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Tears of a Clown: Glenn Beck and the Tea Bagging of America Hardcover – October 5, 2010

2.7 out of 5 stars 76 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"[A] droll, take-no-prisoners account of the nation's most audacious conspiracy-spinner...Milbank is pitch-perfect in describing a typical Beck performance. He has watched and listened to more Beck programs than I believed possible for the human mind to absord...Milbank is also superb in describing how Beck manipulates his listeners..."
-- David Oshinsky for The Washington Post

"Train-wreck fascinating...Milbank's obsessions about Beck's obsessions can be contagious."
-- San Francisco Chronicle

"Milbank's fast-paced chronicle of Beck World ably details the meteoric rise of a low-rent radio shock jock to national phenomenon in less than a decade."
--The Christian Science Monitor

About the Author

DANA MILBANK is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post and a prize-winning White House reporter. He has written three books, including the national bestseller Homo Politicus. He lives in Washington with his wife and daughter.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; First Edition edition (October 5, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385533888
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385533881
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,677,577 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Glenn Edward Lee Beck (born 1964) is a political commentator, author, radio host, and TV host. Author Dana Milbank is a columnist as well as the author of books such as Homo Politicus: The Strange and Scary Tribes that Run Our Government, Smashmouth: Two Years in the Gutter with Al Gore and George W. Bush, O is For Obama: An Irreverent A-to-Z Guide to Washington and Beltway Politics, etc.

Milbank observes, "(Beck is) putting on a live performance in front of eight thousand paying customers along with fellow Fox News host Bill O'Reilly, who is a flamethrower in his own right but who next to Beck seems as mild as Jim Lehrer." (Pg. 2) He suggests, "People don't follow Glenn Beck because he is right. They follow him out of fright." (Pg. 15) He states, "Large numbers of Mormons watch Beck, but likely an even larger number of his viewers and radio listeners are evangelical Protestants who have no idea that Beck is preaching to them nightly the theology of the Latter-day Saints." (Pg. 45-46)

He notes that Beck has spoken approvingly an anti-Semitic author of an earlier era, Elizabeth Dilling. (Pg. 6-7) Later, he states, "Beck, it would seem, has a Nazi fetish. In his first fourteen months on Fox News, he and his guests invoked Hitler 115 times. Nazis, another 134 times. Fascism, 172 times. The Holocaust got 58 mentions, and Joseph Goebbels got 8 mentions." (Pg.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I used to think Glenn Beck was merely a show-biz big mouth, looking to cash in on the angry fringe, to be disregarded as a serious force. After reading Dana Milbank's excellent biography, I'm not so sure. Milbank makes the case Beck is a sad, troubled, and dangerous extremist crackpot who is validating and feeding paranoid delusions of millions of Americans. He is helping to energize and organize the angry dispossessed into a real political force. And he's a latter-day Joe McCarthy, attacking people with no evidence other than guilt by association.

While Milbank is probably best known these days for his humorous Washington Sketch from the Washington Post, he's a serious journalist who covered the WH under GWB well. This book, despite the cover and title, is thoroughly researched and well written biography of our generation's Father Coughlin. As hard as Milbank tries to be funny, most of the book is actually pretty scary.

The book highlights Beck in his own words from the past two decades on the radio and TV. And it isn't pretty. But it's important that a guy who commands the readership and viewership that Beck does gets a thorough once over and gets taken seriously by serious people.

This isn't a book for haters or partisans on the left. If Beck apologists truly believe in what the man says, they should read the book, too. They might not like what they find out. As Glenn says, "how is it that a smear campaign is conducted when you're only using the person's words?"
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Format: Hardcover
I have never been a big fan of Glenn Beck's schtick, and I suspect it is likewise for most people who read this book. But after reading it I am not only in awe of Beck's great broadcasting talent, I am also saddened that such a manipulative and misinformed man can influence millions of people.

This book then is a good primer for those of us who only know Beck as some sort of heir to Rush Limbaugh and who don't consume his shows, books and "courses" with a religious fervor. What a wake up call this book is, then, as Milbank uses Beck's own works culled from Beck's prodigious output of broadcasts to paint a portrait of man who at best plays loose with the facts and manipulates the racial fears of his mostly white audience and at worst uses coded phrases and apocalyptic imagery to provoke others to violence.

Milbank is successful in showing how Beck is able to embrace any stale far-flung conspiracy theory, a one-world government for example, and weave it in to some present day impending catastrophe using props such as a chalkboard that Beck says only he has the courage to present to his fervent (and misguided) listeners.

Milbank is particularly effective at showing how Beck is different from all the other right wing ideologues like Hannity and Rush because Beck takes it all one step further by pushing the envelope of fear to the brink of what's allowable in a broadcast. Obama is a racist and his administration wants to run the country like Nazi Germany, according to Beck. Beck says he can't dispute an Internet rumor that FEMA runs concentration camps. American liberals "have been raised to hate the United States government in many ways" (p. 198); Union members want a "one-world government" (p. 199); "Like it or not, fascism is on the rise.
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