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Milbank: Recovery Killed the Beck Show

At the Washington Post, Dana Milbank connects the demise of The Glenn Beck Show to the economic recovery:

On Friday, the unemployment rate dropped to 8.8 percent, as businesses added jobs for the 13th straight month. On Wednesday, Fox News announced that it was ending Glenn Beck’s daily cable-TV show. These are not unrelated events. . . .

Beck’s angry broadcasts about the nation’s imminent doom perfectly rode the wave of fear that had washed across the nation, and the relatively unknown entertainer suddenly had 3 million viewers a night—and tens of thousands answering his call to rally at the Lincoln Memorial. But as the recession began to ease, Beck’s apocalyptic forecasts and ominous conspiracies became less persuasive, and his audience began to drift away.

Where to begin?

First of all, Beck isn’t going away any time soon. He runs a media empire, with a growing news website and popular radio show.

And while it’s true that he seems to have had a massive loss of viewers, Milbank’s theory is needlessly elaborate. Time for Occam’s razor. Beck lost viewers because people grew weary of his increasingly outrageous act. It’s as simple as that.

Here is the problem with Beck. Even when his show was at the height of its popularity, he felt the need for gimmicks to entice viewers to tune in the next day. All talk show hosts do this to an extent, but it was Beck’s oversized personality—his carnival-like showmanship and intensity—that took it to another level.

For example, he ended his March 2nd program like this:

Tomorrow, information I believe will shock you and change the way you think this administration views you, versus the unions. Also, the collusion of radical socialists and terrorists, I was called crazy for. Well, wait until tomorrow.

The cliffhanging conspiracy theory is entirely typical of Beck.

At first, these promises of shocking revelations generated buzz, especially when coupled with Beck’s magnetic personality. And to keep up with the expectations of his fanbase, he had find wilder and crazier material for his program. Of course, Beck could not possibly follow through on these promises—and often viewers would be left disappointed.

No one likes to feel that he is being strung along. By overpromising and underdelivering, Beck was digging his own grave. He raised expectations to an impossible level, and started peddling increasingly outrageous theories to hold the attention of his fans. It was Beck, not the economy, who killed The Glenn Beck Show.



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