Within a day after announcing our proposal to submit CNN employee Glenn Beck to regular scrutiny, we started to hear back from people offering their endorsement of the enterprise - a diverse mix of readers, fellow bloggers like the eponymous blogger John Swift and Christopher Achorn of My Two Sense, and media pros like Media Matters' Justin Cole. The resounding chorus: "To Heck With Beck!"
And what an occasion on which to begin this endeavor. Out in California, the unfolding wildfire disaster has gone from epic to epochal - nineteen blazing fires have scorched 645 square miles of earth and sent nearly a million residents fleeing their homes. Those caught in this maelstrom have little control over what is happening, the fates of their homes and livelihoods are subject to the capricious Santa Ana winds. With this in mind, it's unbelievable that anyone would stoop low enough to insult those caught in the clutches of nature's fury, yet that is precisely what Glenn Beck, of the most trusted name in news, did, saying: "I think there is a handful of people who hate America. Unfortunately for them, a lot of them are losing their homes in a forest fire today."
That this comment would spur outrage is a no-brainer, but if you were offended or aggrieved by the comments, Beck has a message for you. It's all your fault:
I hate to break it to, you know, those who don't listen to the show, but if they ever would listen to the show, let me give you a little piece of advice: You have to engage what I like to call 'your brain.' You actually have to think. I might be making a joke. I might be serious." Beck added, "We joke a lot about, you know, the Hollywood crowd living in Southern California.
It's not certain what the "Hollywood crowd" has to do with "America haters" that may or may not be living in Southern California, but it's painfully clear that if Beck wants to develop the comedic skills necessary to make his "jokes" accessible, he needs to go stand in line with the rest of the hacks at the Laugh Factory and jockey for his own twenty-minute set. Truly "brain-engaging" comics--Jon Stewart comes to mind, of course--don't leave any doubt as to whether they're being serious or frivolous, and they don't offer weak excuses when they do.
Beck also sent some surrogates out to do some proper damage control, but based upon what I read in this article in the L.A. Times, though, Beck's cronies seem to have no greater command of good sense than he does. Offering what passes for a response, a producer for Beck said, "To most rational people, 'unfortunately' still means 'unfortunately.' "
So is the problem that those outraged by Beck's comments took him too seriously and missed a joke, or took him too lightly and missed the serious rational content that was so obviously underscored by the adverb that qualified Beck's crazy-faced outburst? Maybe Beck and his producers should take another day to decide on a single excuse, instead of trying to put two contradictory ones in play. But, then, I suppose that's what a rational person would do.
Folks, if you'd like to contribute tips, comments, or feedback to this endeavor, feel free to leave a comment or just email me directly. Our best wishes go out to everyone who's been affected by this terrible disaster.