Why Progressives Should Hope Glenn Beck's Liberty Treehouse Succeeds

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
Sept. 30 2011 12:23 PM

Rooting for Glenn Beck, Children's Television Producer, To Succeed

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Glenn Beck speaks at a rally dubbed "Restoring Honor"

Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

Glenn Beck has created a children’s program. That’s one of those sentences that almost doesn’t need a follow-up, although surely Jon Stewart’s people are working on one now. Glenn Beck. Children’s program. Line about how Glenn Beck has always hosted a children’s program. Laugh.

But how brilliant. Because Beck’s Liberty Treehouse isn’t just a kid’s program, but the lead-in to Beck himself, now found only on GBTV, Beck’s over-the-Internet, subscription-based network. It’s an hour-long show with a block of kids' news (it’s possible that that should be “news”), excerpts from old television shows and cartoons (Ozzie and Harriet, Flash Gordon), and segments of  Drive-Thru History, a high production-value series popular with a particular kind of homeschooler (as one Amazon reviewer puts it, “if you want a drive through history in which Christians are always right and everybody else is wrong, then this is the program for you”).  She says that like it’s a bad thing…

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What better program for a mom to put on the computer monitor in that 4 to 5 o’clock early witching hour? Any home that’s subscribed to GBTV isn’t likely to have any objections to the idea that Beck might indoctrinate children with his rather laissez-faire approach to facts and his particular combination of bluster, fear-mongering, and scapegoating. To the contrary. But getting families to turn on a computer every day at 5, instead of the TV, is surely going to be a challenge. With Liberty Treehouse (that’s such a perfect name, it’s painful) Beck can line up the family right where he wants it, in front of the screen, as he rolls into view. His viewership has been steadily getting older. Young parents are just what he wants.

My kids aren’t going to stumble across Liberty Treehouse, and I’m going to take a flyer here and guess that yours aren’t, either. This is a program created for the children of the choir, who are already surprisingly familiar with Beck. A focus group found that “Beck-loving parents spawned Beck-loving kids” to a degree that surprised even Joel Cheatwood, president of programming at GBTV.

So the very best thing that a non-Beck-lover can hope for is that Liberty Treehouse be good. Really good. Good enough to spark thought and discussion among those kids that will lead them beyond Beck’s rhetoric and into an arena where they’ll discover the value of considering all the sides of a debate for themselves. They may not end up as NPR contributors. But if they find themselves questioning Beck, that would be enough.

KJ Dell'Antonia is a writer living in New Hampshire. She writes the EcoLiving column for Kiwi magazine and is the co-author ofReading With Babies, Toddlers and Twos: Choosing, Reading and Loving Books Together.

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