How to Get Glenn Beck on the Phone

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I wasn’t an expert on all things Glenn Beck when the email from a Rolling Stone editor arrived in my inbox two weeks ago asking me if I’d be interested in interviewing him.

I mean, I was aware of who he was, but I’m not much of a cable news addict, so my mind wasn’t polluted with a bunch of prejudices about him based on things he’d said in the past.

The idea was simple enough — Beck and rock musician Andrew W.K. had announced that W.K. was going to have a talk radio show on The Blaze, and I would interview them both about it.

The only catch was this: Beck didn’t want to do it.

It was understandable. Given his history with Fox News, it was doubtful a left wing rag like RS would give him a fair shake anyway. It’s also just really difficult to get people to do interviews these days. You’d be surprised how little sway the mainstream media actually has.

It seemed like a challenge but one that was not altogether impossible to pull off. And Medium actually is the reason for that.

A few years ago, a largely-unknown writer here — Srinivas Rao — had his work randomly discovered by Beck, and it was through Rao’s experience with him, having his book discussed on his show and later even appearing on it, that I knew Beck was more approachable than most writers would tend to realize.

With all due respect to Rao, it wasn’t like he was some big dog. In fact, he was more like an everyman, and the fact that Beck plucked him from obscurity and chose to highlight his work — which was certainly worth reading and talking about — was kinda cool to me. It made me feel like you could still be a little guy in this country and win. His book turned into a bestseller!

So, I suspected that most people who might ask to interview Beck were just doing it wrong. I learned this much was 100% true after I called his publicist and wrote him an email outlining what it was I was trying to do.

I explained in very plain terms that I wasn’t a political journalist, didn’t have an agenda and wasn’t looking for Beck to fit into some neat little narrative that I already concocted. It wasn’t a ploy to make him look bad or good. It was just the opportunity to have a candid discussion.

After some more back and forth (and I’m definitely simplifying this here), he finally agreed to do it. A week later, Beck, Andrew — who was calling in from Rio, where he was performing with Marky Ramone — and I, were on the phone. It was a good, thoughtful, free-flowing conversation. Not a debate — not a my philosophy vs. your philosophy — but an opportunity to share ideas.

However, there was one quote that wound up on the cutting room floor, and I wanted to share it here. Toward the end of the conversation, we were discussing how to exist and act in country right now which has a lot of unrest in it, even if that unrest isn’t specifically on your doorstep.

Beck said:

Let’s just take a step back and say, what is it that I can learn, what is it that I can do better, what is that, quite honestly as a Christian, I am commanded to do? And what I’m commanded to do is love one another, treat anyone who everyone deems your enemy with love, not with hatred. There’s far too much hatred, there’s far too much anger. And that is going to lead us into a very dark place. I can’t control the streets of Baltimore or Ferguson. But I can make a difference in my own community and say, “Okay, when you see people burning down cities, don’t let that put enmity between you and them.” Don’t find anger there. Let’s find reconciliation. Let’s find solutions. Let’s find joy and love and more importantly, let’s be the first responders when they need help. When someone needs help, let’s be there. Let’s help them. Let’s love one another.

I think that’s good message. Idealistic, but good. One we all probably need to hear.

Read the rest of the interview here.

Wrote for the New York Times, New York Magazine, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Vice, Fader, Vibe, XXL, MTV News, many other places.

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