"I yam an anti-Christ..."
John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) of The Sex Pistols, "Anarchy in the UK"
"And if I may speak to Glenn directly for a moment, dude, you are rocking it. I know some people say you're an unstable individual and to give you a public forum is grossly irresponsible, but remember: they crucified Jesus. Crank up the crazy and rip off the knob."
Stephen Colbert on Mr. Beck
Okay, we admit it, The Konformist isn't the biggest fan of Barack Obama. Still, even if you hate a guy, it should be on what he actually is and not on what he isn't.
Over the last few months, criticism of Obama in the mainstream press has been dominated by two groups of people: the "teabaggers" (seriously, stop snickering!) led by noted "men of the people" such as multi-millionaires Rick Santelli of CNBC and Sean Hannity of Fox News, who protest O's supposed far left economic policies; and the "birthers" led by the entertaining Orly Taitz, who insist that Obama can't even be president due to his alleged secret birth in Kenya (or perhaps some even more exotic and sinister locale, such as Russia or - God forbid - France.) The end result of these two movements is the image of Barack Hussein Obama as an evil socialist totalitarian who is secretly plotting to destroy America for his foreign masters. (Never mind that Obama actually occupies the far right of the Democratic Party economically, and that if he's destroying America for any foreign master, it's the banking system.) Suddenly, the charges of Larry Sinclair seem tame that Obama is merely a closeted crack-smoking homosexual.
True, maybe The Konformist has little leg to stand on in mocking others for engaging in elaborate paranoid conspiracy theories. Still, one recent news hysteria perfectly exemplifies how most of the right-wing paranoia surrounding BHO is not only silly, but seems to be a designed misdirection of a mass movement. Consider what happened in April after the Department of Homeland Security’s report, titled Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment, was leaked onto the Internet, detailing the DHS contention that right-wing politics was a breeding ground for not-so-future terrorism. Immediately, a frenzy of reactionary frothings exploded over the web and right-wing radio about the report. Leading the charge was host Michael "Weiner" Savage, yet another right-wing establishment media blowhard who is a millionaire faux populist. The report, Savage and others insisted, was proof that the Obama administration was a crypto-Marxist cabal plotting to destroy America. So The Konformist must give credit to Kurt Nimmo of Alex Jones' excellent PrisonPlanet.com website, which has been a leading source for top notch political analysis in the age of Obama. Because of the supposed conservative leanings of Mr. Jones (though a review of his site would show his opinions are far more nuanced and certainly more honest than the mainstream media's right wing shills) Prison Planet became one of the sites the DHS report was leaked to. Unlike most other sites that followed with delusional rants, Nimmo noted something about the report that should have been immediately obvious: it was written in January 2007, when the Bush Administration was in charge. Likewise, another DHS report released earlier this year was titled Leftwing Extremists Likely to Increase Use of Cyber Attacks over the Coming Decade. This pretty much proves that the Rightwing Extremism report wasn't an Obama Kult assault on the right but rather part of an attack embraced by both George and Barack on anyone deemed a political misfit of any stripe.
Of course, perhaps it says something about the current political climate that Alex Jones and The Konformist can now be described as moderate voices of reason. (We don't mean this as a knock on Jones, but even his biggest fans would concede central to his appeal is a sensational style that resembles a carnival barker.) Chalk it up to a political dialogue dominated by the likes of Rush, O'Reilly, Hannity, Coulter and Savage. Still, in recent months even these mouthpieces have been overtaken by radio and TV host Glenn Beck, The Konformist Beast of the Month.
Mr. Beck has been host of his own nationally syndicated radio show since 2000. His astounding success over the radio has led to a TV career as a host, first on CNN Headline News since 2006 and then moving to Fox News in January. (His success on TV is all the more remarkable considering he is a decidedly physically repulsive specimen.) He has also written two New York Times bestsellers, making him a multi-media sensation who rivals Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern.
How has Mr. Beck become so popular? Simple: by behaving in a decidedly unhinged manner over the airwaves, all while espousing a reactionary political philosophy.
This was highlighted in March, when he choked up on air, wiping tears from his eyes and declaring, "I'm sorry. I just love my country, and I fear for it." For this one, Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert (who has had a field day over the entire Glenn Beck trend) spoofed him by choking up on his own show and saying, "I'm sorry. I just love Glenn Beck's sanity. And I fear for it." Colbert also earned some chuckles after Beck had a close-up of his "crazy eyes" so viewers could see just how serious he was. Colbert one-upped this by having an anal exam with a camera so viewers could literally see just how full of crap he was.
On a more serious note, FAIR columnist Norman Solomon had this to say about Glenn: "Beck has become a national phenom with his nightly hour of polemics... urging war on Iran, denouncing 'political correctness' at home, trashing immigrants who don’t speak English, mocking environmentalists as repressive zealots, and generally trying to denigrate progressive outlooks." Eric Boehlert of MediaMatters.org notes that on his show, Beck "disparages liberals, gays, Democrats, blacks, immigrants, and Muslims at will."
That's not all he's tried to disparage. In 2005, he called the victims of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans "scumbags." He then added: "I didn't think I could hate victims faster than the 9-11 victims." He said both after admitting that nobody "in their right mind is going to say this out loud," proving that Beck himself knows he's insane. Not to leave bad enough alone, in 2007, he mocked victims of the Southern California forest fires as "a handful of people who hate America... a lot of them are losing their homes." It got even funnier the end of June, when Beck had on his show "former" CIA agent Michael Scheuer. Scheuer declared, "The only chance we have as a country right now is for Osama bin Laden to deploy and detonate a major weapon in the United States... Only Osama can execute an attack which will force Americans to demand that their government protect them effectively, consistently and with as much violence as necessary.” To this adovocacy of mass terrorism, Beck nodded in approval.
Pretty hilarious stuff.
Hilarious, at least, until someone dies. That's what happened in April, when 22-year-old Richard Poplawski killed three Pittsburgh policemen and wounded two others in a bloody shootout. It soon was uncovered that Poplawski, a neo-Nazi, was a huge fan of Beck and his right-wing rantings on Fox News. He was also a fan of the white supremacist Website Stormfront, posting videos of Beck's show on the site. Poplawski was obsessed with right-wing conspiracies, believing that Obama was going to start confiscating guns and rounding up right-wingers in FEMA concentration camps, all part of a New World Order plot to turn Team USA into a Maoist dictatorship.
To be fair, much of this thinking is central to the appeal of Alex Jones, who Poplawski also was a fan of. What Jones did not share, however, was his racist world view, including a belief that America was secretly controlled by a gang of evil Jews. While Beck also eschews the anti-Semitic plots (perhaps because Jews are fortunately not a socially sanctioned scapegoat group anymore) he does, as noted before, engage in trashing of minorities in the same vein as Limbaugh does. Perhaps it isn't overt, in-your-face racism, but it is there.
Certainly it is too much to blame the Pittsburgh murders on Glenn Beck. After all, many "liberal" sites tried to smear Alex Jones with the same brush after it was discovered Poplawski was a fan. But it is hard not to listen to the venomous rage spewed out by Beck (as well as Rush, O'Reilly, Hannity, Coulter and Savage) and imagine what it could do to borderline personalities. Somehow The Konformist suspects the Poplawski murders are the first shot of what may turn into a very disturbing fad.
Which, of course, is only part of what is dangerous about Beck. The bigger issue is that he, along with his fellow right-wing blowhards, are channeling the legitimate anger and frustration of the masses into options controlled by the GOP. Thus, the protests of Ron Paul that once frightened the Republican establishment (tellingly, Paul was even more marginalized on Fox News than CNN in 2008) has morphed into the teabagger movement, which is backed by mainstream GOP politicians such as Newt Gingrich and Dick Armey. The controlled teabagger movement focuses all its rage on the Obama stimulus plan that marginally aided the poor and middle class, while remaining silent about the obscene bailout of Wall Street (which Ron Paul vociferously opposed.) Likewise, Beck will embrace the conspiracy theories of Alex Jones, provided they can be packaged in a way where viewers can use them to support the Republicans. And perhaps even more important, Beck and his cohorts will ignore any criticism of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and wherever else the Pentagon decides to attack in the future, even though an anti-war message is central to both Jones and Paul.
Of course, whenever Beck gets cornered by his own reactionary beliefs, he tries to dismiss himself as a rodeo clown, a harmless buffoon who is more of an entertainer than a political ideologue. On this issue, The Konformist must concede that as pure theater, Beck is indeed very entertaining. But looking at what the Poplawski murders might lead to, and looking how Beck is manipulating the anger of the masses into faux-populist movements, we have to wonder who will get the last laugh.
In any case, we salute Glenn Beck as Beast of the Month. Congratulations, and keep up the great work, Glenn!!!
Thanks to ColbertNation.com, Fair.org, MediaMatters.org, PrisonPlanet.com & RawStory.com for help on this article.