Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

October 11, 2010

'LIKE A SCHOOLTEACHER ON TV'.... As promised, Media Matters has published its "Progressive Hunter" piece, featuring an extensive interview with Byron Williams, the right-wing extremist who, over the summer, loaded up his mother's truck with firearms, put on body armor, and headed to San Francisco with the intention of starting a violent rampage. He didn't reach his destination -- Williams initiated a shootout with police in Oakland after being pulled over for driving erratically -- but his goal was to "start a revolution" with bloodshed at the ACLU and the Tides Foundation.

Williams, we now know, was inspired in large part by Fox News' Glenn Beck, who even helped influence his targets for violence. The Media Matters report notes not only Williams' chilling story, but the larger context.

Fifteen years after militia-movement-inspired bombers killed 168 people in the Oklahoma City federal building, right-wing domestic terror plots are a fact of life in America. Since 2008, violent extremists -- many of whom subscribe to the hate speech and conspiratorial fantasies of the conservative media -- have murdered churchgoers in Knoxville, police officers in Pittsburgh, and an abortion provider in Wichita. [...]

In a 2009 report, the Southern Poverty Law Center found that the anti-government militia movement -- which had risen to prominence during the Clinton administration and faded away during the Bush years -- has returned. According to the SPLC, the anti-government resurgence has been buttressed by paranoid rhetoric from public officials like Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and media figures like Fox News' Glenn Beck.

Just last month, Gregory Giusti pleaded guilty to repeatedly threatening House Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- including threatening to destroy her California home -- because he was "upset with her passing the health care law." His mother told a local news station that he "frequently gets in with a group of people that have really radical ideas," adding, "I'd say Fox News or all of those that are really radical, and he -- that's where he comes from."

Williams, in particular, seems to have based much of his twisted worldview on Beck's programs, David Horowitz propaganda, and the work of Internet conspiracist and repeated Fox News guest Alex Jones, all of whom helped inspire Williams' notion of a "revolution."

Williams concedes that Beck doesn't instruct his followers to commit violence, but the host will "give you every ounce of evidence that you could possibly need."

He added that Beck is "like a schoolteacher on TV."

As Dana Milbank noted yesterday, Williams' comments "show precisely why Beck is dangerous: because his is the one voice in the mass media that validates conspiracy theories held by the unstable." He's not calling for violence, but Beck is "giving voice and legitimacy to the violent fringe."

I continue to strongly believe criminals are ultimately responsible for their crimes, but Beck is whipping up a confused and easily-misled mob into a rage, lying to them with deranged theories, and pointing them in a direction. That's legal and his speech is protected by the First Amendment. But the sooner Beck, his network, his sponsors, and the media conglomerate that signs his checks show some restraint, and take some responsibility for dousing a simmering flame with lighter fluid, the safer we'll be.

Steve Benen 11:30 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (14)

Bookmark and Share
 
Comments

Listen, Charlie Manson didn't kill the LaBianca and Tate parties, his followers did. Didn't make him or them any less culpable.

Posted by: gex on October 11, 2010 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

["...Beck is whipping up a confused and easily-misled mob into a rage, lying to them with deranged theories, and pointing them in a direction. That's legal and his speech is protected by the First Amendment."]

I wonder. Where is the line between 'protected free speech' and 'inciting to riot'? And if you lie about a person or organization the way Beck does, where is the line between 'protected free speech' and 'slander' or 'defamation of character'?

How far can a loonie like Beck take it before he crosses the line to actual illegal activity? I'm not trying to ask leading questions, I honestly want to know. I'm no lawyer, but Beck's excesses (and the excesses of other right-wing extremists) have me really worried.

Posted by: Shade Tail on October 11, 2010 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

Beck likes to work through toadies to extract the violence from his followers. His hands are clean, he's just an "enterntainer" and just asking questions. Yet, there is blood on his hands.

Posted by: Darsan54 on October 11, 2010 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

For a historical view of Beck, see Sean Wilentz's valuable piece in the New Yorker.

Posted by: davidp on October 11, 2010 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

Beck constantly warns his listeners that violence is coming. Liberals are building weapons of mass destruction and it's only a matter of time before they use them. I'm sure plenty of right-wingers have concluded from this that it's better to fight liberals over there (their dirty Unitarian churches and non-profit orgs) than fight them here (in real America).

Posted by: hells littlest angel on October 11, 2010 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

What surprises me at this point is that we haven't seen more violence. The rhetoric coming from the right pretty much promises a second American Revolution is coming and coming soon. They've defined anyone who does agree with their world view as fundementally evil and beyond redemption. And they're not leaving any room to walk that rhetoric back.

I've believed from the night Obama was elected that the next major act of terrorism on US soil would come from someone claiming to be Christian not someone claiming to be Muslim (neither group really knows a thing about their claimed faith).

Posted by: thorin-1 on October 11, 2010 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

"But the sooner Beck, his network, his sponsors, and the media conglomerate that signs his checks show some restraint, and take some responsibility for dousing a simmering flame with lighter fluid, the safer we'll be."
like that's really gonna happen.

Posted by: mellowjohn on October 11, 2010 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

If I remember correctly, this business about Glen Beck was reported right after Williams was arrested. Of course it doesn't hurt to hear it again.

Posted by: mikeyes on October 11, 2010 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

It appalls me that in the USA today our constitutional right to free speech is used by the right-wing to protect hate-crimes, propaganda and character assassination.

Posted by: PTate in MN on October 11, 2010 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

It is interesting to see the right wing protect treasonous fascist propaganda (which is unconstitutional), whilst preemptively arresting people who wanted to peacefully assemble to protest against the policies of the Bush administration. Beck has no constitutional right to incite violence and treason with false information. We must protect people from propaganda and lies under the guise of news--or there is no relevance to constitutional protections. Fox equals exploitation. They cynically manipulate good aims into a twisted and perverse anarchy.

Posted by: Sparko on October 11, 2010 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

Well, we saw in Kosovo, West Africa and elsewhere where media (radio) personalities targeted people and groups and neighborhoods, which thugs and militia then attacked.

There is a slight difference with Beck, I guess. He targets people and groups which the thugs and nutjobs then attack. So....

Actually, I'm not sure what the difference is!

Posted by: AlphaLiberal on October 11, 2010 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

Speaking of dousing a flame with lighter fluid, I remember a skit on Beck's show about a year ago where he pretended to pour gasoline on his assistant. It was suppose to represent Obama's actions against the average citizen. The great irony is he said America wanted some common sense.

For more see http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/200904090036

Posted by: Objective Dem on October 11, 2010 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

Hear, hear!

Well said Steve.

Just FYI: Glenn Beck's sponsors continue to drop him. For recent examples, see: http://stopbeck.com/category/sponsors

Posted by: StopBeck on October 11, 2010 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

When you get down to it, Beck is no different than Charles Manson.

Posted by: cwolf on October 11, 2010 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM



buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly