Following up on my back and forth with Fox News' Roger Ailes on ABC's This Week, Glenn Beck went on his radio show and attacked what I'd said about him — and, in the process, ended up spewing a lot more misinformation.
Beck's key point of contention was over my assertion that he had warned people that they were in danger of being "slaughtered" by the Obama administration and its friends. Ailes had insisted that Beck had been "talking about Hitler and Stalin slaughtering people, so I think he was probably accurate." Beck and his on-air partners, executive producer and head writer "Stu" Burguiere and contributing editor Pat Gray, tried to stick with that story:
Beck: I don't even know if I've ever used the word "slaughtered." And if I used the word "slaughtered," if it wasn't in a context of Mao, Stalin or Hitler, it was in the idea that the truth is being slaughtered by this administration . . . not saying that this administration is going to slaughter anyone.
Gray: Never, never.
Unfortunately for Ailes, Beck and Gray — but fortunately for fans of facts, reality and the truth — we live in the era of DVRs, YouTube and embeddable video. And what Beck actually said is recorded for posterity. Here is a rant Beck delivered on Nov. 3, 2009, about Service Employees International Union's Andy Stern and the Obama administration:
“I told you yesterday, buckle up your seatbelt, America. Find the exit — there's one here, here and here. Find the exit closest to you and prepare for a crash landing. Because this plane is coming down, because the pilot is intentionally steering it into the trees!
Most likely, it'll happen sometime after Christmas. You're gonna see this economy come up — we're already seeing it, and now it's gonna start coming back down again. And when you see the effects of what they're doing to the economy, remember these words: We will survive. No — we'll do better than survive, we will thrive. As long as these people are not in control. They are taking you to a place to be slaughtered!
Not Stalin. Not Hitler. Not Mao. Not "the truth" being slaughtered. you. "They are taking you to a place to be slaughtered."
So, chiding me on This Week, Ailes said of Beck: "I think he speaks English. I don't know. I mean, I don't misinterpret any of his words."
Well, if Ailes didn't misinterpret what Beck was saying (and if Beck didn't misinterpret his own words), I suppose that means they either weren't paying attention, or they are willfully walking away from the kind of paranoid statements that have become Beck's stock-in-trade.
For context, it's good to remember that Glenn Beck didn't come out of nowhere. He's the latest example of what the great historian Richard Hofstadter called "the paranoid style in American politics," which he defined as angry minds that traffic in "heated exaggeration, suspiciousness and conspiratorial fantasy" and see "the fate of conspiracy in apocalyptic terms . . . always manning the barricades of civilization."
Beck preys on fear, political instability and economic suffering, which, in turn, means that Fox News profits from fear, political instability and economic suffering. The questions to ask Roger Ailes are: You put Beck on the air — would you want to live in a world in which Beck triumphed? In which his world view won out? Is that a world you want your children to grow up in?
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