Glenn Beck's audience already has done "something stupid"

Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

Is Fox News' prophet of doom truly concerned that one of his listeners or viewers might do "something stupid," as unnamed Glenn Beck "friends" recently told the New York Times? Does he fret that one of his followers will be inspired by the talkers' doomsday warnings of progressive peril and lash out at an innocent target? Is Beck, the self-described "progressive hunter," nervous that an act of vigilante violence will cast a cloud over his mini-media empire?

If so, Beck's too late because that bloody ship has already sailed.

The acts of stupidity have been many in the wake of the Tea Party movement's rise, fueled at times by its government-hating message of revenge and reconciliation, eagerly amplified by the likes of Beck. Indeed, the ghoulish stupidity began just weeks after Obama was inaugurated and just weeks after Beck made his Fox News debut (where he quickly gamed out bloody scenarios for a possible insurrection against the tyrannical federal government).

The shocking stupidity burst into daylight on the morning of April 4, 2009, when right-wing conspiratorial nut Richard Poplawksi, paranoid about Obama confiscating Americans' guns, set up a deadly ambush on his front porch and shot three Pittsburgh police officers. ("Rich, like myself, loved Glenn Beck," a friend later told author Will Bunch.)

And that violent stupidity continued through this summer when a dedicated Glenn Beck fan from southern California by the name of Byron Williams strapped on his body armor, loaded up his mother's pick-up truck with ammo and set off on the highway for San Francisco in hopes of killing liberals in order to ignite a political revolution.

Last summer I suggested that Williams was "likely inspired" by Beck's conspiratorial rants. Now, thanks to the reporting of John Hamilton, we know Beck and his conspiratorial chalkboard played a central role in the shooter's growing rage and what he saw as a elaborate, progressive scheme to undermine America. For the pliable Williams, Beck was "like a schoolteacher" who walked his students through a connect-the-dots history of an evil, progressive cabal that has seized ultimate power and now controls Obama.

It's the same George Soros-led cabal, according to Williams, that allegedly schemed to cause the BP oil spill; an act of sabotage that infuriated Williams and sparked him to take bloody action against liberal institutions, such as the previously little-known Tides Foundation, which Beck has denounced. For more than a year Beck portrayed the progressive San Francisco organization as a central player in a larger, nefarious web of Marxist/socialist/Nazi Obama-loving outlets determined to destroy democracy in America. Beck routinely smeared the low-profile entity for being staffed by "thugs" and "bullies" and involved in "the nasty of the nastiest," like indoctrinating schoolchildren and creating a "mass organization to seize power."

The sad truth is we're going to see more lone wolves like Byron Williams. We're going to see more attempts at vigilante violence during the Age of Obama simply because the right-wing media, led by Beck, continue to stoke dangerous fires with relentlessly incendiary rhetoric and irresponsible back-to-the-wall scenarios:

Beck repeats call for prayers, claims, "You can shoot me in the head ... but there will be 10 others that line up"

Beck: "There is a coup going on ... it has been done through the guise of an election"

Beck: "They are putting a gun to America's head: 'Pass this or we all die!' "

Beck: "[Y]ou have to be prepared to take rocks to the head. You have to be prepared to lose everything"

"There is a coup going on. There is a stealing of America"; "God help us in an emergency."

And check out Beck's cohort in hate, Rush Limbaugh

Limbaugh: "The streets are going to burn in this country if something doesn't happen"

Limbaugh: We now have "internal enemies" with "power in our own government"

Limbaugh: "Our country is being overthrown from within"

Sorry folks, that's not partisan debate. That's insurrectionism. That's a distress signal sent out to an audience full of self-styled patriots, some of whom are itching to right wrongs, real or imagined.

Just look at a sampling of this political season's police blotter:

  • Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) was the target of threatening faxes and phone calls, including death threats. Some of the faxes included "racial epithets used in reference to President Obama," according to CBS News.
  • Rep. Anthony Weiner's office in Kew Gardens, New York, had to be evacuated after suspicious white powder was found in an envelope mailed to the office.
  • A thrown brick smashed a window at Rep. Louise Slaughter's district office in Niagara Falls, New York.
  • A tossed brick demolished a window at the Sedgwick County Democratic Party headquarters in Wichita, Kansas.
  • "Vandals also smashed the front door and a window at Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' office in Tucson early Monday, hours after the Arizona Democrat voted for the health care reform package," reported the Kansas City Star.

But it's the ones who reach for guns that pose the deadliest threat. And that's what is so frightening about the realization that Beck's deadly rhetoric comes at a time when right-wing, government-hating fanatics are stockpiling their weapons and plotting their next move:

A six-month TIME investigation reveals that recruiting, planning, training and explicit calls for a shooting war are on the rise, as are criminal investigations by the FBI and state authorities. Readier for bloodshed than at any time since at least the confrontations in the 1990s in Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and Waco, Texas, the radical right has raised the threat level against the President and other government targets.

Reporter Barton Gillman added that, "Obama's ascendancy unhinged the radical right, offering a unified target to competing camps of racial, nativist and religious animus."

Question: Who helped speed up the unhinging process? Glenn Beck of course, who has been relentlessly pounding the racial/nativist/religious animus axis for 21 months now.

And by the way, according to Gellman's reporting, James Von Brunn, the government-hating white supremacist who opened fire inside the Holocaust Museum last June, killing a security guard, also had plans to assassinate Obama senior advisor David Axelrod.

But recall that in 2009, when the Department of Homeland Security accurately warned law enforcement about the possible increase in domestic, right-wing terrorist activity, and specifically raised the specter of "lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks" (like the one staged by Von Brunn), the GOP Noise Machine, including Beck, went bonkersclaiming the government was trying to stifle political debate and was singling out conservatives for their views.

So not only has Beck been feeding the radical right a steady diet of violent, insurrectionist rhetoric, but he's lashed out at law enforcement for trying to monitor the crazies who might actually heed Beck's senseless calls and take up arms against the government.

Sadly, between Beck and a handful of his violent, deranged audience members, there's already been plenty of "stupid" to go around.

Glenn Beck
Byron Williams
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