The Weekly Standard takes on Glenn Beck
That's how I read Matthew Continetti's cover story in the magazine, an attempt to define a good tea party and a bad tea party by making CNBC's Rick Santelli and Fox News's Glenn Beck the two faces of the movement. Continetti takes several whacks at Beck, criticizing the historians he chooses to promote and arguing that "conspiracism is only one reason Beck’s populism is self-limiting."
The Tea Party cannot choose one face over the other; they are both part of the same movement. But the Tea Party can decide which face it puts forward. And in the coming days that decision will be of great consequence. It is the choice between Reagan and Goldwater. Santelli and Beck. Reform and revolution. Common sense and conspiracy. The future and the past. Victory—and defeat.
Reading this I'm reminded of the many articles that ran in liberal magazines during the early part of George W. Bush's presidency which named, shamed, and denounced elements of the anti-war movement. This article comes close to that kind of agenda-making, but doesn't explicitly denounce Beck et al -- the problem with conspiracyism is presented, at the conclusion of the piece, as an electoral problem. Because it falls short, I don't think it strongly makes the case that top conservatives need to stop indulging conspiracies -- a tough task, given how they've indulged them so far. It was just this week that Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck teamed up for a charity event. (Continetti is the author of "The Persecution of Sarah Palin.")
The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf makes the point -- which Continetti might have thought was implicit -- that there are less conspiracy-minded conservative figures than Beck who engage in pseudohistory about how liberals and progressives are part of a tradition of America-undermining evil. But even if you define conspiracy down, and only call it outrageous to indulge the strangest rumors, a la conservative radio host Alex Jones, you don't really have a serious conservative effort to purge all of that. You see, instead, arguments that blame the media for "hyping" that stuff to make conservatives look bad. Continetti's article is notable for how it doesn't pretend that this is true.