An irony too long to tweet....

>> Tuesday, March 16, 2010

My friend Tania retweeted this right before I went to bed:

thc1972 RT @washingtonpost Howard Kurtz - The Beck Factor at Fox: Staffers say comments taint their work -..

The link is to a Washington Post piece by Howard Kurtz. This paragraph on the first page caught my eye:

Publicly, there is plenty of praise. While Beck declined to be interviewed, Chris Balfe, president of Beck's company, Mercury Radio Arts, says that "Glenn and Roger have a fantastic relationship. That's the reason he went to Fox, because of Roger." He adds: "Roger definitely gives Glenn advice on a lot of different things he thinks Glenn could be doing better or differently."

Now, here's what's interesting about this: I knew that Beck was an Orson Welles fanatic from this series in Salon. Which should have struck me as funny, but didn't until I was reading this Kurtz piece before bed and saw that Beck had obviously named his production company--Mercury Radio Arts--in honor of Orson Welles' theatre company, radio show, acting troupe and film production company. Some of you are still wondering what the joke is.

The joke is that the Mercury Players and their founders, Orson Welles and John Houseman, were closely connected to, recipients of funds from, and promoters of the New Deal as part of the WPA Federal Theatre Project, a "big government" effort to keep people employed while promoting the arts. Personally, I think it was a great program and I'd love to see something like it come back, but--here's the kicker--we all know how Glenn Beck feels about Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal.

Turns out, as I was grabbing links, that I'm not the first person to notice the irony: in fact, here's a Republican Orson Welles fan who is completely seething over Beck's use of the "Mercury Players" reference. The whole thing is great, makes wonderful points and is worth a read, but this is an especially choice paragraph right here:

Orson Welles would be turning over in his grave – his ashes are in a well in Ronda, Spain – to learn that a demagogue like Glenn Beck has co-opted the name of his cherished Mercury Theatre on the Air from which to spew his daily dose of rabble-rousing bigotry and venom ("Mad Man: Is Glenn Beck Bad for America?", Time cover story, Sept. 17). Beck represents EVERYTHING that Welles despised – the same sort of sanctimonious intolerance that forced him, in November 1947, to board the plane that sent him into a nearly decade-long exile in Europe.

The writer, Richard France, goes on to describe Welles as "a true New Deal Democrat," which is about right. It seems worth mentioning that Welles owed much of his pre-Citizen Kane fame/infamy not just to the famous War Of The Worlds dramatization and his radio appearances as The Shadow, but also to the controversy that surrounded an extremely pro-labor, pro-New Deal, Federally-funded WPA play that Welles and John Houseman produced, The Cradle Will Rock; indeed, it was Welles' talent for drawing controversy that led RKO to give Welles the unprecedented film deal that resulted in Kane, though they quickly bit off more than they could swallow when Welles' first feature turned out to be a brutal piss-taking of William Randolph Hearst, who had recently turned on Roosevelt.*

Surely Beck is aware that his greatest hero was an ardent supporter of "that evil son of a bitch" who brought America to the edge of socialism? I ask rhetorically. I mean, who knows what Beck is aware of or how much he believes his own schtick. (Chez Pazienza has suggested that Beck is "the greatest performance artist of the 21st century"; he may be right.) The irony, nonetheless, amuses. Will Beck change the name of his production company? Disavow his hero? Who knows?

Who cares?

*There is a slightly-apocryphal story that the single thing that most offended Hearst about Citizen Kane was the title character's obsession with "Rosebud."

Welles' co-author on Kane, Herman J. Mankiewicz, was formerly an invitee to Hearst parties, acquainted with Hearst's crowd and was privy to a great deal of Hearst gossip, and thus was aware that "Rosebud" was, allegedly, Hearst's nickname for his mistress', Marion Davies', genitalia.

Hearst was not amused by the reference.

SORT OF AN UPDATE: If you haven't read Roger Ebert's wonderful takedown of Il Beck's latest crazy rant--Beck recently told his Christian viewers to excuse themselves from churches who make social justice part of their mission--go, read it, read it now. It's a lovely little rant from someone who's turning out to be, I think, not just a reliably decent critic but one of the coolest and smartest guys on the planet.


vince Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 12:29:00 PM EDT  

Beck doesn't know, and doesn't want to know, real live facts. Because facts are evil. Like history. And they interfere with... well, with truth. Because facts aren't truth. And truth is truth, not facts. And facts make him cry. About people who challenge him with facts. And thus deny truth. Real truth. And real tears. Caused by Nazi worshiping and Communist worshiping churches. And don't confuse him with facts like the Nazis killed communists in Germany, and then killed lots and lots of Russian communists. Or that the apostles in Acts in the Bible had communist communes where everyone had to share and a couple who hid stuff from the rest of the commune were struck down by God. Because Beck's words are truth. And truth is not to be confused with facts. Which aren't truth. Because "truth" and "facts" are spelled differently. "Truth" has twice as many "t's" as "facts." Which is why truth is not facts. And is better than facts. 100% better.

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