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Why Glenn Beck Keeps Peddling Whack-Job Fantasies About Euthanizing Grandma, Outlawing Christmas and Turning Junior into a Raging Homosexual

Wolraich's 'Blowing Smoke' exposes the frightening and darkly humorous path of Glenn Beck's rise to fame and the absurd tactics he uses to garner his loyal audience.

The following is an excerpt from Blowing Smoke: Why the Right Keeps Serving Up Whack-Job Fantasies About the Plot to Euthanize Grandma, Outlaw Christmas, and Turn Junior into a Raging Homosexual  by Michael Wolraich. Excerpted by arrangement with Da Capo Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright © 2010

The Progressive Hunter:Glenn Beck and His Chalkboard Save Real America from Murderous Czars, Black Radicals, and Other People Who Aren’t from Iowa

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary. —H. L. Mencken

In December 2004, when Bill O’Reilly was warning the nation that dark forces were threatening to destroy Christmas, Glenn Beck was touring local performance venues across the country on a “politically incorrect comedic romp” called the Real American Christmas Tour. His show satirized the secularization of Christmas with songs like “Happy RamaHanuKwanzMas.”

As Beck’s popularity grew, his routine became darker. Or perhaps, as his routine became darker, his popularity grew. In 2006, he joined CNN Headline News with a one-hour program offering “an unconventional look at the news of the day featuring Beck’s often amusing perspective.” Beck promised to present “a different take” to viewers who were “tired of the predictable left-versus-right debates.” His show did prove unconventional and unpredictable, and it was often amusing, though perhaps not in the way that CNN intended.

Glenn Beck made his first foray into primetime paranoia during the summer of 2006. In a series of broadcasts, Beck predicted that Iran and/or Russia would soon invade Israel, most likely on August 22, which would precipitate World War III. He told viewers:

We are in the early stages of World War III—it’s the linchpin of World War III—the possible apocalypse in 13 days. Do you believe we’re in the end times? All out Armageddon.  World War III is dangerously close.

When Beck spoke of Armageddon, he was not speaking figuratively. “End times” refers to the period of tribulation that precedes Christ’s return.* In another broadcast, Beck asked his audience:

Do you believe that Iran and Russia will come together to invade Israel, resulting in a world war of biblical proportions, an eventual peace treaty,  and the beginning of the seven-year tribulation period, and the eventual revoking of the peace treaty by a leader who turns out to be the Anti­christ, and a campaign of Armageddon, and the second coming of Christ?

*"Christ's return." Apocalyptic predictions are popular among Christian conspiracy theorists, and they always present the hastening of the end times as a catastrophe.  But according to the prophecy, good Christians get to go directly to Heaven before the end of times.  If I were a Christian, I'd be pretty excited about the whole thing.


But August 22 passed without Armageddon, and Beck must have figured that he couldn’t wait for Iran and Russia to get their acts together. Clearly, his first foray into fearmongering was a dud.

A Legendary Crank

Unbowed, Beck hit the books to learn how to construct a proper paranoia narrative. He found his muse and mentor in the late Willard Cleon Skousen. Former Bush speechwriter David Frum has described Skousen as “one of the legendary cranks of the conservative world, a John Bircher, a grand fantasist of theories about secret conspiracies between capitalists and communists to impose a one-world government under the control of David Rockefeller.” This was exactly the kind of man Beck needed. One of Skousen’s books is called The Naked Capitalist. It is ostensibly a commentary on the work of a Georgetown University historian named Carroll Quigley, whom Bill Clinton has cited as a major personal influence. Quigley has occasionally written about secret societies, so his work has also been popular among right-wing conspiracists like Skousen. In The Naked Capitalist, Skousen transformed Quigley’s secret societies into an evil global conspiracy of “socialistic” bankers who were plotting to take over the world. He wrote:

There is a growing volume of evidence that the highest centers of political and economic power have been forcing the entire human race toward a global, socialist, dictatorial-oriented society . . . The world hierarchy of the dynastic super-rich is out to take over the entire planet, doing it with Socialistic legislation where possible, but having no reluctance to use Communist revolution where necessary.

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