Lowering the tone.

This isn’t a question I spend a lot of time contemplating, but if you were to ask me to name a radio host who makes Sean Hannity look like Walter Cronkite, I’d immediately answer, “That’s easy — Glenn Beck.”

WOWO picked him up in Fort Wayne when I was still there, and it took about seven seconds before I pegged him as yet another contender for the Formerly Fat Man’s throne, should he ever feel like retiring or dying of a drug overdose. He came to town to lead one of these “Rallies for America” before Fort Wayne started sending its young men off to Iraq — flag-waving whoop-de-dos with lots of purple mountain majesties and Republicans.

But it was in Ohio where Beck made a big splash, grilling the mayor over a case of violence in Columbus Public Schools. I was discussing this case with a friend, and got as far as that previous sentence — “he grilled the mayor over a case of violence in Columbus Public Schools” — when he interrupted me with the obvious question: “What does the mayor of Columbus have to do with how the schools handle their affairs? That’s the school board’s job.” What an excellent point. Unfortunately, the mayor lost his temper when he should have just hung up, and oh my, but many points were scored.


So who, then, does CNN hire for a new show? But of course. I’m a couple days late with this, but I think San Francisco’s Tim Goodman sums up CNN’s problems pretty well:

Meanwhile, CNN’s Headline News has hired talk-radio host Glenn Beck, who is just to the right of Attila the Hun. The network tried to pass him off as some kind of affable conversationalist. That lasted about four, maybe five seconds, until all kinds of media watchdog groups pointed out Beck’s hate speech — calling Hurricane Katrina victims “scumbags” and saying he hated some of the family members who lost relatives on Sept. 11 because, well, they complained too much.

Sorry to start with the bloggage and not have any same ol’ same ol’ today, but yesterday was a socks-on-the-lampshade sort of day and today is going to be of the nose-to-the-grindstone variety. I took an assignment thinking it was something I could accomplish with one hand and a few enjoyable phone calls, and I’m now realizing it’s going to take actual, you know, hard work.

I hate when that happens. And it happens every day. But you know what? I still wouldn’t give it up. It occurred to me the other day that while I’m not yet making a living, I am making a life, and that counts for a lot.

More later, maybe. It’s time you learned the truth: I do all this while waiting for phone calls to be returned.

Posted at 10:22 am in Media |

26 responses to “Lowering the tone.”

  1. mary said on January 24, 2006 at 10:28 am

    I have to confess, I write messages in here while waiting for phone calls to be returned. This whole thing exists because we leave voice mails.

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  2. brian stouder said on January 24, 2006 at 10:44 am

    Glen Beck is definitely, deeply down in the wingnut bin – but the all time cake-taker for dumb teevee all-news hires was when my fave, MSNBC, hired that Michael the Savage Weiner.

    That hire stuck me as possibly the most stupid move possible (maybe David Duke didn’t return their phone calla?) – and sure enough I think he lasted a week or two before he got fired for an exceedingly hateful remark to a caller.

    But to be fair to CNN, if you tune into the Connie Chung- Maury Povich weekend show on MSNBC, maybe you can explain it to me. I watched one installment, and didn’t ‘get’ it. They shift from real news to commentary to spoof news so seamlessly that the whole thing is simply dreck.

    (I know, I know – “And that distinguishes it from other teevee news shows HOW?”)

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  3. nancy said on January 24, 2006 at 10:48 am

    Ah, yes — the old “I hope you get AIDS and die, scumbag” retort. Thanks for resurrecting that lovely memory.

    I have listened to M.T.S.W. on occasion, and he always leaves me feeling sad and anxious. Connie Kovas was always telling me to lighten up and accept these shows as the zany entertainment they clearly were, but I guess I can’t get that lightened. It’s just too creepy. Even if I could accept that it’s all an act for him, there are his callers. Who are clearly serious.

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  4. brian stouder said on January 24, 2006 at 11:14 am

    “Even if I could accept that it’s all an act for him, there are his callers. Who are clearly serious.”

    It IS scary. I draw a little comfort from the realization that rabble rousers are nothing new under the sun – and that the rabble is being roused by (relatively) tamer ignorant prejudices nowadays.

    To the extent that people will default to public figures who espouse prejudices with which they are comfortable (the “they have to be carefully taught” school of thought), the fact that the naked anti-Semitism of a cultural icon like Henry Ford and his Dearborn newspaper commentaries (for example) are gone (forever?) is a GOOD thing.

    At a minimum, even if some people nurture that sort of spiteful hate and hostility, still they at least see the downside to actually spouting it.

    Still – there is a lot of “rabble” within humanity, and there’s always a profit for a skillful rouser

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  5. joodyb said on January 24, 2006 at 1:32 pm

    Beck arrived here this month, via the suckiest excuse for yet another talk radio station, the first one on FM: Rush moves to Clear Channel, thus precipitating an entire day of weak programming, and apparently they continue to pray the advertisers will come. I’m calling it: fatty fat tax writeoff in 2 years). call letters are KTLK(FM). Clear Channel must figure nobody here has ever been to LA (they also own THAT STATION).
    Beck is positlvely toxic. he follows Rush. makes my head explode.

    Meanwhile, who is this demo? Who listens to this at 2 in the afternoon? This is not a rhetorical question, people. I really want to know. It looks like so much flailing to me.

    (Twin Cities is one piss-poor radio market to begin with. Has been for a long time.)

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  6. mary said on January 24, 2006 at 2:07 pm

    I used to look into forums in Compuserve and read the messages. If you have access to Compuserve, check out the Crime forum. Those people are the demographic. They are retired or self employed or living on disability, and they eat up that junk from Rush and Bill O’Reilly. They all love Fox News, hate gays, own guns and think Teri Schiavo was murdered. The women have little emoticons of teddy bears and puppies with their signatures, but wish people to rot in hell for disagreeing with them. For a few months I read messages in there all the time, but I found I was starting to truly dislike my fellow man. There is a sad, ignorant subculture out there, and they vote and listen to people who make money stirring them up and selling them hate.

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  7. Danny said on January 24, 2006 at 2:11 pm

    Never having listened to Beck, I can’t really weigh in on how “right of Attila the Hun” he is. But from a casual glance at the transcript on mediamatters.org, it does appear that Tim Goodman isn’t really being honest.

    Beck: …Those are the only ones we’re seeing on television are the scumbags — and again, it’s not all the people in New Orleans. Most of the people in New Orleans got out! It’s just a small percentage of those who were left in New Orleans, or who decided to stay in New Orleans, and they’re getting all the attention. It’s exactly like the 9-11 victims’ families. There’s about 10 of them that are spoiling it for everybody.

    Sounds like he was talking about a lawless few. In the immortal words of Celine Dion, “Take a kayak!!!”

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  8. Danny said on January 24, 2006 at 2:28 pm

    …have little emoticons of teddy bears and puppies with their signatures, but wish people to rot in hell for disagreeing with them.

    Nance, sounds like the your friends over there at poorman, except they have kittens, typically.

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  9. alex said on January 24, 2006 at 2:51 pm

    Danny, who are the lawless few 9/11 victims’ families?

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  10. Cynthia said on January 24, 2006 at 3:30 pm

    Hello, Mary of The Sweeping Generalizations! I listen to Rush because he’s entertaining and makes me think about things whether I agree with him or not. I like (not “love”) Fox news as much as I like any other crappy cable news network, and they are all pretty crappy in my opinion, don’t own a gun, love gays, support gay marriage and cheered when Terry Schiavo’s tube was pulled.

    I do agree with you about Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and Glen Beck. They are all extremes on the right side. But the left side has its extremes, as well. Randi Rhodes, Janeane Garafalo, Michael Moore come to mind for starters.

    “There is a sad, ignorant subculture out there, and they vote and listen to people who make money stirring them up and selling them hate.”

    You are so right about that – on both sides. Check out the comments at Daily Kos, Democrat Underground, Moveon.org and read what those sad, ignorant people have to say. And perhaps you’ve read Deborah Howell’s 1-22-06 column at the Washington Post about her encounter with hate speech.

    It’s both sides, Mary. Both sides.

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  11. brian stouder said on January 24, 2006 at 3:36 pm

    “And perhaps you’ve read Deborah Howell’s 1-22-06 column at the Washington Post about her encounter with hate speech.”

    Actually, when I saw Nance’s header “Lower the tone” I thought that she was going to reflect on just that.

    What caught my eye in reading Howell’s response was that she has a contract(?!) with the Washington Post which still has 2 years left on it.

    I thought THAT was fascinating

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  12. Danny said on January 24, 2006 at 4:13 pm

    Alex, it’s a subject-predicate thing, the subject being the few in New Orleans who deliberately sought to break the law and victimize the people who were really helpless in the city.Tim Goodman’s assessment seems to hang on a deliberately false interpretation that Beck is calling Katrina victims scumbags, when even a quick read, in only slightly fuller context, shows this not to be true.

    I have no idea what this Beck guy’s deal is with 9-11 victims. I have never heard of him until today.

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  13. mary said on January 24, 2006 at 5:23 pm

    Are you someone who posts regularly in the Compuserve crime forum? Those are the folks I was talking about. Not Rush listeners in general, or right wingers in general. I’ve been reading the posts off and on for years in that forum, and unless you’re using a pseudonym in there, I’ve missed your messages. They do love Rush, and Bill O’Reilly. They don’t bother reading or listening too the left wing commentators you mention, although they do criticize them a lot.

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  14. Dwight The Troubled Teen said on January 24, 2006 at 5:58 pm

    You obviously haven’t spent more than 15 minutes listening to Glenn Beck.

    1. He is no fan of Rush Limbaugh, and says so frequently.
    1a. He despises Hannity, and says so frequently.
    2. He is the LEAST political of any of the right-wingers mentioned. He’d rather do non-political comedy than politics.
    3. The politics that the guy discusses (when he’s not doing schtick) is more focused on Culture Wars than “Dems Vs. ‘Pubs”.
    4. The guy is a freakin’ Mormon. He’s not tightly wound, but he has a different take on libertine culture than most of the knee-jerks who frequent this blog. Does that really elevate him to the status of Liberal Hate Target? Is that all it takes?

    You guys are all for inclusion and diversity of ideas until it’s someone saying something that challenges your own intellectual honesty.

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  15. nancy said on January 24, 2006 at 6:17 pm

    No one’s saying Glenn Beck doesn’t deserve to have his views heard. I’m just saying CNN — C to the freakin’ N to the N — could do far, far better. Maybe they could hire back Aaron Brown.

    Agreed, people on both sides are capable of hatefulness.

    The things I find strange about extremist forums on both sides are the emoticons — those puppies, etc. — and the handles. You get a sense of how people see themselves. “Kayleigh’sMom” on the right, “VeganGurrrl” on the left.

    I’m not sure what I think of Deborah Howell yet. I read through large chunks of the comments left after her stupid column, and most were angry but not terribly abusive. Put it this way: I received far, far worse as a columnist, much of it signed. I’m not surprised she was called a whore, but jeez, it’s the freakin’ internet; does anybody have a right to be surprised by this? I’m still amazed that she seems to think the response was worse than what prompted it in the first place. Atrios had a very succinct summation of why this is infuriating. I’m not going to track it down now, but it boiled down to: Having seen the right wing dictate the direction of too many public discussions, we’re not going to let it happen this time, girlie. I thought it was apt.

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  16. James Kabala said on January 24, 2006 at 9:14 pm

    So if I call you a whore, it’s OK because it’s the Internet?

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  17. nancy said on January 24, 2006 at 9:17 pm

    No, it’s EXPECTED because it’s the internet. It’s OK because I love it so much.

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  18. Danny said on January 24, 2006 at 10:29 pm

    Nance, OMG, you funny!!! 🙂

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  19. Danny said on January 24, 2006 at 10:55 pm

    BTW, James, you “left” this blog same time I did and for the same reason. So are you officially back now? I’ve since lurked back, posted anonymously, pissed off nance for a few minutes and then ate my crow for coming back and for being an asshole and calling her names when I left. You may not feel the same, but I think confession is good for the soul. hint hint.

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  20. alex said on January 24, 2006 at 11:58 pm

    I’m still flabergasted that the right dominates discourse in the so-called “mainstream” media and the left is sitting there like deer in the headlights. And the right continues chanting “liberal media, liberal media” and fools keep on repeating it.

    There is a middle ground in this country and nobody’s pandering to it. Except Nance.

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  21. John said on January 25, 2006 at 7:54 am

    All my life, I have wanted to be pandered to. Is it finally my turn?

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  22. Jim said on January 25, 2006 at 8:42 am

    Ha! I still remember a letter my mother wrote to Nancy, calling her “Nasty” Nall after a column on Pat Robertson’s visit to Fort Wayne. I found it last summer while going through her things after she died. I think she was quite proud of it — and the response that followed in the next column. She kept that, too.

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  23. joodyb said on January 25, 2006 at 12:35 pm

    I hear you, dwight. i’m just sayin’ he’s just bad radio. he is indeed all up in that Culture War, which is just whipping listerers into a frenzy, when you get down to it. too many people settle for being ‘infotained’ by the tiniest validation of their precious opinions. that is because nobody else around them gives a damn. others are content to listen to music.
    and i don’t think he works very hard at what he does. the callers he attracts are one indication. he just doesn’t sound like he’s thought too hard about which side he really wants to be on when the fascists take over.
    mary, i will have a tenuous look at that forum. i’m sure there are dozens of such spots in the ether. good for them. but you are onto something, as i believe i indicated above.

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  24. mary said on January 25, 2006 at 12:47 pm

    Two of the more vocal people in there are in temporary lock-out right now, so you won’t get the full tang of the place. Do look in on the black history month discussion, though.

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  25. joodyb said on January 26, 2006 at 11:32 am

    Mary: Done.

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  26. James Kabala said on January 29, 2006 at 10:53 pm

    Danny: Golly, I had forgotten all about that. It was over her expressed desire to blow up the White House, right? I still think I was right, but not so right that I don’t still read this blog from time to time. And I have never posted anonymously.

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