The folks over at Fox News are smart. Real smart.
When you've got a good thing going, and they do, you ride it out. In blackjack, any Swingers fan knows you always double down on 11, and in media, you always package your best sellers.
Hence, the 'Bold & Fresh Tour' featuring Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck. These titans of conservative talk take to a stage separately, and then together, to give their takes on the state of the nation. To see a clip, go here. [Click on the 'Fox News' tab in the video player and select the clip called 'Glenn and Bill."]
The 'high energy' ad (lots of music, sound effects, graphics) promises that the duo will provide some comedy, needle each other by questioning their respective statuses in news and then angrily lace into government as they do on their shows.
Original content? Not so much. A chance to see two of the most popular talking heads in person? Bingo. A nice money generator and a way to continue Fox's aggressive 'grass roots' approach to media.
In truth, it's simple.
All media outlets across the country are working desperately to become vital to a local audience. Why watch local TV news when you can watch network/cable nightly news? Well, because only the local station is on your block; you can see them at WalMart. So, as a network, Fox is working to address that issue by creating a viewer community. And, they are using their best and most controversial hosts to drive the campaign.
In more truth, it's brilliant. But, people need to see this tour as what it is.
This sort of traveling rhetorical circus won't clear up the murky swamp of political dialogue. It won't serve to enlighten the minds of supporters or detractors. These 'great minds' of media aren't going to advance our understanding of government infrastructure.
The tour is about selling books, hats, T-shirts, tote bages, travel mugs and tickets. The cheapest tickets, from what I found on ticketmaster.com, sell for $132.50 each for the upcoming event in Florida. Night in and night out, all Beck and O'Reilly discuss is how poor this country is becoming and how our elected leaders are working to suck dollars out of our wallets.
But, if your dollars are going into their wallets...well, that's just fine.
Contradicting themselves is nothing new to Beck or O'Reilly.
Beck's shtick has been to ire the frustrated voting masses and to convince us to take to the streets. His shows are predictable; he uses remotely-linked historical references and quotations to draw comparisons between President Obama and Karl Marx/Stalin/Hitler. He scares you, settles you down and then works to inspire you into immediate action.
Glenn Beck tells you to invest in gold because it's good for all of us. And, coincidentally, good for him...since he is a paid spokesperson for goldline.com. The Daily Show pointed this out last year.
Beck claims that America's health care system doesn't need to be overhauled, just a few months after blasting the same system when he was being paid by CNN. Once again, The Daily Show took the time to outline Beck's 'transgressions' when the man himself wouldn't admit his convenient change of mind.
But Beck's greatest gift to conservatives has been his ability to motivate voters into visible action as part of Fox News' movement to create community among both voters and, more importantly, viewers.
The '912 Project' helped give the now infamous tea baggers an organized way to voice their issues. That could have been a positive thing for the country, except that many instead used it as a forum to showcase misunderstanding and ignorance. The signs at some of these rallies were frighteningly pathetic.
There is just one such 'tea party sign collage' in this blog to serve as an example of just how uneducated and truly scared some of our fellow citizens have become. Referring to our president as 'Osama,' claiming the arrival of white slavery and saying that we are simply a Christian nation, all others aren't welcome, etc.
Beck is working hard to promote his latest rally, one set for August on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The event will raise funds for an excellent cause but, make no mistake, it's also about Beck. After all, it's guaranteed that attendees will chant two things: "USA!" and "GLENN BECK!"...maybe not in that order.
Democratic/liberal hosts go berserk over footage of those tea party rallies while Fox News proudly puffs out their chests as they clamor over each other, praising themselves for reigniting the flame of liberty for modern Americans.
It's not hard to recall when a disoriented and frustrated public showed similar anger at then President George W. Bush. People hanging him in effigy at rallies or making threats to kill him on sight. The same kind of hate and vile behavior found at some tea parties.
Not every tea bagger or liberal-thinking protest participant acts in such a way, but there are enough to make us all nervous.
They sure made O'Reilly nervous six years ago. Okay, maybe not nervous, but certainly upset.
O'Reilly really made his inroads into cable ratings out of those rallies. His shows were intense, his gaze fierce and his words piercing. Words like 'unAmerican' or 'socialist,' or 'communist.' He got in the face of military generals, journalists from all over the world, and famously was very hostile to the son of a 9/11 victim.
Jeremy Glick's stand on that show is memorable to say the least. O'Reilly tells the kid to 'Shut Up' so that O'REILLY can respect Glick's father...incredible television. I can only imagine what Glick's father might have thought. I assume it would be, "Respect me by respecting the son I loved and raised." Even hardened 'No Spin' fans have trouble supporting O'Reilly's actions with Glick.
Both Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly have made their names by being 'out there' on the political right. Their job is not easy, but the premise is. Get ratings, make us money, remain relevant at all times, incite viewer passion, and please don't forget to say 'Fox News.'
It's working. FNC just had their best year ever as 47% of primetime cable news viewers watch Fox. They are crushing CNN, MSNBC and Headline News. It's not even a contest.
And what do you do when you're winning big? You push a hunk of chips into the middle of the table. You work to take every last dime from everyone in the room. That is what the 'Bold and Fresh Tour' is. A marketing ploy meant to sell books and promote two of the richest media figures on the planet. No one involved needs your money. They just want it. Every dime you are willing to play/pay.
These two are frankly the best at what they do. But this latest marketing move shows exactly what Fox thinks about its largest group of viewers.
And Fox does not think much of its viewers.
They don't believe viewers want real, unfiltered news. Their ratings have proven that. This started back in the '80s with The Simpsons and Married With Children. Fox used to aim for the 'lowest common denominator' viewer. Less educated, poor and crude. It worked on me.
As far as news is concerned, Fox believes viewers want faces...faces that yell, alarm the public and can then immediately spin a good joke on another's behalf.
Like all businesses, Fox is selling a product. It just so happens that their product in this case is a pair of men whose rhetoric causes unhealthy distrust and paranoia. The nature of their business allows them to be held unaccountable for their words and actions. Each night you tune in it's a fresh new show, the insults hurled the previous night are either forgotten or retraced with greater vitriol.
And no, Keith Olbermann is no better.
For those of you who plan to attend one of the Beck/O'Reilly tour stops, ask yourself these quick questions:
"Am I really a better citizen by financing this approach to news?"
"Do I truly support every belief these men espouse?"
"Do I have something to gain mentally or spiritually by attending this event?"
If you answer 'Yes,' to any of these questions, then feel free to buy your tickets. Give them your money.
I just hope that when they yell, they don't spit at your $130+ seat on accident. Because if they do, they certainly won't notice.
They won't notice because they are used to it. What's it to them?
After all, every single night, Beck and O'Reilly purposefully spit on millions of Americans.