A peek behind the Beck curtain

A PEEK BEHIND THE BECK CURTAIN…. It’s been an ongoing point of debate for a while: is Fox News’ Glenn Beck actually deranged, or is it just an act to appeal to far-right consumers? I’ll admit to going back and forth on the question.

But Forbes profiles the strange media personality in its new issue, and gets an interesting comment from the talk-show host himself.

With a deadpan, Beck insists that he is not political: “I could give a flying crap about the political process.” Making money, on the other hand, is to be taken very seriously, and controversy is its own coinage. “We’re an entertainment company,” Beck says. He has managed to monetize virtually everything that comes out of his mouth.

That monetization has proven incredibly lucrative. Beck’s Mercury Radio Arts, dubbed “Glenn Beck Inc.” by Forbes, generated $32 million over the last year, and only $2 million of that total came from Fox News. The majority was the result of book sales, speaking engagements, merchandising, and assorted Beck-related publications (magazines, website, newsletter).

“I don’t necessarily believe that [what Beck says] is reflective of his own personal politics — I don’t even know if he has personal politics,” said Michael Harrison, publisher of Talkers, a trade magazine devoted to talk radio. “I see him as a performer.”

What’s more, Zaid Jilani reminds us that this isn’t the first time Beck has suggested he doesn’t buy his own shtick. He has described himself as “a rodeo clown” and conceded, “If you take what I say as gospel, you’re an idiot.”

I guess the only surprising thing is that Beck would admit that he doesn’t “give a flying crap about the political process,” in effect acknowledging that he considers his minions — who’ve been convinced by Beck to care deeply about the political process — a bunch of suckers.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.