GLENN BECK'S new political thriller (heavy on politics, light on thrill) is named for Joseph Overton's theory that there's only a small window of opinions considered palatable for public discourse. All ideas, Overton said, fall on a spectrum: Unthinkable, Radical, Acceptable, Sensible, Popular, Policy. To promote a particular agenda, one must shift the window. By pushing fringe, unthinkable ideas, previously radical opinions look less extreme. Propose, say, shutting down public education long (or loud) enough, and private school vouchers won't seem so bad. Need an example? Follow along on your chalkboard....
Not long ago, Bill O'Reilly was considered a somewhat radical figure. He advocated for torture, labeled the ACLU "the most dangerous organization in America," and supported a flat tax. But when Glenn Beck came on the scene—calling Obama a racist and a communist, crying on camera about (sob, gulp) loving his country, and reinvigorating the art of sensational Nazi comparisons—his pudgy frame offered O'Reilly shelter from the storm of left-wing critics. Watch the two programs back to back and it'd be reasonable to see O'Reilly as a moderate. Beck shifted the bullshit window.
Of course, the secular-progressive villains in The Overton Window are pushing the window leftward, toward a new anti-democratic world government manipulated by a few Machiavellian elites. Not one to let us down, Beck approaches "faction" (his term for fiction that borrows some real-life details... or every fucking novel ever written) with the same histrionic bluster he brings to his other pursuits.
Our protagonist is Noah Gardner, a young PR flack. His father's firm is helping the government self-combust in order to facilitate a socialist New World Order... I'd offer a *spoiler alert* except the mystery is more or less revealed by chapter three. It's hardly worth recounting the preposterous plot (which I've done, regardless, in my extended review on the Mercury's website), but it involves a government plan to detonate an atomic bomb, and the brave patriots who have the power to stop it.
Beck's talent isn't building suspense—there's no movement toward a crescendo—it's just pontificating, and it's vomited on every page.
The plot hits its ambling stride when Noah meets a young, "hot" American patriot—Molly Ross—who is working in the firm's mailroom in order to steal what would probably be the most sensitive document in recent history, but can inexplicably be trusted to the United States Postal Service and some temps. Noah's immediately smitten, and decides to attend Molly's tea-party-on-steroids. Per usual, seditious agent provocateurs crash it and get the whole crew arrested. Over chicken and waffles ("We need some orange juice and two Al Sharptons") the next morning, the two fall in love. But Molly (who, in her defense, warned Noah that she'd do anything to save her country from the "cancer of progressivism") manipulates Noah into helping her group, the Founders Keepers, as he's still kind of on the fence about this whole should-we-or-shouldn't-we-save-America-from-lying-commie-fascists thing. They discover a secret plot to set off an atomic bomb in Nevada, which will be pinned on right-wingers and used to justify sweeping pinko reforms. Molly drugs Noah and disappears, but later he says nice things about America and they make up. Water under the bridge.
Noah and Molly rush to the airport, determined to stop the attack. Since Molly Ross will obviously be stopped by the feds, Noah devises a foolproof plan: pretend Molly is actually Natalie Portman, who, apparently, she kind of resembles. BUT WAIT! The security screener is a nerd, and has probably seen the Star Wars prequels! Quick on the uptake, Molly assuages all doubt by quoting one of the films that Portman wasn't in: "These aren't the droids you're looking for... the force is strong with this one." Problem solved, our heroes make it to the desert just in time for someone else to save the day. The last 20 pages are spent setting up a sequel.
Look, I know, only Real Americans are going to read The Overton Window anyway—and Real Americans don't read alt-weeklies. Beck's just an easy target for us lefty media elites, a fun straw man for our liberal frustrations. But listen... what the mainstream media won't talk about (sniffle).... You know who else wrote shitty novels (tear)? And engaged in hyperbolic propaganda (sob)? Mm hmm (gulp). Joseph Goebbels.