Glenn Beck Makes TIME’s Cover

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Not just for the trouble he is causing the White House. Not just for the odd “czar” investigations he has launched on Capital Hill. Not just for the dramatic political attack he has choreographed against ACORN. And not just because of his considerable talent. As David Von Drehle argues in the piece, Beck is a man for our moment, when fear, distrust and paranoia are rising, and Americans increasingly find themselves thinking the worst of each other.

Glenn Beck: the pudgy, buzz-cut, weeping phenomenon of radio, TV and books. Our hot summer of political combat is turning toward an autumn of showdowns over some of the biggest public-policy initiatives in decades. The creamy notions of postpartisan cooperation — poured abundantly over Obama’s presidential campaign a year ago — have curdled into suspicion and feelings of helplessness. Trust is a toxic asset, sitting valueless on the national books. Good faith is trading at pennies on the dollar. The old American mind-set that Richard Hofstadter famously called “the paranoid style” — the sense that Masons or the railroads or the Pope or the guys in black helicopters are in league to destroy the country — is aflame again, fanned from both right and left. Between the liberal fantasies about Brownshirts at town halls and the conservative concoctions of brainwashed children goose-stepping to school, you’d think the Palm in Washington had been replaced with a Munich beer hall.

No one has a better feeling for this mood, and no one exploits it as well, as Beck. He is the hottest thing in the political-rant racket, left or right.

A gifted entrepreneur of angst in a white-hot market. A man with his ear uniquely tuned to the precise frequency at which anger, suspicion and the fear that no one’s listening all converge. On that frequency, Frankowski explained, “the thing I hear most is, People are scared.”

Read the whole story online here, or buy the magazine on a news stand–it comes packaged with lots of other, easily-flippable stories, with bright photos. All very cutting edge.