Ignorance (and bloviating) pays

By Phil Plait | November 15, 2007 2:39 pm


Glenn Beck just got a 50 million dollar contract for his radio show.

Why did I ever get a PhD, learn to face reality, and base my judgments on facts? If I just made stuff up or misinterpreted basic data I’d be rich too.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Antiscience, Debunking, Piece of mind

Comments (49)

  1. oldamateurastronomer

    He needs all that money to build a large enough structure to contain all the hot air he spews out!

  2. rachel

    It’s not too late to start, Phil! Baseless Astronomy has a nice ring to it. You wouldn’t even have to change your acronym for your blog.

    I’m so helpful, even I can’t stand it sometimes.

  3. Saburai

    Glenn Beck has amazing powers: I get angry even watching him with the TV muted. He’s that obnoxious; just by looking at him I can tell he’s saying something stupid.

    (This happens surprisingly often when I’m out at a restaurant that’s playing CNN on a soundless TV)

    (WHY on Earth do restaurants elect to show CNN programming when I’m trying to have dinner?)

    (And why on Earth do they bother to show CNN on mute?)

    (Perhaps they know what happens when you let Beck speak out loud…)

  4. pedant

    To be a little more precise, the temperature went up from the early to mid 70’s to about 1998. Since then there hasn’t been any discernible trend, it’s been pretty stable.

  5. Magic Jim

    Poor Glenn. Maybe he’s just misunderstood. If only he could get over his shyness and low self-esteem, become more self-confident, go ahead and be unafraid to state his opinions proudly, no matter how silly they may seem, maybe we skeptics would like him more.

    : )

  6. P.D.

    If people crave nonsense, that is what the networks give them.
    I really do feel, that a new Dark Age is descending upon us.

  7. Chip

    Glenn Beck could be described as an over-the-top comedian turned (rightwing) political commentator. My favorite polar opposite; an over-the-top comedian turned (leftwing) political commentator is Bill Maher. From his “Real Time” show on HBO:

    “New Rule: Nobody can use the phrase “our greatest problem” anymore unless you’re talking about global warming. President Bush has been saying we’re in a war on terror, and now I get it. He’s not saying “terror,” he’s saying “terra” as in “terra firma,” as in the Earth. George Bush is an alien sent here to destroy the Earth! I know it sounds crazy, but it made perfect sense when Tom Cruise explained it to me last week.”

    “Global warming is not speculative. It threatens us enough so that it should be considered a national security issue. Failing to warn the citizens of a looming weapon of mass destruction – and that’s what global warming is – in order to protect oil company profits, well, that fits, for me, the definition of treason. And codified treason.”

  8. Cello Man

    Look at this way, Phil: At least you can sleep at night.

    If it weren’t for that pesky conscience of mine, I could make millions as a televangelist.

  9. Speaker

    $50 Million is a lot but I think this quote from the Times article says it all:
    “All of these contracts pale in comparison to Sirius Satellite Radio’s half-a-billion dollar contract with Howard Stern,”

  10. I keep thinking about a lucrative livelihood selling homeopathic sleep aids, instead of real life electrical engineering. I’ll bet I could become a millionaire selling woo instead.

    But I’d have to get rid of all of my mirrors and start growing a beard, ’cause I wouldn’t be able to look at myself anymore.

    Having a conscious is a definite liability to easily becoming a multimillionaire.

  11. Well, we already knew that TANJ. Such is life.

  12. Christian Burnham

    It’s got nothing to do with getting a PhD. In order to get obscenely rich you need to have your conscience removed.

  13. Brando

    We could say the same for the guys who throw that little ball through the hoop or pretend to be someone else in front of the camera. The truth is, do we really want people doing important jobs who’re only there for the money?

  14. BaldApe

    I had to take the creationist side in a debate in a geology course I took years ago. Of course we know all the talking points, and we know how to promote meaningless Woo, and we know, or could figure out how to make a statue cry (making a guitar weep is beyond me though).

    A conscience is a damned expensive thing, ain’t it?

  15. tacitus

    Glenn Beck could be described as an over-the-top comedian turned (rightwing) political commentator.

    I guess Beck *could* be described as any number of things but the two you mention must be somewhere near the bottom. I’ve never heard his radio show, but five minutes of any of his shows on CNN is enough to wonder why this travesty is on a news network.

    CNN should be ashamed.

  16. Robert Burns

    Glenn Beck may or may not be an idiot. I don’t have an opinion because I have not listened to his show on radio or TV.

    According to your article, he said (paraphrased):

    1. “The fires have little to do with global warming.” Do you have a tie in between the fires and GW? Is he wrong here?

    2. “The highest temperature was 1934, not 1998.” Here he is wrong globally and correct if talking about the continuous 48 states. By the way, the error in the 2000 and later GISS US temps was discovered by Steve McIntyre at Climate Audit.

    As for his first statement you say “I’m not saying that GW is the trigger there [California wild fires]; I’m saying that things will get wonkier from here on out. Count on it.” Is that faith based or science based? Where is the science?

    My last point is that you refer via a link to “MediaMatters” which is not, in my opinion, an objective news source.

  17. zeb

    Of course if you did decide to start spewing nonsense, you’d have Randi after you. Yikes!

  18. jrkeller

    For every ignorant and bloviating boob on the right, there is a coutnerpart on the left.

    Michael Moore comes to mind.

  19. Siduri

    If it makes you feel any better, I’ve read and enjoyed your page for years. It taught me a lot about astronomy, which isn’t at all in my area of study. I really like your mixture of smarts and humor; it’s hard to find that balance.

    Sure you could make more money if you were Glenn Beck, but you’d have to be a prostitute.

  20. Hey Phil,

    I thinks you need to take a rest, first you blog about the “60MPG Hummer” – over a week after it showed up on Kos – Now you rant about some articulating sensory organ cluster who is first and foremost an entertainer. Make no mistake, these daze there is very little (if any) ‘news’ (let alone objective) on TV or radio – its all entertainment! (I should have at least half a clue, these days I’m the equivalent of the arms dealer – building systems for anyone with the necessary kilo bucks) – almost every frame of video you see, every word you hear broadcast over cable or satellite (with the increasingly rare exceptions of live broadcasts that are not sports related) has been vetted and weighed for its entertainment value and legal liability. And with rare exceptions (Nova, Frontline come to mind) there is only a matter of a few degrees between 99% of all the other programming and Coast to Coast…

  21. Mark

    Interesting to bring up Howard Stern. Although its nowhere near the focus of his show, he is a skeptic and an atheist, and apparently one the highest paid! Some of the best moments on his show are when he lambastes some conspiracy and/or religious nut.

  22. tacitus

    For every ignorant and bloviating boob on the right, there is a coutnerpart on the left.

    Yeah, but the ones on the right have a virtual monopoly of the air waves. Randi Rhodes is about the only one I can think of who has a daily or even weekly presence on news TV or talk radio.

    Typically opinion journalists we see on TV on the left are of a much higher caliber. Where are all the Hannitys, Limbaughs, Becks, Kristols, Coulters, of the left?

  23. “the right” (such as it is, and how many of them endorse – advertise homeopathic remedies?) does currently have something of a monopoly on the AM band and little else – faux news is just a bludgeon that the mad Australian uses to snipe at those who disagree with him – but make no mistake, there are only a hand full of gatekeepers for any national media – its all bread and circuses to keep the masses entertained, and if you believe otherwise you have been assimilated, the kool-aid dispensary is to the left…

  24. DigitalUS

    Millions of more dollars for his vanity and promotion; what a joke! Phil, I guarantee you could take this guy in a Google/YouTube self search.

  25. Chip

    —–“Where are all the Hannitys, Limbaughs, Becks, Kristols, Coulters, of the left?”

    We don’t see them because there are no chickenhawk rat neocon fascist un-American treasonous blowhards — on the left.

    Mind you, the left likely has a few regular everyday old fashioned blowhards in general, and certainly some “wimps” in Congress who don’t stand up enough to the Bushists, but to be “liberal” is to be somewhat open minded, and thus favoring inquiry over authoritarianism. That’s something Limbaugh, Coulter, et all can not do.

  26. Sergeant Zim

    @ Siduri: “Sure you could make more money if you were Glenn Beck, but you’d have to be a prostitute.”

    Why would you want to demean honest prostitutes that way?

    But in a related vein, I spotted this story on Yahoo! News just a few minutes ago:


    The first paragraph is as follows: “Morally upstanding people are the do-gooders of society, right? Actually, a new study finds that a sense of moral superiority can lead to unethical acts, such as cheating. In fact, some of the best do-gooders can become the worst cheats. ”

    Sound familiar? (Ted Haggard, Mark Foley, Larry Craig, Jim Bakker, Kent Hovind, etc., ad infinitum, ad naseum)?

  27. jrkeller


    Micheal Moore, Bill Maher, Al Franken and all of Air America, Dan Rather, Keith Olbermann, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Rosie O’Donell, Whoopie Goldberg

  28. chimango

    according to Bourdieu, you are richer than him. (i have some time reading your blog and i just wanted to say hi)

  29. Dave Hall

    So–How much are they going to pay the front end of the horse?

  30. Greg

    Oh common, it’s a lot more fun to hear Glenn Beck misinterpreting data than it is reading misinterpreted data in the Times or watching it on the other shows. As far as his remarks on the warming, they’re far more accurate than a lot of the nonsense we read/hear about the catastrophic warming myth.

    Beck’s at least as accurate as the rest of the liberal/left shows, which admittedly, isn’t necessarily saying much. So he’s worth the 50 mil to the net ’cause he’ll make them more than that.

    “but to be “liberal” is to be somewhat open minded, and thus favoring inquiry over authoritarianism.”

    Heh. I just watched the Cosby show, laughed a lot, and your joke was better than his. Well done. Almost as funny as the idea that someone might consider Media Matters to be a reliable source. :)

  31. owlbear1

    Its ‘Catastrophic Climate change” Greg.

    See if you listened to more people you would have BETTER information and wouldn’t come off sounding so ignorant in “public.”

    But that isn’t really something you have too much control over is it?

  32. bassmanpete

    Now you rant about some articulating sensory organ cluster who is first and foremost an entertainer.

    And there is the problem. Because a large number of the people who watch him don’t realise that he’s supposed to be an entertainer, they believe every word!

    Living in Australia, I make the above comment having never seen the guy in question. But we have the same type of situation here where people base their opinions on what they see/hear on 60 Minutes (the Australian version) or whatever else passes for current affairs on the commercial channels. All they are doing is pandering to the spent-10-years-at-school-but-still-illiterate masses who will watch their programmes and, more importantly, the ads of their sponsors, then go out and buy the advertised products.

    Said masses will then become experts on global warming and wax lyrical about how the sun’s output has increased, the other planets are also warming, it’s a government plot to levy a new tax, blah, blah, blah. But the vast majority of them can’t even spell properly let alone put a grammatically correct sentence together.

    Rant over, I await with interest the responses picking holes in my grammar :)

  33. John

    Wasn’t 1934 when you had the Great Dust Bowl?

  34. jrkeller


    I agree with you. A lot people feel that they are experts simply because they watch some TV show or read some blog.

    For example, the recently posted 60 MPG Hummer piece. I took me all of ten minutes to prove it was wrong. I did a similar excercise in a freshman engineering class.

    Don’t worry about the grammer/flow etc. I know that I make a lot errors like that too.

  35. BA, you could try posing naked for a calendar. Maybe with a telescope…

  36. People complain at each other while the detached environmental event which caused the ruckus in the first place continues unabated and unaware, and life goes on.

    Does anyone else find this all a bit silly and perhaps slightly funny, in a sadly wry way?

  37. Bob H

    Why the jealousy? You don’t listen to Beck, and really do not know what he is about or what his show is about. You simply read excerpts from slightly controversial things that he says from time to time. I suspect that this has to do with Becks’ ideology. If his conclusions matched what you already think, you would not be upset no matter how bad his facts were. I base this on never once reading any criticism of a liberal viewpoint on this blog or any skepticism of the global warming craze.
    Global warming is happening, and humans are partially to blame, but it is not the sole cause of every weather related event that happens. But the craze attributes every big storm, drought, flood, and now wildfires to it. If you were truly skeptical, I would have read some debunking of this hysteria, but I never have. It matches your ideology and so you ignore the problems, at least in this blog. While I do not know you, and my observation may not be correct, in my opinion it hurts your credibility and makes you appear biased, not truthful.


    This is America, Phil. Stupid sells.

  39. Peter

    I’ve listened to a few minutes of Beck’s show a few times on AM while stuck in traffic, and it’s really really awful talk radio (granted, that’s an oxymoron). I’ve read that his ratings on CNN and on radio are almost nonexistent, which makes his continued success all the more infuriating.

    I personally can’t stand the fact that Fox News dumbed down the whole concept of cable news by redefining “news” as “D-grade provocative celebrity commentary” and then equating their ratings somehow with actual news reportage, so that now we have no channels actually covering, you know, news 24/7, the way that CNN Headline News used to.

    Instead, you get microcrumbs of news cherrypicked, mangled and interpreted through mentally retarded mouthpieces like Glenn Beck.

  40. Bob H

    “I’ve read that his ratings on CNN and on radio are almost nonexistent, which makes his continued success all the more infuriating.”

    If that were true, he would not be getting a new 50 million dollar contract.

  41. Peter

    Bob, hence my confusion.

    Here’s a right-wing blog’s take on Beck’s pathetic ratings, from last year: http://radioequalizer.blogspot.com/2006/06/glenn-beck-ratings-cnn-headline-news.html

  42. > it’s really really awful talk radio (granted, that’s an oxymoron).

    I think the word you’re looking for is “truism.”

  43. neil

    “Micheal Moore, Bill Maher, Al Franken and all of Air America, Dan Rather, Keith Olbermann, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Rosie O’Donell, Whoopie Goldberg”

    Well, you’re partly right-Jackson, Sharpton and O’Donnell can go take a flying leap on many issues, although Jackson has, from time to time, been o.k. Although none of these people really have the kind of pull on the left as say, Limbaugh has on the right. I never hear rank and file liberals quoting their favorite O’donnell rant, or praising Jackson or Sharpton-the only admirers they really have are politicians who try to cash in on their grandstanding. But I have heard the word feminazi a million times, from a million ignortant, hateful mouths, since the loudest hypocrite in the world first spewed it out.

    When it comes to the somewhat more serious voices on the left, like Olbermann or even Franken, they often make a great deal of sense, at least to me. I rarely hear any kind of argument (on issues)from the right, just more “Why do you hate America so much?” No responses, just hot air and evasiveness.

    Michael Moore can be a bit over the top in his attempts at emotional manipulation, but there is one little problem-once again, I never hear reasoned responses, just fat jokes and red-baiting. I watched Farenheit 9/11. I’ve also been aware of Republican politics for over 25 years now. I find it telling that there were only a few of the horrible facts presented in that movie that I wasn’t already aware of, and I have yet to hear a single response or justification for ANY of it. Just more hot air and slander. I mean hey, if half of America thinks it’s o.k. to murder half a million people or so just make to a buck and feed a president’s unearned pride, I would, just once, like to hear a conservative stand up and proudly admit it. Tell the country what every liberal knows-many conservatives today, for all their moral posturing, have no problem profiting from murder, theft, and lies. When I hear a prominent American liberal calling for secret prisons, torture, unending warfare, citizen surveilance, the destruction of public education, or instituting theocracy, believe me, I’ll take notice!

  44. boggis the cat

    @John – that was my assumption about the high US temperatures in the mid 1930’s. The mid-west was heading well down the path to desertification at that time (due to poor agricultural practices – hello, “climate change isn’t necessarily caused by human activity”), so I would expect there to be a problem with energy build-up given little water or vegetation to take it up.

    @bassmanpete – people are just as stupid across the ditch, here in NZ. It seems to be common practice for all sides on any issue to massage the message to appeal to the woefully ignorant masses. Even fairly intelligent people get swayed by BS if it is delivered with the correct emotional content (pandering to your audience’s prejudices has never hurt a politician yet).

    Michael Moore (the US guy, not the NZ politician who headed up the WTO) does tend to go for the emotional buttons. But why not? He is trying to get people to react to these issues rather than just mentally brush them under the carpet. The right-wing types are the more manipulative in this way (e.g. “feminazis”*) – IMHO because their basic theories don’t hold up to intellectual scrutiny. (This also explains why the right-wing have to set up their own “think tanks” and other “independent research” organisations. Reality has a “liberal bias”, after all.)

    * I’m not sure whether this shows an ignorance of feminism, an ignorance of fascism, or both. To be fair, in a technical sense Ann Coulter would fit this definition. (It is often said that Americans don’t understand irony, although it seems to me that only the right-leaning Americans don’t get it.)

  45. Daffy

    “But the craze attributes every big storm, drought, flood, and now wildfires to it. ”

    Bob, would you mind providing some evidence for this sweeping claim?

  46. Andy

    I feel your pain Dr. Plait. I should’ve become a teleevangelist or something instead of going to grad school of engineering.

  47. Bob H

    Certainly. The extreme global warming groups have positioned themselves in such a way that they can attribute every big storm, cold spell, heat wave, and even the 2004 tsunami to GW. Just watch the news after some big event and you will eventually see a report or interview about how much GW, or climate change, played a part in this. Happens every time, and I think it hurts the GW awareness movement rather than helping it. It turns people off.

    Now geologists did refute Friends of the Earth director Tony Juniper on his claim that GW was responsible for the tsunami, but shrill groups like that take advantage of every extreme natural event to push their agenda.

    There is a prediction that GW is going to lead to more earthquakes and volcanic activity. So the next time there is a big volcanic eruption, near a population center of course, expect some article to be written about how GW is responsible for it.

    Anyway, here is the link.

  48. Robert Burns


    You asked “… would you mind providing some evidence for this sweeping claim? [of people claiming GW will cause more strange and abnormal weather]’

    Here is a little piece of evidence which was written in the “Glenn Beck: Idiot” article on this blog…..

    “Global warming affects global weather patterns, and it’s the Santa Ana winds that turned these fires from a nuisance into a killer. I’m not saying that GW is the trigger here; I’m saying that things will get wonkier from here on out. Count on it.”

    This implies that GW will cause more strange and abnormal weather.

    Do we have a “weather wonk index”???

  49. $50-million buys a lot of booze. Alcoholic Glenn Beck demands martial law in USA and arrest of all who seek facts, then says he “wants to French kiss Ron Paul”, while scrolling “PAUL IS DEAD” on the CNN screen:


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