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Loughner Influenced by Conspiracy Movie "Zeitgeist": How Fearmongers and Conspiracy Theorists on the Right Encourage Violence

Conspiracy theories have always been around. The difference is their mainstreaming by politicians and pundits on the right.

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The Overton Window is for sale at my corner drugstore right alongside the diet books and the Romance novels. You can't get any more mainstream than that. Of course, Glenn Beck would never be able to publish that drivel if it weren't for the fact that he's a huge television celebrity with a rabid following, many of whom believe that he's a very smart person.

Glenn Beck is the most highly regarded individual among Tea Party supporters of the people we tested. He scores an extraordinarily high 75 percent warm rating, 57 percent very warm.

This affinity for Beck came through very clearly in the focus groups. The only news source that participants said they could trust was Fox. Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, and Sean Hannity were cited as people who “are not afraid to tell it like it is” and support their arguments with solid facts. Beck was undoubtedly the hero in these groups. Participants consider him an “educator” (in contrast to the popular Rush Limbaugh who is an “entertainer”) who teaches people history and puts himself at risk because he exposes the truth. In the words of a woman in Ft. Lauderdale, “I would trust my life in his hands.”

Other comments are just as laudatory:

"I like the way he’s trying to get back to the basics of the Constitution of the United States because I think that’s where our government is losing focus. They’re trying to change the Constitution or somehow twist it…"

"He brings out facts… And he actually shows the people saying the things. It’s not like just sound bites. It’s not chopped and really edited. And he is scary because every time I watch the show, which is pretty much every day, my heart feels…and I feel like I want to do something."

"I’m frightened for him… Because of the things that he says. I think that he is stepping on some big toes."

"He really does his research and he really lays it out to you well; a good professor."

Among his fans are members of congress:

Monday on Fox News, Beck claimed that President Obama gave $2 billion to the Brazilian state-run oil company PetroBras "just days" after conservative boogeyman George Soros strengthened his investment in the company.

The very next evening, the two Republican congressmen repeated Beck's baseless charge on the House floor. While criticizing the moratorium on offshore drilling brought on by the Gulf oil spill, Rep. Burton said that "we just sent $2 billion to Brazil so they can do offshore drilling." Moments later, Burton parroted Beck's fantasy version of events: "We don't need to be sending Mr. Soros money in Brazil so he can make more money by doing offshore drilling with our taxpayers' money."

Here's Beck:

 

This whole thing was conspiratorial lunacy, by the way, completely untrue. As were the Beck conspiracy rants that explicitly inspired these acts of violence.

It's not there aren't paranoid, violent left wing conspiracy nuts out there. Of course there are. But their ideas are not being mainstreamed into the general population the same way the right's are and that's because the paranoid left doesn't have their own media. Also the politicians on the left don't listen to them and believe what they say. They don't even listen to the mainstream left.

You can't legislate this, of course. Freedom of speech includes the freedom to spout off ludicrous bullshit. But it's probably a good idea to at least try to draw attention to the loonier stuff, even though you will be descended upon by a bunch of shrieking harpies the minute you bring it up. Certainly the mainstream media could do a better job of filtering this nonsense out.

Oh, and Fox should be shunned by all right thinking people simply for the fact that they feature a bunch of conspiracy theorists on their air every day filling up millions of people's heads with this crazy stuff. Loughner may have gotten his ideas from the Alex Jones fringe, but a bunch of these other loons and militants got it from the next level of right wing paranoia --- Fox.

 
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