Bill Kristol and other media conservatives have recently denounced Glenn Beck for using “hysteria” and “apocalyptic conspiracy terms” in his commentary about the uprising in Egypt. This is the latest case in which Beck's violent rhetoric and conspiratorial fearmongering have triggered criticism from Republicans and right-wing media figures.
Republicans And Media Conservatives Criticized Beck For “Hysteria” Over Uprising In Egypt
Kristol: Beck Is “Marginalizing Himself” Through His “Hysteria.” In his February 14, 2011, column for the upcoming edition of The Weekly Standard, Fox News contributor Bill Kristol wrote of Beck's reaction to the Egyptian protests:
Now, people are more than entitled to their own opinions of how best to accomplish that democratic end. And it's a sign of health that a political and intellectual movement does not respond to a complicated set of developments with one voice.
But hysteria is not a sign of health. When Glenn Beck rants about the caliphate taking over the Middle East from Morocco to the Philippines, and lists (invents?) the connections between caliphate-promoters and the American left, he brings to mind no one so much as Robert Welch and the John Birch Society. He's marginalizing himself, just as his predecessors did back in the early 1960s. [The Weekly Standard, 2/14/11]
Lowry: Kristol's Criticism Of Beck's “Wild Theorizing” Is “Well-Deserved.” In a February 5, 2011, post to National Review Online's The Corner blog, Rich Lowry wrote:
Bill Kristol has an editorial on conservatives and Egypt. He takes a well-deserved shot at Glenn Beck's latest wild theorizing:
...hysteria is not a sign of health. When Glenn Beck rants about the caliphate taking over the Middle East from Morocco to the Philippines, and lists (invents?) the connections between caliphate-promoters and the American left, he brings to mind no one so much as Robert Welch and the John Birch Society. He's marginalizing himself, just as his predecessors did back in the early 1960s. [NRO's The Corner, 2/05/11]
Fund: Beck's Use Of “Apocalyptic Conspiracy Terms” In Egypt Commentary “Goes Too Far.” During the February 6, 2011, edition of CNN's Reliable Sources, Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund said of Beck's Egypt commentary:
Look, Glenn Beck is a commentator, and I think that part of his analysis is accurate. Look, we have to remember that the Iranian regime when it collapsed was going to be a democracy, then it was hijacked by Islamic extremists and we're still dealing with them 30 years later and their nuclear weapons. And obviously Europe has a lot more to worry about - you know, by 2030, 9* percent of Europe is going to be Muslim. But to carry that and take it into apocalyptic conspiracy terms about America becoming Islamic state that goes too far, and I think if Glenn Beck had to do it over again, he might rethink that. [CNN, Reliable Sources, 2/06/11]
Report: “Prominent Republicans Have Approached” Murdoch And Ailes About Beck's “Potential Embarrassment.” In a February 5, 2011, post to Time magazine's Swampland blog, Joe Klein wrote:
Today, (hat tip/Ben Smith), we have Bill Kristol sticking with the demonstrators and calling out free-range lunatic Glenn Beck, for his hilarious commie-muslim caliphate delusions. This is not unimportant. Kristol lies very close to the throbbing heart of the Fox News sensibility. And I've heard, from more than a couple of conservative sources, that prominent Republicans have approached Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes about the potential embarrassment that the paranoid-messianic rodeo clown may bring upon their brand. The speculation is that Beck is on thin ice. His ratings are dropping, too--which, in the end, is a good part of what this is all about. But I wouldn't be surprised if we saw a mirror-Olbermann situation soon. [Time's Swampland, 2/05/11]
Conservative Media Denounced Beck's False Attacks On Soros And His Focus On Jewish Figures
Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg: Beck Engages In “Anti-Semitic Dog-Whistling.” In a January 18, 2011, post to The Atlantic, national correspondent Jeffrey Goldberg wrote:
It's become clear to me that the Fox commentator Glenn Beck has something of a Jewish problem. Actually, he has something of a modernity problem, and people with modernity problems tend to have problems with Jews, who more or less invented modernity (Einstein, Marx, Freud, Franz Boas, etc.)
This is not, by the way, a post about Beck's singular obsession with George Soros (read Michelle Goldberg -- not a relative, except in an all-Jews-are-conspiring-against-Glenn-Beck sort of way -- on this subject). This is a post about Beck's recent naming of nine people -- eight of them Jews -- as enemies of America and humanity. He calls these people prime contributors to the -- wait for it -- “era of the big lie.” The eight Jews are Sigmund Freud; Edward Bernays, the founder of public relations, and a nephew of Freud's (which Beck discloses as if this had previously been a secret); Soros, of course; Cass Sunstein, now of the White House; the former labor leader Andy Stern; Walter Lippman, who is no longer here to defend himself; Frances Fox Piven, who Beck believes is “sowing the seeds” of revolution; and, of all people, Edward Rendell.
It is fair to ask if Beck knows that these people are Jewish (It is not widely-known that Rendell is Jewish, I think). But Beck is a smart person, and has researchers at hand with access to Wikipedia. Further, most of these people on Beck's “big lie” list are already the targets of straightforward attacks in the dark, anti-Semitic corners of the Web, so an extended Google search, in some cases, would show that much of the opposition to some of these people is motivated by anti-Semitism. That said, Beck has not crossed a certain line, by identifying his targets openly as Jewish. Nevertheless, this, to me, is a classic case of anti-Semitic dog-whistling. Beck is speaking to a certain constituency, and the thought has now crossed my mind that this constituency understands the clear implications of what Beck is saying. [The Atlantic, 1/18/11]
Editor-In-Chief Of Libertarian Reason Magazine: “Beck's Ridiculous Misreading of George Soros ... Sets Back The Cause Of Human Understanding.” In a November 12, 2010, post on Reason's blog Hit & Run, headlined “Glenn Beck's Ridiculous Misreading of George Soros Might Not Be As Inappropriate As Busting a 14-Year-Old's Balls for How He Behaved During the Holocaust, But It Still Sets Back the Cause of Human Understanding,” Editor-in-Chief Matt Welch condemned Beck's false attacks on Soros:
First and foremostly, having lived in Soros' home town of Budapest for three years, plus another five in Prague and Bratislava (and an abortive, short-term attempt to “move” to Cuba), I have become convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt about this one thing: As a native son of the free world you can and damn well should cheer a person who acted bravely in the face of a pervasive and murderous totalitarian state, but with the exception of the monsters who willfully abused power there, you had better err massively on the side of reticence before casting negative judgment on the compromises that captive citizens made under a pressure we literally cannot fathom. This goes doubly for pubescent kids, and off the freakin' charts when it comes to a 14-year-old Jew in Jew-butchering Hungary in 1944 trying to stay alive. I would think that this would be a common-sense thing, but I am constantly surprised by how quickly people are willing to toss decency and basic rationality out the window when discussing a hate figure from the other team.
So Beck isn't blaming or questioning the 14-year-old, he just thinks that the 14-year-old's actions were worthy of regret, and quite possibly the source of later behaviors--including some directed at Israel--that are wrong-headed and dangerous. Glad we cleared that up!
Beck's critics are describing his characterizations of Soros' wartime activities as factually incorrect; scanning through these links I'm inclined to agree. But even if the descriptions were 100 percent accurate and proportional, I would find the passage above appalling on a basic human level. There is a palpable whiff of suggestion that 14-year-old George Soros not only enjoyed “helping send the Jews to the death camps” (another Beck formulation from this week), but that he still lights up with mirth at the thought of the idea six decades later, perhaps explaining why he hates Israel to this day. It is a hint and a nudge that the hunted teenage Jew might have been and maybe still is an anti-Semite. Not only are we passing over the only real emotional response appropriate for a 14-year-old Holocaust survivor--bottomless, uncomprehending sympathy for the traumas he and so many other children went through--we are passing negative judgment on his actions under fire, and using it as a Rosetta Stone to explain his darkly nefarious afterlife.
Soros is a fascinating, deeply flawed, and (IMO) quite wrongheaded major actor on the world stage. He is also not hard to get a basic read on, since he writes books constantly and is forever talking about his own thought processes, life histories, and conclusions. You want to learn about this important figure? Go read a book. But not by Glenn Beck. [Reason's Hit & Run, 11/12/10]
Neoconservative Commentary Magazine's Tobin Decried Beck's Attacks On Soros As “Off-Limits” And “Offensive.” On November 12, 2010, Commentary's Jonathan S. Tobin wrote:
On the broadcast, [Beck] spoke of Soros's activities during the Nazi occupation of Hungary in 1944 and described him as participating in the rounding up of Jews. “Here's a Jewish boy sending Jews to the death camps,” said Beck. While Beck added that Soros's age and the circumstances should be taken into account and said that even he didn't know what he would do had he been there, the clear implication was that Soros was a collaborator who should feel remorse.
But whatever actually happened, as even Beck stated, Soros was just “surviving” an impossible situation, and it is simply inadmissible for anyone to speak in a judgmental fashion about his conduct or to demand “remorse.” Beck is no position to pontificate about the conduct of Holocaust survivors and should refrain from even commenting about this subject. In fact, Soros has himself discussed his experiences openly, and most of what we know about this comes directly from him. Throwing these events in his face is, as Anti-Defamation League National Director Abe Foxman stated, “completely inappropriate, offensive and over the top.” Such topics really must be off-limits, even in the take-no-prisoners world of contemporary punditry.
Similarly, when Beck played a recording of Soros speaking of his efforts to undermine various governments, his listeners had to assume that it was part of some leftist conspiracy that he was funding. Beck left out the fact that what Soros was talking about was his Cold War-era funding of movements that sought to support anti-Communist dissidents in countries like Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, and the Soviet Union. In other words, while Soros's current politics is abhorrent, he was one of the good guys when it came to the fight against Soviet Communism.
Political commentary that reduces every person and every thing to pure black and white may be entertaining, but it is often misleading. There is much to criticize about George Soros's career, and his current political activities are troubling. But Beck's denunciation of him is marred by ignorance and offensive innuendo. Instead of providing sharp insight into a shady character, all Beck has done is further muddy the waters and undermine his own credibility as a commentator. [Commentary, 11/12/10]
Media Conservatives Condemned Beck's Accusations That President Obama Is A “Racist”
Scarborough On Beck: “You Cannot Preach Hatred. You Cannot Say The President's A Racist.” From the September 22, 2009, edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:
SCARBOROUGH: You cannot say that the president of the United States, Mike Barnicle, hates all white people. You cannot call the president of the United States a racist. You cannot wallow in conspiracy theories as he did for about a month, suggesting that FEMA might be setting up concentration camps and going on Fox & Friends and saying, “I can't disprove it,” and then wait a month. You can't stir up that type of hatred -- calling the president a racist.
SCARBOROUGH: And then say, “I'm just a rodeo clown.” Can I -- can I -- I've got an honor roll. We're gonna have a conservatives honor roll on this show.
BARNICLE: All right.
SCARBOROUGH: And trust me, you want to be on this honor roll. I know how these stories end. I always know how they end -- and I'm talking to you Mitt Romney, and I'm talking to anybody who wants to be president in 2012. You need to call out this type of hatred, because it always blows up in your face.
But yesterday, Pete Wehner, Karl Rove's political guy inside the White House -- brilliant guy, writes for Commentary. And we disagree on a lot, Pete and I do, but Pete came out yesterday and said Glenn Beck is bad for the conservative movement. We need more people doing that. You cannot preach hatred. You cannot say the president's a racist. You cannot stir up things that could have very deadly consequences. I was in Congress in 1995. I know where this can end. You can't do it, and then say, “I'm a rodeo clown.” [MSNBC, Morning Joe, 9/22/09]
Former Bush Speechwriter Wehner: “The Role Glenn Beck Is Playing Is Harmful In Its Totality.” In a post for Commentary magazine's Contentions blog, Peter Wehner stated, “Only recently have I watched portions of [Beck's] television program, as well as interviews with him, and heard parts of his radio program. And what I've seen should worry the conservative movement.” He later added, “Some of Beck's statements -- for example, that President Obama has a 'deep-seated hatred for white people' -- are quite unfair and not good for the country.” Wehner also stated, “And certainly some of the things Beck has done on his program are fine and appropriate. But the role Glenn Beck is playing is harmful in its totality.” [Commentary, Contentions, 9/21/09]
Parker: Beck Is “Empower[ing] Racists.” On the NBC-syndicated Chris Matthews Show, after host Chris Matthews played clips of Beck calling Obama a racist and Rush Limbaugh claiming that “in Obama's America, the white kids now get beat up with the black kids cheering,” Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker stated: “What Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh did in those two clips is to empower racists and to legitimize them. And so that's -- that's the shame and horror of what they're doing.” [NBC, The Chris Matthews Show, 9/20/09]
Brooks: Beck Is “Race-Baiting.” Also on The Chris Matthews Show, conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks said, “What Rush and Glenn Beck are doing, that's just race-baiting -- 100 percent, that's race-baiting.” [NBC, The Chris Matthews Show, 9/20/09]
Politico's Roger Simon: Beck's Claim That Obama Is “Racist” Is “Repulsive.” During the August 17, 2009, edition of Lou Dobbs' radio show, Politico's chief political columnist said:
I still gotta say, it's repulsive when national figures in the media say that Obama acts like Adolf Hitler, that he rules the same way Adolf Hitler does. It's just wrong. And when you say that President Obama has a deep hatred of white people -
It was Glenn Beck. He said, deep hatred of white people and the white culture. First of all, the phrase 'the white culture' I think is jarring to some people. [United Stations Radio Networks, Lou Dobbs Show, 8/17/09]
The View's Hasselbeck: There Is “Danger In What [Beck] Said,” And He Is Not “Able To Back It Up.” On ABC's The View, co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck said of Beck's “racist” comment: “There's danger in what he said, too. That was a bit sensationalist to go and say something like this. And I think whenever you throw that word out at somebody, you better be able to back it up. And he's not able to.” [ABC, The View, 7/30/09]
Republicans And Media Conservatives Have Decried Beck's Violent Rhetoric, Conspiracies
Scarborough Slammed Beck's “Violent Rhetoric” In Wake Of Tucson Shooting. In a January 18, 2011, Politico column, Joe Scarborough wrote:
We get it, Sarah Palin. You're not morally culpable for the tragic shooting in Tucson, Ariz. All of us around the “Morning Joe” table agree, even if we were stunned that you would whine about yourself on Facebook as a shattered family prepared to bury their 9-year-old girl.
The same goes for you, Glenn Beck. You've attacked your political opponents with words designed to inspire hatred and mind-bending conspiracy theories from fans. Calling the president a racist, Marxist and fascist may be reprehensible, but it did not lead a mentally disturbed man to take a Glock to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords's “Congress on Your Corner” event.
Good on ya, buddy. You weren't personally responsible for the slaughter at the Safeway. Maybe you can put it on a poster at the next “Talkers” convention.
But before you and the pack of right-wing polemicists who make big bucks spewing rage on a daily basis congratulate yourselves for not being responsible for Jared Lee Loughner's rampage, I recommend taking a deep breath. Just because the dots between violent rhetoric and violent actions don't connect in this case doesn't mean you can afford to ignore the possibility -- or, as many fear, the inevitability -- that someone else will soon draw the line between them.
Actually, someone already has. When you get a minute, Google “Byron Williams” and “Tides Foundation” to see just how thin a layer of ice Beck skates on every day. [Politico, 1/18/11]
Former Bush Speechwriter Frum: Beck Creates “Alternative Reality” Allowing Conservatives To “Dupe Themselves” Using “Pretend Information.” In a November 12, 2010, New York Times op-ed, David Frum wrote:
Too often, conservatives dupe themselves. They wrap themselves in closed information systems based upon pretend information. In this closed information system, banks can collapse without injuring the rest of the economy, tax cuts always pay for themselves and Congressional earmarks cause the federal budget deficit. Even the market collapse has not shaken some conservatives out of their closed information system. It enfolded them more closely within it. This is how to understand the Glenn Beck phenomenon. Every day, Beck offers alternative knowledge -- an alternative history of the United States and the world, an alternative system of economics, an alternative reality. As corporate profits soar, the closed information system insists that the free-enterprise system is under assault. As prices slump, we are warned of imminent hyperinflation. As black Americans are crushed under Depression-level unemployment, the administration's policies are condemned by some conservatives as an outburst of Kenyan racial revenge against the white overlord. [The New York Times, 11/12/10]
Senator Gregg: Beck Is A “Screamer” Who Has “No Interest In The Facts.” In a September 14, 2010, article on Politico, Ben Smith reported that then-Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) chastised Beck as one of the primary “screamers” who he claimed unfairly “demonized” the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP):
Rammed through Congress in the final months of the Bush administration by a political and financial establishment that felt it had looked into the abyss, TARP had the support of not just President Barack Obama but also his likely foes in 2012, such as former Govs. Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin. But it has been only sporadically defended, or even explained, by leaders of both parties who have shown decidedly little courage of their convictions.
“It's become demonized on the left and the right by screamers -- Glenn Beck and Rachel Maddow -- who have no interest in the facts; they're just interested in hyperbolizing and generating attention,” lamented New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg, a key player in guiding the measure through the upper chamber and one of the few Republicans willing to talk about TARP in positive terms. [Politico, 9/14/10]
Former Bush Press Secretary Fleischer: “I Find Glenn Beck To Be A Little Weird And A Little Creepy.” In an August 28, 2010, post to his Facebook account, Ari Fleischer wrote:
I find Glenn Beck to be a little weird and a little creepy, but he's entitled to give a speech on the Mall. How come the press didn't go nuts when Louis Farrakhan and other out-there groups used the Mall to promote their thinking? It's called press bias and it's a double standard. [Facebook, 8/28/10]
NewsBusters' Whitlock Criticized Beck For “Play[ing] The Nazi Card.” In an August 27, 2010, post to conservative media criticism blog NewsBusters, Scott Whitlock criticized Beck for “play[ing] the Nazi card” when condemning Good Morning America's segment on Beck's 8-28 rally, saying “it is over-the-top”:
Good Morning America's Claire Shipman on Friday launched a pre-emptive one-sided attack on Glenn Beck's August 28 rally in Washington D.C., including selectively editing clips from the conservative host. The ABC journalist featured a snippet of Beck asserting, “Blacks don't own Martin Luther King.” [MP3 audio here.]
On his radio show, Friday, Beck complained about the “hatchet job.” Shipman clearly distorted the context. He actually said, “Whites don't own Abraham Lincoln. Blacks don't own Martin Luther King. Those are American icons, American ideas and we should just talk about character.” (H/T to The Right Scoop and Noel Sheppard.)
Playing the segment on the radio, Beck hyperbolically declared, “That's what Goebbels did. The truth didn't matter.” Now, while ABC should be criticized for the dishonest editing job, it is over-the-top to play the Nazi card. [NewsBusters, 8/27/10]
Weekly Standard's Continetti: “For Beck, Conspiracy Theories Are Not Aberrations. They Are Central To His Worldview.” In a June 28, 2010, article in The Weekly Standard, Matthew Continetti wrote:
“Socialism and fascism,” the author writes in Glenn Beck's Common Sense, “have been on the rise for two administrations now.” Beck's book Arguing with Idiots contains a list of the “Top Ten Bastards of All Time,” on which Pol Pot (No. 10), Adolf Hitler (No. 6), and Pontius Pilate (No. 4) all rank lower than FDR (No. 3) and Woodrow Wilson (No. 1). In Glenn Beck's Common Sense Beck writes, “With a few notable exceptions, our political leaders have become nothing more than parasites who feed off our sweat and blood.”
This is nonsense. Whatever you think of Theodore Roosevelt, he was not Lenin. Woodrow Wilson was not Stalin. The philosophical foundations of progressivism may be wrong. The policies that progressivism generates may be counterproductive. Its view of the Constitution may betray the Founders'. Nevertheless, progressivism is a distinctly American tradition that partly came into being as a way to prevent ideologies like communism and fascism from taking root in the United States. And not even the stupidest American liberal shares the morality of the totalitarian monsters whom Beck analogizes to American politics so flippantly.
Read and watch enough Glenn Beck, and you realize that he is not only introducing new authors and ideas into public life, he is reintroducing old ideas. Some very old ideas. The notion that America's leaders are indistinguishable from America's enemies has a long and sorry history. In the 1950s it led Robert Welch, the head of the John Birch Society, to proclaim that President Dwight Eisenhower was a Communist sympathizer. For this, William F. Buckley Jr. famously denounced Welch and severed the Birchers' ties to mainstream conservatism. The group was ostracized for decades.
But not everyone denounced Welch. One author, the Mormon autodidact W. Cleon Skousen, continued to support the Birchers as he penned books on politics and the American founding. And Skousen continued to believe, despite all evidence to the contrary, that American political, social, and economic elites were working with the Communists to foist a world government on the United States.
Glenn Beck is a Skousenite. During the “We Surround Them” program, he urged his audience to read Skousen's 5000 Year Leap (1981), for which he has written a foreword, and The Real George Washington (1991). "The 5000 Year Leap is essential to understanding why our Founders built this Republic the way they did," the author writes in Glenn Beck's Common Sense. More controversially, Beck has recommended Skousen's Naked Communist (1958) and Naked Capitalist (1970), which lay out the writer's paranoid scenarios in detail. The latter book, for example, draws on Carroll Quigley's Tragedy and Hope (1966), which argues that the history of the 20th century is the product of secret societies in conflict. “Carroll Quigley laid open the plan in Tragedy and Hope,” says a character in Beck's new novel, The Overton Window. “The only hope to avoid the tragedy of war was to bind together the economies of the world to foster global stability and peace.”
For Beck, conspiracy theories are not aberrations. They are central to his worldview. They are the natural consequence of assuming that the world hangs by a thread, and that everyone is out to get you. [The Weekly Standard, 6/28/10]
Little Green Footballs' Johnson: Beck's "Show By Itself Should Have Been Enough To Thoroughly Discredit Beck To Any Sane Person." Conservative blogger Charles Johnson wrote on his blog, Little Green Footballs, “TIME Magazine's David Von Drehle asks: Is Glenn Beck Bad for America? I don't know why anyone would think a far right populist demagogue who rants and weeps in front of millions of people and spreads conspiracy theories straight out of the canon of the John Birch Society would be a bad thing.” He continued: “The following show by itself should have been enough to thoroughly discredit Beck to any sane person. But the right wing didn't even blink at it.” [Little Green Footballs, 9/17/09]
Frum: Beck Is Doing “Terrible Damage” With “Paranoid And Hysterical” Smears. In a September 11, 2009, blog post titled “GOP Surrenders to Beck's Mob Rule,” Frum stated: “When Glenn Beck made his Fox debut, some shrewd conservatives responded with a wink. Maybe the show was paranoid and hysterical. Maybe Beck was none too scrupulous about facts and truth. But why be squeamish? The other side did as bad, or nearly. And see how usefully he mobilized the base! Those shrewd conservatives assumed Beck was working for them. Big mistake. Beck is working for himself -- and he chooses his targets according to his own scheme of priorities.” In the blog post, Frum discussed Beck's smears against Obama administration official Cass Sunstein and stated: “Glenn Beck is not the first to make a pleasant living for himself by reckless defamation. We have seen his kind before in American journalism and American politics, and the good news is that their careers never last long. But the bad news is that while their careers do last, such people do terrible damage.” [FrumForum, 9/11/09]
Former GOP Congressman Inglis: Beck Is “Trading On Fear,” Viewers Should Turn Off His Show. At an August 6, 2009, town hall event, then-Republican Representative Bob Inglis (SC) said to attendees who watch Glenn Beck, according to a spokesman's comments to Politico's Ben Smith, “What I would suggest is turn that television off when he comes on.” Rep. Inglis also accused Beck of “trading on fear.” [Politico, 8/07/09]
*NOTE: This transcript has been edited for accuracy.