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Beckquiem for a dream

Good news: Glenn Beck’s once-unstoppable Fox News show has been canceled; it will be off the air by the end of the year. What’s responsible for his stunning downfall? My opinion is that Beck’s show collapsed because he failed to make his audience feel empowered.

Beck popped up out of obscurity as a small man on a small screen. He looked lonely on his big set—but he was so loud, and so charismatic! Millions tuned in to watch him tell stories of doom and conspiracy, which seemed appropriate for chaotic times. It was fascinating.

But the more he talked, the more it seemed like his stories went nowhere. And in his endless ramblings, Beck seemed to be shrinking, as if backing away from us. As he backed toward the edge of a cliff, this small, loud, increasingly unlikeable man became so tiny people just ignored him.

You can sell people a message when you assure them they have control of their lives—that if they take your advice, things will get better. Beck utterly failed to empower his audience. Beck told us the world was run by scary forces out of our control. He gave his viewers little assurance they were on the right path, that their actions could result in a net positive. His only instructions, toward the end, were to learn about the impending apocalypse and tell your friends about it.

Beck’s message clicked with one important group: companies who market gold to consumers. (Folks who buy gold sometimes do so on fears the economy is in danger of collapse.) Beck’s loyalty was to his gold advertisers, not his audience. His nutty rantings, coupled with a well-organized sponsor boycott, meant a lot of blue-chip advertisers wouldn’t touch the show. Just like his viewers who invest all their savings in gold, Beck put all his eggs in one basket.

Fox News covets the upscale advertisers who buy spots on CNN—investment firms, luxury cars. For Fox, drawing 2 or 3 million viewers at 5 o’clock (quite an accomplishment on cable!) isn’t enough when all you’ve got to show for it is advertisers like Goldline. And so the ax fell. Fox News boss Roger Ailes told the AP: “Half of the headlines say he’s been canceled. The other half say he quit. We’re pretty happy with both of them.”

Without his Fox News show, there are two possible outcomes for Beck:

1. He’ll get another TV show a channel just as popular as Fox News—a scenario about as likely as comet slamming into the earth.

2. He’ll forever be less interesting and less important than he is right now.

Beck is over. And you made it happen, just by not buying gold. See? Your choices can make the world a better place!

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Related post: The coming insurrection against Glenn Beck

— By Daryl Lang. Filed under News & Journalism, Television

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