  • jffteach

    Mr. Reynolds,If Glenn Beck were of your faith, would you look so narrowly upon him? Most students at Biola University, where you teach, don’t even believe those of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mr. Beck’s Faith) to be Christian. I hope that your view of such a courageous man as Beck is not so Pharisaical.

  • CalSailor

    Glenn Beck, and Fox News in general, are preaching to a (mainly) older generation who grew up in a world of Walter Cronkite, where news was the flagship of the networks, and they worked hard to get it right. As a result, many assume that what they get on “Fox NEWS” is actually news. They do not go to Politifact, Snopes, or any of the other web sites that DO fact check.But Fox News is not in the news business. They are in the entertainment division; and they deliberately distort “facts” to the point of whole cloth. As a result, we have a huge number of people (mostly on SS and Medicare) screaming at legislators last August to “keep the government out of my Medicare”. The Tea Party is almost entirely a creation of the Fox cable system (those who do not watch Fox were not generally aware of the “movement” until other news channels reported on the story of the “Teabaggers”). Fox News has been a major playor in the generally right wing narrative that our current administration is illigitimate, radical, and is out to create “death panels” (Sarah Palin) and is a “gangster government” (Michele Bachmann) out to destroy them and the country. The mood in much of the country is ugly and getting worse. There is a narrative being created and pushed that only the right wing are legitimately American, and anyone who disagrees is anti-American. But the Fox anchors present “facts” without context or comparison with history. The result is that some legislator is going to get shot by someone who thinks they have permission to act on the scares that are being repeated daily.Glenn Beck is not a “jester”. He is a conspiracy true believer whose only intent is not to present “news”, but to make money, as his interview last month with Barrons made clear. He doesn’t worry about fact, only the $30 million + he made last year. Beck’s take on “social gospel and social justice” shows the superficiality of his “information.” When the Hebrew Bible speaks of doing justice, of its obligation to the poor and downtrodden among them, it is a collective call: Hear, O Israel…it is not just an individual who takes on the obligation, but the community as a whole. It is this obligation which transfers into the church and to all of us who are part of Israel or the church. And yet, Beck’s charges are given the dignity of a hearing because he’s telegenic, and his audience doesn’t want to hear anything else. Glenn Beck can go jump. Fox News ought to be forced to change its name to “Fox Rumors” or something like it. It would be the first true statement heard on those airwaves in a long time. Pr Chris