The Glenn Beck Decoder
April 8, 2011 1 Comment
I was trying tonight to read Glenn Beck’s website in an effort to better understand his point of view and failed at the most basic level. The language feels foreign, inexact, like reading a pirated translation. (I read this April 1, 2011 entry three times before giving up—if you can explain it to me, I’d be grateful).
So I turned to Wordle for enlightenment, figuring it might do the work of an across-the-aisle Babelfish. That all Americans—even the uninitiated and the elites—might be able to follow our Paul Revere, I transformed four of his texts into beautiful word clouds. (Wordle turns any text you paste into the window into an attractive arrangement of words whose relative sizes reflect the frequency of word usage.)
These statistical charts don’t just show the development of a great American thinker over time; I think you’ll find they also show which words he used most.
Let’s start with his 2008 article for CNN, “America Needs a Twelve-Step Program“:
The most frequently used words here make a haiku:
Power step! (Country-guy way).
Next up is “Obama’s socialist climate czar,” from 2009:
I did not choose this color scheme, by the way. It’s like the Wordle knew that Socialism is red Communism by another name.
In this case the message is clear, stripped of any namby-pamby attempts at a Japanese and frankly unpatriotic poetic form.
Know new global international socialist, Obama!
(Notice the kicky homophone, there for camouflage–lets it seem like he’s speaking to Obama, telling him “No new global international socialist!” while in fact he’s warning the world to know the one we already have in our midst. Apposition masked as a direct address.)
We pass to his response to the earthquake in Japan:
The meaning seems clear at first glance:
God continued saying Beck well.
God and Beck are in harmony. God pronounces the shibboleth (“Beck”) beautifully, and the two great beings are at peace. But might this cryptic statement hint at underlying tensions?
Consider a differently punctuated version:
God continued saying, “Beck, well…”
Hints, here, of mild disagreement.
Or, more ominous still:
God continued saying “Well, Beck…”
which obliquely suggests that God is tired of talking to Beck on the phone and tactfully trying to wrap up the conversation. Trouble in Paradise?
All signs point to yes: next up is Beck’s announcement on Fox of his departure.
Believe something, like business! Know! Want! Take!
Powerful parting words. From behind the camera, a producer indicates that his time is up.
Wait! Beck says.
Time? he asks.
Going, he grumbles, and walks sullenly off.