Friday, May 28, 2010

Glenn Beck somehow finds a new low

Media Matters: Under pressure, Glenn Beck somehow finds a new low

If you wondered how long it would take Glenn Beck to make his simulation of President Obama pouring gasoline on a person look comparatively tame, the answer is about 13 months.

Welcome to the meltdown. It isn't pretty.

Apparently feeling pressure from an investigation by Rep. Anthony Weiner into his promotion of Goldline and ongoing scrutiny from Media Matters and others, Beck uncorked an impressively paranoid conspiracy theory this week. According to Beck, the SEIU, AFL-CIO, Van Jones, Jim Wallis, the White House, Rep. Weiner and Media Matters are engaged in "Alinskyite" plots that seek to "destroy" him, his family, Fox News, Christianity, and the Founding Fathers.

Though all facets of this conspiracy theory are equally absurd, it's worth noting that Beck's call to "leave the families alone" rings especially hollow when viewed in light of the fact that earlier in the same radio show he suggested that Sasha and Malia Obama think "Jews are destroying the world" because they were exposed to Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Later in the week, he mocked 11-year-old Malia for several minutes on his radio show by impersonating her voice and saying things like "Daddy, why do you hate black people?" He proceeded to attack "the level" of Obama's daughters' "education." Despicable -- and entirely in character. While Beck subsequently apologized for his comments mocking Malia Obama, he has yet to address the balance of his attacks against the first family.

Earlier this week, while lauding his supposed Nostradamus-like ability to predict future atrocities, Beck suggested that his detractors merely rely on labeling him crazy, rather than factually debunking his paranoid ranting. Trying to "factually" debunk ideas like a widespread progressive effort to destroy Beck's family and the Founding Fathers is akin to trying to debunk the conspiracy theory that the world is actually controlled by shape-shifting lizard people: It is self-refuting ridiculousness.

And while the idea that nobody can refute Beck on factual issues is a good line for his viewers, it simply isn't true. Here are several examples just from this week.

Yet, Beck's factual inaccuracies pale in comparison to his recent use of violent rhetoric. Starting with his speeches at Liberty University and the National Rifle Association two weeks ago, Beck's fearmongering about impending violence from progressives has reached a fever pitch.

During a tear-soaked, unhinged commencement speech at Liberty, Beck told graduates that they "have a responsibility" to speak out, or "blood ... will be on our hands." His advice for graduates (as well as his daughter) included "shoot to kill." He also claimed that God installed an "alarm bell" in people that is telling them that "your rights are being taken." If you were wondering which rights these might be, he cleared up any confusion later that night during his speech at the NRA, when Beck agreed with Mao Zedong that "power comes from the barrel of a gun," and then asked the audience, "Why do you think they want to take yours away?"

Since then -- keep in mind we're just talking about the last two weeks here -- Beck:

informed listeners that "what's coming is horrific. I don't even want to speak it out loud."
continued his bizarre obsession with administration official Cass Sunstein, who Beck suggested has "frightening similarities" to Joseph Goebbels and who "controls everything" and "will control your every move."
talked about how the "world is on edge" and told his viewers that "those who survive" will "stand in the truth" and "listen."
discussed the ongoing controversy over Arizona's immigration law, telling his listeners that "we are being pushed" toward civil war and that Obama is "trying to destroy the country."
told his listeners that "you have to be prepared to take rocks to the head. You have to be prepared to lose everything."
responded to criticism from Media Matters and said, "You will have to shoot me in the head. We are not stopping."
and attacked Jewish Funds for Justice's Simon Greer for putting "the common good" first, which Beck claimed "leads to death camps," adding, "a Jew, of all people, should know this."
While he previously relied on vague hints about what progressives were going to do to people by running "documentaries" supposedly linking Hilter, Stalin, and Mao to progressivism, Beck has now discarded the relative subtlety. On Thursday, Beck continued his recent fearmongering about the "soft revolution" that is supposedly taking place in America (purportedly designed to silence voices like Beck's), and claimed that if the administration "can't get everyone to silence, that's when the arrests come, or that's when they start a hard revolution. That's when they start just shooting people."

Taken as a whole, Beck's recent actions are outrageous and potentially dangerous. Beck claims that he is a Vatican-approved, "wildly important" warrior fighting on behalf of good against forces of "great darkness." He also spends a lot of his time boasting about his purported ability to predict -- with unerring accuracy -- everything that is happening right now. He then transitions into predicting the coming death camps, imprisonments, shootings, and "rivers of blood" as a result of progressive policies.

What, exactly, is Beck trying to do here? Is this the kind of guy the GOP wants to elevate as the heir-apparent to Rush Limbaugh as the leader of the party?

Bored conservatives break out the impeachment card

Frankly, I'm surprised it took conservative media figures almost a year and a half to manufacture a reason to start clapping excitedly about impeaching President Obama.

Unsurprisingly, it's a bunch of overblown nonsense.

Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) said that the Obama administration offered him a job in order to convince him to avoid a primary fight with Arlen Specter for a Senate seat in Pennsylvania. This is far from an unprecedented political gesture. For example, in 1981, the Reagan administration reportedly offered former California Sen. S.I. Hayawaka a job in the administration in exchange for not seeking re-election.

In the words of George Edwards, professor of political science and the Jordan Chair in presidential studies at Texas A&M University, the Sestak offer is "old news historically."

Indeed, numerous legal experts have disputed the idea that the Sestak offer would constitute a crime, including former Bush Attorney General Michael Mukasey.

Most media conservatives ignored all of this and went into a full-on feeding frenzy, turning to discredited sources in order to push the falsehood that this constituted "bribery." They declared the scandal "Obama's Watergate," and Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Dick Morris, and Sean Hannity all contemplated Obama's impeachment.

Who could have guessed that Beck, Limbaugh, Morris, and Hannity all thought Ronald Reagan should have been impeached?

Following the administration's response to the scandal today, Bush ethics chief Richard Painter said that there is "[n]o scandal. Time to move on."

Considering that conservative media outlets thrive on trumped-up, hypocritical nonsense like this, the fact that this is "no scandal" will hardly encourage them to "move on."

It's OK if you're a Republican: Memorial Day edition

On Monday, the Associated Press reported that President Obama would be attending a Memorial Day service in Chicago while Vice President Biden would lay the wreath at Arlington National Cemetery to honor our fallen troops. Hearing the words "Obama" and "troops" in close proximity, conservatives leaped into action.

Beck claimed that he is "sick and tired of people believing the lie" that Obama "has respect for the soldiers." Erick Erickson labeled Obama's actions "offensive." Fox & Friends spent an entire segment discussing how this was "breaking tradition," with on-screen graphics featuring the text "Trampling On Tradition?", "Offensive To Soldiers?" and "Memorial Day Miss-Out?"

A few big problems with this attack: First and foremost, Beck's asinine claim that Obama "decided not to honor the troops" is completely false. Obama will be speaking at a Memorial Day service at an Illinois cemetery that is dedicated as a national cemetery within the Department of Veterans Affairs's National Cemetery Administration.

Also, despite conservatives' suggestion that Obama's decision is somehow unprecedented, it isn't. Presidents George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan each missed the wreath laying at Arlington at least once during their presidencies and either marked the occasion elsewhere or sent a proxy in their place.

Conservatives like Erickson were undeterred in the face of these inconvenient facts. In a classic moment of circular logic, Erickson explained on Twitter that even though previous Republican presidents had not gone to Arlington on Memorial Day, Obama's decision was different because "no one questioned their support for soldiers and belief in American Exceptionalism." So, Obama hates the military because conservatives like Erickson smear Obama as anti-military. Right.

Hard to argue with logic like that.

This weekly wrap-up was compiled by Media Matters' Ben Dimiero.