Saturday, November 28, 2009

Beck attacks ADL for report naming him the 'fearmonger in chief'

[H/t Media Matters.]

-- by Dave

As one might expect, Glenn Beck has been simply cowardly about dealing with that report from the ADL titled "Rage Grows in America", which singled him out for special attention as the nation's newest "fearmonger in chief".

Beck has been largely silent about it. He only obliquely referenced it on his Fox News show earlier this week, exclaiming that "they" call him "anti-government" and heatedly denying that he is.

But on his radio show on Wednesday, he finally crawled out of his shell a little more, drawn out by a Timothy Rutten column in the Los Angeles Times discussing the report:

Beck: I'm just looking at a story from the Los Angeles Times today. The headline has my name in it, but it's really about you: "Who's watching Glenn Beck?" And then it goes into the -- "Much like the Depression-era demagogue from -- uh, Father Charles Coughlin" --

Anybody who knows history -- yeah. Yeah. I'm just like that guy.

Um -- "Fox is promoting a mass movement. Should his bosses be pulling the plug on him?" "For nearly a century, the Anti-Defamation League" -- which has as much to do, I believe, with the plight of the Jewish people as the National Organization of Woman has with the plight of women -- it is nothing, I believe, nothing but a political organization at this point. And I -- it, it kills me to say that.

I mean -- for the love of Pete, name the person that has been more friendly to Israel. Name the person that has spoken out more against the Holocaust deniers that are running Iran. Name the person who has stood up for Israel more than I have! Name the person in the mainstream media that speaks as passionately as I do -- not for some glorified Israel Zionist movement, but because I see the Jewish people as people! And the leaders of Iran as monsters that want to finish the job that Hitler started. You name the media person, Anti-Defamation League.

Well, first things first: Nevermind how obtuse a person must be who is neither a woman nor a Jew passing judgment on whether organizations with established histories of effectively fighting for the rights of either group has "anything to do" with their "plight." What really stands out about this rant is the stereotyped image Beck has of Jews, to wit, the only aspect of their "plight" worth mentioning is the defense of Israel.

In reality, the ADL has historically been focused on the much broader "plight" of the Jews represented by anti-Semitism and its pernicious effects. As you can see from just visiting the "About" section of their website, the ADL was founded primarily to combat anti-Semitism. Yes, the defense of Israel is in fact a concern of the ADL's -- but it is only one of many items on its agenda.

Beck, in fact, is clearly suggesting that anti-Semitism isn't a problem for Jews, except as it relates to Israel. (Beck has a thing about Iran that's actually a bad case of evangelical apocalypticism.) But in the USA, the problem of anti-Semitism has little if anything to do with Israel, and almost everything to do with the spread of right-wing hatemongers, who spread their poison through the very conspiracy theories and fearmongering scenarios and McCarthyite scenes that are Glenn Beck's stock in trade.

Now, let's take a look at that Tim Rutten column, especially because Beck never really did explain to his audience exactly what the piece said.

Here's the lede, that Beck read only snippets from:

For nearly a century, the Anti-Defamation League has stared unflinchingly into the dark corners of America's social psyche -- the places where combustible tendencies such as hatred and paranoia pool and, sometimes, burst into flame.

As a Jewish organization, the ADL's first preoccupation naturally is anti-Semitism, but in the last few decades it has extended its scrutiny to the whole range of bigoted malevolence -- white supremacy, the militia movement, neo-nativism and conspiratorial fantasies in all of their improbable permutations. These days, the organization's research is characterized by the sense of proportion and sobriety that long experience brings.

Rutten goes on to make an incisive and accurate comparison of Beck to Father Charles Coughlin. And its conclusion is similarly thoughtful:

It's hard to imagine any contemporary cable system dropping Fox News simply because Beck is an offensively dangerous demagogue -- not with his ratings at least. His new foray into politics, though, presents Rupert Murdoch's network with a profound challenge. Is it willing to become the platform for an extremist political campaign, or will it draw a line as even the authoritarian Catholic Church of the 1940s did? CNN recently parted ways with its resident ranter, Lou Dobbs -- who now confirms he's weighing a presidential bid.

Does Fox see a similar problem with Beck -- and, if not, why?

It probably didn't help Beck's case that, on the same afternoon the report was released, he went on his Fox News show and ranted at length about how President Obama is taking us "straight ... to a New World Order" and "global government."

One couldn't have asked for a better illustration of one of the ADL report's key observations:

One of the most disturbing trends in the rise of anti-government animosity in 2009 has been the resurrection and proliferation of anti-government conspiracy theories, many of which had their origins in the early- to mid-1990s. More extreme than “birther” conspiracies, these theories allege dark, violent designs on the part of the federal government to declare martial law and end democratic government, to confiscate firearms from American citizens to render them defenseless, and to build hundreds of concentration camps to house “dissidents” and other liberty-loving Americans.


Although much of the recent anti-government anger has been generated by a combination of partisan politics, grass-roots activists, and extreme groups and movements, the mainstream media has also played a role in promoting anti-government anger and pandering to people who believe that the Obama administration is illegitimate or even fascistic.

Beck, in fact, gives real succor to some of the country's worst anti-Semites because he helps promote their ideas; Beck's fearmongering echoes theirs so closely that it is rapidly becoming an important recruiting tool for them.

Alexander Zaitchik explored this recently for Salon, examining what white supremacists themselves say about Beck, with illustrations culled from the discussion forums:

Thor357, a Stormfront sustaining member who has posted on the site more than 3,500 times, had this to say:

"Glenn Beck and Alex Jones [a controversial conservative media figure who believes 9/11 was an inside job] are the front line in the war of Ideals we grapple with, they are far from perfect and are somewhat compromised. But every person in the last 2 years that I have introduced to the WN [White Nationalist] Philosophy have come largely from Alex Jones, Glen Beck and the Scriptures for America founder Pastor Pete Peters ... Baby steps are required for people like these, but the trio Beck, Jones, Peters are the baby food that feeds potential Nationalists… "

... Later in the same discussion thread, Thor357 added:

"I have talked to 6 people in two days because Glenn Beck woke them up, it's amazing how angry they are. They are pissing fire over Obama, this is a good thing. Now I educate them. If out of 100 of the Glen Beckers I keep 20 then I have won 20 more to cover my back side. I never lost the 80 as they never were."

Carolina Patriot, whose member picture features a kitten aiming an assassin's rifle, was conflicted but admiring:

"Every now and again when an infomercial takes the place of hunting or fishing, I'll turn over to Glenn Beck if he's on and watch his show. Sometimes it is amusing, sometimes it is informed, and sometimes, I think he comes to SF [Stormfront] to steal show idea's"

UstashaNY offered up an analogy to substance abuse, with Beck as the soft-stuff hook:

"Beck, Dobbs etc. are like gateway drugs. If it wakes up one person to learn something about whats really going on and that person does the research, looks deeper and deeper into WHO and WHAT is behind all of this, then its a win for the movement. NOBODY in the msm is reporting the stuff Beck does, let him keep talking. It will wake people up, believe me… He is more of a help to us then you may think. Until we have a REAL voice in the msm, guys like him and Dobbs are a stepping stone right into our laps. Its only a matter of time..."

Glenn Beck is rapidly becoming a serious problem. Fox obviously does not want to deal with it, and Beck obviously is going to run away from any accountability for his gross irresponsibility as hard and fast as he can.

Which means that the voices calling him to account are becoming increasingly vital.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

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