As a sleek black limo pulled up to the curb outside the Elgin Theatre last Thursday evening, David Modlin made sure to push his shoulders back. “Is that Glenn?” he asked. He was referring to Glenn Beck, the proudly divisive right-wing U.S. radio host—Beck was not in the limo, but he was the guest of honour at “Stand With Israel,” a fundraising talk at the Winter Garden Theatre for Uptown Chabad, a North York synagogue.
Famous in hard-right circles for his reverence of America’s founding constitutional values—or at least his interpretation of them—and in all other circles for sheer bombast, Beck is the third-most-popular host in American talk radio, behind Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Last week, he signed a five-year, $100-million contract renewal for The Glenn Beck Program.
Modlin, a member of the Jewish Defense League (a highly militant group that frequents Jewish events to deter perceived anti-Semitic attacks) was working security. “Sometimes people like Glenn Beck attract people who…don’t support him, let’s say,” said Modlin from behind a pair of black Wayfarers, explaining the need for a watchful eye. Ticketholders who didn’t fork over $300 to partake in a pre-show buffet dinner and meet-and-greet were forced to submit to a metal-detector, and a bag search.
Twenty-eight-year-old Chris Zografos, a Christian conservative of Greek Orthodox background, didn’t mind. “That man is a king,” said Zografos, who watched Beck for years on Fox News and admires his “cojones” in the fight against progressive values. “If he wants to stir [things] up, all power to him.”
In the course of Beck’s hour-long talk, which centered on the dangers of history repeating itself, and was bookended by standing ovations, Beck spoke with zeal of a “world
in trouble,” choked up periodically, and paraded an array of American historical paraphernalia—he admitted to “ignorance of Canadian history”—in place of commentary on contemporary Israeli-Palestinian relations.
“The more I speak,” said Beck, “the more I am puzzled about the world today.”