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The Beck Week That Was; Progressives Go To The Movies Edition

Reported by Guest Blogger - January 24, 2010 -

Guest blogged by Aunty Em

Move over, Michael Moore. Glenn Beck went into the documentary bidnezz last week.

However, since that wouldn’t take place until Friday, January 22nd, there were still 4 days to slog through before The Whole Damned World would “learn the truth” about Mao, Che, and Stalin.

The week began with a bit of a pleasant surprise. It was just a mere week ago that the following words appeared in this space:

“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.”

Do you think he’s been reading this column? I’m beginning to suspect he does. The set, the suit, the striped tie, and the haircut were all the same on Monday. However, Beck dispensed with the chalkboard and stupid leading questions, if not the actual stupidity itself. And, an ever bigger surprise awaited me. There was a brand new prerecorded opening to the show!!! Thanks, Glenda!!

However, if I had to sum up the 4 shows that preceded Friday’s Big, Extravagant, Scary Documentary, the phrase “same ol’ shit” still applies.

At one point on Monday he linked Progressives to eugenics and to the Holocaust. In fact his entire week, not to mention all of last year, linked Progressives to everything that has ever gone wrong since the beginning of time, or at least Woodrow Wilson, and that President Obama is a dangerous Progressive who doesn’t realize he’s surrounded by dangerous Progressives.

It was much the same on Tuesday, when The Beckerhead used eliminationist rhetoric to smear Progressives and progressivism.

But it wasn’t all progressive hate on Tuesday. It being the first anniversary of his show arriving at Fox News Channel, Ben Gleck™ played a back-slapping segment in which current Faux Noise personalities sent along congratulations and good wishes to the new ratings dynamo at the network on this auspicious occasion. It’s so heartwarming, you really do have to see it for yourself.

Wednesday it was back to business as usual: Progressive Bashing, with a twist. In what seemed like some kind of eerie wish fulfillment, Beck promoted a coming battle within the actual White House, between the Progressives and not-so-Progressives on the left. Beck hoped the Secret Service would not be needed to protect the president’s life because, “The most dangerous time in any regime, especially a radicalized regime, is when it is in collapse.”

He went on, “Watch the uber-Left. Pray that Obama moves to the center. If he does, pray that the Secret Service care for that man. That that man is never left alone. He has invited 9-11 Truthers into the White House and into his administration! If they believe that he's 'just another one of these guys,' he is in danger.”

Beck concern-trolling for President Obama? Whudathunkit?

Thursday’s show was not a lot different from Wednesday’s, which was not dissimilar to Tuesday’s, which had nothing to differentiate it from Monday’s show, which was a lot like all the other programs in the last 365 days.

That’s why I was so jazzed in anticipation of Friday’s show. He’s been promising us something new for so long, it’s gotten old by now. However, all week, and for the 3 final segments on Thursday, he promoted his first documentary, “The Revolutionary Holocaust; Live Free Or Die.” He was very proud of this work, he wanted us to know. They’ve been putting it “together since August,” he claimed. It’s the truth “the Progressives don’t want you to know” because the Progressives “are changing history itself.”

I always thought it took Michael J. Fox and a flux capacitor to do that, but what do I know?

What I do know, without fear of contradiction, is that there’s nothing funnier than when The Beckinator deems to give us a history lesson. Who can forget his hilarious Tragical History Tour of artwork in NYC? Or his laughable assertion that Nixon’s Enemy List was merely about who was invited to state diners and no government resources were used to crush people like Daniel Ellsberg.

Beck made it clear that this documentary would not be fun and games. It came with a parental warning due to the graphic images. “Do not watch this special with your children,” he intoned, in his most serious voice, about his very first After School Special.

He just made it sound better and better, didn’t he?

When GB faded up from black at 5PM EST Friday I got the biggest, and quite frankly only, laugh of the hour. To ‘bookend’ the documentary with a short opening, there he sat on the edge of a console in some anonymous Faux Noise control room—same suit, same tie, same haircut—but wearing another accoutrement: spectacles. I guess he’s bought into the myth that people who wear glasses are smart and so, to introduce the special documentary of which he is obviously so proud, he wears glasses so his audience, not known for its Mensa members, will think he’s smart.

Don’t try to tell me this wasn’t purposeful. This was the opening to his Big Deal Documentary and, as such, would have been planned as meticulously as anything else in the show. And, don’t try to tell me that he’s worn glasses on his show previously. I concede the point, but I don’t remember ever seeing him wear his glasses; occasionally he has put them on to better see something he was looking at. However, as I recall, he has always removed them almost immediately.

However, Glenn Beck felt it best to look like the right’s stereotype of an eggheaded elitist to introduce his documentary, the same people he often makes fun of. The only thing missing was the pipe and elbow patches on a tweed jacket (a look he affected previously to demonstrate what an eggheaded elitist looks like). I bet he doesn’t even get the irony.

What about the documentary itself? What a let down, folks.

First, there was not one single thing in the documentary that I hadn’t heard before, which puts a lie to his basic premise: that these are facts being withheld from you. “You don’t know the truth. They [Progressives] changed it,” he claimed on Thursday, when he also quoted one of his interns researchers, who supposedly has a Masters in History, saying they had never learned any of that in school.

I realize I am probably better read than the average person, but the facts contained in the documentary are available to anyone who wants to pick up a book or use the Googleizer. However, these are things he hopes his audience never starts doing, unless it’s reading his books or Googling his name.

Which brings us to the facts themselves, always a grey area when trying to review The Glenn Beck Conspiracy Hour and Chuck Wagon Round-Up. Lo and behold, for once he got ALMOST (with one big caveat) all his facts straight. I was unable to find a single thing worthy of looking up to see if I could catch him in a falsehood. F’rinstance: while he ascribed 70 million deaths to Chairman Mao, the figure I had in the back of my mind was 50-60 million. While the deaths of some 20 million people are significant, the difference doesn’t negate Beck’s premise that Mao was a killer.

And, so was Stalin, and so was Che, although on a far less colossal scale. These are not secrets being held back from a misinformed populace, unless it wishes to be misinformed. These facts are available to anyone who cares to find them.

However, the entire House of Cards (here’s the big caveat) is built on a shaky and clearly disprovable set of facts. To Beck, and his obvious Mentor, Jonah Goldberg, Hitler, Communism, Socialism, Fascism, Stalin, Mao, Che are all left wing. It’s the same basic premise of Goldberg’s rightly derided bookLiberal Fascism,” from which this documentary seems to be a spin-off.

Left out of the documentary, of course, are any right wing dictators who might have blood on their hands.

So, if the basic facts are not really in dispute, there’s nothing left to do but review “The Revolutionary Holocaust” as a piece of documentary filmmaking, while others examine the history.

Hoo boy! What a mess.

Beck seemed to think he was making a film for the Sesame Street crowd, or those who would prefer to watch “Short Attention Span Theater”.

I contacted Gemini-nominated Canadian documentary filmmaker Alan Zweig, director of “Vinyl,” (one of my favourite documentaries of all time, on the obsessions of vinyl record collectors).

Zweig made a good point when he told me, “Glenn Beck's documentary, unfortunately, is not that dissimilar from a lot of documentaries that get made for TV. I can't say that social issues documentaries are any less propagandistic. It actually reminded me of a lot of things I've enjoyed on Frontline. I think they even hired the same narrator. The one difference is the amount of effects they used - color changes, extreme closeups, fast cuts etc. Whenever I see that many efx [special effects], I always think that the filmmakers are trying to distract me, that they can't afford to give me a moment to think or reflect. And usually the reason they need the distraction is because they don't really have anything.”

Which parallels my own critique of the documentary. Many of the images used in the film are, indeed, horrific to watch: dead bodies, people being murdered, and footage of famine victims. When the images you start with are so stark, so immediate, so black and white and visceral, adding special effects detracts from viewers’ experience. If your basic source material is death and destruction, special effects are superfluous. In fact, the overuse of special effects puts the viewer at one more remove from the horrors. It treats death almost like a banality.

It’s as if someone took Diane Arbus or Weegee photographs and hand-tinted them with pretty pastel colours.

So, how was the documentary in terms of AgitProp? If that was Beck's intent, he failed miserably here. This documentary was, surprisingly for The Whirling Dervish, almost totally devoid of spin, except for another caveat.

(Any spin, it should be noted, came in all the segments he has done over the last year tying Progressives to everything bad in the world that has ever happened since the beginning of time. Come the following weeks, I’m sure he’ll use his show to tie the Progressive Movement to this documentary, which he has promised is the first in a series.)

The caveat is this: it truly seems to offend The Beckster that anyone would wear a t-shirt with an image of Mao, or Che, or Stalin. So much so, that he’s mentioned this several times on his show. At one point in the documentary, he couldn’t resist the cheap props that he’s become famous for. He had sexy, well-proportioned, women wearing t-shirts as described above. After giving the camera a ‘come hither’ look, they turned around to reveal slogans on the back of the t-shirts:

- “This t-shirt executed thousands of people for their political beliefs;”

- “This t-shirt killed twice as many people as Hitler;”

- “This t-shirt intentionally starved 7-10 million people to death in one year;” and

- “This t-shirt killed 70 million people in peace time.”

This certainly took away from the overall point Beck was trying to make, that some evil people killed a great many people. If you follow his logic, “guns don’t kill people, t-shirts kill people.”

Many of the filmmakers contacted for this article seemed reluctant to go on the record. Whether it’s due to the absolute power Beck holds in the entertainment industry is something that cannot be determined. Possibly, many filmmakers feel like award winning director Amy Heckerling, Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Clueless, who told me, “Don't watch him, don't want to start.”

The one person whose opinion I sought, but failed to contact, is the most famous documentarian of them all: Michael Moore. I thought it would be educational to hear the thoughts of Mr. Moore on The Beckster muscling in on his bailiwick. Furthermore, I would have asked Moore how it feels to be called “The Blob” by Ben Gleck™, as he had been on Tuesday.

All in all, Mr. Moore, I really don’t think you have anything to worry about. Beck failed to produce anything new or startling; missed the mark at the type of advocacy agitprop expected of him; and, worse of all, he didn’t make me laugh or cry once, as your films always do. However, if you’d still like talk about Beck the Documentarian, feel free to call. I am installing a red phone just for you.

With all my love,

Aunty Em