OK, so I’ve been talking about Glenn Beck’s rise to power recently.  He interests me precisely because he has no focused political agenda but instead seems to be searching around for a voice. What he has found so far is a vague set of principles that bring together (often contradictory) ideas about nation, religion, and masculinity.   There is obviously some danger in such a development: a prominent public voice without a platform but who instead seems to be market-testing ideas against the Fox News Audience.

So, it was with some interest that I picked up David Brooks’s (and yes, that is the correct form for the plural here!) October 2 New York Times piece.  Brooks makes a convincing argument that the actual influence of the right-wing cable voices is overblown and has been proven to be such.  He further suggests that a kind of “spiral of silence” comes to surround the punditry as they contemplate this output.  The cogniscenti make their power self-fulfilling by granting it more effect than it deserves.

It is true that the actual influence of the cable shows is overblown. Their ratings remain small in comparison to other platforms. And, Brooks is right to caution us to look behind their imputed influence to their actual influence.  What he suggests, t hough, is that the imputed influence can become the actual influence–if it is treated as such.  This is ironically reminiscent of the rise of Televangelism thirty years ago, by the way.

But I remain concerned.  And, note which of these voices got the attention of the Times’s (again, correct plural!) headline writer: Beck.  What is it about hiim?  I think it is that he is such a good aggregator of ideas.  Not that he really understands them very well…  Beck’s imaginary is one where things just make a certain kind of sense to a certain kind of discourse, and that process is worth watching, regardless of its demonstrable “effects.”