I've said it before, but I worry about my mother's love affair with Glen Beck. Don't misconstrue--this isn't Lettermanesque. My mother is ninety years old, but she's almost fixated on FOX and all of its stars, including, most dutifully, Mr. Beck.
That love bothers me because she's convinced that we're all going down the tube under the new administration, which may or may not be true. I know she doesn't read David Brooks, who I think is one of the brightest columnists and commentary-ists practicing the trade--and conservative, I might add. She's got no access to the NY Times, and I'm guessing that if she did, she wouldn't go there anyway, as she thoroughly despises the liberal mainstream media.
But yesterday's Brooks op-ed was not only thoughtful, it gave me some peace, at least nationally. He says that the talk-show types are amazing for their "remarkable volume and utter weakness," then recounts recent political face-offs in which people like Beck and Rush promoted messages and candidates who crashed and burned--like Fred Thompson, the candidate, who belly-flopped at the ballot box.
The story he tells is nothing to sneeze at and includes, most famously, the utter derision people like Rush gave to John McCain, who, regardless, took the Republican nomination. "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," he writes in yesterday's Times. "It is a story as old as the Wizard of Oz, a story of grand illusions and small men behind the curtain."
It's a story in which he casts me--right now--as an enabler, someone who, by fear or hate or whatever, misjudges reality and claims for the Wizards far more power than their incredible volume has ever warranted.
I like Brooks. As far as I'm concerned, he's right far more often than not. Seeing Beck as the famous Wizard makes me breathe a little more easily.
But his convincing explanation is of no help in curing the paranoia I see in my mom, a state of mind that sometimes make me question the doctrine of sanctification in that what I see in her sharp fears is something other than a good Christian woman coming closer and closer to the peace that passes understanding.
Yesterday, in a coffee shop, I watched Beck hold forth from a TV channeled to Fox News. I can't say I'd ever seen him before, at least not at length. But I saw enough.
I wish he'd think of my mother when he passes along what he believes, tearfully, is his deep and abiding love of country, but seems more clearly to me to be a gospel of hate.
But I dare say he isn't thinking of 90-year-old Christian viewers in retirement homes. After all, he's on the cover of Time. He's got ratings to die for, even if, as Brooks claims, his power is "illusory."
Here's my fear--not in my mom it isn't.