Former Bush speechwriter and attempted GOP image remaker David Frum caught Glenn Beck Friday, and he didn't care for it.

Beck (pictured here, at home) has gone off the deep end, rehashing ancient John Bircher conspiracy theories, pointing his growing audience toward extremist literature, and gleefully (and tearfully) playing at unstable demagoguery. This doesn't sit well with Mr. Frum, who'd maybe like to see the Republican party win elections instead of forming paramilitary militias in fortified rural compounds. (YOU ARE NOT ALONE, WE SURROUND THEM, I'M WORRIED FOR THIS COUNTRY—we think we know where that sort of argument is headed!)

There's always been a market for this junk of course. Once that market was reached via mimeographed newsletters. Now it's being tapped by Fox News.

Conspiracy theories always flourish during economic downturns. They flourished during the terrible slump of the 1890s (when they captured even so fine a mind as Henry Adams) and again in the 1930s. Today's slump – so vast, so difficult to understand – opens the door again.
It's not a new message of course. In fact, big parts of it seem almost self-consciously copied from Peter Finch's legendary declamation in the movie Network.

Of course, Finch was only pretending to be crazy. He was an actor performing a role. Then again – so probably is Glenn Beck.

But what about Fox News? What's their excuse?

Hah, Frum, their "excuse" is "ratings." You know this full well! Sorry it doesn't help your plan to "build a conservatism that can win again." We recommend kicking back and watching Glenn Beck paint, exercise, and stoke the deep-seated dangerous paranoid psychosis that lurks in the American psyche.

(Up top, Glenn Beck continues to work on his cult of personality, and maybe predicts his own martyrdom?)