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How Glenn Beck's Twisted Worldview Goads Disturbed People into Acts of Violence

Glenn Beck’s inflammatory rhetoric has been tied to a number of violent attacks and threats against Beck's targets and other public figures.

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On the October 25 edition of his Fox News show, Beck said that the two women are "almost like in bed with George Soros."

Ideas and Rhetoric Have Consequences

Concerns about the impact of violent, inflammatory rhetoric like Glenn Beck’s are widespread and extend well beyond the progressive advocacy community to include members of law enforcement and some Republican commentators.

"The Becks of the world are people who are venting their opinions and it is inflammatory, it generates a lot of emotion and generates in some people overreaction…" says International Union of Police Associations spokesman Rich Roberts. “Inflammatory speech has a tendency to trigger those kinds of emotions."

Former Republican Member of Congress and MSNBC host Joe Scarborough criticized Beck last year for calling President Obama a racist. As reported by Politico, Scarborough said, “You cannot preach hatred. You cannot say the president’s a racist. You cannot stir up things that could have very deadly consequences.”

Security experts told Politico that potentially violent loners “can be influenced by the atmosphere around them” and that “angry rhetoric and images in the culture can agitate and inspire those loners to cross the line from anger to violence.”

James Alan Fox, the Lipman Family Professor of Criminology, Law and Public Policy at Northeastern University in Boston, told the Christian Science Monitor in October that people who act out in violence tend to be scapegoating for things going on in their own lives. And, as David Neiwert, journalist and author of The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right, has noted, right-wing conspiracy theories of the type promoted by Glenn Beck support scapegoating narratives.

More from Neiwert:

Ideologues who inspire violent action through radicalizing propaganda have been with us for many decades, even centuries…..And what we know from experience about volatile, unstable actors…is that they can be readily induced into violent action by hateful rhetoric that demonizes and dehumanizes other people. And thanks to human nature and those same freedoms, we will certainly always have fearmongering demagogues among us. But the purveyors of such profoundly irresponsible rhetoric need to be called on it -- especially when they hold the nation's media megaphones.

Crimlinologist Fox sees the media’s role this way: “It gives them the opportunity to see themselves as a political martyr. Someone who is going to show society that he is right and everyone else is wrong. And [the media] gives him the opportunity to think he could become a hero for fellow conservatives.”

After the police shootout that prevented Byron Williams’ planned attack on the Tides Foundation, Rep. Peter King (R) of New York, senior Republican on the Homeland Security Committee, told Media Matters, “It is important that everyone in public life, whether on the right or on the left, realize that words have consequences.”

Glenn Beck and his enablers do not want to accept that his words -- particularly his false, inflammatory rhetoric that is designed to stir passionate fear and apocalyptic anger -- can be responsible for creating a climate of violence that undermines our democratic society and for encouraging deadly violence among some of those who hear it.

TheWashington Post’s Dana Milbank had some advice for Beck:

Beck has prophesied darkly to his millions of followers that we are reaching "a point where the people will have exhausted all their options. When that happens, look out." One night on Fox, discussing the case of a man who killed 10 people, Beck suggested such things were inevitable. "If you're a conservative, you are called a racist, you want to starve children," he said. "And every time they do speak out, they are shut down by political correctness. How do you not have those people turn into that guy?"

 
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