It's difficult to take a performance artist like Glenn Beck too seriously when he keeps breaking out of character. For instance: Time's new cover is another photo of him by Jill Greenberg, a liberal he pretends to hate.
The photo comes from a shoot Greenberg — whom Beck has lambasted as a liberal photo-agitator — did for a GQ story on Beck back in June, in which she made the emotionally unstable Mormon cry. Hey, as long as she makes him look good, right?
Here's the deeply unsettling behind-the-scenes video we obtained of a bawling Beck at that shoot, which we first published exclusively in June:
And now a tear-free shot from the same series is on newsstands around the country promoting Beck's pudgy mug. Which is funny because Beck berated Greenberg almost exactly one year ago for photoshopping her Atlantic portrait of John McCain to make him look like a vampire, and for "terrorizing" children in her infamous series of crying toddlers.
As for the Time story itself, it's a masterwork of equivalence journalism. You can literally feel reporter David Von Drehle's terror at being accused of "taking sides" in the "debate" about whether Beck—who didn't consent to an interview—is a populist hero or a paranoid spinner of conspiracy theories. It's a bizarre, claustrophobic world that Time reporters inhabit, one in which it is literally impossible for the subject of one's reporting to make an objectively untrue assertion. One false move, and Von Drehle might be forced to actually defend a proposition to thousands of outraged, irrational commenters. Better to equivocate.
So we get tortured sentences like these:
Between the liberal fantasies about Brownshirts at town halls and the conservative concoctions of brainwashed children goose-stepping to school, you'd think the Palm in Washington had been replaced with a Munich beer hall.
- Liberal fantasies? Men armed with assault rifles and pistols and wearing shirts calling for the "blood of tyrants" to be shed have attended Obama's public events. A woman shouted "Heil Hitler!" at an Israeli Jew defending Obama's proposals at one healthcare townhall. But on the other hand, the president of the United States told America's schoolchildren to do their homework.
He is afraid that Obama "has a deep-seated hatred for white people" - which doesn't mean, he hastens to add, that he actually thinks "Obama doesn't like white people."
- Here's what Beck actually said, which, thankfully, was actually recorded by a video camera, a device that creates a record of objective reality: "This president, I think, has exposed himself as a guy, over and over and over again, who has a deep-seated hatred for white people, or the white culture—I don't know what it is." [Emphasis added.] But on the other hand, Glenn Beck's characterization of his own thoughts at the moment that he expressed them ought not tell the whole story about what Glenn Beck thinks.
Like William Jennings Bryan whipping up populist Democrats over moneyed interests or the John Birch Society brooding over fluoride, Beck mines the timeless theme of the corrupt Them thwarting a virtuous Us.
- A Democratic populist once inveighed against actual, real wealthy people who wielded actual, real power over our political system. On the other hand, avowedly racist right-wing xenophobes once accused the U.S. government of undermining the Constitution by adding a common dentifrice to the water supply.
And so on. After discussing some of the truthful things that Beck has publicized, like Van Jones' trutherism, Von Drehle does another "on the other hand" pivot to examine just one of the many falsehoods Beck has promoted: "But he also spins yarns of less substance. He tells his viewers that Obama's volunteerism efforts are really an attempt to create a 'civilian national-security force that is just as strong, just as powerful as the military.'"
Von Drehle is correct in characterizing Beck's claims about Obama's attempts to create a civilian national-security force as having less substance than his claims about ACORN and Van Jones. Because they have no substance at all. They are lies. But saying that outright—as opposed to locating them on some mythical metric of truthfulness in which all claims seem to have some "substance"—would constitute an assertion about Beck's honesty and reliability. Time is clearly not the appropriate forum for such a conversation.