Glenn Beck's Year of Wild Conspiracies, Paranoid Delusions and Cynical Lies
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Having used his radio and Fox News shows to cultivate a legion of followers, Beck now seems poised to push the movement forward, promising a new " multi-level" plan for his 9-12 project that involves more conventions, meetings with conservative "minds," and a rally at the Lincoln Memorial. Becks' laudable goal: nothing less than to " save our country." And it seems the GOP and the tea partiers have finally answered Beck's call.
Beck's wild conspiracy charts
Regular viewers of the Glenn Beck show this year were treated to a litany of charts and graphs, purportedly laying out a myriad of suspicious connections among things with names like ACORN, SEIU, the Tides Foundation, and two brothers named Rathke. Oh, and occasionally fictional characters. These charts were frequently depicted as trees, and often represented by encircled words with lines showing how each circle is connected. Occasionally they involved defacing the U.S. flag.
Beck's conspiracy theories made room for Sotomayor and the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, the National Endowment for the Arts, White House adviser Valerie Jarrett, Che Guevara, Mumia Abu-Jamal, OnStar, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and " almost everything."
When Beck famously spelled "OLIGARH" to illustrate the type of political system the grandest of conspiracies was constructing, he simply claimed a day later that his misspelling proved "you can't spell 'oligarch' without the czars." When he used a game of Connect 4 to illustrate one of his many conspiracy theories, he accidentally won before he could use the game piece representing Obama, but pressed on anyway, only able to make his grand point after cheating at a child's game in which he was playing against himself.
In Beck's conspiratorial world, union officials make decisions on whether to send additional troops to Afghanistan, community organizers are deliberately undermining the financial system, ACORN is designing "government-run health care," and the whole cast of conspirators is establishing a " maximum wage" to redistribute wealth and fixing elections in New York and Minnesota. Oh, and New Orleans' response to Hurricane Katrina was an effort to hide ACORN corruption.
The irony, of course, is that for each of the illusory connections Beck draws between his political enemies, there exists an actual connection between Beck and some of the more controversial actors in the world of right-wing activism.
He's not saying there are FEMA concentration camps ...
One of the methods to Beck's madness is the attempted debunking -- a clever little trick whereby Beck professes his desire to prove false a wild conspiracy theory, but finds himself unable to, thereby lending it credibility without actually endorsing its veracity. A fine illustration of this technique can be found in Beck's efforts to "debunk" rumors of the Obama administration's FEMA concentration camps. On March 4, Beck appeared on Fox & Friends and declared, "We are a country that is headed towards socialism, totalitarianism beyond your wildest imagination." He subsequently stated that he "wanted to debunk" the theory that FEMA was building camps, but added: "I can't debunk them." His non-debunking continued:
BECK: It is -- it is our government. If you trust our government, it's fine. If you have any kind of fear that we might be headed towards a totalitarian state, look out, buckle up. There is something going on in our country that is -- ain't good.
On his Fox News program later that day, Beck claimed, "I don't believe in the FEMA prison," and later stated, "If these things exist, that's bad, and we will cover it. If they don't exist, it's irresponsible to not debunk this story." One month later, Beck hosted James Meigs, Popular Mechanics' editor-in-chief, to debunk the stories. To recap, Beck had first warned of "a country that is headed towards socialism, totalitarianism beyond your wildest imagination," then had brought up the rumors of FEMA concentration camps that he "wanted to debunk" but could not. Later that day he professed, "I don't believe in the FEMA prisons," but again suggested he could not debunk them. It was a month before he got around to definitively debunking them.