What if Fox News was actually reining in Glenn Beck? Now accountable to nobody, could he become even more dangerous?
As you know by now, Glenn Beck is on his way out at Fox News. Shamed by a loss of nearly a third of his audience in the past year, as well as a growing list of displeased advertisers, the network's most infamous talking head is packing up his chalkboard and moving on. Beck compared himself to Paul Revere in his exit speech, and he vowed to "continue telling the story."
As you might expect, many liberals are claiming a victory. Though Beck has yet to say just when his program will end, according to David Brock, chairman of Media Matters, which has been working towards Beck's ouster harder than anyone else, Beck leaving is "a victory for civil discourse." And a headline on the Huffington Post read, simply, "It's over."
The problem is that it's actually far from over. And it might just get worse.
Consider this: Glenn Beck is going off of Fox News; he's not dead and he's not mute, and Fox, where he still pulled in more than two million viewers a night, was hardly his biggest pan on the fire. In fact, according to Forbes, Beck made more than $32 million in 2010, only $2 million of which came from his cable news program. The rest he amassed via a vast media empire, which includes book deals, a highly rated radio program, a growing collection of websites, and a sold-out speaking tour. Indeed, Fox News has a major audience. But saying Beck is "over" because his program is off the air—for now. Who's to say it won't come back somewhere else?—is like saying you've nixed a bedbug problem because you incinerate your pillow.
Fox News itself has said Beck is going to be developing programming for the network, meaning he's actually not really leaving at all. And the worst news yet is that he's been "contemplating" his own TV network, like Oprah. If you hated Beck on Fox, imagine if he ran Fox.
To be sure, Fox heads Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch barely reined Beck in for his many egregious dalliances beyond the pale—for instance, Ailes waited a full year to say Beck calling President Obama "a racist" was "an unfortunate thing." But at least Beck had superiors at Fox, people who could reprimand him—and probably did behind the scenes from time to time—and, as they have now, fire him. With his own TV channel, the sole superior will be Beck, and the possibilities for his ranting will be limitless.
It's easy to forget, but Beck began his cable news career on CNN's Headline News, an experience he said today he "hated." Now he's leaving Fox, which ostensibly controlled him far less than CNN. Essentially, he's leaping from venue to venue and using each to get richer, more famous, and more validated. Now he's a free agent with millions of dollars at his disposal and more than two million loyal fans.
Glenn Beck's not over. He's just getting started.