It’s troubling that according to Nielsen Media Research, Fox News commentator Glenn Beck has the highest rated cable news show in the 25 to 54-year-old age range.
Beck continuously proves to be an ideologue bent on distortion, conspiracy and fear. His spectacular claims – however real or imaginary – portray a nation in crisis and increase the possibility of violence from neoconservatives.
Beck seems to have a penchant for conjuring up discontent among his viewers, especially now that conservatives are in the political wilderness.
Back in the early ’90s, during Bill Clinton’s presidency, reactionary extremism played out through the Oklahoma City bombing as well as the Waco, Texas disaster with the Branch Davidians. These events followed 12 years of Republican rule, as discontented right-wing militias emerged and reacted to perceived threats.
Conservative extremism may already be resurfacing. In April, Richard Poplawski shot and killed three police officers in Pittsburgh. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, he was convinced that the nation was run by a secret group of individuals who were trying to eradicate freedom of speech, confiscate his guns and use the returning military to enslave the population. This is an example of the disillusionment and anxiety felt by some as the political spectrum moves to the left.
On Aug. 31, during Beck’s morning radio show, he compared the 2008 U.S. elections to the Communist Cuban revolution and claimed, “Most of America doesn’t have a clue as to what’s going on. There is a coup going on. There is a stealing of America, and the way it is done, it has been through the – the guise of an election, but they lied to us the entire time.”
This type of rhetoric exemplifies Beck’s willingness to incite angry conservatives, who certainly don’t need more encouragement. A large number of his claims seem to have no base in reality. On Friday’s show, Beck insinuated that the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) was involved in the destruction of the New Orleans levees during Hurricane Katrina.
While talking to a caller, Beck said, “What are the odds that ACORN SEIU (Service Employees International Union) are involved in the corruption locally … If you were an organization or a city that was just riddled with corruption and you knew it, and everybody knew it, and there was all kinds of funny things going on and a hurricane blew through, wouldn’t it be convenient if all of your records were destroyed?” After a gasp, the caller responded, “It’s just the perfect setup.”
Despite the lunacy of his programs, Beck has experienced recent success in his attack on the “Green Jobs Czar,” Anthony Van Jones. For weeks, Beck has been hammering the fact that Van Jones was a member of Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement (STORM).
STORM is a group that sympathized with Maoist-inspire peasant movements throughout the world and organized to protest police brutality, according to the Huffington Post.
Van Jones wrote The Green Collar Economy, a New York Times bestselling book, and was eventually named as the special adviser for green jobs at the Council on Environmental Quality by President Barack Obama. Van Jones resigned during the controversy created by Beck, an indication of the political influence he maintains.
Color of Change, the self-proclaimed, “largest African American online political organization in the country,” is one group reacting to Beck’s far-right statements.
Last month, during an appearance on Fox and Friends morning show, Beck claimed that Obama was a “racist” who “has a deep-seated hatred for white people,” clearly crossing the line again.
Color of Change organized a movement to get sponsors of Beck’s show to pull their ads. In a press release last week, the group announced a total of 62 sponsors who ceased placing ads during Beck’s programming, including Campbell’s Soup, GEICO, Kraft, Radio Shack, Walmart and UPS, among others. The organization has also accumulated over 180,000 signatures on a petition urging companies to cut off their advertising on Beck’s show.
The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 states, “The promotion of violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism and ideologically-based violence exists in the United States and poses a threat to homeland security.”
The Act created a congressional commission, which became the Center for Excellence for the Prevention of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism, under the Department of Homeland security.
This Act shows that many congressional leaders understand the dangers of ideological violence on U.S. soil, as it passed the House of Representatives 405 to 6.
While organized Islamic extremists may still pose a threat, the newest brand of terrorism may come from home.
There are many who believe every word coming out of Beck’s mouth. The anger, mistrust and distortions continue to grow, as does the threat posed on American security. Our freedom of speech may now come at a great cost, but exactly how much remains to be seen.
Justin Rivera is a senior majoring in history.