Beck's Long Goodbye

Kelly Baker

On this past Thursday night, Glenn Beck said goodbye to Fox News and television sets, and hello to GBTV, his internet news channel. Here's a recap of the last show involving Jon Stewart, Hitler, and God. Over at Religion Dispatches, I editorialize about his departure, his legacy of history-making, and his brand of nationalism. Here's a glimpse:

Much of the coverage concludes that Beck is, at best, “bonkers.” Alex Pareene of, however, realizes that perhaps this is not “some sort of victory”; that leaving Fox is not the end of Beck, but rather that his legacy might not be as a talking head but as an amateur historian, the creator of Beck University, with a clear, and popular, articulation of nation. The tagline for BU promises, “learn history as it really happened” with David Barton responsible for courses labeled Faith 101, 102, and 103, in which students can (of course) learn about the faith of the Founding Fathers.

Beck’s mantle of telling history like it really “was” is packaged, glossy, and consumed. Yet this mantle, or even legacy, does not solely belong to him. The struggle to reclaim the nation, or “restore honor,” began long before he, the John Birch Society, Joseph McCarthy and the like joined it in the mid-twentieth century. Americans, from the Reconstruction Klan in the 1860s, the Know Nothings of the 1890s to the second Klan of the 1910s and 1920s, to home-grown Christian fascists of the 1930s, sought to protect a nation in peril from any perceived threat, be it Catholic, Jew, African American, or Communist.


Brad Hart said…
Hasta la vista, Glenn. Thanks for all the crazy!
Tom Van Dyke said…
Kelly---and Brad---I enjoy your writing. This post has troubled me for days now. It must be said that Glenn Beck's big national prayer meeting was non-sectarian, and it went so goddam well that the anti-religious left and smirking class couldn't lay a glove on it or him.

It fit in solidly with genuine American pluralism---all sects, all races welcomed and embraced.

I can't see how it's fair to associate him in any way---anywhere in the same paragraph or even essay---with the KKK of the 1920s.

Red-baiting, well, that would be a fair criticism, but it's a different bag of beans.

Mostly, I hope we've heard the end of Beck as political football; he's entitled to his opinion. I have never been pro- but have almost always found the con- unfair. And that's what bugs me.

He's not KKK or remotely comparable. The man is even chill with gay marriage but can't take his family to the park without somebody getting in his face.

With all due respect, I think the shoe is on the wrong foot here.