CNN panel explains the difference between Glenn Beck and Keith Olbermann

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On CNN's Reliable Sources the other day, host Howard Kurtz had on Bill Press, Baltimore Sun TV critic David Zurawik, and Amy Holmes of America's Morning News, and talk turned to the recently-announced news that Fox News would not be renewing Glenn Beck's contract, and possible parallels with Keith Olbermann's exit at MSNBC. Holmes, the lone right-wing voice on the panel, conceded that she could see the conspiratorial side of Beck, but also acknowledged his tutorial side, and said he was "a force of nature," feared and misunderstood.

Press, who previously called Beck "a ticking timebomb" on the same show, referred to Beck's "messianic complex," pointing out that anyone's days can be numbered if they don't play ball, despite big ratings. Holmes did manage to get in a few non sequitur jabs at MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell for being a self-proclaimed socialist. (Socialism being a scary right-wing buzzword has just about reached its expiration date.)

Keith Olbermann (whose departure from MSNBC has boosted CNN's ratings), Kurtz pointed out, ran a well-researched show, in contrast to Beck, who Press said could "make Bill O'Reilly look like a statesman." Both Olbermann and Beck make emotional connections with their respective supporters, but Beck seems to be more driven by the profit motive, whereas Olbermann, going back to the Sportscenter days, seemed more like someone you could tolerate having a beer with, political orientation aside. And he didn't compare Reform Judaism to radical Islam, unlike Beck, so there's that too.

The main point is that Beck was fired, and Olbermann voluntarily left. But Beck has a multi-pronged platform from which to communicate his tangled theories, and, as another Nerve writer previously pointed out, just as worrisome as Beck are the legions of his receptive followers, and that's a point not to be taken lightly. Time will tell if snatching away Beck's Fox News megaphone will cripple his influence.