Our friend Amity Shlaes looks at the Glenn Beck effect

The University Guild vs. Glenn Beck
By Amity Shlaes

Drive them crazy. That’s what Glenn Beck seems to specialize in doing, whether the “them” at issue is fellow radio hosts, fellow tv hosts, or, now, professors at universities. This last group is opening its own front in the war against the television king. An associate professor, Joseph Palermo of California State/Sacramento, took to the Huffington Post to mock the broadcaster as “Glenn Beck, Ph.D.” I personally noticed this since Professor Palermo mentioned me by name, in tandem with author Jonah Goldberg, as an effort to “misinform” the gullible.

Ph.D. Professors seem to forget that the majority of our great leaders, generals, and captains of industry, didn’t have a Ph.D. Most not even a college degree and many were self educated. One could argue that Abraham Lincoln, with only 18 months of formal education, an avid reader, and self-educated, had to be smarter than any Ph.D. professor today. After all, his Gettysburg Address is still regarded as one of the greatest speeches ever delivered. How many of these professors would do as well if they had walked in Abraham Lincoln’s shoes. Not many – if any.

Every author is glad to sell books. But the victory is far more Mr. Beck’s than any individual writer’s or publisher’s. His genius has been in his recognition that viewers do not want merely the odd, one-off book, duly pegged to news. They want a coherent vision, a competing canon that the regulated airwaves and academy have denied them. So he, Glenn Beck, is building that canon, book by book from the forgotten shelf. Since the man is a riveting entertainer, the professors are correct to be concerned. He’s not just reacting or shaping individual thoughts. He is bringing competition into the Ed Biz.

What to do? The Glenn Beck reading list may not satisfy everyone. Some of his views are indeed worth questioning. Some of us don’t agree with important components of his politics. Beck’s personal attacks put a lot of us off. Maybe there should be yet a third new reading list. As for the guild, a better response than its own ad hominem smearing is to widen their own reading lists and lectures. Professors can blame only themselves if Mr. Beck has taken an opportunity to teach. It is they who gave it to him.

Yes, and unlike the Professors, Glenn Beck tells his audience not to take his word for anything. He encourages you to educate yourself – read books and draw your own conclusions. Which is why his suggested books rocket to #1 on Amazon.

Amity is working on her next book about Calvin Coolidge (“Silent Cal”) and Glenn thinks Coolidge was one of the greatest presidents. Seems she will likely make another appearance as soon as Glenn can get his hands on her book.

Glenn Beck’s Founders’ Fridays is really putting up the numbers. For the Ben Franklin show 4 Jun 2010, his numbers crushed all other cable news programs in his time slot.

5PM – P2+ (25-54) (35-64)
Glenn Beck – 1,784,000 viewers (541,000) (833,000)
Situation Room—790,000 viewers (204,000) (328,000)
Hardball w/ C. Matthews – 468,000 viewers (125,000) (202,000)
Fast Money (5:00 – 5:30pm) – 215,000 viewers (a scratch w/38,000) (101,000)
Options Action (5:30 – 6:00pm) – 184,000 viewers (a scratch w/45,000) (75,000)
Showbiz Tonight – 283,000 viewers (114,000) (142,000)

For the day, only 6:00 PM Special Report w/ Bret Baier – 1,904,000, and 8:00 PM The O’Reilly Factor – 2,225,000 viewers, had higher numbers. Very impressive for a 5 PM show! He and his staff were as surprised as anyone when they saw the numbers since they weren’t certain shows about the founding fathers would hold an audience.

Beck may only be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to competition for the professor. And more and more people are identifying college tuition as the next bubble to burst.

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