How Rush Limbaugh Taught Glenn Beck Everything He Knows


Is Glenn Beck a Rush Limbaugh fanboy? It certainly feels that way. Between the glowing things he’s written about him, the admiration he’s expressed in interviews, and their buddy-buddy banter on TV, his fanboydom rings clear.

Being a fan is one thing; being a follower is another. Has Glenn Beck consciously modeled himself on Limbaugh — and if so, does he have Limbaugh to thank for his surging success?

Beck wrote Limbaugh’s profile for the Time 100 list this year, and he showed nothing but reverence for him:

“No matter how many new technologies pop up, nothing will ever surpass the intimacy of radio. And nobody will ever be better at utilizing it than Rush. His consistency, insight and honesty have earned him a level of trust with his listeners that politicians can only dream of….

Knowing firsthand just how hard it is to hold an audience’s attention for a few hours makes it that much more amazing to have seen Rush do it for more than 20 years. To say that he has set the standard for success in broadcasting would truly be an understatement.”

As incredible as it is to contemplate, Glenn Beck has only been on TV for a little more than 3 years. Before that, he was a radio man, and Rush’s influence on him in that department is clear. He told The Daily Beast that “I think I do something extraordinarily different than Rush. Rush is political thought, I am a guy who’s part rodeo clown. I don’t pretend to be able to plan movements of the parties and the presidents and everything else,” but that’s all part of the act. Limbaugh pioneered the talk radio schtick of pretending to be ‘just folks’ while being anything but, of spinning people’s day-to-day grievances into a political agenda that’s a step beyond any of them.

Beck employs similar foot-in-the door tactics, where the foot is emotion and the door is the door to an agenda. Do you love your country? Obviously. Are you unhappy about the recession? Duh. Are you generally uneasy about the direction the country’s going? Well, when you put it that way… It’s because Obama is a socialist/Nazi (take your pick), and the solution is to get rid of the czars! Thanks to Beck, the turn from bad vibes to a desire to get rid of the corps of unelected officials that have done the grunt work for countless presidential administrations has become an intuitive one to many people in this country today, which is a scary, remarkable achievement — and it’s textbook Rush.


Just as importantly, Limbaugh taught Beck that political influence and an emotionally rousing show are good business. Yes, Color of Change has scared a lot of sponsors away from Beck’s time-slot following his “Obama is racist” rant — though their effect on Fox’s bottom line is oft-exaggerated. But Beck is a multi-platform guy. In his Time piece, he admires Limbaugh for not doing “everything at once,” but for sticking to radio — but that’s not really the case.

Limbaugh’s 1994 See, I Told You So was one of the first powerhouse conservative hardcover books of the sort that now flood Barnes & Noble: According to Booklist, at the time it had the biggest early sales of any hardcover book in publishing history. Beck, of course, has megahits Common Sense and An Inconvenient Book, plus the likes of The Christmas Sweater, a fictional holiday tale (huh?) that is currently the #1 Christmas book on Amazon. But that’s not all: Rush has a newsletter (for $34.95 a year), Beck has Fusion Magazine (also for $34.95 a year!). They both sell branded, angrily jokey t-shirts, coffee mugs, and bumper stickers. It’s probably a coincidence, but the store pages on both of their websites look eerily similar — although Beck’s is better-designed. (Here’s Limbaugh’s.)

Some bloggers have surmised that Rush must be jealous of Beck’s newfound celebrity and influence on the right. That may be true, but there’s no real-world evidence to back it up beyond vague theories about Limbaugh’s psychology. The two have come across as quite chummy when Limbaugh appeared on Beck’s show in May and again in August, swapping ideas, joking around, and even flirting with each other, as Beck would have it. “I think he’s hitting on me! I think he’s saying, ‘I’m a sexy, sexy man!’”

But if Rush was the original Terminator, Beck is T-1000: sleeker and more ruthless (and he can probably melt into a pool of liquid silver, if you press him). Beck also has his radio show, but it’s hard to overstate how important his cable platform is — and the endless stream of embeddable videos that flow from it to the Internet. Rush has always been a gadfly, and arguably blew up the Lewinsky scandal even more than Matt Drudge, but he doesn’t quite have the scalp of two appointed officials.

But Beck runs the risk of burnout: he’s new, hot, hyped, and knows how to insert himself into the national news cycle every three days or so, but at three years on TV and just 8 months at Fox, he hasn’t yet withstood the test of time; even his rank and file could get sick of his rodeo clownery, while Rush’s dittoheads have stuck by his lower-energy formula. Like the original Terminator, Rush could just be the one to outlast him.

The Other Swayze

ash-profile-iiWhile the coverage so far of Patrick Swayze’s battle with and eventual defeat by pancreatic cancer has focused primarily dancing in the Catskills and supernatural pottery, I’m feeling the passing of the other Swayze: the one who kicked a lot of ass.

I’ve never allowed myself to be forced to watch Dirty Dancing all the way through, and I have no real idea who Baby is, who wants her in a corner, and why that is a bad thing, but I was as much of a Patrick Swayze fan as every girl I’ve ever known, and there are two words that explain why: Point and Break.  Two more: Red and Dawn.  O.k., final two: Road and House.

The Patrick Swayze I loved was the one who surfed and skydived at you, who kicked some commie ass on our own turf, and who wanted us to be nice… until it’s time to not be nice.

While Swayze undoubtedly found his greatest success as a chick flick staple, there is no doubt that his presence in an otherwise less than stellar action flick had the ability to make it something you’d never forget.  Red Dawn, Point Break and Road House were all essentially bad movies, but bad movies that pretty much everyone loves, and with good reason.  Patrick Swayze could dance, sure, but he could also fight, surf and skydive with the best of them.  And when he was the action guy, it always really looked like he was having a lot of fun.

That was fun people wanted to and still want to get into.  How else can you explain that Point Break lives on as a live show to this day (if you’ve not yet seen it, or better yet, played Johnny Utah from Utah, your life is not complete), I can’t go a week without hearing a Road House quote (”Pain. Don’t. Hurt,” anyone?) and Red Dawn has a remake in the pipeline.

These are not movies that are in any other way terribly memorable.  These are not great films.  Swayze, and the fact that he could deliver a fun guy movie without taking himself too seriously, is the common thread, and the reason we remember them.

Thats not to say he couldn’t act.  Lest you forget, he was nominated for a Golden Globe for his more than memorable performance in To Wong Fu, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar.

And while his battle with cancer may have defined the story in the media during the final year or so of his life, it clearly didn’t define him.  This is a man who flew himself an hour each way to chemotherapy twice a month.  And more than once critic called his performance as a possibly crooked undercover FBI agent in the A&E series The Beast earlier this year the best of his career, and as one of the four or five people that watched the show, I’d agree.  The Beast was the last roar of the Swayze I loved, the one who used his dancing feet to kick whatever was in his way out of it.

Sadly, however, to quote Johnny Utah: “He’s not coming back.”

Ash Kalb is the general counsel of a New York-based telecommunications and technology company and an instrument-rated pilot. He writes about geeky things for Mediaite.

Newt Gingrich Honors Porn President, then Pulls Out

6a00d8341c6d4753ef00e54f12b4878833-800wiWhen I got this press release from my Asylum editors on Friday, I thought it must have been a gag. Newt Gingrich’s American Solutions PAC had announced a seemingly odd selection for their Entrepreneur of the Year Award: (via email).

In a truly unexpected move, the Washington, DC-based political action committee “American Solutions for Winning the Future” (ASWF) has named Allison Vivas, President of the adult entertainment studio Pink Visual, recipient of its Entrepreneur of the Year award for 2009.

Sure, it seemed like an odd pairing, until I saw this banner. Try to guess if this is an ad from American Solutions, or the name of a new Pink Visual porn movie:


Alas, over the weekend, Gingrich got cold feet about the whole thing and rescinded the award. An American Solutions spokesman tried to pass the whole thing off as a “mistake,” despite the fact that the letter they sent to Vivas included a hand-written note saying how much Newt was looking forward to meeting her face-to-face. It also said Newt wanted to “get (her) thoughts on cap-and-trade and Obama’s tax policy.” Is that what they’re calling it these days?

The letter and the award seem to me like a well-designed vanity lure for deep-pocketed donors, rather than the result of intense desire on Newt’s part to press the flesh with local businesspeople from across the nation. In this case, the sincerity of the pitch works against him.

I emailed American Solutions for comment, and to ask whether donations are solicited at this dinner. I am awaiting a reply.

Kanye West and the N-word on Twitter- UPDATE

kanyetwitterAfter reading Steve Krakauer’s account of Kanye West’s outburst at last night’s MTV Video Music Awards, along with some priceless celebrity reactions, I was on Twitter when this tweet caught my eye. Hip-hop writer and “Media Assassin” Harry Allen, re-tweeting another tweep named Lemekh, had this to say:

No, White People: Tell Us What You Really Think Of Kanye West. [via @LemekH]about 8 hours ago from TweetDeck

The link is to a Twitter search of the words “Kanye” and “N***er.”

By the time I saw this, the search was dominated by re-tweets of people condemning the use of the word, so I paged all the way back to the first instance, and worked my way forward. There were lots of vile tweets from obvious racists, the most rewteeted one being this particularly disgusting one, but also from white people who claimed not to be racist, who seem to feel they’ve been granted permission by Chris Rock, or something, to use that word to describe “one of the bad ones.” Rock has since clarified the rules on this, which are not all that different from my own.

There were also lots of tweets from black people, mainly to express the feeling that West was making all black people look bad.

While it hasn’t hit the top of today’s trending topics, the search has been widely re-tweeted.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with calling out racists. It should probably be done more often. I’m sure, however, that any reasonable person would agree that calling this trend what “White people really think of Kanye” is overly broad, to say the least. While any vile, hateful, and even violent tweets are wholly unacceptable, ascribing them to all white people is obviously unfair. I emailed Harry for a comment on this article, and I’m awaiting his response.

What I also found interesting was the fact that Lemekh, the man who originated Allen’s tweet, and who cataloged many examples on his twitter feed, seems to have no problem using anti-gay slurs.

The takeaway here is that, when it comes to bigotry, we always have a little farther to go than we think we do.

Update: In response to my tweeted query, “Harry, you’re a writer, are we that type?” Harry Allen responds:

@djkoolchris @TommyXtopher D.B.T.H.about 2 hours ago from TweetDeck

That’s “Don’t believe the hype.” So, either Harry was answering that question the way he responds to every Public Enemy fan who asks that, or he read my story and I made my point.

Serena Williams, In A Tennis Tradition

katie-bakes-iii“That’s as angry as I’ve ever seen her,” remarked CBS analyst John McEnroe Saturday night as Serena Williams advanced, shaking her racquet and shouting, on a wide-eyed lineswoman at the US Open.

Williams was reacting, maniacally, to a second serve foot fault call that gave opponent Kim Clijsters a double match point at 6-5 in the second set of the semifinals. Her rant was vulgar and uncalled for. It was menacing and immature. It was unsportsmanlike. It was also, dare I say, pretty entertaining.

Televised ranting in sports is nothing new. Anyone who has watched Tiger Woods play has probably lip-read some choice words before, and Twitter’s own Shaquille O’Neal once dropped an f-bomb in a postgame interview. And McEnroe himself could always be counted on for some theatrics: in a bit of an elephant-in-the-room situation for tennis’ on-air team, it is practically impossible to give context to any on-court meltdown without invoking his name, or at least Jimmy Connors’.

In fact, no more genteel a tennis lover and scholar than Sidney B. Wood, Jr. – 1931’s Wimbledon champion – was in 1981 inspired by McEnroe to write an essay for the New York Times titled “Tantrum Throwers Through The Years”. He began:

IT has taken far more than one act of gross misbehavior to persuade this writer, as a member of what can be described as the international tennis fraternity, to publicly berate certain of his offending fellow members, and one in particular. The time has come.

The time came because Mac lacked the time – he snubbed the All England Club’s victory dinner, forcing poor Chris Evert Lloyd to apologize “as an American” for his absence and gravely offending Wood, who wrote that his name “will stand out as adefacement on the All England Club’s 104-year championship roster.”

But Wood’s essay, which reads like a Dominic Dunne dispatch – the phrase “heterosexual proclivities” is used, and he gets super catty about Connors – goes on to identify great complainers through the ages, proving that the more things change, etc. It’s unfortunate that Serena lost her cool, and she’s certainly better than that. But great athletes are like geniuses: sometimes they’re just a little crazy. And sometimes in tennis, it just may be a lunatic we’re looking for.

Many people, myself included, missed the Williams-Clijsters match live; rain throughout the weekend pushed it back to an awkward start time early Saturday evening. But no doubt most have by now seen the replays, whether they’ve wanted to or not. Williams’ rant was both meticulously recorded and visually stunning. It didn’t take long for enterprising onlookers to provide a transcription of her explosive words — suffice to say that balls being shoved down throats was a clear and present threat — and cameras were there to capture the essence of each tangential character.

Viewers saw the diminutive lineswoman scurrying, (the New York Times identified her as “Shino”yesterday morning before before changing the article to note that the USTA had not released her name) the imposing Williams hulking, the doddering tennis officials brow-furrowing.

Adding to the drama, it wasn’t even Williams’ first outburst of the match, which is why it was to be her last. After losing the first set 6-4 to Clijsters, Williams manhandled her racquet in frustration and was assessed a code violation warning. Her later outburst, then, was a second offense that carried with it a point penalty. As it happened, that was at match point, giving Clijsters, unseeded and just out of retirement, a bizarre ascension into the Finals and a chance to be the first mother to win a Grand Slam in 29 years.

“You can’t call that there,” whined McEnroe from the booth, showing his old colors and making the age-old argument that refs should just let the players play when the game is on the line. Later, after Serena named McEnroe one of her idols in a very incongruously laid-back press conference, the TV analyst began to backpedal, saying that he couldn’t “defend the indefensible” according to Newsday’s Neil Best.

Best also noted that Mary Carillo, the gloriously understated and NPR-voiced tennis analyst, chastised Williams for “the disingenuous, Oscar-worthy performance in her post-match news conference.” It was definitely an odd presser, with Williams’ on court menace replaced by an upbeat series of spotty memories (I was reminded of Will Ferrell in Old School, post-debate: “What happened? I blacked out!”) and rote clichés. She seemed robotic. One observer remarked on Tumblr that “she must have mainlined a cup of Xanax” en route to the press room.

But others found it to be the calm after the storm. Richard Deitsch, writing on, credited USTA officials for holding a normal press conference. And ESPN’s Bonnie Ford noted that both players “handled their meetings with the press superbly” and focused on the on-court moment where Williams quietly accepted the procedural defeat and immediately ran to congratulate the bewildered Clijsters:

While Richard Williams may have bequeathed fierceness and an explosive, racket-cracking temper to his daughter, her mother Oracene Price is visible in Serena’s makeup as well. It’s evident in the composure Serena can display under stifling pressure, and it was evident in Serena’s ability to curb her emotions at the moment when it was clear that rules dictated the match end.

Not so much her mercurial father: the Times reported, amusingly, that Richard Williams “was talking to the N.B.A. star Kevin Garnett outside the stadium when reporters approached him. “Just get out of my face,” he said.

Now that’s entertainment! But in all seriousness, while I am unable to muster too much outrage for what transpired, I will admit that it rubs me the wrong way that Williams has yet to issue even the most transparently unapologetic of apologies (“I did not intend to offend anyone…” can usually do the trick) and I do feel genuinely sorry for the poor lineswoman who bore the brunt of Williams’ unhinged threats. After all, as Sidney Wood wrote in his 1981 essay, “While the authorities of our day were also, on average, barely sufferable badgewearers, almost all of us were able to control our murderous impulses and retain our composure.” Not so Williams, at least at first.

But Wood also acknowledged:

Because the ever-fickle crowd can one day hate the villain and in 24 hours be overcome with adulation for his heroics, McEnroe will again have his ovations.

So too will Serena Williams. One of them will be mine.

How To Estimate A 9/12 Protest

pbump 2In the passion of yesterday’s 9/12 protests against, um, something, Jay Rosen noticed that Michelle Malkin was crowing about attendance of 2 million at the protest in D.C. Also known as one out of every 130 people in America.

Sensing that perhaps that number was a little high, he traced the error back to a conservative Twitterer named @pinkelephantpun, who claimed to have gotten the figure from ABC News. (Which, faster than Joe Wilson can amend an apology, ABC News denied.) In fact, ABC estimated the crowd, on the high end, at about 70,000.

That’s a pretty big difference. How big? It’s two orders of magnitude. As King Kaufman notes, it’s like confusing Vermont with Texas. More concretely, it’s akin to confusing the number of pixels in the two images below.


That’s some error!

(N.B. This image, believe it or not, was condensed for size. For actual image showing visible pixels, please see the original post at

Philip Bump is a technology and communications consultant in New York City who writes “The Wayback Machine,” an occasional column for Mediaite about the intersection of history and the Internet. Follow him on Twitter here.

Who Distributed Offensive Ted Kennedy Sign at 9/12 Rally?

Mediaite editor-at-large Rachel Sklar has done an excellent job of pointing out what Glenn Beck’s 9/12 Project isn’t, but activist Alex Lawson, who was at today’s 9/12 rally in DC, is doing a great job showing what it is. Alex has experience capturing the essence of these protests, having been attacked at the DC Tax Day Tea Party, and he did his part today in chronicling the Spirit of 9/12:

Billionaires for Wealthcare were on hand to serenade and thank the teabaggers in Washington today. We arrived en force dressed in tuxes and tiaras to celebrate those fighting so hard on behalf of our freedom to deny claims and raise rates. Because hey, at least OUR death panels turn a profit.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but I think this one says it all:


As if the “Bury Obamacare with Kennedy” sign wasn’t already dripping with class, the Twelvers cover Kennedy’s name with horseshit to really turn the 9/12 ‘tude up to 11. What’s really disgusting about this is that this isn’t some homemade bit of filth, but a pre-printed message distributed by the American Life League, a right-wing anti-choice group.

There was plenty of homemade hatriot goodness to be seen, however. Here’s a sampling of Alex’s photos from today’s rally. Makes you proud to be an American, doesn’t it?

Tommy Christopher is a Mediaite columnist on politics and media and also reports frequently from the White House. Tommy can also be found at his own blog: Follow him on Twitter here.