Glenn Beck Assails Obama and Progressives with Holocaust Imagery
When Glenn Beck aired an hour-long documentary titled "Revolutionary Holocaust: Live Free or Die" last Friday, it marked a major turning point in the annals of television.
The film, narrated by Beck himself, purported to reveal "really disturbing and shocking stuff," specifically the "dirty little secret" that progressive political beliefs led inexorably to "some of the most horrifying outcomes in history." With help from interview subjects like Jonah Goldberg, author of the book Liberal Fascism, Beck linked the progressive political movement to such nightmares as China’s Cultural Revolution and Hitler's gas chambers. Beck alternated images of the emaciated, tortured bodies of the victims he blamed on progressivism with archival footage of Goebbels, Stalin and Mao.
Behold, America, the future of conservative media.
There was a time when such stunningly irresponsible and historically dubious assertions were the province of isolated individuals holding homemade signs at rallies -- but no longer. "The Revolutionary Holocaust" was watched by nearly four million Americans. And it was broadcast by one of the world's largest media conglomerates, News Corporation, which made no effort to disassociate itself from the program's content.
Partisan media -- even rabidly partisan media -- has existed in America for as long as our nation has. Vicious attacks against perceived political opponents aren't anything new, either, and in that way, Glenn Beck is merely the latest polemicist willing to assault his enemies -- as well as basic logic -- in order to make a buck. (And he makes plenty.)
But never before has such commentary been hitched to the star of a multinational media conglomerate, one capable of beaming the resulting invective into hundreds of millions of homes in real time. Never before has a company as influential as News Corp. been willing to back a host like Beck in the face of mounting pressure from advertisers.
Even after 80 different sponsors announced they would no longer advertise on Beck's show, News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch was still willing to personally defend the host, offering his own nonsensical defense of Beck's infamous accusation that our nation’s first African American president harbored "a deep seated hatred for white people."
"Even if you think I'm wildly irresponsible," Beck said a few weeks ago, "you have to know that News Corp. is not stupid. It's a company worth billions of dollars. Do you really think this corporation would risk everything on an irresponsible crazy guy?"
The answer, apparently, is yes.
And no wonder: Beck is the rising star of Fox News, a conservative entrepreneur of immense capabilities who is developing and capitalizing on new right-wing markets with unmatched skill. Despite the fact that he only joined Fox at the beginning of 2009 and was given the network's undesirable 5pm time slot, Beck is routinely the second-most-watched prime-time host on TV. He's also a self-styled political activist, having created the "9/12 Project" and then guided it through its first major protest last September, an event alternately known as the Tea Party march on Washington, DC. And Beck has promised to double down in 2010 -- again, with Fox's blessing and support. He'll soon publish a book called The Plan, and he aims to organize educational seminars around the country at which he'll preach his own brand of revisionist history.
Beck's inability to accurately evaluate the past doesn't mean that he lacks vision. His documentary last Friday was merely the latest salvo in his war against all facets of progressive political thought, the kind of war on ideas that Ronald Reagan waged so effectively, helping to reframe the electorate's understanding of crucial issues. In picking this fight, Beck is ahead of the curve, finding new ways to encapsulate the principles and values held by conservatives.
In much the same way, Beck is drawing the battle lines for what has become a media-driven conservative movement unapologetically dedicated to the destruction of the Obama administration. Selectively working off of a new generation of Matt Drudge-inspired "journalists" like Andrew Breitbart, Beck is picking and choosing which lines of attack the right will take. For example, he was among the first to popularize the trumped-up ACORN "scandals," the fictitious claims of a propaganda operation involving the National Educational Association, and the alleged radicalism of Obama appointees Van Jones, Mark Lloyd, John Holdren and Anita Dunn, among others. At a time of immense challenges, the White House was forced to respond to each of these pseudo-stories in turn.
As Fox News continues down the road toward becoming the country's first-ever 24/7 political campaign run by an independent media operation, progressives must understand the degree to which Beck has increasingly taken the wheel. They must understand his uncanny ability to reach out to new groups of disaffected voters, and must counter and isolate the lies and misinformation he spreads on a daily basis. And they must ensure the "Beck-o chamber" he seeks to create fails to gain any more influence than it already has.