The Eye Of Moloch: Glenn Beck's Walled Garden Of Paranoid Delights

Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

Glenn Beck's new novel, The Eye Of Moloch (A Thriller), gives the reader plenty to think about.

One could dwell at length about how poorly written The Eye Of Moloch is. This incomprehensible disaster is the story of a Tea Party-like group of freedom fighters called, amusingly, the Founders' Keepers and their efforts to save America from an evil PR firm that is trying to frame these patriotic heroes for an act of terrorism that will tip the country towards chaos. The plot is poached without shame from its predecessor, The Overton Window, which saw the Founders' Keepers framed by the same PR firm for setting off a nuclear bomb in Nevada. Why was it necessary to further discredit the Founders' Keepers when they've already had an act of nuclear terrorism successfully laid at their feet? Because Beck and his ghostwriters, demonstrating an active hostility towards continuity and logic, decided between novels that the gigantic nuclear explosion had actually been covered up somehow.

One could focus on how drearily dull The Eye Of Moloch is. Beck clearly took to heart the many reviews that complained of The Overton Window's lack of action and inserted some rote gun battles into the sequel, but The Eye Of Moloch is still often quite boring. One of the protagonists, Hollis, spends the first 40 pages or so dramatically fighting off paramilitary skinheads, and then passes the next 200 doing nothing on an isolated ranch in Wyoming. Noah Gardner, the protagonist from The Overton Window, is wounded in a battle in the opening pages of The Eye Of Moloch, and then spends half the book lying in a hospital bed and going to work. Oh the thrills! The reason these characters don't do much is that high-speed chases and daring acts of espionage don't allow for the long limited-government homilies that stand in for dialogue and stretch out this tiresome slog to a punishing 400 pages. 

The lack of action is a shame because Beck and his crew of ghost novelists created a number of characters who were constantly on the verge of being interesting. Beck introduces a government agent with one leg, but her disability never presents her with any obstacles to overcome. At the end of The Overton Window, Noah found himself in a torture session presided over by his own father. That's a bizarre emotional dynamic that, in the hands of a capable writer, could be explored to great effect. The Eye Of Moloch, however, gives us just one interaction between father and son, during which Noah snips at the man who physically tortured him: "Your apology is so unbelievably not accepted." 

Instead we get characters who behave incomprehensibly as they stumble from one cliché to the next. Noah's father, the villain from The Overton Window, experiences a change of heart because of a terminal cancer diagnosis and meets his end after being pushed down an elevator shaft. The Eye Of Moloch's villain is a 132-year-old man (not a typo) who is overfond of grandiloquent declarations of his nefarious intent. Here's an actual line of dialogue from the maleficent supercentenarian: "Now then, before we enjoy our brunch, let us discuss how we shall finally bring the brief and teetering empire of the United States of America to an unceremonious close." That's pretty evil, even without factoring in the subtler evil of making his associate wait to enjoy what probably was a pretty good brunch.

One could dwell for quite some time on all those shortcomings, but what interests me is how The Eye Of Moloch represents the shift in Beck's role as a media figure. To truly understand what is going on in this novel is impossible; it's a densely packed and internally inconsistent tangle of conspiracies. To have just a fleeting grasp of what is going on, one has to be well-schooled in Beck's conspiratorial canon -- the novel references the hundred-year progressive timebomb and the "sponsored" revolutions in the Middle East and "the perfect storm." The Eye Of Moloch is less a book that caters to Beck's existing audience than it is an exclusionary tome that has no patience for those not already in the know.

It's not entirely surprising that this would happen; the queerly accessible form of limited government pseudo-populism that Beck was once known for has been displaced by haranguing anti-progressive monologues and chalkboards with intricately scrawled conspiracies tracing back hundreds of years. When he was exiled from Fox News and set up his online news empire, the audience that followed Beck was already primed for this sort of nonsense, so he kept it going, retreating wholly into that niche. It's lucrative for him and he clearly has no intention of emerging any time soon. Earlier this year Beck unveiled plans for his own city, called "Independence, USA," that will operate in accordance with the Glenn Beck ethos.

As such, one doesn't simply just "get into" Glenn Beck these days. You have to be committed, you have to put in the time and be able to follow the many twisting narratives he twirls off every day. It's exhausting. And in many ways it has to be unfulfilling. Beck has promised so many "tipping points" and "Reichstag" moments over the years and none have as yet come to pass. The committed Beck fans probably wonder at some level when the apocalyptic scenario for which they bought all those gold coins and survival seeds will actually happen.

Books like The Eye Of Moloch and The Overton Window must help to tamp down that frustration by offering a glimpse at what could happen were the world to fall apart according to Beck's prognostications. The die-hards can get a vicarious thrill seeing what it would be like if the media and the government actively conspired against the Constitution and the people who love it. For those of us who don't already have one foot in the bomb shelter, The Eye Of Moloch offers nothing but confusion.

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Glenn Beck
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