The popularity and impact of Glenn Beck

>> Saturday, September 26, 2009

TERRY GROSS: Why do you think Glenn Beck has become so popular and powerful?

DAVID WEIGEL: I think it's simple. The reason for Beck's popularity is that he tells the audience he's uncovering something. Shawn Hannity, I don't think is - he's not become much less popular, but he basically bashes liberals and says that Democrats are gross and Ted Kennedy's - the late Ted Kennedy was unappealing, and stuff you've heard on talk radio for years and years. Beck says, I've uncovered something; me or my investigator - have uncovered a video; we've uncovered a secret link; we've uncovered a document. And that's fascinating.

It's fascinating from the normal consumer of news's perspective. It's fascinating from the conspiracy theorist's perspective. I mean, no one else is giving you a chart showing you the 87 interlocking connections of the left-wing movements and Barack Obama. And I think that's exactly it; that's why he's become popular.
TERRY GROSS: What issues do you think Glenn Beck is having like, the biggest impact on?

Mr. WEIGEL: I think generally, he's shifted the window of discussion on presidential power and the Constitution. He's shifted the window on ACORN. ACORN's a good example because there were votes early in this year to defund ACORN, for ACORN - and this is dubiously constitutional - but the organization should not get any more funding because it had been indicted for voter fraud. And most Democrats voted against this. Glenn Beck pounded this relentlessly. He ran these undercover videos from conservative activists, and ACORN is now defunded.

I mean, on the constitutional issue in general, you've got a guy who's getting the best ratings on Fox, telling people every day about the Tree of Revolution, that Barack Obama is connected to ACORN, is connected to SEIU. All of this is rooted in the ideas of Saul Alinsky, who wanted to overthrow the government. I mean, if I could boil it down to political issues, it's ACORN and czars. But I think the influence has just to - been - to turn the national discourse from what it was nine months ago, when we were saying we're in real trouble; what can or should the government do to fix it, to are we on the road to fascism?

And I think he's really introduced that into the national discussion in a way that's probably not realistic.
The Washington Independent's David Weigel in an interview with Terry Gross on NPR's Fresh Air


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