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.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Populism: It's all the right-wing rage these days

-- by Dave

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Glenn Beck's shows have become so full of wingnuttery these days that it's really becoming hard to keep up (though Media Matters does a great job of that anyway). It's such a constant barrage of right-wing extremism that the bigger picture gets lost in the onslaught.

The kind of wingnuttery Beck is embracing -- and promoting -- is a product of the kind of politics that now has conservative America in its thrall: right-wing populism. And it's not just Beck -- it's Sarah Palin, the Tea Parties, and the broad mainstream of the American Right who are careering down this path.

Take this prime moment in yesterday's Beck show as an example. Beck -- being our Fearmonger in Chief, as usual, with handy chalkboard in hand -- told the audience that we have three potential economic outcomes facing the USA: Recession, Depression, or Collapse. In other words, Disaster, Doom, or Total Annihilation. It was, as always, an uplifting scenario. He also described how we normal folks respond at each step. Paying off our debts, building fruit cellars, that sort of thing.

Then he got to the third one:

Beck: The third one is Collapse. That's 'Get out of debt and save,' plus, 'Have a fruit cellar,' plus -- I like to call the "three G system" here for this -- it's, uh, God, Gold, and Guns.

Now personally, you might take God and put him as an umbrella over the whole thing. And then you got your gun and your gold down here too. But that's your choice.

"God, Gold and Guns" has quite the ring to it, doesn't it? And the thing about it is, it could stand in all three aspects as the Battle Cry of Right-Wing Populism -- not just now, but as we've known it for most of the past thirty years and more. Before Beck, there was the Posse Comitatus, and the militias, and the Ron Paul wing of the GOP -- all right-wing populists, and all focused largely on the mythology of right-wing "constitutionalism", whose three great appeals to the masses have revolved around embracing the notion of a "Christian nation," returning the U.S. to the gold standard, and defending gun rights.

The third segment of Sarah Palin's interview with Bill O'Reilly also aired last night, and the subject, indeed, was right-wing populism:

Palin: If there is a threat at all that perhaps I represent, it is that the average, everyday, hard-working American, that their voice is going to be heard, and their -- what our voice is saying right now is, we're telling the federal government, and we're telling the elites who think that they are -- can and should call all the shots for all the rest of us. Trust us in that we know what our federal government's role is supposed to be in our lives, it's supposed to be minimal.

O'Reilly: But that sounds logical. That doesn't offend me.

Palin: That's why it's perplexing as to why I would be, you know, kinda clobbered left and right --

O'Reilly: You don't know -- really. You're sincere about you don't know why you're the lightning rod, you don't know why?

Palin: Only if it is because I'm representing a normal American who is --

O'Reilly: Well, why don't they like normal Americans? Why don't the New York Times like normal Americans, or NBC News? Why should they have disdain for the regular folks?

Palin: Because I think that, obviously they wanting so much control over our lives, I think perhaps there is a little bit of threat there, that the average American is gonna rise up and our voice is going to be louder and louder, and we're going to tell our government, 'No, we expect you to work for us, we're not going to work for you, we expect things to turn around here quite quickly,' even if that means the elites are not gonna be in control anymore.

I'm talking about the media, I'm talking about those that are in bureaucracy that are calling the shots for us -- I -- that's why the Tea Party movement, I think is beautiful. And I think that it is, it is empowering for so many of us to be watching what's going on with the Tea Party movement where we saying -- 'That's -- that's me!' I think it's beautiful what's going on right now. And perhaps that is threatening to some who don't want to cede any control.

O'Reilly: I think that's a good analysis, but what I get from talking to you for the past hour is that you, Sarah Palin, want to lead that movement. You want to lead it.

Palin: I do not need a title, and I do not necessarily be the one to lead it, I don't -- need to --

O'Reilly: You -- no spin. You want to lead that populist movement. I can see it in your eyes. You want it.

Palin: I'm willing to assist. I know in my heart and soul that the experiences that I have gone through -- I believe that's all been kind of put together in my life -- can benefit the average, everyday, hard-working American because I have been where they are. I'm experiencing what they're experiencing. And I'm willing to assist, but again, I don't have to be the top dog.

This is all fitting, of course, because the the April 15 Tea Parties really signaled the takeover of the American Right by its populist wing. And Palin, of course, had established herself as a right-wing populist well before the parties began, during the 2008 campaign.

The Tea Parties, in every incarnation -- from the Tax Day protests to the health-care town halls to the "Tea Party Express" and the "912 March on Washington" to Michele Bachmann's lame "Super Bowl of Freedom" -- has been all about populism, and it is distinctly right-wing populism.

A giveaway moment came during Sean Hannity's April 15 evening "Tea Party" broadcast from Atlanta, when he brought in a live feed from the Rick and Bubba Tea Tantrum in Alabama:

Hannity: And I'm going to tell you one other thing: When did we ever get to a point in America where, we're nearly at the point where fifty percent of Americans don't pay anything in taxes! Nothing!

[Crowd boos]

Rick: The numbers out are just astounding that, that, how much that the very top taxpayers actually pay. I feel like these taxpayers are disenfranchised. I want them to have a share of the burden just like they have a share of the vote.

That's right -- it's the wealthy top percentage of the country that needs a tax break. After all, they are the one Obama's targeting, right? So at least they're being upfront about just who "the taxpayers" are whose interests they're out marching to defend.

You could find similar sentiments on the right only the month before, in mid-March, when it was revealed that executives at the insurance giant AIG – which had just been the recipient of a massive government bailout – continued to pay themselves multimillion-dollar bonuses with bailout money. This spurred a loud round of protest, mostly from liberals and labor groups angry about the abuse of taxpayer dollars.

But Rush Limbaugh defended the bonuses, telling his radio audience: "A lynch mob is expanding: the peasants with their pitchforks surrounding the corporate headquarters of AIG, demanding heads. Death threats are pouring in. All of this being ginned up by the Obama administration." Glenn Beck had a similar rant on his Fox show: “What I really, really don’t like here is the idea that we are willing to give in to mob rule. And that’s what this is: The mob in Washington getting everybody all – I mean, the only thing they haven’t said is, ‘Bring out the monster!’ It’s mob rule! They are attempting to void legally binding contracts.”

This kind of obeisance to the captains of industry and their utrammeled right to make profits at the expense of everyone else is a phenomenon known as Producerism, which is a hallmark of right-wing populism. It's accurately defined in Wikipedia as:

a syncretic ideology of populist economic nationalism which holds that the productive forces of society - the ordinary worker, the small businessman, and the entrepreneur, are being held back by parasitical elements at both the top and bottom of the social structure.

... Producerism sees society's strength being "drained from both ends"--from the top by the machinations of globalized financial capital and the large, politically connected corporations which together conspire to restrict free enterprise, avoid taxes and destroy the fortunes of the honest businessman, and from the bottom by members of the underclass and illegal immigrants whose reliance on welfare and government benefits drains the strength of the nation. Consequently, nativist rhetoric is central to modern Producerism (Kazin, Berlet & Lyons). Illegal immigrants are viewed as a threat to the prosperity of the middle class, a drain on social services, and as a vanguard of globalization that threatens to destroy national identities and sovereignty. Some advocates of producerism go further, taking a similar position on legal immigration.

In the United States, Producerists are distrustful of both major political parties. The Republican Party is rejected for its support of corrupt Big Business and the Democratic Party for its advocacy of the unproductive lazy waiting for their entitlement handouts (Kazin, Stock, Berlet & Lyons).

Chip Berlet has written extensively about the long historical association of producerism with oppressive right-wing movements and regimes:

Producerism begins in the U.S. with the Jacksonians, who wove together intra-elite factionalism and lower-class Whites’ double-edged resentments. Producerism became a staple of repressive populist ideology. Producerism sought to rally the middle strata together with certain sections of the elite. Specifically, it championed the so-called producing classes (including White farmers, laborers, artisans, slaveowning planters, and “productive” capitalists) against “unproductive” bankers, speculators, and monopolists above—and people of color below. After the Jacksonian era, producerism was a central tenet of the anti-Chinese crusade in the late nineteenth century. In the 1920s industrial philosophy of Henry Ford, and Father Coughlin’s fascist doctrine in the 1930s, producerism fused with antisemitic attacks against “parasitic” Jews.

The Producerist narrative is why Henry Ford – who, as the ostensible author of The International Jew, a 1920 conspiracist tome that inspired Hitler’s paranoia, and whose capital later helped build the Nazi war machine in the 1930s, was also (and not coincidentally) perhaps the ultimate American enabler of fascism – is such a seminal figure for American right-wing populists, both as a leader in the 1920s and ‘30s, as well as a figure of reverence today. (Glenn Beck, in fact, has on several occasions on his Fox News show referenced Ford as something of a holy figure for his efforts to resist FDR’s New Deal in the 1930s.) The same narrative is also why, in today’s context, Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged – a tendentious novel speculating on the disasters that would befall the world if its great industrial leaders suddenly chose to stop producing – are so important in their mythology.

Right-wing populism is essentially predicated on what today we might call the psychology of celebrity-worship: convincing working-class schlubs that they too can someday become rich and famous -- because when they do, would they want to be taxed heavily? It's all about dangling that lottery carrot out there for the poor stiffs who were never any good at math to begin with, and more than eager to delude themselves about their chances of hitting the jackpot.

The thing about right-wing populism is that it’s manifestly self-defeating: those who stand to primarily benefit from this ideology are the wealthy, which is why they so willingly underwrite it. It might, in fact, more accurately be called "sucker populism."

Nonetheless, right-wing populists have long been part of the larger conservative – though largely relegated to its fringes. Some of the more virulent expressions of this populism, including the Posse Comitatus movement, Willis Carto’s Populist Party, and the “Patriot”/militia movement of the 1990s, have been largely relegated to fringe status. However, there have been periods in America’s past when right-wing populism was not thoroughly mainstream but also politically ascendant. Probably the most exemplary of these was during the wave of Ku Klux Klan revival between 1915 and 1930.

It seems to have slipped down the American memory hole that this later Klan, built on a romanticized image of the original post-Civil War Klan, was – albeit briefly – a real political force: a nationwide organization with chapters in all 48 states that briefly became a political powerhouse in a number of states, including Oregon, Indiana, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Maine, where the Klan played a critical role in the 1924 election of Owen Brewster to the governorship. That same year, the Klan made waves at the Democratic Convention when the Klan-backed candidate, William Gibbs McAdoo of Georgia, declined to denounce them. Al Smith of New York managed to block his nomination, largely on these grounds, and West Virginia's John Davis emerged as the compromise selection. He lost to Calvin Coolidge.

The Klan, however, was about much more than mere racism, which was more an expression of its larger mission -- enforcing, through violence, threats, and intimidation, "traditional values" and what it called "100 percent Americanism." It was essentially populist, presenting itself as a vigilante force for “the people,” but there was no mistaking it for anything "progressive." The latter, in fact, was its sworn enemy. And like all right-wing populist movements, it promoted a Producerist narrative in which noble white people, the cream of creation, were being culturally assaulted by a conspiracy of elites and ignoble nonwhites.

The Klan’s populist vigilantism was applied broadly to the community, and not merely on racial or religious issues (this Klan was singularly anti-Catholic). David Chalmers, in his landmark work on the Klan, Hooded Americanism, describes (pp. 32-33) how Col. William J. Simmons, the man most responsible for the revival of the Klan in the 1915-20 period, shifted the Klan's focus from merely attacking nonwhites to a very broad menu of targets:

To the Negro, Jew, Oriental, Roman Catholic, and alien, were added dope, bootlegging, graft, night clubs and road houses, violation of the Sabbath, unfair business dealings, sex, marital "goings-on," and scandalous behavior, as the proper concern of the one-hundred-percent American. The Klan organizer was told to find out what was worrying a community and to offer the Klan as a solution.

Simmons' conception of the Klan as a special secret service bustling about spying on radicalism and questionable patriotism and generally reliving its wartime grandeur, was translated into a more enduring system of societal vigilance. The Klan was brought to Muncie, Indiana, by leading businessmen to cope with a corrupt Democratic city government. It entered Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Herrin County, Illinois, to put down bootlegging. When a newly formed Klan chapter would write to Atlanta for suggestions as to what to do first, the response was almost unvaryingly to "clean up the town," an injunction which usually came to rest it emphasis on the enforcement of the small-town version of the Ten Commandments.

This Klan crumbled in the late 1920s under the weight of internal political warfare and corruption; many of its field organizers later turned up in William Dudley Pelley’s overtly fascist Silver Shirts organization of the 1930s. After World War II, most of these groups – as well as the renowned anti-Semite radio preacher Father Charles Coughlin, and lingering American fascist groups like George Lincoln Rockwell’s American Nazi Party – were fully relegated to fringe status. So, too, were subsequent attempts at reviving right-wing populism, embodied by Willis Carto and his Populist Party, as well as other forms of right-wing populism that cropped up in the latter half of the century, from Robert DePugh’s vigilante/domestic terrorist organization The Minutemen in the 1960s, to the Posse Comitatus and “constitutionalist” tax protesters in the 1970s and ‘80s, to the “militia”/Patriot movement of the 1990s. As it had been since at least the 1920s, this brand of populism was riddled with conspiracist paranoia, xenophobic white tribalism, and a propensity for extreme violence.

Yet beginning in the 1990s, as mainstream conservatives built more and more ideological bridges with this sector – reflected in the increasing adoption of far-right rhetoric within the mainstream – the strands of populism became more and more imbedded in mainstream-conservative dogma, particularly the deep, visceral, and often irrational hatred of the federal government. One of the more popular "mainstream" figure among this bloc in the 1990s was Rep. Ron Paul of Texas. And so when he created something of a sensation with is campaign for the Republican nomination in 2008, it meant that these ideas and agendas started receiving widespread circulation among the mainstream Right -- and with it, an increasing number of conservatives who called themselves "libertarians", when what they really meant was "populists."

But if Ron Paul opened the door for right-wing populism, though, he scarcely could have anticipated the overnight political star who would, in short order, come waltzing through it to great fanfare – namely, Sarah Palin. Hers is a somewhat different, more mainstream-friendly brand of right-wing populism – and as a result, it was embraced by a significantly greater portion of the American electorate.

Palin has always been a populist figure, right from the start of her political career as a member of the Wasilla City Council and then the city’s mayor. Shortly after winning her first council term on a pro-tax liberal agenda, Palin flipped her political allegiances and formed an alliance with a group of anti-tax, right-wing populist local citizens who would form her initial political base. This included a long association with one of the local leaders of the secessionist Alaskan Independence Party, which was also a major conduit for militia/Patriot organizing in the state in the ‘90s. Palin channeled those associations during her first run for the governorship (she was the AIP’s unofficial candidate in the race, since it had no candidate of its own that year).

And her populism emerged for national view shortly after John McCain announced her as his running mate. It was more than just the aggressive, McCarthyite attacks on Obama as a “radical” who “palled around with terrorists” and the paranoid bashing of “liberal elites” -- most of all, there was the incessant suggestion that she and McCain represented “real Americans” and were all about standing up for “the people.”

Populism, yes, but indisputably right-wing, too: socially and fiscally conservative, business-friendly, and hostile to progressive causes. The Producerist narrative was a constant current in Palin’s speeches, particularly when she would get the crowd chanting, “Drill, baby, drill!” In her singular debate with Joe Biden, Palin continuously cast herself and McCain as essentially populist. Here are some typical outtakes of Palin’s responses in the debate:

So there hasn't been a whole lot that I've promised, except to do what is right for the American people, put government back on the side of the American people, stop the greed and corruption on Wall Street.

Indeed, Palin’s populism probably saved the Republican ticket from the ignominy of a national landslide, even though they did eventually lose, because the standard corporate-style Republicanism that McCain represented had become profoundly unpopular by the end of the Bush era. Moreover, after the election, Palin has remained unusually popular among American conservatives, while McCain has become an object of frequent excoriation, particularly by the Glenn Beck conservatives, who have begun labeling him a “progressive Republican.”

Now it is becoming increasingly clear that Sarah Palin is going to be running for president, and has a better-than-even chance of becoming the GOP nominee -- there is simply no one else in sight who can match her for sheer star power on the Right. And the Right loves its stars.

The wingnutosphere, and even much of the Establishment Right, seems content to embrace right-wing populism, because it's the only path they can see to returning to power.

But as we have seen through the long and sordid history of right-wing populism in this country -- and particularly the way it has always unleashed violent, extremist rage -- it may just be a deal with the devil.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Fearmonger-in-Chief Beck reveals 'The Plan': Frighten people into joining a movement of bedwetters

-- by Dave

Glenn Beck's obviously been drumming his fingers in contemplation after his semi-successful 9-12 March on Washington: What to do? What to do next?

Aha! He knows! He'll organize them into a sustained movement to "save America." He'll call it "The Plan."

Beck unveiled "The Plan" on Saturday at a rally in Florida that drew about 25,000 people, and The New York Times was there:
Glenn Beck, the popular and outspoken Fox News host, says he wants to go beyond broadcasting his opinions and start rallying his political base — formerly known as his audience — to take action.

To do so, Mr. Beck is styling himself as a political organizer. In an interview, he said he would promote voter registration drives and sponsor a series of seven conventions across the country featuring what he described as libertarian speakers.

On Saturday he held a festive campaign-style rally in The Villages in Florida, north of Orlando, in which he promoted his recently released book, “Arguing With Idiots,” and announced another book to come next August filled with right-leaning policy proposals gathered from the conventions.

Mr. Beck provided few details about his plans for the tour, making it unclear if he truly intends to prod his audience of millions into political action or merely burnish his media brand ahead of a book release.

Mr. Beck did say the conventions would resemble educational seminars, and he emphasized that while candidates may align themselves with the values and principles that he espouses, he would not take the next step to endorse them.

In describing the conventions, he told the crowd on Saturday: “You’re going to learn about finance. You’re going to learn about community organizing. You’re going to learn everything we need to know if you want to be a politician.”

How does Beck intend to inspire this movement? Well, if the video from Saturday's rally is any indication, it's going to be done the way Beck has done everything so far -- scaring the crap out of people, shouting fire in crowded theater, and herding them toward the exits on the far right. He is, after all, our Fearmonger in Chief.

And anyone who buys into his crap is just another right-wing bedwetter.

Some samples:

Beck: I told you over a year ago, please read about the Weimar Republic. Read about the end of the Republic of Germany, Weimar, before it fell into the hands of the Nazis. We are facing the same kind of financial questions that they faced! It was unsustainable! And for the first time in American history we started to monetize our debt! That's when I told you, please read about Weimar, because they did it! And it ends the same way every single time it has been tried.

[Actually, there's no comparison: Germany had just been defeated in a World War and was suffering the effects of hyperinflation in the 1920s, conditions that clearly do not apply here. More to the point, if you actually do study the end of the Weimar Republic, you can see that the final collapse of the Republic occurred precisely because it attempted a "conservative experiment" along the lines that Beck is prescribing: From 1930 to 1932, "In line with conservative economic theory that less public spending would spur economic growth, [Chancellor Heinrich] Brüning drastically cut state expenditures, including in the social sector." This, as it turned out, only heightened the social unrest that gave the Nazis their chance.]

Beck: So as I tell you these things, know that there is hope on the other side. But we are about to walk through a wall of fire! We are about to be baptized through fire.

It's because we weren't protecting liberty. But let me tell you -- let me tell you we have a choice ahead of us. I see -- I see America as the people on a boat. The boat is the Titanic. We've had a crew and a captain who took this ship and rammed her right upside the iceberg. She's been takin' in water for awhile, all the while the captains, the crews, they've been comin' and goin' and they say, 'Don't worry, don't worry, it's the Titanic, it's unsinkable.'

Then we elected a new captain and crew, and they took that thing and they backed it up, and now they are ramming it into the iceberg! Now they're taking this ship and they're taking it and they're -- with health care, and cap and trade, and stimulus -- they're doin' the same amount of damage that all the other crews did, just faster!

All the while they're telling all the passengers, you just go back into your stateroom, everything's just fine, you go ahead in the salon. There's some drinks up there for you, you go listen to the music, everything's fine.

Let me tell you something. Each and every one of us are here, and wide awake. Each and every one of us are a passenger on this ship, and it's our damned ship!

Actually, Glenn, a more appropriate analogy is that we're all on that sailboat in Dead Calm and you're acting like Billy Zane. But whatever.

Beck then describes "The Plan," which he says is analogical to "lifeboats" on the Titanic: He says he's assembling a team of "experts" to help him shape a movement that will produce GlennBeckian electoral victories in 2010. (Obviously, that NY-23 experiment didn't turn out so hot.) These experts are being hired to work on policy areas such as the economy, the environment, national security, etc.

Beck: And what I've done, is I've found two really smart people in each category, two really -- oh, they just have all kinds of experience. And then I have coupled them with one rebel -- one radical. I hear that's popular to be a radical now.

But these radicals are not the radicals wearing the Che T-shirts. These radicals are the ones wearing the Jefferson T-shirts!

Hmmmm. You mean a T-shirt like this one?

Beck goes on to rant about how the "progressive movement" set "a ticking time bomb" a hundred years ago and it's about to go off. The coup de grace comes when he describes "The Plan" in the most grandiose terms -- as a "100-year plan" for the nation.

Beck: We need to start thinking like the Chinese, by developing a one hundred year plan for America!

But then, that wouldn't be American, would it, Glenn?

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Dobbs lies to Telemundo about his phony leprosy story: 'I did not stand behind that reportage'

-- by Dave

Lou Dobbs was interviewed on the Spanish-language network Telemundo yesterday by Maria Celeste (h/t Andrea Nill), and she cut quickly to the point:

Celeste: You mention that this criticism and this perception, misperception of yourself, it's only in the extreme, ah, extreme left, and that might be the case in the Anglo market, but trust me, in the Hispanic world, you are viewed by many, by many people as the No. 1 enemy -- maybe because of the many inflammatory and misleading statements about undocumented immigrants that you've made throughout the years. And let me go with the first one.

The most outrageous one was blaming immigrants for a dramatic rise in leprosy cases in the United States, stating that in three years, the cases of leprosy had suddenly jumped to 7,000, and that this was largely due to the influx of undocumented immigrants. By the way, according to the United States Department of Health [and Human Services], 7,000 cases of leprosy were reported over thirty years, not three, which is a big difference.

But even after that, that was proven wrong, what you had said, you stood behind your reporting, insisting that it was accurate. Why was that?

Dobbs: No no. Let's be very clear. For one, I did not stand behind that reporting. In fact, we corrected that reporting.

And secondly, in fairness to me, if you will, I never said a word about leprosy and undocumented immigrants, as you put it. My correspondent on our broadcast ad-libbed it, and as you are very familiar with the process of an edited report, and at the end of that she referred to a source with whom she had been speaking, and she said at the end of that report -- ad-libbed it, that is, without script or preparation, but simply said it -- that there were thousands of people on the registry for leprosy in the United States and those had shot up dramatically over the course of three years.

Dobbs is just baldfacedly lying. He did indeed defend that reporting, he did not correct it at any time, and Romans' didn't simply say "those had shot up dramatically over the course of three years," she clearly indicated that they had skyrocketed from 900 to 7,000 cases -- a grotesquely false claim.

Let's roll the tape, first back to April 14, 2005, when Dobbs first trotted out the phony leprosy story.

First, the report -- by correspondent Christine Romans -- cited a far-right anti-immigrant extremist named Madeleine Cosman, and ran a video of her saying this:

DR. MADELINE COSMAN, MEDICAL LAWYER: We have some enormous problems with horrendous diseases that are being brought into America by illegal aliens. Some of these diseases we had already vanquished, such as tuberculosis. And other diseases we have only rarely had here in America, such as Chagas Disease, leprosy, malaria.

Then the Romans had an exchange with Dobbs:

ROMANS: Lou, anyone coming to this country legally or seeking asylum must undergo medical testing to detect and treat these sorts of diseases. But if we don't know who is coming over, we don't know the magnitude of the diseases they have, how they are being spread and where to.

DOBBS: Extraordinary is the only reaction I can offer. First, the health officials saying it's unrealistic to stop this at the border.

This is a refrain we hear from everyone who wants to -- even health officials concerned about public health. The fact that we're somehow helpless to defend this country, to secure our borders? What in the world is that about?

ROMANS: He says in his experience have you to go at the at-risk groups in their neighborhoods, in the populations here in this country and attack the problem from that way. Not stop it at the borders.

DOBBS: Well, certainly that makes great sense, as well. But to stop future cases it seems clear that one would have to secure our borders. Secondly, these other diseases, tuberculosis, leprosy, malaria?

ROMANS: It's interesting, because the woman in our piece told us that there were about 900 cases of leprosy for 40 years. There have been 7,000 in the past three years. Leprosy in this country.

DOBBS: Incredible. Christine Romans, thank you.

Dobbs was then confronted about it by CBS's Lesley Stahl in a 2007 interview:

STAHL: One of the issues he tackles relentlessly is illegal immigration, and on that, his critics say, his advocacy can get in the way of the facts.

DOBBS: Tuberculosis, leprosy, malaria.

STAHL: Following a report on illegals carrying diseases into the U.S., one of the correspondents on his show, Christine Romans, told Dobbs that there have been 7,000 cases of leprosy in the U.S. in the past three years.

ROMANS: Leprosy, in this country.

DOBBS: Incredible.

STAHL: We checked that and found a report issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, saying 7,000 is the number of leprosy cases over the last 30 years, not the past three, and nobody knows how many of those cases involve illegal immigrants.

[end video clip]

STAHL: Now, we went to try and check that number, 7,000. We can't. Just so you know --

DOBBS: Well, I can tell you this. If we reported it, it's a fact.

STAHL: You can't tell me that. You did report it --

DOBBS: Well, no, I just did.

STAHL: How can you guarantee that to me?

DOBBS: Because I'm the managing editor, and that's the way we do business. We don't make up numbers, Lesley. Do we?

A few days later, Dobbs invited back Romans to discuss the matter:

And there was a question about some of your comments, Christine. Following one of your reports, I told Leslie Stahl, we don't make up numbers, and I will tell everybody here again tonight, I stand 100 percent behind what you said.

ROMANS: That's right, Lou. We don't make up numbers here. This is what we reported.

We reported, "It's interesting, because the woman in our piece told us that there were about 900 cases of leprosy for 40 years. There have been 7,000 in the past three years. Leprosy in this country."

I was quoting Dr. Madeline Cosman, a respected medical lawyer and medical historian writing in the "Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons".

She said, "Hansen's disease" -- that's the other modern name, I guess, for leprosy -- "Hansen's disease was so rare in the America that in 40 years only 900 people were afflicted. Suddenly, in the past three years, America has more than 7,000 cases of leprosy" -- Lou.

DOBBS: It's remarkable that this -- whatever confusion, or confoundment over 7,000 cases, they actually keep a registry of cases of leprosy. And the fact that it rose was because -- one assumes -- because we don't know for sure -- but two basic influences -- unscreened illegal immigrants coming into this country primarily from South Asia, and secondly, far better reporting.

ROMANS: That's what Dr. Cosman told us -- Lou.

Notice: In all this time, both Dobbs and Romans continue to act as though Madeileine Cosman is a credible source. Nor do they correct the quite clear implication of their reportage that leprosy skyrocketed from 900 to 7,000 in three years.

A word about Cosman: She a certified far-right loon who pulls figures out of the thin air of her imagination:

Though she talked endlessly about disease, Cosman, who died in early 2006, was not a doctor. She was a wealthy lawyer who advised physicians on how to sell their medical practices; a former Renaissance Fair queen; a devotée of hard-line libertarian Ayn Rand; and a member of the far-right Jews for the Preservation of Firearms. She was also a contributor to the conspiracy-minded "News With Views" website, where she offered up fare like "Violent Sexual Predators Who Are Illegal Aliens" and "Bird Flu and Illegal Aliens," wherein she theorized that a Muslim terrorist could "create his own weapon of mass destruction" by smuggling an infected person across the border.

Cosman said she'd written more than a dozen books. Her most successful, she said, was Fabulous Feasts: Medieval Cookery and Ceremony, a 1976 volume that she claimed was "nominated" for both a Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award (these claims are repeated on the book's back cover). But Pulitzer officials say that there were no official "nominees" for the prize until 1980; before then, there were only "submissions" from writers or publishers. In the case of the National Book Award, prize publicist Camille McDuffie sent the Report complete lists of all past nominees and winners of the award; neither Cosman's name nor that of her book is anywhere on those lists. Immigrant-bashing, it appears, was not the only field in which Madeleine Cosman was prone to exaggeration.

Here's Cosman describing the sexual proclivities of male Mexican immigrants:

Recognize that most of these bastards molest girls under age 12, some as young as age 5, others age 3, although of course some specialize in boys, some specialize in nuns, some are exceedingly versatile, and rape little girls age 11, and women up to age 79. What is important here is the psychiatric defenses. Why do they do what they do? [Mockingly] They do not need a jail, they need a hospital. They are depraved because they were deprived in their home country. But more important is the cultural defense: they suffer from psychiatric cognitive disjuncture, for what does a poor man do if in his home country of Mexico, in his jurisdiction, if rape is ranked lower than cow-stealing? Of course he will not know how to behave here in strange America. This is thoroughly reprehensible.

Finally, contrary to his claim on Telemundo, Dobbs never ran any correction of this, particularly not the use of Cosman as a credible source, not just on the original broadcast but in his subsequent defenses of it -- even though he has taken to claiming he did so. What he cites when making this claim is a report he ran on May 16 from Bill Tucker. But here's the entirety of that report:

BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dr. Bill Levis is one of the most respected doctors in the world on the treatment of leprosy or Hansen's disease as it's now known and he says the disease is on the rise.

Levis is the attending physician at the Hanson's disease clinic at New York City's Bellevue hospital. It is one of 11 such federally- funded clinics in eight states and Puerto Rico. Leprosy peaked in the United States 1983 when 456 new cases were reported according to the Department of Health and Human Services which attributes the rise to a large increase in immigration from Southeast Asia.

The number of new cases bottomed out in 2000, but the number of leprosy cases has more than doubled in the years since. Respected medical authorities say there are reasons to suspect those numbers understate the number of leprosy cases.

DR. WILLIAM LEVIS, HANSEN'S DISEASE CLINIC: In the last 30, 40 years we've had 7,000 by registry figures that are maintained, but it's likely to be significantly more than that because not all states require, including New York State, are requiring reporting of the disease. So it's underreported. So that's a minimal figure.

TUCKER: Forty years ago there were fewer than 1,000 people on the registry in the United States. Not only does New York State not require that doctors report cases of leprosy, neither do the states of Georgia, Maine, Oregon, Washington, Vermont, North Dakota and West Virginia.

Complicating the underreporting, many doctors don't even recognize the disease when confronted with it. Of the cases Dr. Levis sees in New York ...

LEVIS: Many of those cases have seen 10 or a dozen or more physicians before they're properly diagnosed.

TUCKER: Disturbing but not surprising because leprosy shares many of the same characteristics as T.B. and it's such a rare disease, it is not even taught in most medical schools.

Why the increases have been occurring since 2000 is not yet fully understood, but 75 percent of the reported leprosy cases today are found in people who were born outside of the United States. Of the new cases reported in America in 2005, the most recent year for which statistics are available, the Department of Health and Human Services reports that the highest number of leprosy infections were found in people born in Brazil and Mexico.

California, Texas, Louisiana, Massachusetts and New York were the states with the highest reports of leprosy infections in 2005. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service requires that legal residents be screened for leprosy, but that screening is not effective if a person is not symptomatic. Of course, illegal immigrants are not screened at all.


TUCKER: Now, the good news is leprosy is a disease which is treatable and curable with modern multi-drug therapy, but of course, Lou, that requires that it be identified.

DOBBS: Absolutely. And as Dr. Levis points out. When people see as many as 10 or 12 physicians and go without diagnosis, correct diagnosis, that tells you how difficult the situation really is. Bill, thank you.

Now notice: While this is a reasonably accurate if tendentious report, there is no mention anywhere of Cosman, or the previously reported false information, or any suggestion at all that this was a correction of earlier falsehoods. This wasn't a correction at all.

And note that Dobbs, on this very show, then went on to argue with the SPLC's Mark Potok and Richard Cohen that "In point of fact ... we did not say there were new cases at any time." The segment with the SPLC was devoted, once again, to Dobbs adamantly denying that he had done anything wrong journalistically. He did the same thing a week later with Amy Goodman.

Well, at least Maria Celeste -- who doggedly kept pursuing Dobbs on the matter for another five minutes -- did finally get him to admit that the report was "a mistake":

I suspect that's the best anyone will ever be able to do.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Palin attacks Obama and Biden for their 'lack of experience' -- and can't tell us why she can do the job better

-- by Dave

Sarah Palin continues to delude herself -- or at least, is desperately hoping to continue deluding her fans, which isn't very hard to do -- that she, as the two-year governor of Alaska and former mayor of Wasilla, has more "executive" experience than either Barack Obama or Joe Biden. At least, that was what she tried telling Bill O'Reilly in the second part of her interview shown last night:

O'Reilly: You pointed out his [Obama's] lack of experience -- you don't have that much experience. You walked away from the governorship after, what, two years? Two and a half years?

Palin: Going into my lame-duck session -- my fourth legislative session -- and not wanting to put Alaskans through a lame-duck session --

O'Reilly: OK, but is it fair for you to criticize Obama's lack of experience when somebody could make the same criticism about you on the national stage.

Palin: If you're talking about executive experience, I would put my experience up against his any day of the week. I have been elected to local office since 1992, and was a city manager, strong-mayor form of government, was a chief executive of the state, and was an oil and gas regulator. There was some good experience there that could have been put to use in a vice presidential ticket. We've to remember too that I wasn't running for president.

O'Reilly: No, but that's the key question. Because John McCain is up there in years, you had to be qualified to take that office over.

Palin: Right. But I -- I'm saying I was running for vice president, just like Joe Biden had been running for vice president. I never once heard you or anybody else question Joe Biden and his experience.

O'Reilly: Well, he's got a lot of experience.

That's the whole absurdity of Palin claiming she has more "executive" experience, as though being mayor of a small town places her on the same level of experience as a United States Senator. The issue of experience isn't related to the organizational context, but rather the scale of it: Joe Biden has nearly a half-century of wrestling with national and international issues -- the kind a president has to deal with -- and has an established track record there.

When Palin was Wasilla's mayor (and before that a council member), the issues she was dealing with involved placement of a sewage-treatment plant and deciding whether someone's driveway needed paving. Oh,and let's not forget the vital issue of building a new gym with taxpayer dollars.

But the interview reached its real nadir when Palin tried to explain why voters would want to vote for her. It's possibly the most garbled, incoherent piece of anti-intellectual right-wing populist nonsense I've ever heard:

O'Reilly: Let me be bold and fresh again. Do you believe you are smart enough, and incisive enough, intellectual enough, to handle the most powerful job in the world?

Palin: I believe that I am because I have common sense, and I have, I believe, the values that are reflective of so many American values. And I believe that what Americans are seeking is not the elitism, the, um, the, ah -- kind of spineless -- a spinelessness that perhaps is made up for that with elite Ivy League education and -- fact resume that's based on anything but hard work and private-sector, free-enterprise principles. Americans could be seeking something like that in positive change in their leadership. I'm not saying that that has to be me.

No, it definitely doesn't have to be you, Sarah. Indeed, I think it's safe to say that this level of intellectual incoherence would be a real danger to the country.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.