The Christmas Sweater is Glenn Beck's one-man play simulcast across the nation to an audience of literally dozens. My mom's friend's hairdresser's brother saw it, and his eye cancer was cured, which he didn't even know he had!
There are three basic responses to fear: fight, flight, and losing your shit. Glenn Beck embodies all of them.
For much of the Bush years, official Fox-brand conservatives controlled all three branches of federal government. This made them very angry, so their mouthpiece was blustery Bill O'Reilly. The day Obama got elected, Fox completely lost its mind. "Oh noes!" the Fox staff shrieked, as they fearfully scanned the sky for falling pieces, "Oh goodness gracious graham crackers!"
A new voice needed to be heard: one that leapt crazily from constipated groans to the bleating of a pulled groin muscle. That groin...was Glenn Beck's.
"Here's what a civil war would fix if our military decided to stage a coup
and take back our country, not that I'm advocating that or anything."
He is the vanguard of a new conservatism, as soon as someone figures out what it is. Gone is the clear mission statement of Bush and Cheney ("Fuck you, do what we say"). Beck represents a populace that cheers Sarah Palin for word-blasting "America democracy olive garden freedom" whenever she doesn't know the answer to a question.
There are great arguments for conservative principles not being made because a sentient cloud of connotations like Beck just slaps together every buzzword that makes people feel patriotic. He's the Thomas Kinkade of political commentary.
And Kinkade, in turn, is the KFC Famous Bowl of painting.
Beck lathers himself up over the loss of the good old days when Russia was a radar blip from nuking us, hot dogs only cost a smile, black people weren't sensitive about mistreatment, and everyone felt as great as they did the day after 9/11. The next time you feel like a jerk, do a quick check: Have you invoked the specter of 3000 dead human beings to boost your audience? No? Then you have more class than Glenn Beck, and possibly more class than a syphilis-scabbed ballsack.
The lone hinge on which Beck's door marked "WHARGARBBL / WAHHH" swings is his unparalleled love of country. He's sorry, it's just...you have to understand, America is like a beautiful woman he swoons over with no thought of himself, and the socialist warlocks in Washington are like Ted Bundy if he were a less attentive lover.
Theoretical states of Glenn Beck include: plasma, svelte, and decent human being.
All that energy has to go somewhere, and that's when Beck unloads white-hot speculation on America's unsuspecting face.
Does out-of-mint currency prophesize America's century-long march towards fascism? You bet. Is it actually fascism we're marching towards, or socialism? Stay tuned. Is Cash for Clunkers an excuse for the government to spy on your computer? Beck and a pretty face with nothing to contribute would love to tell you all about it right after Jonah Goldberg throws twerpy "quotes" around whether the wildly successful program is "working." (Hint: Yes, you specious "urethra.")
And so on. The difference between a Glenn Beck conspiracy and the coronation scene in Carrie is Carrie didn't overreact as hysterically:
Also, there was far less menstruation.
Beck decimates any dialogue between the valid sides of the debate. He also damages his own conservative and libertarian stances by under-representing their case in favor of misleading pieces like this:
Did you notice the part where he claimed no one was comparing health care reform to Nazism? Probably not, because it was buried between two chunks of emotional oatmeal comparing health care reform to Nazism.
But he's right about the conspiracies out there. Like the TV personality who pushed and promoted gold like it was crack while under contract with Goldline International! We must hound such conflicted interests within the media wherev--huh? Oh, it was Beck himself? Carry on, then.
Inordinate love of gold, international plot, inability to feel anything...
when he claims he's not a journalist, we didn't realize that meant he's a Bond villain
After cobbling together conspiracies whose sheer unreality can cure schizophrenia, he is known for making himself cry. And oh, does he make himself cry. After the crescendo of paranoia, Beck approaches catharsis the way Tammy Faye Baker approached makeup.
It'd be one thing if he were just a crybaby. That would be fine. But he's a fake crybaby. He gets his money pretending to feel things and selling it as genuine to people who really do feel those things. His tears, his outrage, his paranoia...it's all fake. He's no better than one of those mourners you hire for an Italian funeral, or worse, Staind.
Once he got that emotional manipulation thing down, Beck went for the easy lay-up Fox talking heads annually use to inflame the public: Christmas.
"Who's got a dollar? Give Uncle Glenn a dollar and he'll show you an emotion!
C'mon, one of you kids must have a dollar!"
The Christmas Sweater was originally released in 2008 despite the best efforts of Homeland Security. In 2009, The Christmas Sweater: A Return to Redemption simulcast a repeat viewing of the 2008 performance, with the addition of watching Glenn Beck watching Glenn Beck. And of course, being Glenn Beck, he drops crocodile tears 15 seconds into the broadcast.
The gist of the tale is an orphan named Eddie curses an unloving God who stole his parents as punishment for being a horrible child. Originally, I thought God took them because they ignored His command in Deuteronomy 21:18-21 to stone disobedient children, but redemption is part of the true meaning of Christmas. It's also why Deuteronomicon is such a lousy holiday.
God, realizing He has authored his own nemesis, sends a terrible storm to kill Eddie before the boy embraces his power as the anti-Christ. Wait, no, we've lost the narrative thread. Eddie's mom gives him a sweater she knitted herself even though he really wanted a bike. Eddie acts like a brat about it, so boy, is he embarrassed when Mom falls asleep at the wheel, killing herself and any chance of getting a bike for Christmas. Joke's on you, Eddie! You should have seen the look on your face when your mom's carotid artery spewed a furious fountain all over the front seat, subsided to mere spurts, and the heat of life left her body forever! Hoo hah! I bet you learned your lesson then.
Our Lord is a vengeful, loving Lord.
Eddie goes to live with his grandparents, who rub salt in his orphan's wounds by showing him the bike they wanted to give him if he hadn't been so upset about not getting a bike. Eddie is plainly living with cruel psychologist Harry Harlow.
The poor kid flees into a cornfield, possibly in an attempt to get out of a Glenn Beck story. Alas, there, like Moby Dick seizing Ahab, the storm comes to claim its due. Fortunately(?) folksy country character Russell shows up, and rather than help the lost child home, tells him to press through and everything will work itself out. Either Russell hopped the fourth wall to get there and is aware the devastating storm is a harmless metaphor, or Eddie's grandfather paid him to help finish the kid off, because that's terrible advice.
Off they go, into the storm, at which point they die. Or something, because that's when Eddie wakes up at home, and his mom is alive! But is it a horrible, undead state? The film's final moments leave us wondering, cutting to outside the house as Eddie's shriek curdles the blood. Either way, God has His revenge, killing a woman and bringing her back simply to teach a child a lesson.
Our Lord has been dipping into the eggnog.
The Christmas Sweater attempts to define the true spirit of Christmas: love, rather than materialism -- but it's the love of a horny polar bear who catches you just before you reach the safety of Santa's workshop. Like all the best cults, it softens you up first with tedium and repetition, then BAM! you've been emotionally reamed by Beck's tale of two dead parents and a weather phenomenon that advises lost children to plunge deeper into it. That's when Beck (who charges $20 a head) explains why money's not important and if you'd bought his book you would know that already.
The true meaning of Christmas
Still, "Treasure people, not things," is a good message that Beck has to work very hard to twist into something as wrong as mayonnaise on a sundae. Promotional materials for The Christmas Sweater, a story which raises the dead, have made much of the fact that it's "true" and "real." Of course, none of that happened except possibly the author received a sweater from his mom for Christmas. That's like saying A Midsummer Night's Dream is historical because Shakespeare knew a guy who acted like a jackass (presumably an ancestor of Beck's).
It was this or a picture of a faerie wedding.
He also interviews several people whose lives he claims to have saved with his book. If the only thing keeping you from suicide is a turgid story about characters blowing off threats as mere theme, I hope you enjoy Scrabble Sundays down at the Knights of Columbus hall, because that's about as crrrrrazy an existence as you're going to be able to withstand.
The life-affirming message is just one more thing for Beck to get choked up about. He's a sensitive guy, concerned with the rights of all. Except pregnant women. Here he is on the radio making fun of a woman for having a miscarriage.
And coming this July: Glenn Beck's THE INDEPENDENCE DAY SWEATER
Oh, it happened. A reporter asked President Obama for his opinion about the arrest of a Harvard professor of his acquaintance. It was this:
"Now, I've - I don't know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts, what role race played in that. But I think it's fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry; number two, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home. And number three, what I think we know separate and apart from this incident is that there is a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately. That's just a fact."
A fairly reasonable statement, though it's weak argument to call shenanigans while saying you don't know all the facts. After all, it's horrendous to arrest an innocent man, but our society can certainly understand the urge to imprison a lawyer.
A lawyer in his natural habitat
Was Obama arguing from a semi-uninformed position on the facts? Beck leaps right past that and decides it's a racist indictment of all white culture, except, obviously, polka.
White culture has certainly given us some awesome stuff, like cardiac surgery, peanut butter, rock 'n' roll, and the works of James Baldwin. Wait...sorry, I'm thinking of things black people invented that white people got rich off of. But I'm pretty sure we're behind cheeseburgers and St. Patrick's Day, so there's that.
Beck, who makes up conspiracies for a living, criticized Obama for speculating. What? The Bre'r Fox & Friends brain trust spent six minutes speculating "Of course Obama's racist, but exactly HOW racist is he?" while citing fictitious "reports," but Obama's the racist for saying you shouldn't arrest a dude whose door was broken?
Okay, Fox, we get it. If the president commented it was a nice day, you'd shriek the heavens were raining blood. But arguing the cops should arrest a guy who was legally entering his private property makes you, Glenn Beck, a crappy libertarian. You just failed at being an unrealistic ideologue, even though that's the only personality you have.
But here's where America is awesome while Glenn Beck sucks koala teat. The Henry Louis Gates incident was a whole lot of racially sensitive "Wuh-oh" nobody -- the professor, the policeman, the president -- wanted to be part of. So you know how the three men resolved it? Rather than try to figure out who was right or wrong, they dropped the matter and had a beer.
Is this a great country or what?
Gates and Sgt. Crowley agreed to make things better, not worse, by getting sauced with the President of the United States. The best part is, before the cameras even came out, the two men made plans to share a meal.
That's how reasonable human beings act.
They forgave and forgot once they'd cooled off. The lesson is the universal power of "Sorry. Let me get you a beer."
Unfortunately, there are people out there -- on both sides -- who make their living dividing America. Glenn Beck is one of them, but you couldn't buy him a beer anyway. He's a Mormon alcoholic, minus the one quality that makes both groups terrific: treating strangers like their best friends.
The primary difference between Beck and O'Reilly in their reigns as King of Fox Bullshit is at least O'Reilly's a sincere blowhard. His audience is comprised of men with gout who think they're the only ones who know how the world works. And that's fine. Every population has its demagogue. Liberals have Michael Moore, douchebags have Dane Cook, and people who believe in evolution have Satan.
"Excellent. Now to invent heavy metal,
convince people God wants them to kill,
and get Carlos Mencia his own show."
But Beck's insincerity makes him dissimilar from his audience. He panders to the vulnerable emotions of people who believe in mom, country and apple pie, then tells them Obama is a secret atheist Muslim ninja who has orders from Stalin's Ghost to nuke orphanages unless they buy Beck's book. It's like he's found a way to passive-aggressively mug our grandparents and make them thank him for it.
That's the saddest thing about him. You can't even form a real reaction to him; Limbaugh's a blowhard, Stern's a tool, but Beck is a complete cipher. Like most successful prostitutes, he'll be anyone you want if the price is right.
America's a great country. We've made some mistakes (slavery, Prohibition, canceling Veronica Mars) but we've achieved the impossible (We put a man on the moon! The Red Sox won the World Series! We deep fried the Oreo!) We've survived a lot, and we'll survive a lot more, including pied pipers like Glenn Beck. Meanwhile, the rest of us will be sitting by the bar, waiting for him to join us.