Glenn Beck fascinates me. I spent some time with him for this 2014 feature about his move to Texas, a story he sort of liked and kind of hated. He’s been in the news quite a bit this week. First, he made headlines when it appeared he was telling his show’s audience that God killed Antonin Scalia to help Ted Cruz get elected. (What he actually said was slightly more nuanced: that the death would “wake America up.”)
Last night he was on with WFAA’s Rebecca Lopez to talk about his family’s history with domestic violence. Both of his parents and his sisters were victims of domestic violence, he explained. And his mother continued the cycle both as a victim again and as an offender. The interview is classic Glenn Beck, by which I mean: a lot of things you already either like or dislike about him.
There were tears. There were dramatic pauses. There was a little self-aggrandizement, with Beck telling the story of how he stepped in to stop his mother’s boyfriend from punching her. I couldn’t help but wonder when I saw it: Why now? (He’s written about and discussed his mother’s death before, and mentioned his family’s myriad challenges, but I don’t know if he’s ever gone into this kind of detail on this topic.)
Also on display was a man working through his feelings and issues in real time–exactly what his fans have come to expect. It’s what his audience connects to best. He’s trying to be a better person. He’s being honest in a way most people in the media aren’t. And trying to use a platform for good. It’s hard to argue with that.
Yes, he can come across as inescapably weird. (I don’t throw stones on that front.) But Beck has also figured something out over the last few years. Even if you don’t like him, or you find him cloying, he has a few universally positive messages. (See: his thoughts on being nicer to people with whom you disagree.) You can roll your eyes and squirm, but dismissing him at this point means dismissing a lot of ideas you’d probably agree with if they were coming from somewhere else.