Sunday, October 17, 2010

Your Rubber Room Is Ready, Mr. Beck...

From The Christian Science Monitor: "Did Glenn Beck's rhetoric inspire violence?" Gee, I dunno -- does a bear shit in the goddamned woods?

Fox News commentator Glenn Beck, who’s honed being provocative – even outrageous at times – to a fine and lucrative art, is the focus of criticism for inciting violence.

Specifically, his dozens of comments attacking the Tides Foundation are being linked to the attempt by a heavily-armed man to assassinate employees at the San Francisco-based foundation, which funds environmental, human rights, and other progressive projects. The attack in July was thwarted in a shoot-out with police in which two officers were wounded.

Since then, alleged attacker Byron Williams has said in jailhouse interviews that he wanted to “start a revolution.” He says Beck was not the direct cause of his turning violent. But he does say: “I would have never started watching Fox News if it wasn't for the fact that Beck was on there. And it was the things that he did, it was the things he exposed that blew my mind.”

At various times, Beck has referred to Tides as “bullies” and “thugs” whose mission is to “warp your children's brains and make sure they know how evil capitalism is.” More recently, Beck (who describes himself as a “progressive hunter”) has warned the foundation “I’m coming for you.”

This has drawn criticism from various quarters.

'People are turning to guns'

Referring directly to Beck, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence issued a statement this week: “Too many people are turning to guns to remedy their grievances. And they are being fueled by rhetoric from leaders of the extreme gun rights movement.”

Some law enforcement officials agree.

"The Becks of the world are people who are venting their opinions and it is inflammatory, it generates a lot of emotion and generates in some people overreaction that apparently happened in the California case," Rich Roberts of the International Union of Police Associations, which represents some 500 local police unions, told the progressive media watchdog Media Matters for America. "Inflammatory speech has a tendency to trigger those kinds of emotions"...

It has an even greater tendency to make people turn violent in uncertain economic periods like the one we're going through now. And of all the right-wing noise machinists playing with people's insecurities, fears, and resentments, Glenn Beck is easily the worst offender. His incendiary talk and imagery were repellant enough when he was working for CNN. But once Beck went over to FOX News, he escalated it all to appalling levels -- and now we have one guy in jail saying Beck's ideas helped influence his decision to do what he tried to do.

Yet Beck still has a high-profile platform at FOX. I can't decide whether that's because people over there from Roger Ailes on down believe that Byron Williams was just another lone nut, or if the whole purpose of giving Glenn Beck so much leeway is to cause as many viewers to resort to violence against left-leaning people and institutions as possible. Whatever the case, Beck ought to be stripped of his show -- he, like all Americans, has a right to free speech, but what no American has is the right to shout "Fire!" in a crowded theater, and he has basically been doing that on show after show after show for far too long. It's irresponsible, it's obscene, and it's indefensible.

It's also insane, given the size of the audience he can reach. I've watched Beck do his conspiracy theory act with that blackboard prop of his a few times, folks. It reminds me of a couple scenes from the movie A Beautiful Mind, starring Russell Crowe as John Nash, the brilliant but mentally unstable real-life mathematician. Far as I'm concerned, Glenn Beck is John Nash without the brilliance -- or, for that matter, a sense of human decency. And if the powers that be at FOX News won't reel him in, well, that shows you where their minds are at, doesn't it?

Has Beck always been this nuts? Or is he just some dime-a-dozen huckster who heard opportunity knocking while pandering to the feverish far-right, and has been doing that for so long, he's developed the same fever?

Maybe I'm asking too many unnecessary questions. Everyone knows what a bear does in the woods...

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