A scene from the near future:
Augustus Merryweather IV glanced up at the tapping on his office door. Harvey Carbunkle stood there in bow tie and shirt sleeves, smiling eagerly from behind horn-rimmed glasses.
Augustus sighed. He hated this part of the job. It was never fun to let people go.
He waved the young man to a seat, spoke without preamble. “Harvey, I’m afraid it’s not working out.”
The eager face fell like a refrigerator from a moving truck. “You’re firing me?”
“I have no choice. Your work, well ... it hasn’t been up to the standard we expect for an editor at Merryweather Publishing. Frankly, I’m surprised. When I saw that you were a graduate of BU, I couldn’t wait to hire you. Boston University turns out some great students.”
“I didn’t go to Boston University,” Harvey said.
“Baylor, then. Still a great school.”
“I didn’t go to Baylor.”
“But your resume says you graduated BU.”
A proud smile. “Yes, sir. That’s Beck University.”
Augustus was confused. “I’ve never heard of ...”
“Beck University!” said Harvey, the smile widening. “You know, Glenn Beck? He has that show on CNN. Also, that novel, that other book, that radio program, that standup act, that line of athletic shoes and that cologne. He founded an online university back in 2010 so people could learn the real truth they don’t get in your so-called ‘universities.’” He made air quotes.
“So, when you rejected that Martin Luther King biography because it didn’t mention how white conservatives started the civil rights movement ...”
A sharp nod. “I learned that at Beck U.”
“And when you told the author of that book on religion that ‘pinko commie’ is the preferred term for preachers who talk about social and economic justice ...”
“And when you asked why there was no reference to Nazi death panels euthanizing children in that book on health-care reform ...”
“Yes, sir! Beck U.”
Augustus sank back into his chair. “Beck me,” he muttered.
Augustus regarded the man who perched before him. “Harvey,” he said after a moment, “you can’t believe all that garbage they filled your head with. None of that stuff is true! It’s just the rantings of a paranoid nutjob living in an alternate reality. The facts …”
Harvey shrank back, looking horrified. “No, sir!” he shouted. “No, sir! Professor Beck warned us about people like you. He said you’d try to confuse us with all your ‘facts’ and your ‘logic’ and your ‘reason.’ Well, Harvey Walter Carbunkle is on to your game!”
All at once, Augustus felt tired. He felt old. “Very well,” he said. “Believe what you want. But we’ve still got to let you go. You’re not qualified.”
Harvey appeared to contemplate this. He shrugged. “That’s OK,” he said. “Now I’ll have time to pursue my graduate work at the U of L.”
Augustus sat up straight. “Louisiana?”
“Of course,” said Augustus, dropping back into the chair.
Harvey’s expression was pitying. “I wish I could help you see how wrong you are. You think the world is about ‘facts’ and ‘knowledge’ and ‘information’ you can ‘prove.’ The lamestream media has you fooled and you don’t even know it.” Abruptly he turned away, gnawing a knuckle.
“Well,” said Augustus, “I suppose we’ll just have to agree to …” He stopped, alarmed. “My God, man, are you crying?”
Harvey’s eyes were glistening. His voice wobbled like a toddler. “I’m sorry,” he gasped. “It’s just ...” His voice tore. He bit his lip, lifted his palm, took a steadying breath, then tried again. “It’s just that I love my country so much and I’m frightened for her future.”
Augustus shook his head. “I know just how you feel,” he said.
— Leonard Pitts Jr.,winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for the Miami Herald. He chats with readers from noon to 1 p.m. each Wednesday at www.MiamiHerald.com. firstname.lastname@example.org