Monday, May 24, 2010

Beck's Mormon Theatricality

Very interesting excerpt from Alexander Zaitchick on the Mormon roots of Glenn Beck's strategic crying jags, etc.

It is hard to imagine a religion better suited to Beck’s emotional neediness, unrivaled egomania, and hack entertainment chops than the Church of Latter-Day Saints. Mormonism has not only made an art of fake crying, it has institutionalized Beck’s favorite mode of speech, the sentimental monologue. It also encourages a certainty of spirit based on self-revelation that lies outside argument, fact, or logic. What Beck does on radio and television is an amped-up version of the testimony ritual: he fervently talks about what he believes—knows—is happening, describes the dark secrets he has uncovered, conveys the transcendent importance of these discoveries, and frames it all in a Manichean narrative straight out of the Book of Mormon—America as a battlefield on which God-fearing defenders of liberty face off against evil big-government conspirators.

The way Beck has built his movement and his audience is a microcosm of the method by which the Mormon Church grew into a worldwide religion. Like an earnest young missionary spreading the good word through emotional speeches to confused Latin American villagers, Beck has brought his gut self-revelations to the angry, not-so educated audiences of Fox News and AM talk-radio, employing emotional intensity overflowing into tears to conquer doubts of his sincerity and prove his access to powerful truths. By asking his viewers to “join him”—in the 9.12 Project, as a “constitutional watchdog,” for his 100-year plan—or to “follow him” (as he says at the beginning of each Fox broadcast), he is offering viewers a chance to share in his revelation.

Bear testimony; recruit. Bear testimony; recruit.

More. I wonder how much of his ratings decline is due to audience fatigue with this schtick.

Did I tell you about the nice Mormon boys who approached me while I was puttering around in the yard? "I see you are religious. I'm not." Oh, and I wasn't wearing...a bra!
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