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The Beck Week That Was; The “News? What News?” Edition

Reported by Guest Blogger - January 17, 2010 -

Guest blogged by Aunty Em

As Monday rolled around this last week, hordes of viewers dropped everything in eager anticipation of a whole new Glenn Beck Show on the not-so-new Fox News Channel. Since November Glenda has been promising his Beckerheads his show would be entirely different this year because he’s “moving on.”

Having watched untold hours of The Beck Bluster Hour, in which he retailed the same clips, connected the same dots, and said the same things, I (possibly more than anyone else) was greatly anticipating something entirely new. I was no less enthused for something new than his most fanatical of fans. I desperately needed something new.

That’s why it was such a major disappointment when the program faded up from black. There The Becketeer stood, as he always had, wearing a familiar suit and striped tie, on the same set, in front of the same chalkboard, with the same lame haircut, asking the same leading questions, while the same music played. Then they ran the same old pre-recorded opening, with the same spiffy graphics, featuring the same leaders with the same quotes.

Same ol’ shit, different year.

In fact, there was nothing to differentiate this show from any of the hundreds of previous shows he has done. [I hope I can differentiate this column from any of my previous. However, he held out some hope for something new, if we tune in a week from Friday, January 22nd, when he will present “Kind of what I like to call ‘New Year, New Show.’” when he will set the record straight on Che, Mao and Stalin - and, almost certainly, "prove" that they're directing White House policy from their graves. “They are killers,” Beck intoned and it clearly upset him that people wear Che t-shirts because they think it’s cool. “A brutal killer on a t-shirt!” Like people haven’t been known to wear Charles Manson t-shirts because it’s ironic, or post-ironic, or meta-ironic.

Beck certainly made it sound like can’t miss tee vee. I’ll tune in to watch him distort history. It’s when The Beckereeno’s at his funniest.

Meanwhile, Monday’s show was all about how President Obama and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez were both separated at birth and joined at the hip because of some coincidences that only our Conspiracy Comic coulc find to connect with his dots. After telling us all the ways they are the same, doing the same things, oppressing the same media, the monologue ended. When Glenda reappeared, he was waving the same old red phone from last year, saying the same thing, implying that because the “phone didn’t ring” during the break everything we saw earlier was the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Same old intellectual dishonesty.

Including when Beck asked, “Why is it that nobody seems to be paying any attention to the similarities that we’re seeing now between what Hugo Chavez has been doing in Venezuela and what’s happening here in America?” Then he kept telling us it was “compleeeeetly unrelated” in his sarcastic voice, over and over, he connected the dots for us. We’re obviously screwed.

Alex also watched it so you don’t have to and has a much fuller report.

Monday’s show began, “Live from New York…” and there was nothing in the show to indicate whether that was true or not. We can take him at his word because the red phone never rang. Tuesday’s show began, “Oh, this could be a dicey show today. Éclairs and pie. Unions, éclairs and pie! Oh my!” [Aunty Em is always pleased at references to the Wizard of Oz.] Note he did not say or even intimate the program was “live." More proof, if any more is needed, that there are some days the shows are "in the can" and other times he actually shows up to do it live. And further proof was still to come.

In both quality and quantity Tuesday’s show was no different than Monday’s show, which was no different from (pick any) show from last year…unless you like pie.

Making a not-so-rare appearance, Beckereeno the Prop Comic returned for what turned out to be an unfortunate segment. However, that was in retrospect. Beck would have had no way of knowing that when he taped it.

In what can only be likened it to “let them eat pie” mentality, “Iron Chef” Beck chopped up pie after pie, distributing pieces of them on this plate, slapping a slice on that plate, and tossing some on another plate. It was one of the most unappetizing messes I’ve ever seen on tee vee, and I’m a regular viewer of Diners, Dives and Drive Ins. It only got worse when Beck started chopping up chocolate éclairs and throwing them around the plates that already contained the autopsied pie.

It was at this point, around 5:12 ET, that I called Pops in for dinner. As Beck blithely tossed around a few hundred dollars worth of dessert, Pops arrived, fresh from watching CNN so I didn’t have to. He asked, “What about the earthquake?”

Earthquake? Flipping over to CNN, I discovered that it reported a (later downgraded) 7.4 earthquake had just unleashed a whole world of hurt on Haiti.

I flipped back to Faux Noise: Glenn Beck was still serving pie.

Back to CNN: They were just getting the first sketchy reports in from Haiti and it appeared to be total destruction.

I could not help but remember the incident from last week, reported by Ellen, when Faux Noise proved that Glenn Beck trumped National Security by cutting away from the Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, to return to his show, another canned effort, which was already in progress. Last week, I also imagined how it went when I described the angry phone calls that must have passed between Glenn Beck relaxing at home trying to watch his show, and Faux Noise Executives. It took about 12 minutes before someone at the network, with a little more juice, ordered Beck back on the air and National Security off.

It must have been quite the earful because, despite one of the worst natural catastrophes in our lifetime, Faux Noise decided that Glenn Beck’s Dessert Tray was more important than a 7.0 earthquake right in our own backyard.

Who doesn’t like pie? News? Not so much.

I continued to flip back and forth between Beck and CNN. Obviously Beck, in the can, couldn’t comment on contemporaneous news, giving CNN the edge. Yet, never once did I see (and admittedly I was over at CNN more than Faux) anything about the earthquake on the news crawl at the bottom of the screen. Surely this was also a decision, just like keeping Beck on the air was a decision. If I were a producer I wouldn’t make a big deal about the breaking news they could be following if they just grabbed their remote.

Certainly by 5:30, which is the live news update, Faux Noise could ignore the news no longer. Among the few stories teased was—Hey! Have you heard?—an earthquake in Haiti. They devoted approximately 20 words to it.

Others have talked about how little time Faux Noise's top three shows devoted to the earthquake on the following nights, but there has been little of what was happening on Faux in the immediate aftermath of Haiti’s disaster, while the concrete dust was still settling over Port-Au-Prince.

You should not think it’s just Beck who trumped this natural disaster at the news network. He (finally) finished his show and Special Report began. Quite frankly I don’t watch Bret “Baier Cub” Reporter/Host, so I have no idea what’s so special about his Special Report. One thing that could make it special is that it MIGHT ALSO BE a so-called News Program that is pre-recorded. There was nothing about the earthquake in the first half hour of Special Report. It was a series of stories, all of which (basically) repeated the meme of the year: Obama bad! [I have been unable to find the whole “Special Report” from that day, only various segments.] At the 5:30 News Break there was another 20 words or so devoted to the earthquake, and then it was back to regular programming, not to be confused with news programming.

It was not until Shepard Smith ramped up his show at 7PM ET could you say that Fox News was actually covering the most important news of the day, of the week, of the month and possibly of this year. That’s more than an hour and a half that Fox News, for all intents and purposes, ignored the news in favour of broadcasting (narrowcasting?) Faux Noise Programming.

Someone who watches Special Report regularly, so I don’t have to, may be able to determine whether the show is always prerecorded. It clearly was this night. Nothing else explains why they waited until 6:30 to mention the quake. While the agony of Haiti was already becoming known—while people were dying by the score—Fox News gave its audience 2 full hours of programming that could have been run at any time because it was prerecorded.

What can be concluded from this episode? That the Fox NEWS Channel is a news channel in name only. Kind of like how “Fair and Balanced” is just a slogan.

Need more proof? Tuesday was also the day that the quittingest ex-governor in all of these 50 United States, Sarah Palin, joined the Faux Noise Machine. While Loofah Lad O’Reilly got first crack on Tuesday, The Beckster announced he’d sit down with Sarah Palin for the whole hour on Wednesday.

And what an hour it was! When you combine Crazy with Crazy, it’s more than the sum of its two parts. It’s Crazy³. Pundits, blogs and comedians have already had a lot of fun with this interview, but let me point out the Clinical Crazy.

Sarah Palin showed her paranoia personality. When she found out the interview would take place with the actual Statue of Liberty in the background, she admitted to using the Googleizer so she wouldn’t get caught looking ignorant.

BECK: You were telling me before we went on the air stuff I didn't know about the Statue of Liberty and the 24 windows.

PALIN: Twenty-five windows. Yes.

BECK: What is this?

PALIN: Gems, representing the natural resources in our nation.

BECK: Yes, I didn't -- I didn't know that.

PALIN: Well, I had my son Google for me real quick. What does everything mean? What are the symbols?

BECK: Did you think there will be a test on this?

PALIN: Yes. I thought, oh, no, he's going to do a gotcha on what do those seven points mean and that's why I Google -- I had Track Google real quick.

And yet it felt as if Palin did little homework on a pretty easy civics question. As Ellen posted, there was a moment not at all unlike Katie Couric's question, “What newspapers do you read?” because she gave, basically, the same panicky answer she gave to Katie Couric.

BECK: Who is your favorite founder?

PALIN: You know, well, all of them because they came collectively together with so much diverse .

BECK: Bull crap. Who is your favorite?

PALIN: So much diverse opinion and so much diversity in terms of belief, but collectively they came together to form this union...No, and they were led by, of course, George Washington, so he's got to rise to the top. Washington was the consummate statesman.

There’s one other point to make about this interview and that concerns journalistic ethics. (I know, I know. The words “Glenn Beck” and “journalistic ethics” don’t really go together in the first place.) All-American Beck wanted an interview worthy of Sarah The Quitter, so he found one with the Statue of Liberty as a backdrop. Did Glenn Beck trade an on-air plug for Battery Gardens for the right to record his show there? It certainly appears that way.

Meanwhile, C. Edmund Wright at American Thinker (hardly a liberal outfit) put the Beck-Palin interview under the stopwatch. Of the 38 minutes in the show, Beck yabbered for 22 of them, leaving just 16 for Sarah.

If that’s not pathological enough, I believe Glenn Beck displayed a full compliment as the week progressed. Let’s put him back on the couch, which I love to do. When Wednesday’s interview began, Beck’s voice was hoarse and harsh. Having just finished the Robert A. Caro’s 3-volume biography of Lyndon Johnson, I detect a similar pattern. Whenever the stresses of his life were at the greatest, LBJ developed an illness, severe skin rash, or simply lost his voice. Could this have been a psychosomatic reaction to his nervousness at interviewing his heroine Sarah The Palin?

I ask because this is how the interview actually began, “Before we start, Sarah, I want to read what I wrote last night in my journal, because it's about you.”

Glenda keeps a journal? I predict he’ll publish it soon.

In a voice that was a combination of absolutely sincere unctuousness, and the reading of a wistful love letter to someone left back home, he continued his interrogation. “‘Tomorrow, I meet Sarah Palin and family for the first time. I'm actually a little nervous — as she is one of the only people that I can see that can possibly lead us out of where we are. I don't know yet if she's strong enough, if she's well enough advised, or if she knows she can no longer trust anyone. I don't know if she can lead and not lose her soul.’”

“That is where I'd like to go for the next hour, to find out if this is the woman that can lead us and not lose her soul.”

And that was before the opening credits. If that wasn’t enough to make himself sick, it sure made me ill. Jon Stewart thought Palin also looked a little queasy at the gills.

Thursday’s show was Part Two of “Time to be Heard,” the program that Beck had promised before his appendix almost exploded. It began with Beck pandering to his studio audience by reading them a quote by Martin Luther King. Here’s the basic premise: Get a bunch of African-American Conservatives in a room and pretend they are representational of African-Americans as a whole. Then try to teach them things about race relations in ‘Merka by quoting MLK to them.

I actually think this would be a hilarious, high concept premise for a sitcom. Just mix equal parts of “The Jerk,” with “Big Brother,” and The Fresh Prince of Beck Air. If I couldn’t get Glenn Beck, I’d go for an actor who is so quintessentially White that they glow in the dark, but who can also ‘play funny.’ Think: Owen Wilson.

But, I digress.

One other point to make about Thursday’s show: Beck’s (possibly psychosomatic laryngitis was far worse than it had been the previous day. It couldn’t have been nerves because Black people are his natural constituency.

Or could it? When the first words I heard on Friday’s show were, “I’m Eric Bolling in for Glenn Beck, who is under the weather,” I breathed a sigh of relief: another Friday Glenn Beck Show I wouldn’t have to cover. I grabbed the remote and turned on CNN, where I knew I’d get the latest in Haiti, as well as any other breaking news that might be happening in the world at that moment.

With all my love,
Aunty Em