Glenn Beck has decided to look inward and go on a redemption tour. His first stops were an op-ed for The New York Times, where he opined about getting “past politics and find[ing] common principles.” Then there was a confounding profile in The New Yorker, in which he expressed sympathy for the Black Lives Matter movement and claimed to be at a “Dadaist time” in his life.
Beck’s criticism of Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s pick for chief strategist, is his latest attempt to position himself as conservative media’s voice of sanity. “Steve Bannon wants to burn it down,” he said. “He’s built Breitbart as a platform for the alt-right. He’s on record saying that. He’s on record defining the alt-right. He knows what it is.” He continued his crusade against the alt-right on Anderson Cooper 360, where he called the alt-right “truly terrifying.” There’s a particularly overwrought moment when Beck, after saying that he wants “to give people the benefit of the doubt,” pulls off his glasses and tells Cooper that “I don’t have credibility with your viewers, and I know that, because I’ve made mistakes.”
While Beck tries to separate himself from the alt-right, he fails to mention that he essentially created it. He has built a following on Islamophobia, feeding into racist tropes and inventing baffling conspiracy theories. He has called the Affordable Care Act “stealth reparations.”
Most liberals are all too eager to fall for his pandering. Let us weep for our political climate and form an alliance with Glenn Beck, a con man who has decided to be less publicly repugnant. Glenn Beck did not have an epiphany at age 52 and decide to stop being a conspiratorial racist. Throughout the election he made puzzling accusations about Donald Trump being a progressive, a theory he published a book about three months ago. How strange it is that his remorseful gallivant through the mainstream media is happening on the heels of dozens of layoffs at his digital news network, The Blaze. Rebranding himself as a moderate is a transparent attempt to save his dying media empire. He is a grifter.
On The Media’s Bob Garfield wasn’t having it. During a Nov. 4 interview, Garfield grilled Beck about having a hand in the creation of a world that allowed for President Trump: “There have been a number of reinventions in your career, and you’ve acknowledged in the past that the Glenn Beck persona, what I would call ‘the shtick,’ has elements of performance art,” Garfield said. “‘A rodeo clown’ is how you’ve described yourself. So have you fanned the flames of distrust in government and hatred and even insurrection as some sort of perverse entertainment? And just let me be clear, I regard that as a rhetorical question.”
Beck’s new rational persona has echoes of Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly’s recent rebranding. The election changed her public image from conservative propagandist to “feminist icon.” This is a woman who has called the gender pay gap a “meme.” Extending olive branches to people like Glenn Beck and Megyn Kelly, who have made careers out of championing oppressive rhetoric, is spineless and dangerous. Doing so normalizes people who, before and after Trump, are still at their core driven by racism and fear mongering.
To atone for his sins, Glenn Beck should liquidate his assets and move to a farm.