There’s a little too much love for Glenn Beck in Utah. I mean, I get it: He has an endearing story. He has overcome an addiction to alcohol and gone from a small radio program in Kentucky to CNN Headline News to the news source you can always count on, Fox News. He’s also very politically conservative, which may or may not have had something to do with him landing at Fox.
And let’s not forget he’s Mormon, which makes him especially popular here, the same way people supported David Archuleta on American Idol and all the other Mormon candidates on all the other reality shows. Not because they were necessarily the best participants, but because they were part of the Mormon culture which is undeniably very cliquish.
Add all those things together and this guy is getting more recognition and love in Utah (and particularly Utah County) all the time. Take, for example, the number of people “fanning” him on Facebook, the same way they “fan” the President of the LDS Church, families or the “Yes on Prop 8″ campaign. He has also emceed “Stadium of Fire,” Provo’s Fourth of July celebration, two years in a row, beating out Sean Hannity and others of his ilk. I’m not usually one to talk about the Mormon culture in the public arena because I feel like it is already so engulfing in this area, but I have to draw the line with this guy. I guess I’ve not been as impressed with him as others generally have been.
The first time I got turned off by Glenn Beck was back when he was still on Headline News. His guest that day was Keith Ellison, the first Muslim ever elected to the United States Congress. After warning Ellison that he was going to be politically incorrect and explaining that he knows and likes Muslims, Beck asked Congressman Ellison to prove his patriotism and demanded to know if he was “working with our enemies.” You can make all the arguments you want about it being a joke or about how political correctness is destroying America but, at the end of the day, it was tactless.
The antics don’t stop there. On June 30th, Beck agreed with a guest that insisted that it would take another attack from Osama Bin Laden for Americans to stop trying to earn praise from Europeans and demand that their government protect them with “as much violence as necessary.” That’s a little much isn’t it? Just a little excessive? Yet Beck’s popularity remains alive and well.
On July 28th, Beck called President Barack Obama, the country’s first black president, a racist on the “Fox & Friends” morning show. This comment has garnered quite a bit of attention lately, with at least 20 of Beck’s sponsors justifiably pulling advertisements from his show as a direct result of his statement. He went further though, saying that Obama has a “deep-seated hatred for white people” and “white culture.” (He tried to backtrack literally within two minutes: “I’m not saying he doesn’t like white people.”) Nevermind that Obama’s mother and half of his family is white. Nevermind the speeches he has given trying to improve race relations. Nevermind the fact that Beck has absolutely no factual backing for this outrageous claim. If the great Glenn Beck, Mormon superstar, says it, then it has to be true, right?
Beck employs a very common tactic that a lot of people use: They give a qualifier before saying something offensive. It’s like the person we have all run across at some point that says, “I’m not a racist but…” then goes on to use various pejoratives. Giving a qualifying statement does not mean you can say anything you want afterward.
Beck excels in this arena. On March 9th, he began using a recurring theme on his show about Obama lifting the ban on stem-cell research and its supposed link to eugenics, a tactic used by Hitler and the Nazis in an attempt to improve a population through breeding. He went on to blame “progressive doctors” and the “progressive movement and its science” for eugenics. Recently he did an entire segment on eugenics. After months of this nonsense, Beck tried to qualify his obsession with stem-cell research leading to eugenics on August 11th, explaining that “no one is saying eugenics is coming.” Actually, Glenn Beck has been saying (very loudly) that eugenics is coming for the past six months. If he doesn’t think eugenics is coming, then why is he even talking about it? But that’s how Beck does business: He qualifies, then makes outrageous claims.
Mormons can’t pretend like they don’t get offended when people make offensive or even politically incorrect comments about them or their faith. (That would be quite the double standard.) There have been many instances when Mormons have called each other to arms over comments made about the faith, myself included at times. For example, when ESPN analyst Ric Bucher played on Mormon stereotypes when discussing Utah Jazz fans, saying they are supposed to be “happy all the time,” thus causing them to “get vicious” at Jazz games because that is the only opportunity they have to do so. (He was later forced to apologize and replaced that weekend when he was scheduled to broadcast NBA playoff games, because of the Mormon backlash.) Or when Maureen Dowd of The New York Times made outrageous statements about Joseph Smith, causing Mormons to create a far-reaching chain letter to facilitate the sending of letters of protest to the newspaper. Or when Rev. Al Sharpton alienated himself and Christians in general from Mormons by referring to himself and other Christians as “those of us who believe in God,” implying that Mormons do not believe in such a deity. (He was forced to explain himself and apologize as well.)
The problem is that when Glenn Beck makes outlandish remarks, sometimes about other faiths and cultures, he is vehemently defended by the same group of Mormons that forcefully defend themselves when others say similarly insensitive things about them and their beliefs. The double standard abounds.
The love for good ol’ Glenn continues around here and that probably won’t change any time soon. Yet I am encouraged: There is a new group on Facebook called “Mormons Embarrassed by Glenn Beck.” Maybe a few fair-minded individuals will join that group and fight the lunacy.
Randal Serr is a liberal political columnist for Rhombus. No, you can’t excommunicate him for disliking Glenn Beck.