Beck … Dec … Goines … Durden


by Karl Wolff

An exploration of paranoid rhetoric

Paranoia is infectious.  It bends our perception and creates enemies where none exists.  It’s also good money.  In the last decade, talk radio personalities on both Left and Right have done good business whipping up public frenzy.  Whether it’s Dubya with his evangelical cryptofascism or Obama with his Islamic socialist abortionist ninjas, the chatterboxes on the radio have created scared listeners.

Both Left and Right have their excesses and their acceptable targets.  Unfortunately, everything has been caught up in the incestuous Beltway finger pointing.  Context lays abandoned amidst hysteria, name calling, and general lunacy.  In the words of Jayne Cobb, “When is that fun?”

A fellow getting a lot of press these days goes by the name Glenn Beck.  Instead of comparing him to other radio pundits, this post will explore Beck’s paranoid rhetoric with three other personalities.  Two are fictional and one is real.  The similarities between all four is suprising.

Glenn Beck

Seems perfectly sensible to me.

Glenn Beck used to be a morning zoo DJ.  How this qualifies him to be the voice of Modern American Conservatism is anyone’s guess?  He’s paranoid.  He likes to shout.  So much for the tradition of Edmund Burke and Russell Kirk.

Here’s a typical sample of Glenn Beck in action:

Francis E. Dec

Francis E. Dec is paranoid and he likes to rant.  While Glenn Beck is the populist junk food of the American Conservative, Dec comes from a completely different place.  Maybe Neptune.  Dec may not have complete control of his mental faculties, but that’s never stopped a pundit in search of publicity and fame.  If there was a Michelangelo of the Paranoid Crazy Guy Rant, it would be Francis E. Dec.

Jeffrey Goines

Jeffrey Goines is paranoid.  As leader of the Army of the Twelve Monkeys, he follows an extremist vision of apocalypse and animal liberation.  Goines’s ideas come from leftist ideology but gets filtered through a Francis E. Dec-style wingnut insanity.  In 12 Monkeys (Terry Gilliam, 1995), Goines is held in an insane asylum where he spouts off crazy rants.

Tyler Durden

Tyler Durden is not paranoid, but he is angry and cynical and mischievous.  In Fight Club (David Fincher, 1999), Durden holds court in the eponymous fight club with a mixture of charisma and physical menace.  His critiques of modern materialism transfigure into rants against civilization itself.  Like Durden, Beck possesses charisma and personality to spare.

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  1. Laura
    January 10, 2010 at 10:28 am

    OMG–uh, I mean OMFSM! Just got an email today about how Glenn Beck showed everyone a graph and it meant something! The person who sent it to me originally got it from my husband and didn’t notice he didn’t send it to me. I guess he has learned something about me over the last 20 years.

    I did let the sender know there was a reason I was not on the original list…

  2. Di
    January 12, 2010 at 10:43 am

    What’s interesting to me is that most conservatives I know don’t actually dig on Glenn Beck. He’s an entertainer with a political angle – if people follow blindly, then that’s their problem. The perils of “infotainment,” whether it comes from Beck, Olbermann, or any other of these self-important talking heads, is that too many people who don’t like them ascribe them more influence than they really have.

    On another note, another potential comparison: Colonel Kurtz. Novel or film version. So secluded from the real world that he thinks his own versions of “reality,” “community,” and “leadership” are absolutes.

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