THE BLOG

Crazier Than a Fox

10/19/2010 09:48 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

I'll make this relatively quick, because to be honest much of what I'm about to say isn't something that hasn't been said before by both myself and a lot of other people pathetic enough to spend most of their time quixotically fixating on the media.

If you've actually bothered to read Byron Williams' interview with either Media Matters or the Examiner, from start to finish, it's really a terrifying little snapshot of the paranoid psychopathy that's fermenting in the collective consciousness of the extreme right these days. Sure, Williams is as rat-shit crazy as they come, and in the end the responsibility for the act that landed him in the headlines and in jail -- that would be getting into a firefight with several California Highway Patrol troopers and injuring two of them -- is his to bear. But it's an absurd dereliction of reason to somehow claim that Williams's on-air idol, his indirect enabler and the man who essentially validated the paranoid fantasies in his head night after night, Glenn Beck, doesn't deserve to be forced to answer some very tough questions following the attack for which his message of an impending American Apocalypse was the impetus.

I've done my best to shrug off the far-right's rodeo clown prince, eschewing outrage in favor of poking all kinds of very appropriate fun at him. Beck's always been full of shit; his conspiratorial carnival barking shtick is little more than a means of making himself filthy rich. But that doesn't mean the amalgam of half-baked 1950s anti-commie, Bircher-Skousen lunacy that he regularly passes off as the key to America's secret history isn't bloody frightening in the wrong hands. And there's simply no denying that the longer Beck negligently throws gasoline on a fire that's already dangerous -- the longer he amps up a far-right that's angry, unemployed, terrified of the change it's seeing all around it and convinced that it's losing control of its country -- the more "wrong hands" will potentially be created and incited.

And you know something? Fox News knows this.

Say what you will about Fox, it has at the very least a tenuous grasp on the notion of responsibility. It may be the country's biggest cannon of right-wing fireballs -- a 24/7 GOP talking points machine -- but above all it's a business. And make no mistake: Glenn Beck is bad for business. Sure, he's great for his own business; he knows how to hawk the crap that sponsors the Glenn Beck Inc. multimedia empire. But he's already cost Fox more than 80 sponsors, and although Fox notoriously likes to publicly flip off its critics and their impotent indignation, FNC management knows that the God-awful publicity generated by a CEO -- one targeted for assassination by one of Beck's rabid acolytes -- penning an open letter to the CEOs who throw money at Fox has the potential to hurt the network's bottom line. And that's what it comes down to: At some point, if it hasn't happened already, sponsors will begin to fear Beck's incendiary rhetoric but still want access to Fox's mammoth audience share -- and so they'll quietly demand that Roger Ailes pull his Howard Beale into a dark conference room and put the fear of God into him, or pay dearly.

Because the way it stands right now, Beck is the David Lee Roth of Fox News. There's the band, and then there's him -- and what's good for one isn't necessarily good for the other.

If this keeps up, if Beck continues to put on his "history" professor's glasses, scribble nonsensical conspiracy theories on his chalkboard and in doing so willfully and cynically stoke the paranoia of an admittedly small but heavily armed and very fucking edgy far-right, there will be a breaking point from which we won't be able to easily come back. What he's doing is wrong. And at this point, Fox News, for all of its intransigence when it comes to the demands of critics who expect it to behave and play nice, should do what even it knows is right -- and distance itself from Glenn Beck.

Do it before the inevitable happens.