Beck on Philly: Bluster of typical accuracy

Perhaps it’s all my fault. I did hurt the guy’s feelings that one time.

You may have heard that Glenn Beck, the ubiquitous pundit and hawker of gold bullion, slandered our fair city yesterday on his radio talk show, saying: “Philadelphia sucks.” He fulminated for a while about how no one in his right mind would walk the “streets around Independence Hall” – excuse me, the “killing streets” – after 6 p.m. for fear of being shot or stabbed. His producer, Stu Burgiere, tried to talk sense to him, but Beck brushed him off.

Here’s the audio.

This will of course come as a shock to the many people who’ll be flocking to restaurants in Old City and along Chestnut Street tonight, and every other night of the year. I myself work a stone’s throw from Independence Mall, usually leave work after 6 p.m. and have never been a victim of crime, seen a crime committed, or worried about one happening.

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Any big American city has crime and murders, and some parts of town where the cautious do not tread after dark. Philly has its share. But around Independence Hall? Please.

Of course, maybe Beck should be afraid on our gentle streets, because in this deep blue city they are probably lots of otherwise peaceable folk who might seize a chance to conk him on his stony head with the closest available brick, just for being such an overwrought, ill-informed, incoherent, hypocritical and damaging demagogue.

But what do I know? I rejected Glenn Beck as a pundit for my stable back in 2003, long before he became the well-paid leader of a vague national movement to restore America to … something, we’re not sure what.

Beck, as you may know, spent a spell in Philly, when WPHT, the AM station that calls itself the Big Talker, served as the flagship station for his national radio program. Back then, I was the new editorial page editor of The Inquirer, hunting hopefully for some solid conservatives writers to balance the oped page I’d inherited, which was, frankly, relentlessly liberal.

So, when promotional department people from WPHT contacted me about taking on the station’s hot, new, iconoclastic radio host as an oped columnist, I was willing to listen. The nice ladies from promo visited a few times to make their case; as I recall, the great man himself never graced me with his presence. We may have chatted once on the phone.

As I did routinely, I said, “Send me some samples of his work; we’ll see what he’s got.”

What I got back was a series of, well, not … columns exactly. It was a bunch of attack-dog one-liners, one after another, meant to be zingers I guess, but mostly coming across as ill-tempered and sophomoric.

I’d had such hopes for this Beck dude, but one look at this amateurish nonsense, and I decided to keep looking for my new pundit. I confess I never even bothered to listen to his show. (Back then, anyway. One has little choice today, just to check out what he’s up to.)

When the nice people from promo called a week later, I let them down gently, expecting never to hear from, or about, this clown again.

Wow, am I great prophet or what? Be sure to get my Super Bowl pick in this space in a couple of weeks, then bet the other way.

In succeeding years, I have watched, mouth agape, as Beck rose to become one of the most important media and political figures in the land, a driving force in the Democratic rout in the last mid-terms.

I have to admire, in a way, just how well he has ridden his brand of emotive blather, pseudo-erudition and paranoid fantasizing to the top of his particular heap.

Has he peaked? He trashed Philly only after WPHT, his former home, dropped his show. So did the station that carried him in New York.   Perhaps it was his pique at rejection that clouded his memory of the crime rate, and average household income, in the glittering Center City precincts around Independence Mall.

Those of us who live and work here perhaps should take his accuracy on this claim as indicative of just how much to trust his views on health care, the Constitution or the wisdom of buying gold.

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