People are watching this lunatic

PEOPLE ARE WATCHING THIS LUNATIC…. Glenn Beck, Fox News’ deranged media personality, has been telling a national television audience that the Obama administration might be setting up secret “concentration camps” to lock up conservatives. The president, Beck believes, may be using FEMA in this conspiratorial drive towards “a totalitarian state.”

Beck, who has already voiced his affinity for the John Birch Society, is also distributing Birchers’ literature to his audiences.

If he were just some random right-wing blogger, it would be easier to laugh this off. If he were just some strange man screaming on a street corner, social service agencies might be called in to help the guy out. But instead, people are listening to this nut.

In fact, Beck has been dominating cable news recently. According to TVNewser’s charts of Nielsen ratings, out of all the cable news networks, his Fox show has consistently placed second in the key demographic of viewers aged 25 to 54 over the past couple weeks, beating even Sean Hannity’s and trailing only “The O’Reilly Factor.” When it comes to total viewers, too, Beck’s been cleaning up, generally placing third, just behind Hannity.

But Beck got his biggest audience numbers yet for a special he hosted on Friday, a special so ludicrous and over-hyped that Fox’s own Shep Smith couldn’t help but have a little fun at his colleague’s expense.

But it paid off: That one episode of Beck’s program got the highest ratings in the key demographic for the entire month of March so far. In total, TVNewser reports, “There were more viewers watching Beck’s 5pm show than watched the entire prime time (8-11pm) lineups on CNN and MSNBC.”

Kevin Drum argued the other day, “It’s more and more obvious that Glenn Beck has decided that becoming a male Ann Coulter is good for his ratings. So his show is now dedicated to saying increasingly outrageous things solely in an attempt to get liberals to denounce him and drive his ratings yet higher. Conclusion: it’s time to start ignoring him, right?”

Maybe, but I’m not sure. Beck, far more than Coulter, seems to believe what he’s saying. Coulter craves controversy — she’s a clown pretending to be a provocateur — but Beck literally seems mad. He sees bizarre and elaborate conspiracies, and worse, seems to perceive himself as the leader of an unstable movement.

Coulter is harmless. Is Beck?