Skip to main content

Consumed With Hate: Addicted To Outrage

💊 I'm Pushing An Elephant Up The Stairs...

The Crime: Addicted to Outrage: How Thinking Like a Recovering Addict Can Heal the Country
The Guilty Party: Glenn Beck
Overview: Beck goes full stream-of-consciousness for 400 pages ignoring his own very obvious framing device and, my god, did anybody edit this?

Why I Hate It...

The last 20% or so of this book is pretty good. Beck makes an impassioned argument for reaching across the aisle and he offers some practical advice for how to do so, using addiction and AA as a metaphorical framework. I disagree with a lot of his base assumptions and feel like he leans too hard on his own pop philosophy, but those are relatively minor things in the long run. He admits that he built his career stoking outrage, comes dangerously close to actually apologizing for that, and his basic thesis of be-less-of-an-asshole-to-people-you-disagree-with is thoughtful, well-reasoned, and feels like it's coming from a place of honesty and good intentions.

Someone should really share it with whoever wrote the first 80% of this book.

It's. Just. Exhausting. I started this thing in November and finished it in June, for frick's sake. I had to take multiple breaks throughout because it just weighs down on the soul to be constantly called a moron. If Beck's main thesis is that he and his followers should try to find common ground with progressives, maybe he shouldn't spend quite so much time gaslighting progressives? The tenor of most of this book is "we need to get along and it'd be easier if Democrats weren't so wrong about everything!" There's some token both-sides-ism, but he can't seem to help falling back on snarky asides and what I assume are his normal fan-favorite talking points. I mean, he brings up Jeremiah Wright--a man who was only vaguely relevant a decade before this book's publication--something like three or four times. And despite his insistence that his readers/listeners should be trying to find common ground with the opposition party, he makes no attempt to do that himself. He spares no amount of ink reaffirming his personal beliefs and talking about how eager he is to engage with other people, but he spends zero time at all actually exploring or inquiring about other people's beliefs.

Which speaks to Beck's general lack of self-awareness. Towards the end--you know, the good part--he circles back on the idea that character matters and is important and he specifically calls out Donald Trump. He also has a section early on wherein he says "sure, Trump is a demagogue, but what about all the good he's done?" (I'm paraphrasing, but "demagogue" was HIS word, not mine.) If character matters, and you really believe that, then demagoguery should be a bigger concern... right? He lambasts progressives for never wanting to let go of the evils of America's past, and three chapters later says that one of the problems with Americans is that they're too willing to let go of the evils of America's past. He takes great umbrage that people called his former employer "Faux" News, but he himself describes Roger Ailes as having "a passion for destroying the Democratic Party" and admits that while he was working there, Ailes was spying on him! It's wildly inconsistent, and in a section that I took rather personally, he offers an abridged primer on Carl Sagan's "baloney detector" and specifically cites "inconsistency" as a sign that a what you're hearing might not be true. Gah! I mean... Why even bring up Sagan at all if you're not going to apply that lens to your own arguments?

The answer, of course, is that Beck doesn't make arguments. He does what logicians refer to as the "Gish Gallop" where you just strew the bullshit together faster than a dissenting brain can process it. Beck tends to talk around subjects rather than about them, loosely tying things together rather than exploring them. I assume this affect comes from primarily working in radio, where you have to generate hours and hours of content that has to be accessible to new listeners but still novel to older ones. But Beck takes this to a bizarre extreme. Just consider this section, which I'm paraphrasing:

You buy a self-driving car that takes you to work and then you send it off to work as an Uber. Let's say it gets into an accident. Whose fault would the accident be? Who should own the insurance? Should the car therefore have its own insurance that it pays for out of the money it makes while working as an Uber? Should it be allowed to play the stock market? If it can invest, could it be taxed? If it can be taxed, does that mean it's alive, and therefore should be able to demand representation? Should it be allowed to vote?

There are a good half dozen extremely complex topics there that are being completely glossed over, and in service of what? The point he arrives at is that these are things we need to be talking about. You know what? I agree! Maybe, since you brought them up, you should actually talk about them!

This disjointed non-sequitur argumentation extends to the entire book. There is no organization to the thoughts on display. Which astounds me, because if you're using the twelve steps as a framing device, grouping topics by "step" is something any competent writer should be able to figure out without hand-holding. But no, topics are raised, dropped, and circled back on haphazardly, reading like a series of prolonged, disconnected rants. He rarely cites sources, and when he does drop a name or mention a book, it's usually in reference to the general topic he's discussing rather than the specific facts he's presenting. The point is to reinforce his bona fides, not to give a curious reader somewhere further to go.

Because at the end of the day Beck's putting on a show here--far more interested in the theatrics than the substance. Sometimes this is quite entertaining. At one point he reinterprets the Declaration Of Independence as a Dear John letter to King George, and it's pretty damned clever. There's a huge aside about Baskin Robbins that pops up in the middle of a sentence. While it didn't really add anything to what he was saying, it was a bizarrely compelling bit of performance art. But those are the exceptions. Most of the theatrics are just snarky asides and "funny" voices, if you decide to go the audio route.

And it's all just so tiring. Unless you already agree with him, in which case it's probably a fun ride with a sobering conclusion. Well, I'm sorry, but no thanks. You don't get to spend thirty chapters telling "liberal jokes" and then another seven or so admonishing people for making fun of liberals. I probably shouldn't be surprised--it's right there on the cover art! This is a book ostensibly about the troubles of addiction, and there's a smiling Glenn Beck extending a hand to offer you a big old pile of pills.

Next week we'll watch the Beatles be accidentally racist in Help!...

In CONSUMED WITH HATE, Kurt is revisiting media that he absolutely did not like one bit. See more posts.