After Politico reported that Chris Coons, the Democratic candidate for Senate running against Christine O'Donnell in Delaware, had written an opinion piece for his college newspaper titled "Chris Coons: The Making of a Bearded Marxist," right-wing media figures jumped on the story to attack Coons. What they failed to mention was that the title was a play off what Coons called a joke that his friends* made; the right wing gleefully and ludicrously declared that Coons had called himself a Marxist.
The article behind the controversy is an opinion piece that Coons wrote over 20 years ago, which Politico first covered in May this year. In the May 23, 1985, article for his college newspaper, The Amherst Student, Coons wrote (PDF):
I spent the spring of my junior year in Africa on the St. Lawrence Kenya Study Program. Going to Kenya was one of the few real decisions I have made; my friends, family, and professors all advised against it, but I went anyway. My friends now joke that something about Kenya, maybe the strange diet, or the tropical sun, changed my personality; Africa to them seems a catalytic converter that takes in clean-shaven, clear-thinking Americans and sends back bearded Marxists.
The point that others ignore is that I was ready to change. Experiences at Amherst my first two years made me skeptical and uncomfortable with Republicanism, enough so that I wanted to see the Third World for myself to get some perspective on my beliefs.
When I returned last summer, I traveled all over the East Coast and saw in many ways a different America. Upon arriving at Amherst this fall, I felt like a freshman at an unfamiliar school all over again. Many of the questions raised by my experiences of the last year remain unanswered. I have spent my senior year reexamining my ideas and have returned to loving America, but in the way of one who has realized its faults and failures and still believes in its promise. The greatest value of Amherst for me, then, has been the role it played in allowing me to question, and to think. I had to see the slums of Nairobi before the slums of New York meant anything at all, but without the experiences of Amherst, I never would have seen either.
Coons never called himself a Marxist, and Politico never claimed that he did; the title is a play off of what Coons said was a joke by his friends.*
From the September 16 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Glenn Beck Program:
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I have to wonder what runs through the minds of the writers Glenn Beck hired for TheBlaze.com, Beck's latest ridiculous exercise in self-promotion. Do they actually believe that they're practicing some form of journalism and not being used to inflate the coffers and ego of their increasingly self-obsessed boss? Are they in on the scam and willing accomplices to Beck's self-serving manipulation of the media? Safe money's on the latter, but one still has to consider all options.
Take, for instance, this filing from Jonathon M. Seidl, TheBlaze.com's assistant editor, on a British Muslim's call to burn American flags in response to Pastor Terry Jones' Koran-burning publicity stunt [emphasis added]:
MUSLIM ACTIVIST CALLS FOR "BURN THE STARS AND STRIPES DAY"
Posted on September 9, 2010 at 7:33am by Jonathon M. Seidl
A Muslim activist and lawyer in the U.K. is calling on Muslims worldwide to burn U.S. flags outside American embassies on Sept. 11. The activist, according to CBS news, is considered a radical, and says his "international burn the Stars and Stripes Day" is in "direct retaliation" against pastor Terry Jones and his Florida church's plan to burn the Koran on the same day.
The man calling for the mass burning is Anjem Choudary, former leader of the banned hardline Islamic group Islam4UK. According to CBS, Choudary regularly organizes demonstrations in Britain calling for the implementation of Islamic law.
The report also says that the State Department has issued a warning to all embassies to prepare for possible backlash should the Koran burning take place as planned on Saturday.
General David Petraeus, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, and others have spoken out against the planned Koran burning. Petraeus has said that it will endanger U.S. troops abroad, while Glenn Beck has said that "burning the Koran is like burning the flag or the Bible."
Now, it's possible that Seidl just happened to think that Glenn Beck's opinion on the matter was as noteworthy as those of the Secretary of State and the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, and the fact that he writes for a publication founded by Glenn Beck is just a happy coincidence. On the other hand, common sense and the fact that Glenn Beck-centric stories have thus far been the hallmark of The Blaze make it very difficult to believe such naïveté could actually exist.
Either way, it's shameful and sad.
Media conservatives, led by Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, are comparing a Florida church's plans to burn Qurans on the anniversary of the 9-11 attacks to plans to build an Islamic community center in Manhattan.
Yesterday, Glenn Beck's new website The Blaze posted two videos from Beck's 8/28 rally of "black conservatives taking a real stand in the face of adversity" -- the adversity being heated discussions with purported "liberals." The URL describes the post as "black-conservatives-stand-for-truth," further suggesting that The Blaze approves of the people in the videos.
But one of the clips features a "black conservative" accusing another black man in the crowd of being an "Uncle Tom" and "a sambo," presumably for supporting Democrats, and tells another person in the crowd that they're "going to hell." A Fairfax County, Virginia, blogger appears to be the source of the video, which has also been posted on Andrew Breitbart's website.
Beck's radio show aired a portion of the video yesterday, but omitted the man's inflammatory statements. The clip only included the rantings of the "liberal," who says, "Christianity is a white man's religion." Beck suggested that they would air the video later on his Fox News show. But they didn't.
Aside from the incendiary statements made in the video posted approvingly by The Blaze, this man appears to be an all-around crazy person. His name is Michael/Maurice Symonette, but has also reportedly gone by "Michael the Black Man," "Maurice Woodside," and "Mikael Israel." On his YouTube page, he is identified as "Michaelwarns." He has several websites, including MichaelWarns.com and MichaelDefeatsSatan.com, Gods2.com, and MichaelsVictory.com, all of which promote his book, "written primarily to show the BLACK MAN, and the WORLD the true source of their problem, 33% of the BLACK WOMEN of AMERICA (BABYLON)." The cover of the book declares that Oprah Winfrey is "the devil" and "Obama is the beast 666, given power by the dragon (serpent), Oprah."
Glenn Beck has made a big deal about how his new website, The Blaze, will be staffed by real "journalists" who will "stand in the middle" and tell the truth without taking sides. But as others have noted, The Blaze seems to be short on actual journalists and long on right-wing political operatives.
One of them is Pam Key, the activist behind the Breitbart-promoted operation Naked Emperor News (as it so happens, The Blaze is edited by former Breitbart operative Scott Baker). Key's videos are well known for attacking the Obama administration while omitting necessary context:
With this kind of history, it's no surprise that Key's first video for The Blaze is similarly misleading. Headlined "Key Obama Ally Works with Socialists for Global Tax," it features the AFL-CIO's Richard Trumka discussing a proposed global transaction tax intercut repeatedly with a clip of Obama talking about spending his birthday with "good friends" like Trumka. Key thus implies that Obama and his administration support the transaction tax.
But they don't.
To supplement his burgeoning self-promotion empire, Glenn Beck has launched TheBlaze.com, a "news, information and opinion site" that, despite its stated goal to "post, report and analyze stories of interest on a wide range of topics" appears to have a disproportionate number of stories covering -- you guessed it -- Glenn Beck, as Gawker has noted.
As of 10 PM tonight, the range of topics on The Blaze remained woefully narrow, with four out of the fifteen main stories on the homepage containing Beck's name in the headline and another four touting Beck's August 28 "Restoring Honor" rally, itself another exercise in self-aggrandizement.
This doesn't exactly jibe with what Beck reportedly told Mediaite: that he hopes visitors to The Blaze will find "original reporting, insightful opinions and engaging videos about the stories that matter most." Unless Glenn Beck thinks Glenn Beck is what matters most.