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Cameron vs. Beck, Round 2: Host addresses fracas, doesn't exactly tell whole story

March 24, 2010 |  6:11 pm
Glenn Beck took the bait -- bait probably understating the appeal; lollipops dangled in front of a toddler are less likely to be grabbed -- after James Cameron knocked down Beck last night for his position on global warming, for calling him the Antichrist and for asserting the talk-show host spread  "poisonous" ideas.

Beck spends most of the three-minute segment on his show today focusing on the Antichrist comment from 2007. Beck would actually seem to have a point in saying that he was joking and Cameron shouldn't take it all seriously. "I did call James Cameron the Antichrist...but only because of the Celine Dion song [from 'Titanic']. Horrific, really."

But what Beck doesn't say is that the context for the original remark wasn't some TiVoed broadcast of the 1998 Oscars. It was Cameron's announcement back in 2007 for a documentary he was producing that the director had uncovered proof that Jesus in fact wasn't resurrected. So Beck wasn't making some harmless "My Heart Will Go On" joke -- he was attacking Cameron's research and beliefs. And Cameron was basically calling Beck out for his hyperbolic name-calling in which he panders, as he so often does, to our more divisive impulses.

In other words, he was calling him out for for being Glenn Beck, a far more understandable diss.

Beck rounded out the segment today with his usual they're-out-to-get-you brand of anxiety-stoking. "He's upset with you because you're a global-warming denier," Beck said, turning to the audience -- as though the guy who's made some of the most popular movies of our time, and whose entire career is built on getting people to see his movies, is some kind of snooty anti-populist.

It's an interesting dynamic. Beck's penchant for incensing viewers by preying on our collective sense of an amorphous enemy is brilliant, but not new. Cameron's mouthiness for the last few months, and especially this week, is, however, more unexpected. Most don't take the bait when Beck dangles it right in front of them. Cameron is either too stupid or too smart -- or maybe just too rich -- to sit back and take it; in fact, he's the one who cast out the line in the first place. That would seem like a dicey move because it does what most of us thought impossible: It makes Glenn Beck a victim. Of course, as today's telecast shows, it doesn't take the host very long to undo that.

--Steven Zeitchik

RECENT AND RELATED:

Glenn Beck to James Cameron: It was a joke, you knucklehead

James Cameron vs. Glenn Beck: Is the director making a bid for a cable-news show?

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