The Day I Shook Hands With Glenn Beck ► Nostalgia Ain’t What It Used To Be
Glenn Beck. Picture by author. Eyes by Crazy.

In November 2009, not quite three years ago, I was still in the middle of my Performance Art project that began in ’07. The idea was for this Canadian journalist with a established reputation, to subsume my identity completely and start writing about Politics as a woman under the nom de plume Aunty Em Ericann. The goal was to become a nationally known pundit under that name. Once I started writing about Glenn Beck for NewsHounds, I was well on the path to achieving that goal, if exchanging snarky tweets with former-Watergate felons and current Fox “News” personalities is any indication.

I had hoped to be able to play the joke out another couple of years until it was a punchline known by far more ‘Merkin people than who know who Mel Kaminski is. Unfortunately that was no longer possible after Johnny Dollar, who mistakenly believes he’s spouting CABLE NEWS TRUTH by defending Fox “News” lies, cyber-raped me, exposing my nom de plume along with my sex life, which, as far as I know, neither had anything to do with my political writing at NewsHounds.

Because my nom de plume was unknown to J$, it was clearly unknown. See the logic? Me neither. It became his mission to make it known. Why? Because I wrote the truth about Fox “News.” Yet, my nom de plume was no big secret. Whenever I would have to call someone for research I would introduce myself and
say, “I write under the name ‘Aunty Em’ for NewsHounds.” The list of people who knew my nom de plume includes everyone who worked in any official capacity at NewsHounds; hundreds of friends, family and acquaintances, including cyber-friends I have known for a decade or more [Hi Harryheads]; and random Pop Stars. Trust me, it’s not that big a secret if Flo and Eddie know. Who knows who they will tell when they’re hopped up on that Geritol?

Hell, even Glenn Beck knew. At least he should have known. Because the day I shook his hand, I introduced myself to him. I first told this story at NewsHounds.

The Beck Week That Was
The Dark Underbelly Edition
When Aunty Em Met Glenn Beck

November 22, 2009

It was a big week in Glenn Beck World, the Fun Time Carnival that never seemed to end for me. If I wasn’t watching his show and taking notes, then I was trying to make sense of what the notes said. Then, early Saturday morning, as usual I collated all the craziness to try to bring a sense of the Beck Hall of Mirrors to my vast reading audience.

It’s possible I was just tapped out, but after dinner on Monday I didn’t even bother to review my notes. Maybe I was feverish with the swine (with lipstick) flu, but as I drifted off to sleep on Monday night I was troubled by the recent news out of Tampa, only about 250 miles away as the crow flies, where a marine went postal on a visiting Greek Orthodox priest. When police were finally summoned, Lance Cpl. Jasen Bruce alternatively claimed he attacked the man of God because he was a jihadist terrorist who yelled “Allahu akbar!”, or because he tried to rob him, or tried to grope him. (I guess the police can just pick from a menu.)

As my REMs took me deeper into sleep, I was now inside a Rod Serling short story, later made into an episode of the Twilight Zone. “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” scared the crap out of me when I was a teenager. I was now running down the street in panic. I heard the sound of breaking glass and it seemed to be coming from all directions. Something came out of the darkness and I only had time to flinch before it struck my forehead, opening a small gash which bled profusely into my eyes until I was nearly blind. When I was able to focus on anything it seemed to be a face screwed up in rage, so I turned and ran in a different direction.

As Pogo famously said, “I have met the enemy and he is us.”

Waking up bathed in sweat, relieved it’s only a dream, I turned on the tee vee and the Glenn Beck Show overnight repeat was on Faux Noise. I could relax. All was right with the world. Andy Stern was still the villain, the SEIU were always thugs, and the government was Roman Polanski, raping an innocent 13-year old by drugging her and pushing Health Care into one of OUR orifices. Or something.

Later in the show, and I couldn’t believe I re-watched it after taking notes on the original broadcast but I couldn’t sleep anymore, he said something that pissed me off more the second time I heard it than the first.

Beck said it’s a “literal lottery in Canada to see a doctor.”

That was a literal WTF Moment for me. I lived under the Canadian Health Care system for 35 years. In that entire time I never had a problem seeing a doctor of MY choosing, never had a single difficulty when further tests have been ordered, and never had to stick my hand into my pocket for a penny—no co-pays, no deductibles, and no pre-existing conditions. What’s more: I don’t know anyone who has ever had a single problem in the Canadian Health Care system. Everyone is covered for everything.

Now I am under the ‘Merkin System, which is no system at all. The new Health Care bills, take your pick, do nothing for me, other than provide a sizable penalty if I don’t purchase a policy from one of the rapacious insurance companies. If I could afford Health Care insurance I’d already have it.

Now I wouldn’t mind The Beckereeno arguing (falsely) that Universal Health Care, or a One Payer System, is the slippery slide into Socialism. But as a Canadian I’m getting pretty tired of the lies I hear about the Canadian system.

Before he signed off, The Beckster showed what a good sport he was by reviewing the same parodies that I did in last week’s column, adding one I hadn’t seen yet, a New Yorker column, that mentioned the thin-skinned one. “Last week Eric Cartman played a much thinner version of me. Then, over the weekend, even more animation. This time, from the New Yorker magazine, in which they called me energetically hateful, truth-twisting and the biggest lie of all, only ‘barely overweight.’

“By the way, an interesting fact about The New Yorker — it still exists. I mean, they’re still printing it. Who knew?”

Beck showed he could laugh right along with us. After bashing (once again) Van Jones, the NEA (again), Anita Dunn (again), ACORN (again), Andy Stern (again), and the SEIU (again) he said, “To complete the “South Park” analogy here in the real world, all of those Wendy’s really were sluts. In fact, most of them called themselves sluts. They spoke about it, the benefits of slutdom, on tape. And then, they were caught being slutty over and over again and we put them on television saying that.” “It’s just that nobody wants to believe that their representatives are sluts, even when they say it themselves. But America, no matter what The New Yorker says, sometimes our politicians really are sluts.”

By Tuesday I was invigorated by the rumours, which spread like wild fire. It began the instant Tee Vee Comedian Glenn Beck announced on his show that he’d have a SPECIAL BIG ANNOUNCEMENT at his appearance at (in?) The Villages, Florida on Saturday. It had originally been scheduled as a book signing, but was now being labeled a rally. A rally in The Villages? “Some people say” he’ll announce a Palin-Beck ticket for 2012.

One can only hope. What comedy that will be.

Sassy Sarah Palin didn’t exactly squelch those rumours when she praised him mid-week, according to The Atlantic:

“I can envision a couple of different combinations, if ever I were to be in a position to really even seriously consider running for anything in the future, and I’m not there yet,” Palin tells Newsmax. “But Glenn Beck I have great respect for. He’s a hoot. He gets his message across in such a clever way. And he’s so bold — I have to respect that. He calls it like he sees it, and he’s very, very, very effective.”

Beck spent the week hyping this big announcement, which left me in a quandary. Should I drive the 5 hours to the rally in (at?) The Villages on Saturday to hear this BIG ANNOUNCEMENT, or go to his book signing just up the road Friday evening, a 20 minute drive into the heart of Fort Lauderdale? Five hours versus 20 minutes; BIG ANNOUNCEMENT versus regular old book signing? In the end I chose the latter, knowing his comedy show would cover the former.

Tuesday’s show was all about One World Government and how it was coming a lot sooner than anyone expects.

Ever the coy promoter, when he made his announcement about The Villages late in the show, all that Beckereeno would say was, “I’m going to be in the history books and so will you.”

My mind was aflame ever since the BIG ANNOUNCEMENT of the BIG ANNOUNCEMENT. That night I tossed and turned, trying to envision such a world in which a Palin/Beck ticket would have any credibility. I fell into a troubled sleep.

Again I woke up bathed in sweat and, instead of clicking on the repeat of the Glenn Beck Conspiracy Hour, I lay down on the couch in the living room and fell into a fitful sleep.

Wednesday Glenn Beck asked, “Who has confidence in the United States government?” and later told us what’s coming is a “war between the haves and the have nots.” I guess I’ll be fighting the haves. And, as always, they’ll be better armed than I. I didn’t sleep a wink that night.

By Thursday he was warning us “We are looking at the end of Western Civilization, the end of the world!”

It doesn’t get more Apocalyptic than that and it did nothing for my dream state.

I was trying to escape. Long columns and equally long rows of Teabaggers were all marching in a giant square. I was running between them, attempting to outwit my pursuer. Giant pictures of Glenn Beck, dressed in Fascist garb—exactly like the cover of “Arguing With Idiots,”— looked down on the multitudes. Leni Reifenstahl was crawling around with a video camera as she chased Griff Jenkins, who was chasing me with his microphone, trying to get the most telegenic images for the vast nation starved for leaders, as the country went to hell in a hand basket.

Signs that read “9/12 Project,” “Don’t Tread On Me,” and “Frog A Coal Mine” were everywhere, pumping up and down in unison. At the far end of the plaza was a reviewing stand. From my vantage point, dodging the Teabaggers all marching in lockstep, the people way up in front looked like ants, but I just knew Glenn Beck was up there about to deliver the Good News and claim to be the Leader that ‘Merka is Looking For.

As the crowd started chanting “Heil Beck, Heil Beck, Heil Beck…” I woke up bathed in sweat once again, with a realization of what these dreams mean, and you don’t have to be Siggy Freud to have figured this one out. My subconscious finally collated all those notes I’d been taking these past 3 months into a savage picture.

There is a coming disintegration of society. Blame it on those who want Health Care and other entitlements. Blame it on open borders. Blame it on thug unionists. Finally, blame it on the government. When the populace is sufficiently confused and scared, promise them an answer. Promise them a return to a nostalgic way of life, before the Progressives and Liberals got their grimy hands on the Constitution. Promise them an answer and they’ll swallow it whole, no chewing necessary.

Get enough people believing in this bullshit and they will BRING the disorder that Beck describes, just to get it over with already. Am I the only one who sees parallels to Germany before the Nazis took power?

2:38 PM and the line stretches around the corner already

That’s why I was trying to wrap this column up on Friday. It was about 2PM and Beck was not due in town for another 5 and ½ hours. Yet, I was already packing up the laptop, digital camera, and my notes so I could get there early, reconnoiter the local battlefield, and stake out my paparazzi nest. To be perfectly honest, I was more interested in his followers. I wanted to see just what kind of “Real Americans” will show up to bask in his presence.

2:38PM: I pull up to Barnes and Noble and although it’s a full 5 hours before Ben Gleck & Entourage arrive, there’s already a good 50 people lined up to see The Great One. Some are in lawn chairs, while others just shuffle in place. It’s only slightly amusing to see they are all behind plastic yellow tape that reads “CAUTION – CUIDADO,” separating them from those who had no idea Glenn Beck was going to be here and just wanted an afternoon’s book browsing experience. I unload the laptop from the car and, playing dumb, ask, “What’s going on here today?”

Once assured I don’t have to stand in line if I just want to go inside and use the wifi, I ease past the crowd by simply rolling my portable office right along the outside of the tape and into the doors. Let them wait outside in the 80 degree heat and high humidity. I’ve got my elitist computer as early entree.

The line grows to the back of the building.

I know from watching Beckereeno’s Connect The Dots Hour as intensely as I do, that you have to be bug-eyed crazy to buy into his opinions and conspiracy theories. None of these people have the bug-eyed craziness seen at his 9/12 Teabagging and SCAer rallies. It’s a pretty calm, sedate crowd. And, that’s what scares me most about this group of people lined up to see the man the Anti-Defamation League recently called “the fearmonger-in-chief:” they all look so effin’ normal! Yet, how normal can they be if they wait in line 5 hours for a few seconds of Glenn Beck’s time?

And, what does that say about me? Hopefully, it says that once I confront my personal demons I will stop having these nightmares.

By arriving so early, I am able to witness what was, obviously, a manager taking some of the store staff on a Glenn Beck Autograph Signing Preview. He tells them that at about 5:30 the line will be let inside the store and people will be allowed to start lining up upstairs. Taped arrows on the floor indicate how the crowd will snake up one aisle and down another. (They must have learned people moving from Disney.) I follow the taped arrows, much like following The Yellow Brick Road, until I come to a large open area in the center of the second floor, where a large table sits. I realize at once this is where The Great One will be signing his name over and over again.

It’s peaceful. It’s quiet. I am overcome with serenity.

3:40 PM: I set up my computer in the coffee shop, kick some of the above around for clarity.

The heterogeneous crowd.

4:30 PM: I convince a woman to watch my crap while I go outside for a cigarette. It’s a full three hours before The Great One arrives and the line has trebled. It now snakes around the corner of the building all the way to the back before turning back around and coming halfway back to the front. I wonder when I’ll have to join the line in order to get a copy of “The Christmas Sweat(er)” autographed by The Great One.

There’s something else about this group of people that’s slightly unsettling: They are all Caucasians. There is one person in line that I would guess to be Native American, but beyond this woman, I can see no blacks or Latinos, despite Fort Lauderdale having a very large populations of both. [Later I do hear a few Cubano accents behind me in line and a guy ahead of me was 1st Generation Cuban American.]

5:00 PM: I realize that I am about to miss The Glenn Beck Show in order to get a glimpse of Glenn Beck. But then, so will he. This is as good a time as any to mention that I have maintained, since the start of this column, that Breck prerecords his Friday shows. Earlier today, at 11:30, he did a signing or two. (I’ve seen conflicting itineraries.) Ain’t no way The Fat Man did a show today, or any Friday for that matter.

Expecting trouble? More police cars than your average Reggae festival.

I see some movement in the line through the thin pane of glass that separates me from these Beckerheads. Something’s going on so I pack up my stuff to take it out to the car. The line has doubled again. As I walk out to the parking lot, I can’t help but notice the increased police presence. Three cop cars are lined up in a taped off area of one side of the parking lot and another car is on the far side of the door. I put my stuff in the car to join the line, only to find out I need a Glenn Beck book to join the line.

I go inside and buy “The Christmas Sweat(er)” under the twin assumptions that it’s the kitschiest and the cheapest. I’ve already been informed that he won’t sign “Common Sense,” which made me wonder if he’s ashamed of it. Then I join the line for what appears to be a two hour wait. Random chatter overheard:

“I never really got into it [politics] until this last election. Then I started to see how they was lyin’ to us all along.”

“They say ‘Call your Senator, call your Congressman,’ but you know what? You call and they’re not listening.”

“They [Obama administration] will tweak the Constitution best they can.”

“It’s our own fault he [Obama] got there.”

“They never disprove him.” [Beck]

“There is a thing called Freedom of Speech you know.”

“We’re entering Dark Times, as he keeps telling us.”

“The thing with these people is you have to have an iron fist in a velvet glove. You have to be an SOB because you have MTV against you and all the universities against you.”

“That’s why I decided to go to a technical college instead of a university, so I [unintelligible],” replies the 20-year old.

6:00 PM: I’m finally at the front corner of the building, as people are slowly let inside and the line snakes forward. Ahead of me two guys are decanting a beer into coffee cups. “It’s the end of the week.”

Several times in line I heard reference to this mythical 1.7 million figure that showed up in Washington for Beck’s 9/12 Shindig and Dance Party. “The Washington Post said there were 60,000.” “They don’t want to tell the truth of how many are against them.”

I realize this is a waking nightmare. These people are spouting every Right Wing, and often debunked, Talking Point that exists. However, still among the various chatter were some classic exchanges.

“Isn’t that what the Tea Parties were supposed to be about?”

“I never did figure what they were about.”

One woman shouts to arriving friends, “Here are the Patriots!” These people think they’re saving the nation by buying one of Beck’s books.

The line snaked up and down the aisles of the store
and up and down the aisles upstairs too.

“Were you here for Steve Doocy?” one asks, as if I need any more proof I’m in a Faux Noise crowd.

“Doocy was here?”

“No, he was at Borders, but he was signing books.”

6:30 PM: I am at the front door with just 7 people ahead of me. Beyond this point you not only need a Glenn Beck book, but a wristband. However, it’s a full half hour before we get a wristband and start following the arrows on the floor.

“We’re trying to do lots of stuff like, err, save the nation.”

I just realized this is the largest concentration of toupees I’ve seen since I moved to Florida. Dotted among the people are also 3 NRA shirts, 3 Tea Party Shirts, and more ‘Merkin Flag Motifs than usually found in a bookstore.

8:00 PM: No sign of Beck and the lobby grows crowded.

8:08 PM: Several men wearing official Glenn Beck T-Shirts arrive, but they’re more like moving men than advance men. They are pulling a large black zippered box, about the size of a refrigerator compartment. “Some people say” Beck might be inside.

However, Beck’s obviously snuck in another door and a few minutes later appears on the upper level to cheers. He grabs a megaphone.

“Any 9/12 members here?”

More cheers.

Look! A voice from on high!!!

He tells us that tomorrow in (at?) The Villages he’ll be announcing a different direction for his show. The economy’s not good. What are they [in Washington] doing? Nothing. While he was in the hospital two weeks ago he was just like us. He was watching and wondering what to do.

“I’ve been waiting for a leader to show up. No one’s showing up.”

And then he hints about what he’s announcing tomorrow, what he’s calling “The Plan.” And, it’s a hundred year plan.

Did I just hear him right? A One Hundred Year Plan?!?!?! Even the Communists only came up with 5 Year Plans.

“I’ve learned a lot about community organizing in the last year.” [Loud laughs.] Democrats and Republicans join us, but if not we’re moving on.”

Then he went to sign autographs and the line moved like wildfire. Someone earlier said Beck could sign 800 autographs an hour. I scoffed at that. I figured it’d take 10-20 seconds each. Eight-hundred? No way.

I’m now a believer. When I was finally approaching The Beckster it was all stage-managed so quickly that I barely had time to react. I stopped to take a picture, but someone was already at my elbow pulling me forward, blurring my first shot. Then someone snatched the book out of my hand as Beck scrawled across it. I stopped to take another pic, when my book was thrust back into my hand and I was nudged forward. Just then everything parted. One of Beck’s people said something to him at the same time he thrust his hand forward. I was the only one standing there. I shook his hand firmly, one pump, and said, “Aunty Em.”

Look at the circles under his eyes. I have just introduced myself to Glenn Beck as “Aunty Em.” He didn’t care.

However he never heard me. He was already turning his attention to the next book to sign and I was being pulled along. It took 4 seconds, tops. You do the math.

When I got about 10 feet away, and was no longer being hustled along, I turned to take in the scene and the stagecraft one last time. There are the ‘fluffers,’ those getting people ready for their 3 seconds of Beck and the ‘cleaners,’ who guide people away.

What I was able to notice was the fact that the table which had been set out for signing wasn’t there. Beck brought his own thingie, which is what was in the big box his advance men carried in before he arrived. It’s a large lectern-like piece of furniture that allows Beck to stand behind, while also standing on a small milk crate, or something. This way he’s able to lean on the lectern and be normal height, but can raise himself on his back legs and be taller than anyone else.

It was one of those instinctual moments for me. Obviously Glen Beck found he didn’t like sitting at a table signing autographs, with everyone looming over him. Therefore, he carries this piece of furniture along with him, so he can always be the Biggest Guy in the Room.

When I left the building people were posing with a man in an Obama mask and in front of Beck’s bus. There appeared to be another 200-300 people still in line ouside and who knows how many in the conga line inside the store.

I went to this thing partially as an anthropological study and partly to do something about my nightmares. However, after hearing all the idiocy around me all day and Beck’s mention of a 100 Year Plan, I am not sure I’ll ever sleep again.

With all my love,

Aunty Em

About Headly Westerfield

Calling himself “A liberally progressive, sarcastically cynical, iconoclastic polymath,” Headly Westerfield has been a professional writer all his adult life.

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