The Overton Window
|Great and terrible|
|On our shelf:|
The Overton Window is a 2010 novel by right-wing commentator Glenn Beck. Well, okay, "novel" isn't quite the right word. In his introduction, Beck calls this a "faction" or a "completely fictional book with plots rooted in fact.":IX In practice, it's better described as a semi-stream of consciousness with constant breaks for Beck's characters to rant about whatever was on his mind. Given that Beck has a feeble connection to facts when he's not writing fiction, it's better for people to just call the book fiction.
The book is about Noah Gardner, a public relations executive who is seduced by a woman named Molly Ross, a secret government agent who managed to trick him by, among other things, dressing up as his mother.:201-202 (She also "kind of" looks like Natalie Portman.:229) To make a rather uninteresting story brief, the group finds out that the government is planning some massive attack, comparable to that of Pearl Harbor or 9/11:147 in order to justify a greater crack down on our freedoms.
At various points throughout the book, we learn about the government is doing — and unsurprisingly, it's whatever sounds the scariest to the average Glenn Beck fan. For example, at one point we learn the federal government is planning to "educate law enforcement and enlist the populace in a program designed to profile, identify, and report" members of specific groups, with one of the targets quite literally having the nickname "Tea Parties",:19 or later the book "Tea Party".:435-436 On another occasion, we learn "the final goal":149 of this government, which includes transferring power away from local governments and towards the federal government, specifically the executive branch, and then giving already existing federal power to an unspecific global entity.:150 In the same regard, we're told another one of the main villains of the book — another worker in public relations — was responsible for the "pictures of clueless college students, rock stars, and Hollywood icons proudly wearing T-shirts featuring the romanticized images of Chairman Mao and Che Guevara.":33
There's nothing inherently wrong with this style of writing, especially if one is trying to create a satire of some sort. However, Beck isn't trying to present this as a farce, nor is he claiming these are hyperbolic versions of current trends he sees in society, à la Nineteen Eighty-Four. Instead, he's trying to present this as a realistic situation similar to what America was already like around 2010, which is where the book really falls flat as Beck's utter lack of subtlety turns his political enemies into little more than one-dimensional caricatures who want to do bad things for no other reason then because they're bad people.
As it stands, the only people who could get any kind of enjoyment out of this book are people who already agree with Beck and his buddies. Steve Levingston, who reviewed the book for The Washington Post made exactly this point:
The success of Glenn Beck's novel, "The Overton Window," will be measured not by its literary value (none), or its contribution to the thriller genre (small), or the money it rakes in (considerable), but rather by the rebelliousness it incites among anti-government extremists. If the book is found tucked into the ammo boxes of self-proclaimed patriots and recited at "tea party" assemblies, then Beck will have achieved his goal.
I am Glenn Beck!
In the tradition of other libertarian novels, Beck includes a fair amount of "author filibusters" or "the plot stop[ing] dead in its tracks to give the author an opportunity to preach their message to the readers or audience, often very political or ethical in nature." During a meeting of a group called "the Founders' Keepers," Beck treats the reader to an entire chapter of nothing more than a character sharing their political views.:61-70 Said speech sees her singing the praises of the conspiracy theorist favorite Tragedy and Hope by Carol Quigley:62 (which is a tad ironic given that Beck credits W. Cleon Skousen as an inspiration, whom Quigley viewed as little more than a Nazi using his work to push an agenda) and quotes Martin Luther King Jr.:67
Reduce, reuse, recycle
In the acknowledgement, Beck thanks "Jack Henderson for pouring his heart and soul into this project.":VII However, it turns out that Henderson might not have been working quite as hard as Beck thought. Many of the plot points in The Overton Window are incredibly similar to a 2005 novel by Henderson called Circumference of Darkness, with the only notable difference being the villains are far-right actors while in Beck's books all the bad guys are on the left.
- The Overton Window by Glenn Beck, Published by Threshold Editions, ISBN 978-1-4391-8430-1
- Glenn Beck's paranoid thriller, "The Overton Window" by Steve Levingston (June 15, 2010) The Washington Post.
- Author Filibuster TV Tropes.
- Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in Our Time by Carroll Quigley (1966) Macmillan Publishers. ISBN 9780026001304
- Circumference of Darkness by Jack Henderson (2005) Bantam Books. ISBN 0553589806.