Profiling 5 Key Right-Wing Mouthpieces Who Spread Paranoia and Hatred to Extremists on the Fringe
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In the last year and a half, militias and the larger antigovernment "Patriot" movement have exploded, accompanied by the rapid expansion of other sectors of the radical right. This spectacular growth ( see timeline) is the result of several factors, including anger over major political, demographic and economic changes in America, along with the popularization of radical ideas and conspiracy theories by ostensibly mainstream politicians and media commentators.
Although the resurgence of the so-called Patriots — people who generally believe that the federal government is an evil entity that is engaged in a secret conspiracy to impose martial law, herd those who resist into concentration camps, and force the United States into a socialistic "New World Order" — also has been propelled by people who were key players in the first wave of the Patriot movement in the mid–1990s, there are also a large number of new players.
What follows are 5 selected profiles from the Southern Poverty Law Center's special report on key media leaders in the rapidly expanding 'Patriot' movement.
Glenn Beck, 46
With his weepy, chalkboard-scrawling appeals to Americans fearful that their government is leading them down the path to ruin, Glenn Beck has rocketed up the ladder of conservative icons and is using his popularity to directly shape a far-right resurgence.
The Fox News Channel host, who draws 2 to 3 million viewers a night, also has become a lightning rod for controversy. He famously called President Obama a racist with a "deep-seated hatred for white people" and compared him to Adolf Hitler. He legitimized the right-wing conspiracy theory that FEMA was building concentration camps. After milking the theme for nearly a week, he then "proved" the theory false.
In response to his comments about Obama, in August 2009, the online organizing group ColorofChange.org launched a campaign to persuade corporations to pull their commercials from the former radio shock jock's show. They did – in droves. At least 80 advertisers have abandoned Beck, leaving the host to personally hawk less-than-mainstream products like investments in gold.
But that has done little, apparently, to slow Beck's steamrolling popularity. As the Tea Party movement began to take shape last year, he gave it a jumpstart by urging viewers to attended the gatherings and broadcasting from rallies. In February, he delivered the keynote address to 10,000 right-wing activists who attended the Conservative Political Action Conference.
In an open letter on his website last November, he wrote that in the coming months he would unveil "a 100 year plan" developed in conjunction with "some of the best minds in the country that believe in limited government, maximum freedom and the values of our Founders." He also announced a series of conventions that would immerse participants in "topics ranging from self-reliance, community organizing, the economy and how to be a political force in your own neighborhood and country."
Beck's own group, the 9.12 Project, states that it caters to "like-minded Americans looking for direction in taking back the control of our country." In the same statement, Beck writes that "this is a nonpolitical movement." But his 9.12 Project has spawned dozens of loosely affiliated chapters preoccupied with the direction of Washington, D.C.
Beck has downplayed his political influence, calling himself a "rodeo clown." Few clowns, however, earn more than $20 million a year from radio, television and print products. Sounds more like a ringmaster.
Andrew Napolitano, 59
In a recent Washington Post article, a media analyst contended that Fox News was at a crossroads. He said the network was in danger of losing its credibility as a newsgathering operation because of far-right conspiracy-mongers like host Glenn Beck.