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The Beck Week That Was; The Book Tour Edition

Reported by Guest Blogger - February 22, 2010 -

Guest blogged by Aunty Em

News that Glenn Beck was the New Oprah trickled slowly up the grapevine in the book biz, and even slower into the American consciousness. Not only did all his last several books reach #1 on the New York Times Bestseller List, but whenever he mentions a book on The Glenn Beck Program, it seems to spike in sales on Amazon.

In fact, Beck is such a Big Deal in publishing that he has the type of contract with Simon & Schuster that few writers can command. In exchange for smaller advances on his cartoon books Beck now has a profit sharing arrangement and will make far more than the usual 15% royalty rate on hardcovers. He also will have a greater hand in designing the books. Stephen King is one of the few writers with this type of arrangement and he once said that Beck was “Satan’s mentally challenged younger brother.”

The two books Biblio Beck touts the most on his tee vee extravaganza are (take a deep breath), The Patriot’s History of the United States: From Columbus’s Great Discovery to the War on Terror (exhale) by Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen and The Coming Insurrection by The Invisible Committee. Beck took both books from near obscurity to sales that any author would kill for and, in the case of “Insurrection” may already have, according to Beck.

Being a bibliophile from way back, I figured I had to read these books. Since The Coming Insurrection is available online for free, I decided I’d seek out TPHotUS:FCGDttWiT instead. Not for me these new fangled online booketerias. When I shop for books (or CDs) I want to hold them, turn them over, read the blurbs on the inside flaps, check the heft, look for any illustrations, and then plunk down my money. Just like the day when I bought Glenn Beck’s “The Christmas Sweat(er)” and introduced myself to him. So I was off to The Bricks and Mortar Bookstores, none of which I will identify by name.

There are compelling reasons for wanting to read this book with the impossibly long title. I’ve read a lot of presidential biographies. Currently I’m reading “Theodore Rex” by Edmund Morris after just finishing the same author’s “The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt,” whose 750 pages ends on the day President McKinley died, propelling Teddy into the White House. On my waiting-to-be-read-shelf is “The Years of Lyndon Johnson; Master of the Senate” by Robert Caro (after recently finishing the first two volumes, “The Path to Power” and “Means of Ascent”). This huge tome will conclude with LBJ’s presidency, if Caro ever finishes this project. I’ve read many books on Nixon, a personal obsession of mine. And I’ve also read biographies of about 25 other presidents, including Lincoln, Truman, John Adams, Reagan, and Washington. (I bring this up not to brag, but to indicate that reading presidential biographies is a hobby of mine.) However, I’ve never read a biography of Woodrow Wilson. If I understand Beck correctly (and that’s always an iffy proposition), this is the book that informed him on Wilson and why he hates the S.O.B.

I have a confession to make: On this I agree with Glenn Beck. I also hate the S.O.B. How could I hate him if I just admitted I haven’t read a biography of Wilson? Because I know just enough about him to hate him. I know that Woodrow Wilson once invited D.W. Griffiths to the White House to screen “The Birth of a Nation” for invited guests. After the movie Wilson praised it by saying “It is like writing history with lightning. And my only regret is that it is all so terribly true.” To be fair: Other sources have denied Wilson ever made this statement. No matter because Wilson had praised the KKK in his previous writings. “The white men were roused by a mere instinct of self preservation… until at last there had sprung into existence a great Ku Klux Klan, a veritable empire of the South, to protect the Southern country,” which Griffith quoted in “Birth of a Nation.” Clearly Wilson was a racist mofo and no amount of whitewashing in the White House will ever disguise that fact.

This racist movie (with Wilson’s tacit, if not verbal, endorsement) and the murder of Mary Phagen (and subsequent lynching of Leo Frank, the convicted Jew whose death sentence had been commuted to life) are often cited as the triggers for the Refounding of the KKK, or what is known as The Second Klan. “The new Klan was inaugurated in 1915 at a meeting led by William J. Simmons on top of Stone Mountain, and attended by aging members of the original Klan, along with members of the Knights of Mary Phagan.”

This is my reason for hating Wilson. I suppose I’ll have to read TPHotUS:FCGDttWiT to see why Beck hates him so.

The other compelling reason to read it is that it was co-authored by Larry Schweikart. Aside from shilling his book on Beck, he’s also a reoccurring guest on the morning comedy show, “The Three Stooges on the Curvy Couch,” aka “Fox & Friends.” He shows up often to rail against the left wing bias in history textbooks. Having read James Loewen’s “Lies My Teacher Told Me” and “Lies Across America,” I agree there’s a lot of misinformation in textbooks, but it appears to be slanted the opposite way Schweikart contends. Reading it would allow me to see what kind of right wing slant Schweikart brings to the table.

I visited 9 different bookstores over the course of 2 weeks in an attempt to find this book, without any luck. However, discussions ranged from the bizarre to the more bizarre. Something I learned pretty quickly. No matter how hard I baited them, the clerks at the Big Box Bookstores would not criticize Glenn Beck, except one (read on). Bookie Beck must sell a lot of books. Every single store directed me instead to “A People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn (R.I.P.), with 4 of them telling me it was a superior book. Half of those referred to TPHotUS:FCGDttWiT as the anti-Zinn. Most suggested I order it online or they’d order it for me. All were eventually told I had to read it in order to blog about The Becketeer. Two replied by asking me if I was crazy.

Who asked that? The only person at Big Box Bookstore who criticized Beck joined a Pop, of a Mom & Pop Bookstore, in questioning my sanity. Both gave me spirited discussions about books in general and Beck in particular. The young guy at the Big Box Bookstore wanted to talk about how crazy Beck’s Radio Drama Theatre is because he listens to it on the way into work and chortles at the absurdity. He said he finds it hard to believe that anyone believes what comes out of his mouth. I had to admit I had never listened to Beck’s Radio Extravaganza aside from clips I listen to for research. He was disappointed because he never catches the tee vee show so we didn’t have a lot of notes to compare. However, I told him that I watch it so he doesn’t have to, and gave him the URL.

The other bookstore was one of those small places that caught my eye, so I thought I would stop. The elder gent had a lot to say about Glenn Beck, Fox News and Sean Hannity (his particular obsession, it would seem), which I’ve cleaned up. He thinks they are destroying America and admitted he had been a lifelong Republican, but sat out the last election. “Obama was too new, McCain was too old, and Palin?” he just trailed off. Now he supports Obama, thinking he’s a very good president attempting to do good things for people. However, even if he didn’t support Obama personally he would still be his president. He is appalled at the rhetoric that is condoned at the network and “Tea Bag Rallies.” When I mentioned they don’t like that term he said, “Screw ‘em. They’re all a bunch of perverts who pretend to be holier than thou anyway. They should suck balls.” I was surprised he knew what the term meant. When I mentioned my Beck Blogging he said he wanted to start his own blog because he had a lot to say. I agreed and I gave him the News Hounds URL and my own personal blog as two examples. He refuses to carry any Beck Books, but that seems to have more to do with how heavily discounted they are to the large retail chains and he can’t compete. However, he got excited when told him that that his Hannity must be getting jealous of Beck’s success because next month he’s releasing his first new book in 6 years. We jumped on The Google and were disappointed that the closest the book tour comes to us is Orlando. We talked for well over an hour and he turned me on to a few books that I’ll have to come back for.

To make a long story short: I never had so much fun not finding a book I didn’t really want.

Oh yeah, and Glen Beck also had some tee vee shows last week.

On Monday, he waxed nostalgic for “the good old days when things made sense.” Tuesday, he blamed the murder of 3 people at the University of Alabama on a left-wing extremist. To celebrate the One Year Anniversary of The Stimulus Package on Wednesday, he smashed two expensive cakes together.

I cannot help remember every mother’s lament when he wastes food that way, “There are children starving in Africa.”

Then on Thursday, he barked like the rabid dog he is.

Friday, I missed the show entirely. If I really cared enough I could watch it here. Ellen posted that he spent much of the show attempting to con people out of Social Security, Medicare and pensions by suggesting that we'd all be happier. Of course, HE'D be happier paying less to the government and, at the same time, never having to spend a moment worrying about bills or health care costs.

The truth of the matter is, despite his constant promises, his program doesn’t change. The same chalkboards, villains, clips, magnets, distorted history, and un-sourced statistics appear day after day, week after week, month after month. It’s far more fun to have conversation with people about Beck than it is to watch his shows.

Saturday, The Becketeer gave the keynote address at CPAC. Look for more about that later in the week, if I can take my nose out of the Teddy book. He’s about to run for the presidency in 1904.

With all my love,

Aunty Em