Saturday, October 3, 2009

A Different Take on Glenn Beck and the Others

The New York Times published an op-ed piece by David Brooks that I found quite refreshing. Thanks again to George for the tip.

In the article Mr. Brooks traces the recent history of the right-wing spokesmen, Beck, Limbaugh and Hannity. The basic point is these guys are not as powerful and influential as we've been led to believe.

So what is the theme of our history lesson? It is a story of remarkable volume and utter weakness. It is the story of media mavens who claim to represent a hidden majority but who in fact represent a mere niche — even in the Republican Party. It is a story as old as “The Wizard of Oz,” of grand illusions and small men behind the curtain.

What do you think? Is it possible that we've been giving these characters more credit than they deserve? Brooks claims that when Limbaugh attacks the switchboards light up with phone calls but nothing really changes. "There is no effect on the favorability rating or the re-election prospects. In the media world, he is a giant. In the real world, he’s not."

But this is not merely a story of weakness. It is a story of resilience. For no matter how often their hollowness is exposed, the jocks still reweave the myth of their own power. They still ride the airwaves claiming to speak for millions. They still confuse listeners with voters.

So the myth returns. Just months after the election and the humiliation, everyone is again convinced that Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity and the rest possess real power. And the saddest thing is that even Republican politicians come to believe it. They mistake media for reality. They pre-emptively surrender to armies that don’t exist.

They pay more attention to Rush’s imaginary millions than to the real voters down the street. The Republican Party is unpopular because it’s more interested in pleasing Rush’s ghosts than actual people. The party is leaderless right now because nobody has the guts to step outside the rigid parameters enforced by the radio jocks and create a new party identity. The party is losing because it has adopted a radio entertainer’s niche-building strategy, while abandoning the politician’s coalition-building strategy.

The rise of Beck, Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and the rest has correlated almost perfectly with the decline of the G.O.P. But it’s not because the talk jocks have real power. It’s because they have illusory power, because Republicans hear the media mythology and fall for it every time.

What do you think about David Brooks' assessment? Is it only "illusory power" these celebrity talkers have? Has the whole country bought into it? Has it damaged the Republican Party the way Brooks describes?

What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.


  1. " It’s because they have illusory power, because Republicans hear the media mythology and fall for it every time."

    Just like the mindless fundamentalists.

  2. I'd have to agree with him. The Republicans really don't have any leadership right now, at least not leadership anyone is going to vote for.

  3. What is your definition of mindless, Mudrake --besides "fundamentalist?" You can't honestly say that fundamentalists are mindless --that's your propaganda.

  4. you left out Huckabee --he's good.

    I don't think these fellows lead the party--but some of them speak the sentiments we are all thinking. And bring stories to the common man's attention that he might not otherwise read for himself. Rush is a little too negative for my taste --but rose to fame n a former time when THE CONSERVATIVES HAD NO MEDIA SPOKESPERSONS! Now we have quite a few. We find it refreshing to know we aren't alone in our alarm at King Obama.

    Who was Obama --before he made a speech at the Democratic Convention some years ago? NOBODY!

    Some charismatic republican will eventually emerge to inspire the party. I don't think it's Palin --unless she starts to get some really favorable press from some really sharp talking --which I don't think she's capable of --good person though she is.

    there are probably some up and comers in Congress on the Right whose credentials are solid --whose charisma is impressive --whose character is sound. Time will tell.