No matter what valid criticisms can be made of Mr. Beck, he doesn’t deserve this — and his wife really doesn’t. On his radio show and website yesterday, Beck said his family was accosted while watching a movie in Bryant Park in NYC Monday night. A particularly angry moviegoer spilled a glass of wine on Beck’s wife, Tania, while another man loudly told the family, “We hate conservatives here.”
But the Becks didn’t leave immediately because, as Beck said, “I have a right to watch a movie and enjoy a movie with my family in the park. I have a right.”
Beck said while he doesn’t expect “a warm welcome in New York City,” what bothered him “was the cowardly behavior of the hateful crowd,” he wrote on his website, glennbeck.com.
“Courage doesn’t come from a bag or a bottle — courage doesn’t come in mobs,” Beck said. “Courage comes alone, quietly. You won’t be drunk and you won’t be in a mob at the ultimate test of courage. You will be alone.”
You’d think the crowd in the park might have delighted to overlook political differences to take comfort in a common taste in movies. After all, what are politics compared to an Alfred Hitchcock classic? (It was “The 39 Steps.”)
But all kidding aside, this points to a pervasive issue: Political communications and politics, in general, have become increasingly and paradoxically both personality-driven and anonymous — arguably to the detriment of the discussion of ideas.
The personality of a pundit or a politician seems to matter to the public just as much as what he or she says. That inspires public figures to play up personality, to pretend to be larger than life — and it prompts the public to poke fun at irrelevant flaws or to tear down even the spouses and children of those in the limelight. That’s not to say character doesn’t contribute to the credibility of a political figure’s opinions — but it is to say ad hominem attacks have ever and will ever be a logical fallacy.
The anonymity that comes from being just one in a crowd — or, as Beck put it, “mob mentality” — might make it that much easier to vocally despise a person without repercussion or thought-provoking push-back, but it does little to encourage an honest exchange of ideas because nobody has to take real responsibility for the ideas expressed.
It also does little to foster genuine relationships. Yes, interactive journalism and 24/7 news foster a feeling of familiarity with onscreen, on-air and online personalities and that’s often a positive, tending to humanize the news-broadcasting and news-gathering process. But however powerful the “connection” between TV host and viewer or between reader and writer might seem, it’s still somewhat false, the self-conscious product of a carefully constructed brand. Viewers don’t actually know Glenn Beck, however much they think they do (unless, of course, they’ve actually interfaced with him on a semi-regular basis).
That’s why it’s best to interact with ideas in public and with people in private. By that rule, Glenn Beck should expect anyone he meets to know and have an opinion about what he says on air — but he shouldn’t have to shelter his wife from wine stains.
Update: Check out this follow-up from Glenn Beck’s site TheBlaze.com. Apparently, the gal seated behind Beck at the movie theater wrote to New York Magazine to say this:
To Whom It May Concern:
Just a quick FYI -saw your article on Mr. Beck and his numerous FALSE claims about the way that he was treated at Bryant Park last night. Myself and several of my friends were seated immediately behind Mr. Beck & co (have pictures) and I can tell you that while the crowd was certainly not *thrilled* that he had shown up, his family was left completely alone, and for the most part he was too. Conversely, it was his security detail (two body guards) that seemed to be unnecessarily prickly with the crowd, scolding myself and my friends for acrobatics and other harmless activities taking place well before the movie started, and contributing to a considerably less relaxed atmosphere than is typically experienced during BPMN (I’ve been going for about six years now).
It was my friend that spilled the glass of wine on Tanya -and I can assure you that it was a complete accident. A happy one, to be sure, but nonetheless a complete and utter accident. As soon as the wine spilled (and I question how Tanya became soaked from a half glass of wine) apologies were made and my friends pretty much scrambled to give Tanya & co napkins -no doubt aware that it would look terrible and that their actions could be perceived as purposeful. No words were exchanged after that, as I think that it became pretty clear to Beck & co that my friends and I were doing everything in our capacity to help clean the “mess”.
I‘m sure it’s unnecessary to point out the hypocrisy in Glen’s statements that we were being hateful. I can assure him that we don’t need his sympathy. Incidentally, none of us have made a career of “spewing hate” on the radio, or any other media platform. We live our lives intolerant only of those who don’t tolerate: We have chosen New York as our city for that very reason. We do things like go to Bryant Park Movie Night, and vote to legalize gay marriage. We don’t taunt Glen, or his family. And we certainly don’t waste our wine, even on Tanya.
Thanks, and please let me know if you have further questions.
But her Twitter said this (warning: profanity):
Hmm. Twitter also turned up tweets from friends, suggesting she “accidentally” spill something on him. Which, of course, her friend “accidentally” did.
According to another website, Piscitell is “a twenty-something who likes to think of herself as a member of the creative underclass,” who, “in between panic attacks and espresso-fueled internet benders,” “likes to write short stories and sometimes poetry.” I include this only because that same description could apply pretty nearly to me … and I would never tweet what she tweeted — not even about, say, Keith Olbermann or an equivalently liberal talk show host. In fact, I probably would have introduced myself and tried to strike up a friendly conversation. But that’s just me.