It's worth remembering the fictional newsman of the moment, Howard "I'm mad as hell" Beale from Network, was actually mentally ill. Now Beale's closest modern analog is himself stumbling toward insanity.

It's never been clear to what extent Glenn Beck is actually unhinged, and to what extent his Fox News Channel antics are pure clowning. But it shouldn't matter much to the aspiring populist-demagogue-in-chief of our era: if he seems too far into the crazy side of the thin line between rage and psychosis, viewers will start to assume he really is mentally incompetent, and be less willing to take up pitchforks with him.

Which is why Beck probably shouldn't be pouring pretend gasoline on a hyperventillating volunteer (some Red Eye staffer, naturally), as he did tonight in a deranged imitation of Barack Obama, then following that up with maniacal screaming against "games" (uhh...) and in favor of "sanity" (HA!).

Beck may have run a disclaimer that the gas can was filled with water, and he may get all kinds of attention on various blogs (we'll plead guilty, preemptively here, to feeding the troll), but the disgruntled red-state housefraus who nod along to Beck's show in the early evening don't want to see a simulated lynching.

Or probably we're wrong, they'll eat this crap up, and Glenn Beck will fulfill his dream of being the Father Coughlin of our era. God help us (especially in getting a clear view of the train wreck).

(Full video available at Media Matters.)