Foes of Fox News everywhere would do well to watch Eric Massa’s mesmerizing performance on Glenn Beck last night. The disgraced tickler and former congressman found the news network’s Achilles’ heel. In fact, it’s amazing that the weak spot was not discovered before, what with all the eagle eyes at Media Matters laboring day-in and day-out to find a stick that can reach Roger Ailes’ empire.
Massa’s unwitting method was simply to deploy the Fox News ethos on Fox News. As I write in my piece on the appearance on Time.com, Massa out-Becked Glenn Beck.
Armed with the very same weapons — a deep sense of victimhood, outrage at the powers that be and remarkable personal candor — the representative delivered a dizzying confessional. He admitted to sexless groping and tickling of his staff, sending inappropriate text messages and otherwise failing to behave like a Congressman should, all as he made his case that his fellow Democrats had really gone after him because of his previous no vote on health care reform. “I can’t fight this. I can’t fight cancer,” Massa announced, in a classic stream of consciousness ramble. “I can’t fight the White House. I can’t fight the Democratic Party.”
Beck, who is used to controlling the gravitational force of victimhood around him, kept interrupting to point out that he was a bigger target of even greater forces than Massa. “I have two unauthorized biographies coming out against me in the spring,” Beck said at one point. Minutes later, Beck went even further. “Do you realize my family is at stake?” he said. “You’ve got a little scandal with your children in college. I’ve got one for all time now, because I am not going to resign. I’m not going to back down. I have come to a place where I believe at some point the system will destroy me.”
Close watchers of Comedy Central’s fake news shows are familiar with this method. The only way to deal successfully with a Stephen Colbert interview, for instance, is to out-Colbert Stephen Colbert, giving up any hint of earnestness and losing yourself in a cloud of irony and sarcasm. The same can be said with Fox, where the currency is not irony, but a sense of victimhood, combined with an aww-shucks, I-have-nothing-to-hide, red-blooded American innocence. Massa did Beck better than Beck, and he left Beck dumbfounded.