Every time we run a Glenn Beck post, someone trolls into the comments and asks, "Why bother with this guy? We should just ignore him! Post more videos on [insert name of preferred progressive figure here]!"
We'd like to refer them to this week's special report from the ADL on the rise of populist anti-government rage, the one that officially dubbed Beck our national "Fearmonger in Chief".
Keith Olbermann invited Arianna Huffington onto Countdown to discuss the report last night:
OLBERMANN: It would be nice to think of Glenn Beck just as a joke, as fodder for this show and the “Daily Show” and others that point out how stupid some of this stuff is. But this report, you know, suggests something else, this is—fearmonger-in-chief term is frightening.
HUFFINGTON: It is frightening. Well, I would say the fearmonger-in-chief title should still be reserved for Dick Cheney, even in retirement. But barring that, there is something that we need to really pay attention to with Glenn Beck. We cannot just dismiss him. Because the truth of the matter is that there is a good reason why we have an exemption to the free speech protection by the first amendment when we say you cannot shout fire in a crowded theater.
And he's doing that every night. He's basically using images of violence to bring together with all that he's accusing the Obama administration of, which varies from racism to communism, Nazism and everything else in between. So, all that has definitely an impact. I believe words matter, language matters and he's using it in incredibly irresponsible ways night after night.
OLBERMANN: What do you say to the argument that this country has always self corrected, that whether Father Coughlin on the radio in the ‘30s or Bo Carter (ph) who was a newscaster who presented literally stuff that was made up on the hour in CBS News in the ‘30s or the columnist Westbook Pegler or Senator Joe McCarthy? All these people a finale in which they exited the stage and suddenly. What is to say that that‘s not going to happen here?
HUFFINGTON: Well, I hope it's going to happen, but it's not going to happen without people pointing out what Glenn Beck is doing.
Indeed, since the report was issued, Beck seems to have turned up the Wingnuttery Dial all the way 11.
We put together a compendium of Beck's finest fearmongering of just the past year on Fox, inspired largely by the instances cited by the ADL -- with a few of our own favorite moments thrown in for good measure.
As Arianna says, confronting the Becks is vital to keeping our discourse healthy -- because he is polluting it daily with the toxic garbage of disinformation, paranoia, and scapegoating.
We discussed this recently in the matter of Lou Dobbs:
[I]t's one thing to hold a contrary opinion ... It's quite another to irresponsibly demagogue and demonize an entire bloc of the American population with provably false information and paranoid conspiracy theories derived in large part from hate groups whose entire purpose is to poison the well of our national discourse.
Dobbs wasn't in trouble with the public merely for attacking Latino immigrants or peddling conspiracy theories -- the public sought his removal because he had become a major conduit for right-wing extremism in the mainstream of our discourse.
The free press, and free speech, are indeed vital to the functioning of our democracy, precisely because they are the only means by which the citizens of a democratic society can obtain the information they need to function effectively.
What this means, however, is that the people in the press who dispense that information have an incredible responsibility not just to their readers, but to democratic society, to report accurately, truthfully, and responsibly.
And when they fail in those responsibilities, the public has not just the right but the obligation to demand accountability. Purveying false information is in itself fundamentally irresponsible; so is reporting with the intent to demonize people and target them for elimination; and the combination of the two is particularly toxic, because it almost inevitably has violent consequences.