Don Wade Interview


Related Videos & Pictures


Visit our collection of 9/12 pictures and videos...

GLENN: Overlooking Times Square, Midtown Manhattan, third most listened to show in all of America. Hello, you sick twisted freak. My name is Glenn Beck. Glad you're here. I want to introduce you to somebody. I don't think I've ever talked to him before. Don Wade is a guy that I wanted to be in radio when I was 8 years old and I grew up in Seattle, Washington, and Seattle has always had some of the best radio talent in the country, especially during the Sixties and the Seventies, and one of my heroes was Charlie Brown, and I actually got to work with him when he put KUBE in Seattle on the air. But he was at KJR, and he's a legend. Bruce Murdock was over at KING. And on a radio station called KTAR was a guy named Don Wade. I listened to when I moved to the Puyallup area from Mount Vernon, I couldn't get KTAC down in Mount Vernon. I had to move down to Puyallup, and I got closer to Tacoma and I listened to Don Wade, and he was the best radio talent I had ever heard and maybe one of the best radio talents that I've ever experienced on a daily basis. This guy is really good. Now, he's no longer doing what he was doing. Nobody is doing what they were doing back in the Seventie s and Eighties. Now he in 1985 he moved to Chicago and went on WLS, which he replaced Lujack, did he not, back in 1985? Another legend, and he's been there ever since. He is a guy who is nonpartisan and takes on both sides. And I mean, the guy's been fired more places than I think anybody else has ever been fired, and it's because he speaks the truth as he sees it.

Don Wade, what a pleasure to welcome you to the program, sir.

WADE: Glenn.

GLENN: How are you?

WADE: Glenn, it's like I know you from...

GLENN: You don't know me.

WADE: Last night.

GLENN: You don't know me.

WADE: I watch you on TV all the time. I love your TV show.

GLENN: Really?

WADE: I can't listen to you on the radio because, you know, I do a radio show and I'm you know, and I never listen to the radio.

GLENN: Yeah. You had Charlie Gibson on.

WADE: Yeah.

GLENN: Yesterday.

WADE: Yeah.

GLENN: How blown away let's play a little bit of the first of all, this is the question on ACORN. Play the Charlie Gibson answer to Don Wade when he says, so what's up with no coverage on ABC.

WADE: Yeah.

GLENN: Hang on.

WADE: Okay.

GLENN: See, Don, in network radio we don't

WADE: I asked him why nobody's reporting about that.

GLENN: Yeah. And in local radio I know you have that audiotape ready for you right there, but network radio it's a little different.

WADE: You guys

GLENN: Here it is. Here it is, go ahead.

WADE: Okay, here's my news question. Senate bill yesterday passes cutting off funds to this group called ACORN. Now, we've got the we've got that bill passed and we have the embarrassing video of ACORN staffers giving tax advice on how to set up a brothel with 13 year old hookers. It has everything you could want, corruption and sleazy action, tax funded organizations, it's got government ties, but nobody's covering that story. Why?

GIBSON: I don't even know about it. So you've got me at a loss. I don't know.

GLENN: Okay, stop, stop.

WADE: Yeah.

GLENN: I mean, how stunned were you?

WADE: Well, I am a simple guy, Glenn. You know, I read the paper, I go online, I listen, I watch. I love watching your show. I see Glenn Beck on, you know, on Fox News doing the ACORN video of the day, the updates every day and it gets worse and worse and worse. You got the 13 year old hookers and then you find out ACORN is the central player in the Community Reinvestment Act profiting as our economy nose dives and they were, you know, like the termites in the basement eating up the foundation and they got all our tax money and they're investigating voter fraud on a massive scale and they got ACORN convictions in multiple cities, and I'm sitting there wondering, well, I've got to ask Charlie a fair question. Because he's not the only one who's not reporting it. The other networks aren't reporting much, either. And so I just thought, well, I'll ask him a fair question. I'll say, Charlie, why isn't anybody reporting that. When he answered the way he answered, I looked at Roma, she looked at me. Her mouth was wide open. My jaw had hit the console, and we looked and just said, I can't believe he said that. I just... we just could not believe he said it because we talk with Charlie every week. Tuesdays with Charlie. And he's a decent, nice guy.

GLENN: He is.

WADE: And I don't know that he has ever lied to me. So I

GLENN: I doubt he has. He is a decent man.

WADE: I don't think, I don't think that he lied. I truly believe he just wasn't aware of the story. And I the only way and I can't read his heart. I don't know. I don't know, but I truly believe it's an indication of the diminishing role of the evening news on networks. That the anchor is a guy who walks in, the work is all done, the producers have done it all and all he does is sit there and read.

GLENN: Don, do you think that that is because I don't think it's just the evening news that is out of touch. I think, you know, the mainstream media is no longer mainstream. It's no longer the fourth branch of government as a check and balance. It is just the fourth branch of government. I mean, that's all it is. It's just, it's become a propaganda machine.

WADE: Yeah.

GLENN: Where all of these people that say, you know, well, we were raised on the meat and potatoes of Watergate. No, they weren't. Where are they? Where are these journalists that are supposed to be that have told us for the last ten years that they have a distrust and that's what they're supposed to do: Distrust the government and hold their feet to the fire and go in and make them accountable? Where is that?

WADE: Well, the guys in the trench coats and the little press thing and the hat, they are supposed to have what I always thought was an adversarial relationship

GLENN: Yes.

WADE: with anyone in power.

GLENN: They don't.

WADE: And they don't. They become pals with them because they get treated really well. They get to fly on Air Force One and they go on vacations with these people and it's hard to be a hard hitting skeptic when they put their arms around you and they say, hey, come on, you know.

GLENN: Let me ask you this, because you also followed it up with the tea party. And here's what Charlie Gibson said about the tea party movement.

WADE: Wasn't your face in the multitude that was marching in Washington D.C. over the weekend?

VOICE: The conservative Woodstock?

WADE: Weren't you holding a sign marching saying something down with the government or wasn't that you?

GIBSON: I was up sailing in the waters of Maine this past weekend.

VOICE: What a nice thing. Was it cold?

GIBSON: Purposely oblivious to all of this. It was exquisitely beautiful.

GLENN: Stop. Stop, stop.

WADE: Oblivious.

GLENN: Purposely oblivious.

WADE: Yeah.

GLENN: We are we had the University of Indiana. They have this computer program where they can count the number of bodies, you know, in a picture.

WADE: Right.

GLENN: 1.7 million people is what the number that they came up with. 1.7 million. And a newscaster is saying I am purposely oblivious to 1.7 let's just say it was 400,000 people. 400,000 people on the mall that feel like they've lost their liberty and are about to lose their country. Is that something that a newscaster should be purposely oblivious to?

WADE: No, no, no. Previously if there were a march on Washington D.C. and it was just about any other group, a week prior, the network news would be talking about the upcoming march. And they go out and interview various people across the country: Well, why are you going to the march? And, oh, you're taking the kids? Oh, that's terrific. And what you know, and, oh, these are the signs you are making. Oh, listen, that's fascinating. And for a week they would be doing this build up. It would be like a promotion for the march. And then they would be at the march. And then after the march they would be doing wall to wall everything. This march, this march was a surprise. Nobody, if you turn if you were watching network news, you didn't know that march was going to happen. And then when it did happen, it went by in the blink of an eye and then when it was over, nothing. It didn't happen.

GLENN: You know, Don we're talking to Don Wade from WLS in Chicago, probably the best radio station in the country. Seriously. I mean, you know, it just is. The I've been saying for a while that I think the paradigm is about to change in America. I haven't even known exactly what that meant. I just feel it in my gut that the paradigm is about to change. I'm beginning to feel that part of what that means is the mainstream media, the way we have always collected news, they don't even know it now. But when the mainstream media can completely ignore a march, when they can completely ignore ACORN, when they can completely ignore Van Jones and yet Van Jones is forced out in the middle of the night, ACORN loses its funding, and there are a million people on the mall, I mean, what relevance does the quote/unquote mainstream media have anymore?

WADE: Well, they are shooting themselves in the foot so to speak because your coverage on Van Jones, by the way, Glenn, was unbelievable. I was glued to my TV watching your Van Jones coverage. And then you switch to the evening news and there's nothing, nothing, until he actually left. And then they do the short little mention: Oh, by the way, Van Jones has resigned. And that was the end of that. But you are right. It is changing. People don't have to wait until 5:30, 6:30 at night, the evening news depending upon your time zone. They can't be bothered waiting because they know that they are not even going to get a straight story. They can go on the Internet, they can get it on a computer, they can get it on their Blackberry. They can get news when they want it. And they have a choice of 1,000 different sources. There's no monopoly left.

GLENN: So how does an administration I mean, you have Cass Sunstein who thinks the First Amendment is an overstatement, you think that you have Mark Lloyd who thinks that the revolution in Venezuela was Chavez was important.

WADE: Yeah.

GLENN: And he's glad that it happened, as soon as he understood how to control the press, he could then have that important revolution. You have people that are in this administration that want to shut down freedom of speech. How do what happens from here, Don? How do we, as broadcasters, as people, as just individuals on the Internet, how do we survive? Because nobody had to print how many people were down on the mall this weekend. Everybody in power knows. They know. You didn't have to have it in the paper. They know, believe me. How do they what happens next?

WADE: I don't know. You know, I think that the ratings for your show, and I don't your ratings for your radio show, I don't know, but I know I read in the paper about your TV show and I see how Fox is escalating in numbers, as the numbers for the mainstream networks are diminishing, and you can look at the graph and it's just steadily diminishing.

GLENN: Yeah.

WADE: They are just going down, down, down, down. Fox is going up, up, up, up. There's a reason for that, that people are starved for the truth. Now, they can say that Fox is conservative or you're conservative or whatever. That doesn't, that doesn't ring true. Because what you, for instance, talk about with the ACORN problem, it's not a Republican or Democratic problem. It's just a human decency problem. How many people support 13 year old whores? I don't.

GLENN: I don't. I don't know anybody who does.

WADE: Both of our senators in Illinois, both of them, Durbin and what's his name, you know, the

GLENN: Yeah, the new guy.

WADE: That guy.

GLENN: What's his name? He was

WADE: Roland.

GLENN: He was being chased by Fox yesterday. The guy was like 70 years old. He was like in a sprint.

WADE: Well, I pretend not to know his name because, you know, he is engraving his name on his monument. But both of our senators support giving money to an organization that apparently thinks it's okay for 12 to 15 year old little girls to be hooking. And I don't quite understand that and I think that people, they say that's a real story. I'm a Democrat, I'm an independent, I'm a Republican. It doesn't matter. I'm just a human, I'm a decent human being and that's not okay. And if Fox is the only station that's going to carry it, I'll watch them. To me people seek out what they think is the truth.

PAT: Yeah.

WADE: And whether they get it on the Internet or they get it on Glenn Beck or

GLENN: Whatever.

WADE: Yeah.

GLENN: At least, you know, somebody asked me the other day what is the secret. In fact, it's an article written on me in Newsmax. And they came into the office and they said, what is the secret to your success? And, you know, is it this, is it that, are you going after this person or that person? I said, no, I think the secret of the success is in, Don, you just said it: People are starving for the truth. And you may not agree with my version of the truth, but at least most people in this audience, if they listen to me for any period of time, they know that I am genuine and it's what I believe is the truth. And I'm willing to say what I believe and let the chips fall where they may. That's all that's required. I can disagree with your version of the truth. If I believe you are an honest broker of information. You might come up with a different answer than I do, but are you an honest broker of information. Are you trying to get it right? I don't think a lot of people in the media are even trying to get it right anymore.

WADE: I like the way you put your arguments together and I think that you, in another life, could be a trial lawyer. I'm sorry, dirty word. You could be a trial lawyer because you do: A leads to B leads to C, therefore D. And then with a big piece of chalk underneath, D. And then the best part of you, Glenn, is that not only do you have the facts and do you lay them out in a really convincing manner but you've got a sense of humor, which is missing from the left. The left doesn't understand humor.

GLENN: Yeah.

WADE: And that's

GLENN: Well, it is amazing to me. It is amazing to me that they are, that they are in the position that they are. Don, I've got to run.

WADE: Yeah.

GLENN: But I thank you so much. You are just, you are fantastic. I've been a big fan since long ago.

WADE: Well, maybe you can join me in the morning sometime.

GLENN: I'd love to.

WADE: And we'll giggle a little.

GLENN: I'd love it. Thanks very much. Appreciate it. Don Wade from WLS in Chicago.

Ryan: Making of an Ant Queen

Photo by Kevin Ryan

The embattled, Nobel-Peace-Prize-winning author Liu Xiaobo wrote that "Life is priceless even to an ant."

An ant colony can only survive for a few months after the death of its queen. On average, queens live 10 to 15 years. Some, up to 30 years, one of the longest insect lifespans, hidden deep within the colony, protected, unable to use her wings because she's a little bigger than she used to be.

Plus she's very busy.

The majority of ants are female. Wingless, sterile worker ants. They build nests, they forage, they hunt.

Theirs is a far briefer life than the queen's, ranging from a few weeks up to a year. But they see more of the outside world than any other ant.

The bigger they are, the farther they travel. And they release pheromones along the way so that they have a trail home.
Drones — winged male ants whose primary function in life is to mate with the queen — die after mating and rarely make it out of the colony.

Then, there are the soldier ants. They protect the colony and attack.

To quote philosopher Bertrand Russell, "Ants and savages put strangers to death."

They go on raids.

The attacking colony rarely loses, so most colonies flee as soon as an invasion begins. But they sometimes remain and fight.
Ants on both sides of the battle die in droves.

Henry David Thoreau describes an ant battle in Walden: "On every side they were engaged in deadly combat, yet without any noise that I could hear, and human soldiers never fought so resolutely."

If the attackers succeed in overtaking a colony, they pillage the eggs. Some are eaten, fed to larvae. But others become victims of slave raiding. Meaning that the victors return home with their enemy's unborn, feed them, nurse them. Then, when the eggs hatch, the victors force them into slavery.

Often, the slaves even develop an allegiance to the colony which ransacked their home and enslaved them. They'll even help raid other colonies and either die pointlessly or help with the seizure of the next generation of slaves.

Sometimes, however, the slave ants rebel.

In the words of Persian poet Saadi, "Ants, fighting together, will vanquish the lion."

Flying ants, both male and female, leave the colony to form another colony. Once they find a suitable place, the males's wings fall off and they mate to their death. Then one or more of the females becomes queen.

*

It felt odd, any time I sat with a roomful of media, a few hundred journalists from all over the world, as they simultaneously, silently, decided "Yep, that's newsworthy. We should hammer that."

It wasn't like everyone turned to each other and said, "Let's agree on the narrative."

It was an energy.

Photo by Kevin Ryan

Like in Houston, at the third Democratic Debate, after Biden misused the word "record player," you could hear chatter spread through the room, people muttering the words "records" and "record player."

In Houston, the media watched the debate from a gymnasium around the corner from the auditorium. So I could contrast the crowd's reactions with the media's reactions.

Nearly every time, there was a disparity between the two. The media were more relaxed — during the debate at least. The audience enjoyed any mentions of identity issues. There were a lot. But the media barely reacted at all.

This was a good thing, probably.

*

It's impressive to see how politicians force their stump speeches into a new form, depending on the context. How they say it like an epiphany.

That night brought the opposite for the ever-fledgling Kamala Harris. I could not believe it. Was this the same woman who'd made Iowa hers, just a little over a month ago?

All night, she was so loyal to the tactic she'd premeditated that she didn't realize it wasn't working, like she kept putting on a puppet show on some busy sidewalk.

At one point, she declared, proudly, "We're not talking about Donald Trump enough."

The most talked-about man in the world, perhaps in our country's history.

In five weeks, she became an entirely different candidate. Her latest version resembled a Xanax-fueled stepmom. It was like she was transforming into Joe Biden.

She kept laughing at her own jokes. And the entire media room cringed every time.

Photo by Kevin Ryan

Amy Klobuchar's pre-formed jokes and half-zany dad jokes fell short every time, too. Most of the media saw Klobuchar's long rants as a chance to chat with a neighbor or jet off to the nearest bathroom, which was likely a locker-room full of plastic flight containers and padded camera cases and journalists who curse like sailors.

During the debate, the press was stoic. So if a candidate got a reaction from them, it carried a certain authenticity.

They laughed at things that the audience ignored or disliked or didn't notice. In part because the audience didn't do a whole lot of laughing. But the media laughed like professionals laugh. In-jokey and staid yet ready for anything unexpected.

They loved it when Booker said the thing about "Let me translate that to Spanish … 'No'." And Yang's opening handclaps. As well as Pete Buttigieg's reaction to Yang's raffle.

The biggest laugh of the night in the media center, surprisingly, was when Yang said, "I am Asian, so I know a lot of doctors."

*

Early scientists believed that ants adhere to a complicated hierarchy, which biologist E O Wilson compared to the Hindu caste system. The idea was, ants and humans have a lot in common, and ants belong to a society divided by class and determined by labor.

In the Wealth of Nations, father of capitalism Adam Smith wrote: "It is the great multiplication of the productions of all the different arts, in consequence of the division of labour, which occasions, in a well-governed society, that universal opulence which extends itself to the lowest ranks of the people."

Ants have been organized into colonized societies since the Cretaceous Period, 140 million years ago, when dinosaurs still dominated the Earth. All of that changed 74 million years later. Which was about 66 million years ago. When a comet slammed into what is now the Yucatan Peninsula, resulting in the KT mass extinction.

80 percent of all plants and animals died. The ash and dust and debris polluted the air, blocked the sunlight, transforming the Earth into a dark, frozen wasteland full of asthma.

Insects, carrion-eaters, and omnivores all survived. Any purely carnivorous animals starved to death, while mammals and birds fed on insects and worms until the earth repopulated itself with more animals that could be eaten.

The K-T Mass Extinction ushered in a new era of life. Species that had lived in constant retreat from predators were suddenly able to form more elaborate purposes.

After these lifeforms thrived for tens of millions of years, certain mammals started to become vaguely humanlike.
Early humans popped up about 300,000 years ago.

Meaning, ants have existed for 140 million years, which is 139.7 million years longer than humans.

For reference, if you counted to 300,000, it would take you roughly three-in-a-half days. To get to 140 million would take about four-and-a-half years.

Humans only began developing language about 100,000 years ago.

Yet we're the ones with libraries and governments and ABBA and iPhones. What did ants have? Other people's sugar?

*

Before the debate, I wandered out of the gymnasium and onto bustling sidewalks with makeshift security fencing on each side. And hopped over the massive yellow tubes that belonged in E.T. and pumped cold air into the building. Past dozens of police and security, through an elaborate weave of temporary checkpoints and wires bigger than a fire hose.

On the street, I passed a group of six-or-so teenagers flipping DELANEY signs around like those cardboard "WE BUY GOLD" banners which actual people bob around while dressed as Elvis or Lady Liberty or a Banana.

Photo by Kevin Ryan

The sun cast a delightful orange over Houston, glitter in the humid air.

Those kids were having a blast with those signs. Laughing so hard they had to stop occasionally and slap their legs.

On the other side of the fence, some of the most powerful people in the world were readying for battle, and these kids could not have cared less.

*

The protestors had gathered just outside the gates of the campus entrance.

Far as I could tell, it was me and no other journalists present. The rest of the media were in the gymnasium, preparing for the debate or networking or already on-air. Once they got into the media center they stayed put. For many reasons, I assume.
The air collapsed under a wave of heat unique to Houston.

Photo by Kevin Ryan

Gnarled blockades served as borders on both sides of the street. Locked into steel fencing, flanked by rows of police cars with their lights on but their sirens off.

Worse than the humidity, and more intense, was the energy bouncing out of the protestors on Cleburne Street. The opposite of suction energy, shoving out with tension and panic and elation.

Photo by Kevin Ryan

Curtis Mayfield's "Move on Up" blared from a Bluetooth speaker. I envisioned a slow zoom from above, beginning with the top of my head and rising, up and up and up. Drawing in the greater scene. Up past Trump's message-board plane. A panorama of city, then county, then state, capturing the topography and nuance of each snapshot of nature.

The higher the camera rose, the more I resembled an ant. One more wingless worker or obedient soldier rushing from place to place on a mission.

And when you got far enough above, you saw the colony that each of us belongs to.

Then it shrank like a passing bobsled, and Earth itself resembled an ant.

The scale of it is daunting.

For thousands of years the sky has filled humans with romance and humility and wonder. A restive impulse that strikes when we gaze up at the moon, the stars, the galaxy, the quiet.

But at ground level, I was a man in the throes of a great human drama. And my job was to document it as neutrally as possible.

The 120-odd protestors on the south side of the street spilled onto the sidewalk and into a lawn, and they chanted as the Trump plane groaned overhead.

They were crowded together, and they were all fighting for different causes. Lots of contradictions under the same banner.
Next to a group of Beto supporters with pro-choice t-shirts, several women chanted

We.
Want.
A pro-life.
Dem.

Chaos itself occupied the south side of the street. The protestors weren't sure how to handle it. So they chanted and sang and probed for the problem. Like so many tiny creatures hauling an orange slice.

Across the street, facing that horde of supporters, two men gripped pro-life signs.

They were the counter-protestors. Their barricade was far wider than needed. The grass around them looked sad, like the trail a dog makes along the fence when it wants to escape.

Behind the two counter-protestors, a mini-bus covered with photos of aborted babies, tangled fetuses, severed and indistinguishable chunks.

Photo by Kevin Ryan

Photo by Kevin Ryan

I squinted and gasped and felt downright unwell.

Two days earlier, my wife and I found out that she was pregnant with our first child.

At the very moment I stared at images of tiny human shapes contorted and grey, our baby was the size of a pea.
A few weeks later, we'd see its heartbeat pulsing like a strobe.

I'm not making a statement on abortion. That's not my job as a journalist.

It's more my admiration for the impeccable depth of life. The timing. How messages and symbols confront us all the time, with unmatchable creativity.

Because there I was, literally in the middle of two opposing factions. Again. In the divide. Tangled into so many dichotomies. Life and death. Freedom and oppression. Order and chaos. Activity and stagnation. Creation and loss. Art and nature.

And I had once again remained in the middle.

This brought me tremendous satisfaction. It signified personal and journalistic success.

It was also a bit ridiculous.

As a reporter, I never wanted to pick a side. I already had a side. My side was America, and Ireland. My side was humanity.

My side was life.

New installments of this series come out every Monday and Thursday morning. Check out my Twitter or email me at kryan@mercurystudios.com

"Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak.Not to act is to act."
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The cost of discipleship can be daunting and few people are willing to sacrifice and stand in the face of evil to do what they know God is asking of them. The "Bonhoeffer Angel Award" is awarded to someone with the vision and courage to act when others only talk, to dig in and listen to the whisperings of the spirit when others turn a deaf ear. It is only fitting the inaugural award go to the visionary founder of Mercury One, Glenn Beck.

The award was presented by the Board President of Mercury One, David Barton and CEO of the Nazarene Fund, Tim Ballard. There was a touching video tribute as well including the likes of Penn Jillette, Senators Mike Lee, Ted Cruz and Joe Liberman, Congressman Loui Gohmert and Rabbi Daniel Lappin.

WATCH THE VIDEO HERE:

Glenn will be hosting the annual Operation Underground Railroad gala Saturday, November 2nd with keynote speaker Tim Ballard. If you are able to join us, tickets are still available and donations of all sizes are welcome.

Summer is ending and fall is in the air. Before you know it, Christmas will be here, a time when much of the world unites to celebrate the love of family, the generosity of the human spirit, and the birth of the Christ-child in Bethlehem.

For one night only at the Kingsbury Hall in Salt Lake City, on December 7th, join internationally-acclaimed radio host and storyteller Glenn Beck as he walks you through tales of Christmas in the way that only he can. There will be laughs, and there might be a few tears. But at the end of the night, you'll leave with a warm feeling in your heart and a smile on your face.

Reconnect to the true spirit of Christmas with Glenn Beck, in a storytelling tour de force that you won't soon forget.

Get tickets and learn more about the event here.

The general sale period will be Friday, August 16 at 10:00 AM MDT. Stay tuned to for updates. We look forward to sharing in the Christmas spirit with you!

Ryan: Donald Trump goes to Dallas

Photo by Sean Ryan

Donald Trump leaned into the rostrum like a bartender. He loved to rile his patrons.

"They. Wanna. Take. Your Guns. Away," he said, in his trademark staccato.

They stomped and hollered, 18,000 strong in the American Airlines Center, home of the Dallas Mavericks, on a Thursday in October, and another 5,000 people waited outside, desperate to join.

"At stake. In this fight. Is the survival. Of American democracy itself," he said, then went off-script. "Don't kid yourself, that's what they want, they are destroying this country, but we will never let it happen, not even close."

Photo by Sean Ryan

Here it was a few weeks from Halloween, with more autumn in the air each day. And 23,000 people roamed Dallas in costumes. All dressed up like American flags. They were happy. You could feel it all around.

It was ice-cold in that arena, but I had my bulky tan Carhartt jacket. It had been an hour since I chuffed down a travel-sized Crown Royal and some Sativa gummies, and I felt an unerring contentment.

Photo by Sean Ryan

So my eyes shot wide when Trump jerked his hand toward the media pool for the third or fourth time that night and dealt a few jabs, and the audience hissed.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Every time it happened, I struggled to keep from laughing. Not in a condescending way. Neutral amusement. The drama of this wild setting full of energized people, the stadium lights, the narrative in motion. Hero versus Bad Guy.

Next minute they were cheering again. Because Trump told them about his plan to bring jobs back to America. It was just a matter of overcoming so many evil forces. But, he assured them, he was the only man who could guide us.

He listed off the enemies. The media, obviously. China, Obama, Democrats, Socialism, politicians, ISIS. I gasped, "Oh shit, I forgot about ISIS!"

*

There were five of us at the rally representing BlazeMedia. Writer Samantha Sullivan, cameraman James Baier, producer John Ruggio, and photographer Sean Ryan, my father.

James plays on the drumline at Mavericks games, so he gave us a proper tour of the arena, all the long passages and gaping walkways and cramped stairwells.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Then we prowled around outside, looking for protests.

It was a different world out there on the street. A nun in diabetes socks strolled past MAGA vendors by the W Hotel. Valet spots crowded with Secret Service vehicles.

Photo by Sean Ryan

An all-women Pro-Trump county/rock band chanted on the massive stage, where, an hour later, Fox News live-casted. We were the only media outside, besides the odd cameraman tip-toeing through the curving rows of Trump supporters in line.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Samantha conducted man-on-the-street interviews. Nearly every time we walked away from someone we'd just interviewed, the people around them said a version of, "Now you're famous."

*

There were a dozen merchants selling Trump merchandise outside the arena, at least a dozen. One of them told me that they travel to all of Trump's rallies. From his cart, a flag billowed with the words "2020: Make Liberals Cry Again."

Photo by Sean Ryan

As we followed the curves of the snaking line, I overheard a drunk man in his dark tan blazer exclaim, "All right, I'm gonna get us on television again."

We flashed past thousands of faces, thousands of people, driven to be there, standing in line. And happy no less. Blatant under the red-winged sky with planes that float silently, graceful and astounding.

Photo by Sean Ryan

A young woman strolled down the street with a sign that read, "I might be gay, but I'm not stupid."

She told us her story. Her message was compassionate. Her face was relaxed.

Photo by Sean Ryan

A little further down, plumes of smoke rose from a group of protestors with signs that said "We Vape We Vote.""Are you guys protesting Trump," I asked one of them.

"No," he said, "we all have different opinions about Trump. Not really worried about that. Right now we just want to protest the new vaping laws."

Photo by Sean Ryan

*

At 7:44 p.m., "Proud to be an American" came on and Trump emerged from the guts of the arena, strolling through the tunnel like Michael Jordan. Game 6.

Some people teared up, placed a hand over their eyes or their heart. Others nodded for too long, as if they couldn't believe what they were seeing. Was that really him up there?

Even a few of the police had that resplendent look.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Trump walked the stage. He clapped and waved. He waited till the end of the Lee Greenwood song to speak. The audience cheered as he braced the podium and said, "Thank you." And they kept cheering. He waited. 20 seconds or so. But the applause kept going, so he turned around and clapped some more and waved and smiled that certain way he smiles.

*

"I am thrilled to be here," he said, "deep in the heart of Texas." And people cheered even louder than before, because Texans love Texas. "Where we just opened a beautiful new Louis Vuitton plant."

Life in America was now constantly surreal. Donald Trump, who actually became President, was talking at a packed rally. In a basketball arena. About the opening of a factory. For a luxurious French fashion brand. In Keene, Texas, population 6,400.

*

Trump peeked at one of his teleprompters. Grinning halfway. Then he jabbed his finger into the air, aimed it at the media section, and said "They're worse now than they ever have been," his shoulders raised and hands gesticulating. "They're crooked as hell. They're worse now than they've ever been. They're crooked."

Photo by Sean Ryan

His supporters booed. Jeered.

They pointed their fingers. They hocked.

A "CNN sucks" chant whispered down from a corner section on the 3rd level, but it never caught on. The audience's hissing tactic worked better anyway. No words. Words were the problem.

*

There was a musicality to Trump's sentences. He started with clipped phrases spoken in couplets. Then he let the words slide into an almost freeflow.

Photo by Sean Ryan

He would start on-script, "The radical Democrats want to destroy America as we know it. They wanna indoctrinate our children." Then, halfway through the next sentence, he would pivot into an aside, spoken in vernacular.

"And teach them that America is a sinful nation, you see that happening all the time. And I know it from personal experience. What they want to teach your kids, not good. They come home, 'Mommy, daddy, this is what I learned,' and you're going 'Oh, no, don't tell me. Let's get 'em into another school, fast.'"

*

Bleacher Report ranked American Airlines Center the 7th loudest arena in the NBA.

The crowd's reaction to Trump's comments about guns and the 2nd Amendment created one of the loudest sounds of the night, louder than Tina Turner's "The Best," which played about 8 times. Must have been 100 decibels. Some people were stuffing their ears with whatever fit.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Nearly every one of Trump's punchlines got an audience reaction.

I mean these folks were revved up.

I spoke to a lot of people that night. Not a single solitary one of them was anything less than kind.

Look, I might as well say it now. The crowd was more diverse than I'd expected. Race, ethnicity, age, sex. Probably less diverse than the demographics of the country. But that's to be expected. Every one of the events so far brought a completely different crowd.

Photo by Sean Ryan

What mattered most was how the candidates swayed any given crowd at any given place. What was different about a Bernie Sanders townhall at a Hilton and a Kamala Harris sermon at a Baptist Church?

Nobody was ever rude at any events. But nowhere was there as much excitement as at the Trump rally. It felt like a sporting event or a music festival.

Photo by Sean Ryan

More than anything, it felt like WrestleMania. Professional wrestling. World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).

So many times I looked around at the engulfed arena and thought, "This is WWE."

*

Especially when Trump told stories. The way he added both vitriol and triumph to his sentences. Turned them into journeys, much like the interwoven plot lines of a WWE drama, each scene and victory or failure leading to WrestleMania.

The more outrageous or scandalous the story, the better. The less believable, the more dramatic it became. Because all any of it had to be was compelling.

Photo by Sean Ryan

To be compelling was more important than to be literal or judicious. Supercharged with human drama. Betrayal. Contempt. Dalliances. Mockery. Danger. Love. Confoundment. Anxiety. Celebration. Occasionally even death.

All of it was WWE to the hilt. But it was also the polluted clouds in an otherwise sacred dream. Water and adolescence, all the magnets spinning and spinning. Each huff from the street. The reckoning of life, how maybe it could have happened differently but this is how it went.

*

He seemed to use a kind of operant conditioning on his audience, as if to make it easier for them to communicate in shorthand.

Fewer words, fewer, few.

Photo by Sean Ryan

For instance, here's his first mention of the media, at the start of the rally.

"Although the fake news back there, they don't wanna talk about it." That drew the boo's all right.

He leaned back, as if handing them the mic for a moment.

Photo by Sean Ryan

"They don't wanna talk about it." He stared at the media area for a few seconds, then squinted cartoonishly and lifted his palm over his forehead like he was blocking out the sun. Then he leaned into the podium, and the pitch of his voice rose. "Look at all those cameras, can you believe it? Look at all those red lights."

Then he pointed at the press pool. The cameras were set up directly across the arena floor, so when you watch it on video it's like Trump is bursting out of your monitor.

Photo by Sean Ryan

"Don't worry, I won't say anything bad about your network."

Then he — immediately — said something bad about the networks.

"Cuz' a lot of times I get ready to do a number on these phony networks and, you know, I see those red lights go off, off, off, off, off. They don't want their viewers to see, but that's okay. I'm not gonna say it tonight. I'm gonna say, 'You're legitimate media'."
Aside, "I don't actually mean that."

He grimaced.

Photo by Sean Ryan

"But you look at that," he said, pointing, then lifted his palm to his forehead again, like he still couldn't find the puny thing he was looking for. "That's like the Academy Awards used to be, it failed. You know why it failed? Because they came after us. That's why it failed. It failed because it had stupid people saying horrible things about us."

Then he pointed to his temple wiggling his finger, "Stup-id." Shook his head. "Stupid people. They are stupid people. And their ratings have dropped like a rock. And I love seeing it, I'm telling you. Love it."

He reared his head back.

"But no matter how. Hard. They. Try. They will fail. Because the people of Texas, and the people of America, will never. Surrender. Our freedom. To those people. Right there."

Photo by Sean Ryan

Later in the speech, he said much less, mostly variations of "and in the back you'll see the fake news." Repetition, a little briefer each time. Down to an occasional off-handed, "Those phonies in the back." Then, eventually, all he had to do was point, grimacing.

Two K9 police took stance in front of the grey barricade separating us from them, which amounted to separating us from ourselves.

*

Security at the rally was unlike anything I'd seen. An entire military apparatus that floated here from Washington D.C., subsuming downtown.

Two wax-shined helicopters hovered over the arena, unmoving, like geckos ready to snap on a fly. I'd never seen a helicopter float perfectly still like that. It was terrifying.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Secret Service everywhere. Different ranks. Outside were the Navy Seal types in body armor, hoisting MP5s with silencers. The Secret Service inside, nearest Trump, had the same jagged stare and well-trained unease. But they glided around in immaculate, boring suits, each with a gold square pin on the lapel. They either stealthed around in a blur or stood perfectly still like the Queen's Guard.

I'd been to the American Airlines Center twice before. A few years ago, for Kanye West's Saint Pablo tour, when he performed solo on the levitating stage. And last summer, to review a Shania Twain concert under the influence of LSD.

Oddly, the Trump rally was a mixture of both.

*

In nearby Grand Prairie, at the Theatre at Grand Prairie, Texas Democrat Beto O'Rourke held a competing rally. There were about as many people at O'Rourke's rally as people outside the Trump rally.

Obviously, Trump loved that. But, for good measure, he hurled a few Beto-jabs into his speech, referring to him as "a very dumb Democrat candidate for president."

Photo by Sean Ryan

Then he compared him to one of those wacky inflated dancing noodles you only ever see at used car dealerships.

Then he did an imitation of above-mentioned contraption. It was bizarre to see a President imitating a dancing noodle. But he didn't care what a President should or shouldn't do. He was the anti-Politician President. And his followers loved that about him.

Photo by Sean Ryan

"The flailer," he said. "Remember he was flailing all over the place? I said, 'Why is this guy hot? John Cornyn's gonna win so easily. Just like Ted Cruz won. He's gonna win. No matter what happened." Then he scoured, like a falcon in a painting. "In a few short weeks, [Beto] got rid of guns then got rid of religion. Those are not two good things in Texas to get rid of."

*

Stomping his balled-up hand, Trump said that his office, the Oval Office, was our office, too. The crowd roared. Some of these people had driven hours for the rally. There were farmers and truck drivers and teachers and nurses. A lot of people there had never had an office of their own, and here was the President saying his was theirs.

Trump is the hero of his stories. It's part of his success, and, I suspect, a useful defense mechanism. At first glance, his journey and his character are riffs on the classical literary model, a thirsty figure who gnashes through dangerous territory, down into the unknown, through death and onto rebirth.

Photo by Sean Ryan

But Trump is not classic in the slightest. He's nothing like Odysseus or Dante or Gilgamesh or Don Quixote. Instead, he is a postmodern antihero, like Clint Eastwood in "A Fistful of Dollars" or Tony Soprano or Beyoncé or Homer Simpson. In the summer of 2015, I asked a former professor to define postmodernism.

"Donald Trump," he replied. "He contains all of it. Chaos. Hyperreality. Lots of chaos. A constant sense of 'This is so surreal.' The rejection of tradition and assumptions. Rejection of divisions between high and low culture. Rejection of rules and styles and genres. Use of pastiche. Satire. Irony. Playfulness. Paranoia. Fragmentation. A total lack of boundaries."

*

Any time the place got quiet, some random person, usually near the rafters, hollered out phrases, and it just sound like the South Park rednecks saying "They took our jobs!"

To be fair, hecklers on the left don't sound much better.

*

A week earlier, at Trump's Minneapolis rally, protestors and activists formed a moshpit outside the Target Center, not too far from the Mississippi River.

Tensions in Minneapolis had been high, and as Trump was about to board Air Force One Mayor Jacob Frey insisted that Trump pay the $530,000 security fee in advance. A last minute effort to keep him out of Minneapolis.

In response, Trump tweeted that the "lightweight mayor is hurting the great police and other wonderful supporters. 72,000 ticket requests already. Dump Frey and [Minnesota Rep. Ilhan] Omar! Make America Great Again!"

Photo by Sean Ryan

Conservative networks reported that, after the rally, members of AntiFa attacked at least one Trump supporter. Moral panic or not, it didn't augur well for the next year.

The following day, Trump appeared in Lake Charles, Louisiana. The South. No army of AntiFa down here, not like in Portland or New York or Seattle.

AntiFa has a decent presence in Dallas, and a reporter friend of mine interviewed a group of them outside the Trump rally. But there were hardly any there. A dozen or so. Which is nothing compared to the tens of thousands of Trump supporters, coiled all through downtown Dallas with its neon green outline.

*

I worked as a soccer referee for years. So I've broken up countless fights, dealt with manic egos, endured adults prone to outbursts, taken every kind of verbal abuse, faced absolute mutiny. In these chaotic situations, when people around you are losing their minds, the two greatest solutions are kindness and humor.

*

Halfway through a sentence Trump stopped reading from the prompters, stopped talking, pivoted, beamed at the crowd, then lifted his hand.

The entire arena fell silent.

It was the captivating hush of the final moments of an important game, as the ball floats through the air toward the goal or net or end zone, and fate is no longer within our grasp.

Imagine being able to freeze an entire arena into abrupt silence with one tilt of your hand.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Trump was quarterback and they were the defensive line. He sang the melody and they hummed the backbeat. He was the skipper and they were deckhands. Although he seemed concerned that his supporters never felt belittled by this arrangement.

"[Democrats] come after me, but what they're really doing is coming after the Republican party. And what they're really really doing is they're fighting you, and we never lose."

Photo by Sean Ryan

Every time he dropped a line like that, the crowd erupted with the kind of visceral intensity usually reserved for good news and sports.

The man who Evil Knievelled into arenas and said he'd never be conquered.

The closing of his speech was like the ball-drop in Times Square. But instead of kazoos and fireworks it was the words "Make America Great Again."

"Four more years," people shouted, "four more years."

Photo by Sean Ryan

Then the Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want" blasted to life.

For some reason, one verse stood out more than the others.

And I went down to the demonstration
To get my fair share of abuse
Singing, "We're gonna vent our frustration
If we don't we're gonna blow a fifty-amp fuse"

In all that hissing and mania, all the flag-waving intensity — as the arena peeled and shook with the song and so many stomping feet — Trump looked in one direction, waved. Then another, and turned, waved. Until he had looked in every direction and waved.

Before he ducked out, he pointed toward the crowd one last time. A blaring sea of reds, blues, whites. A living representation of the American flag. All three colors boiling around under the Jumbotron and disco balls.

Little by little, people streamed into the aisles. They filed up the concrete steps, and out into a familiar chaos.

New installments of this series come out every Monday and Thursday morning. Check out my Twitter or email me at kryan@mercurystudios.com