Tina Brown's Must-Reads: Three Modern Icons The Daily Beast editor joins Steve Inskeep to chat about the best things she's been reading lately. This month, the selections focus on three contemporary American icons and the ways in which they are presented and understood.
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Tina Brown's Must-Reads: Three Modern Icons

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Tina Brown's Must-Reads: Three Modern Icons

Tina Brown's Must-Reads: Three Modern Icons

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This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm Steve Inskeep.

Editor Tina Brown�of the Daily Beast is back with us again. It's a feature we call Word of Mouth. She tells us about things she's been reading. We may get ideas for things to read ourselves.

Hi, Tina.

Ms. TINA BROWN: Good morning.

INSKEEP: The first article here is from the New York Times, a few days back. It's called "Being Glenn Beck."

Ms. BROWN: Yes. I really loved this Mark Liebovich profile in the New York Times magazine. It was droll, probing and really, at times, hilariously funny. You know, he really talks about the strange confusion, really, that coexists inside the person of Glenn Beck. I mean, on the one hand, you know, he goes to his honor rally and talks about fusing America and how we have to come together with our values, of course.

And then the other side...

INSKEEP: This was the big rally on the Mall a month or so back.

Ms. BROWN: The big rally on the Mall.


Ms. BROWN: And then at the same time, he's also talking about poisoning Nancy Pelosi or choking to death Michael Moore or beating to death with a shovel Charlie Rangel. I mean, the rhetorics just don't match.

But what this piece really shows is that, yes, it's possible that Glenn Beck is just an outside charlatan, a demagogue. But it's also possible that these two personas inside Glenn Beck kind of coexist, and he's not even sure who he is at this point.

He morphs, says Liebovich, between this 12-step program sort of therapy-speak, and at the same time this self-teaching populist for the Internet age.

INSKEEP: Well, now, granting that he is a TV star, he's on Fox News, he's been huge for more than a year now, I was still surprised to read that people around him, his loyalists, compare him to Oprah.

Ms. BROWN: I know. Well, of course, Oprah doesn't speak like that about people like he does about Pelosi and Michael Moore. What I did think was very interesting in this piece was that, actually, the Fox Network itself is pretty uneasy about Glenn Beck, because he's becoming something almost extra-network. You know, he's - all the Fox stars except for Glenn Beck are very much kind of anchored and tied to the Fox Network. Beck, he's becoming his own kind of crusade, which is making the other anchors - people like Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity - very uneasy.

INSKEEP: Fascinating that after this huge rally on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., Roger Ailes, the head of Fox News, according to this article, told associates that if Beck were still at CNN Headline News, where he used to be, there would've been 30 people on the Mall instead of hundreds of thousands.

Ms. BROWN: Well, I love that about Roger Ailes. He's so right, of course. I mean, he's such a brilliant producer. He can make a star out of anybody, including Glenn Beck.

INSKEEP: You've also been reading an item from The Atlantic magazine about a very different political figure. The headline is "The Salesman."

Ms. BROWN: This profile of Joe Biden is a wonderful piece by Mark Bowden, because it's a big, deep, almost luxurious look at the guy. And he really talks about Biden as a salesman - a high-level one, but a salesman at heart.

His father sold cars back in Wilmington, Delaware. And the son, he says, has all the same moves. He's a virtuoso talker. That fluency is not a gift, but an accomplishment: attaining it meant defeating a severe boyhood stutter. And he says that although Biden is vain, it's really about selling - selling, selling, selling. He says it's about the deal. In fact, that's one of Biden's favorite expressions:�Here's the deal.

INSKEEP: You know, as I read this article, I think about Robert Penn Warren's famous novel, "All the King's Men." There's a description of a politician with his eyes bulging as he begins to reach out to a crowd early on. And I think of the novel, "Primary Colors," which begins with a politician who's basically like Bill Clinton. And then in this article, you have a description of Joe Biden working an individual. Would you read that for me?

Ms. BROWN: Oh, it's wonderful. He says: Joe Biden doesn't just meet you. He engulfs you. There's a direct contact with his blue eyes, the firm handshake while his other hand grasps your arm, the flash of those famously perfect white teeth, and an immediate frontal assault on your personal space. He shoulders right through the aura of fame and high office. Forget the Secret Service, the ever-present battery of aides and advisers, the photographers clicking away. The vice president of the United States moves in like an old pal with something urgent to tell you - just you.

Very good stuff. Bowden's a wonderful writer.

INSKEEP: So we're talking about icons here, Tina Brown. We've talked about Glenn Beck. We've talked about Joe Biden, the vice president of the United States. And there's a follow up here on Mark Zuckerberg.

Ms. BROWN: Well, there is. This was on the Daily Beast, actually, by David Kirkpatrick, who wrote a terrific book about Facebook - "The Facebook Effect." And he writes about how the difference in real life and on the screen between Mark Zuckerberg - who's in this new movie "The Social Network," which is getting such an enormous amount of buzz.

And he talks, really, about how tremendously distorted the image of Zuckerberg is in the screen version, which really opens the question: the amazing liberties, really, you can take with a movie, where you can simply portray somebody very differently to how people actually see him and know him to be, and it's OK. And you're kind of stuck with it, frankly.

INSKEEP: How's he distorted?

Ms. BROWN: Well, he says that, for instance, Jesse Eisenberg, who plays Zuckerberg as an angry, insecure but cocky young jerk whose creation of the service initially called Thefacebook was motivated in large part by a desire to win the attention of a former girlfriend.

And, in fact, Zuckerberg, says Kirkpatrick, is one of the least angry people that I've ever met - even-tempered, generally upbeat, if prone to silence, and highly self-confident.

Not only that, in the movie, he's portrayed, really, as Thefacebook as a kind of social revenge because he can't get into the Harvard clubs and can't get the girl that he loves to like him back, whereas, in fact, in real life, shortly before Thefacebook launched, the real-life Zuckerberg began seriously dating a girlfriend with whom he lives today. And he was with her during almost all the events portrayed in the movie.

INSKEEP: Your author defends him against the charge of having stolen other people's ideas, but says he did mislead, most likely, people, as he was creating Facebook in the beginning.

Ms. BROWN: Well, he really does actually absolve him of the charge of the movie, which is that basically Zuckerberg is portrayed as a guy who will, nothing will stop him as he rips off ideas and brings them to birth. In fact, the ideas that Zuckerberg did have were really, really his own.

But the only thing he says is right is that these two twins, these hysterical characters who actually are real, the Winklevoss twins, these very rich Harvard kids who were also Olympic rowers, he said he didn't mislead those two by their network idea wasn't the same, but certainly, Zuckerberg let them not know until the bitter end that he was doing his own thing, just to kind of slow down their competitiveness. So in that sense, Zuckerberg was certainly pulled a little bit of a fast one on the Winklevii, as he calls them.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BROWN: Which I love. I love the Winklevii. You know, it's certainly not true to have him as this guy who basically cheated his way to the top.

INSKEEP: Tina, thanks very much.

Ms. BROWN: Thank you so much.

INSKEEP: Word of Mouth, from Tina Brown, editor-in-chief of the Daily Beast.

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