weekly reading: salon’s 2009 glenn beck exposé

As Glenn Beck presided over his “Restoring Honor” rally in D.C. this weekend, all I could think about was this tidbit: When he was a morning DJ in Phoenix, Beck called up his rival’s wife on air and ridiculed her for the miscarriage she’d suffered just days before.

That astonishing anecdote came from Salon’s “The Making of Glenn Beck,” a three-part series that traces his rise in radio. It’s a year old, but I just found it recently, and it is a fantastic piece of journalism, rich in details and good old-fashioned dirt-digging. Besides the sometimes salacious stories — and an interesting explanation of how the “morning zoo” radio culture came to be — the piece gives context to Beck’s current career, and just how calculated his politics may be.

It left me with a weird combination of feelings. I couldn’t help but admire Beck’s work ethic, while at the same time being disgusted by his apparently bottomless mean streak. And what to make of the idea that he may not actually believe the philosophy he peddles? Is that worse than if he lives and dies by it? I’m not sure, but I like the way the story gave some dimensions, good and bad, to someone I’ve thus far viewed as a cartoon villain.

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