Monday, March 15, 2010


Somewhere along the line, I'm pretty sure I wrote a post in which I said that if Glenn Beck's ranting every really threatened the Republican Party, Rupert Murdoch would do what was necessary to see to it that his star never pulled any crap like that again. I've always thought it was absurd to think that Beck would be fired -- his ratings are too good, and they create tremendous brand loyalty to Fox among the crazy base -- but I've assumed he might be pressured to dial certain bits down.

Well, maybe this Howard Kurtz column is Fox's way of issuing Beck a relatively mild warning:

...Beck is drawing big ratings. But there is a deep split within Fox between those -- led by Chairman Roger Ailes -- who are supportive, and many journalists who are worried about the prospect that Beck is becoming the face of the network.

... Beck has become a constant topic of conversation among Fox journalists, some of whom say they believe he uses distorted or inflammatory rhetoric that undermines their credibility.

... Fox responded by arranging an interview with Bill Shine, its senior vice president. Shine says that last fall a vice president was assigned "to help keep an eye on that program" and review its content in advance -- a full-time job. "We see Glenn as an investment and we wanted to help him out even more," Shine says....

If you're in Murdoch's employ, I imagine that, as a rule, it's not very good form to tell reporters tales like this one about successful on-air talent:

Some staffers say they have watched rehearsals, on internal monitors, in which Beck has teared up or paused at the same moments as he later did during the show.

Now, it's possible that there really is a lot of squabbling and internal dissent within Fox. It's possible that some people resent Roger Ailes for protecting Beck and that these people don't fear recriminations within the company. (The recent New York magazine cover story about Murdoch didn't suggest that his empire is the tightest of ships.)

However, it's also possible, I'd say, that this is a bit of controlled leaking, a warning to Beck that he can be undermined in the press if need be, in much more humiliating ways than this, if he goes too far afield.

Now, "too far afield" isn't a reference to all his wild talk, by any means. Remember, he was never fired for calling the president of the United States a racist, as some predicted. That's because that was useful to the GOP. (He said that on the eve of the August recess, when Republicans wanted to recruit angry mobs for tea parties, a lot of right-wingers were cranking up the racial rhetoric. I think it was a recruiting tool for town halls.) Also useful is paranoid demonization of Democrats/liberals/leftists/progressives, of the kind I wrote about this morning. What's not useful is too much pox-on=both-your-houses talk about the two parties. Beck will be brought to heel if he goes too far with that, I think.

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