Glenn Beck Is Coming After Thomas Edison

The conservative media icon is going to the movies.

National Journal
Emma Roller
March 10, 2014, 11:10 a.m.

Glenn Beck wants to take his con­ser­vat­ive gos­pel to the streets — or at least to a movie theat­er near you.

In a pro­file in the Na­tion­al Re­view, Eli­ana John­son writes that the former Fox host is shift­ing away from polit­ics and to­ward cul­tur­al work. “I hated polit­ics, I al­ways have,” says the man who’s made an es­tim­ated $90 mil­lion from his polit­ic­al opin­ing.

Beck said he’s plan­ning to de­vel­op three “ma­jor mo­tion pic­tures,” in­clud­ing one about the “real story of Christ­mas,” and an­oth­er about Thomas Edis­on. Beck has already penned a fic­tion­al Christ­mas book, The Christ­mas Sweat­er, but his new ven­ture would fo­cus on cri­ti­ciz­ing the hol­i­day’s com­mer­cial­ism. Writ­ing a full-throated de­fense of Christ­mas is a sure­fire way to re­in­force your con­ser­vat­ive bona fides (and your pock­et­book) — just ask Mike Hucka­bee or Sarah Pal­in.

Beck isn’t just do­ing battle against the War on Christ­mas, but against one of Amer­ica’s most revered his­tor­ic­al fig­ures: Thomas Edis­on. “I star­ted out lik­ing Thomas Edis­on. I thought he was the quint­es­sen­tial Amer­ic­an in­vent­or,” Beck told S.E. Cupp last year. When asked why he hates Edis­on, he replied, “Just Google, ‘Topsy the Ele­phant’. Just start there.” He was re­fer­ring to a cir­cus ele­phant Edis­on cruelly elec­tro­cuted in an at­tempt to shame his rival, George West­ing­house. (While Beck may nev­er have elec­tro­cuted a pa­chy­derm to prove a point, he’s no stranger to tak­ing cheap shots at his op­pon­ents). Nikola Tesla is “the real geni­us,” Beck in­sists, like an MIT fresh­man in a spir­ited dorm-room de­bate. And Tesla’s uto­pi­an view of the world is not so dif­fer­ent from that of Ayn Rand, an­oth­er hero of Beck’s.

Also on Beck’s Naughty List, for those keep­ing track: Levi’s (the “uni­form of pro­gress”), Dar­ren Aronof­sky (who dir­ec­ted the up­com­ing film Noah), Woo­drow Wilson (a “pres­id­ent you should hate”), and Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham (whom Beck called a “piece of garbage” for ad­voc­at­ing dip­lo­mat­ic ac­tion against Rus­sia).

Mean­while, at the top of Beck’s Nice List is Walt Dis­ney, who has in­flu­enced his past pro­jects. Beck wants to build In­de­pend­ence, USA, a Dis­ney­land-like “city-theme park hy­brid” that would double as a free-mar­ket uto­pia.

Beck has al­ways framed is­sues — polit­ic­al, his­tor­ic­al, and cul­tur­al — as fables of good versus evil. He told the Na­tion­al Re­view, “We stand for stor­ies of love and cour­age where the good guys win. We are a group of people who be­lieve that the good guys ac­tu­ally win in the end.” In his mind, Beck is a great cru­sader for the soul of Amer­ica. Through his vari­ous re­in­carn­a­tions as me­dia mogul, civic lead­er, and now cul­tur­al di­let­tante, Beck has shown he has bits of both in­vent­ors in him — Tesla’s gran­di­ose schemes, Edis­on’s show­man­ship. Still, we’re wait­ing for his light bulb mo­ment.

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