Monday, October 4, 2010

The Chosen One

The profile of Glenn Beck in yesterday’s New York Times magazine by Mark Leibovich goes to great lengths to portray all the dimensions of the man and his background and his motivations, but after all that I came away with the impression that here again is another megalomaniac who, instead of standing on a street corner soaked in his own urine and screaming at the traffic and the pigeons, landed a gig on Fox.

And it’s not a new phenomenon. We’ve seen this act before — in the 1930’s it was Father Charles Coughlin; people who were so convinced of their own rightness that they had to grab the microphone and demand that we listen to them regardless of whether or not we agreed with them or even believed that they were not on the verge of some sort of breakdown. They’re convinced that of all the people on the earth, they are the Chosen One, they are the vessel through whom the higher powers have selected to deliver their message of salvation, redemption, and revenge against those who would plot against them. It’s always personal, and it’s always paranoid. No one else has the ability to see what they see, no one else sees the seething masses of evil swarming against them, and no one else can save the world.

Fortunately, so far, the farthest these people have ever gotten in America is to get their own radio show. Unlike other countries at other times, we’ve never put them in charge of the government. Yet.

Bonus: Speaking of the 1930’s, check out what Roger Ebert found at Boing Boing.