Glenn Beck has done lots of mainstreaming extremist beliefs and ideas in his two-plus years at Fox News -- especially far-right ideas that have circulated for years among Patriot-movement militiamen and John Birch Society members, from various "New World Order" theories and claims to "Tenther" theories to his abortive flirtation with FEMA concentration-camp theories.
Judging from the hints he's been dropping on his Fox News show all this week, on Friday he's going to once again dive into the deep, dark and murky waters of classic far-right conspiracism of the Bircher kind. He dropped hints the other day while discussing the "Liberty Dollar" scamsters -- claiming, on the one hand, that he knew ahead of time that what these characters were doing was breaking the law, but simultaneously, they were telling the truth when it came to the evil Federal Reserve.
BECK: Well, this guy was misguided, but he wasn't trying to bring down the United States -- at least, from what he told me. He believed the Fed was destroying the dollar -- and, really? That's a hard stretch, isn't it?
You, by the way, have to watch this show on Friday -- because there is some truth to that. The unbelievable history of the Fed. The, uh -- what is it, the uh, 'Monster,' is that what it was called? The Monster? The Creature of Jekyll Island. We will give you the truth and none of the crazy conspiracy theories on the Fed on Friday. Anyway.
Beck is referencing one of the widest-read conspiracist works about the Federal Reserve, G. Edward Griffin's The Creature from Jekyll Island, and it appears -- vows to eschew conspiracy theories notwithstanding -- that he intends to cite it as a credible source, much as he did with Jonah Goldberg's fraudulent Liberal Fascism thesis in his "documentary" exposing the nefarious fascist roots of modern progressivism. In that case, he promised to eschew "conspiracy theories" too.
Beck, as we all know, has previously demonstrated a fondness for the Birch Society, and this is consistent with that: Griffin, after all, was a close personal friend and longtime associate of Birch Society founder Robert Welch, and wrote a popular Birch book published in 1964, The Fearful Master: A Second Look at the United Nations.
The Creature from Jekyll Island is in many ways a compendium of previous works claiming that the Federal Reserve is a fundamentally illegitimate -- and therefore deeply nefarious -- organization. Most of these theories were deeply anti-Semitic in nature, since they depicted the Fed's bankers as part of a Jewish cabal intent on destroying white American society. What sets Griffin's work apart is that -- like most Birch texts, which assiduously avoided anti-Semitism -- he manages to scrub out the anti-Semitic elements while keeping the paranoid conspiracist elements intact.
Since its publication in 1994, Griffin's book has become a popular text for a large number of right-wing extremists, particularly tax protesters and Patriot movement believers. Griffin himself was involved in organizing a gathering on Jekyll Island last year that the Southern Poverty Law Center credits with helping revive the militia movement.
It has been debunked thoroughly, of course -- probably most notably by historian Gerry Rough, whose three-part series on the origins of the Fed, "Another Twist on the Jacksonian Bank War," pretty thoroughly reveal just how fraudulent Griffin's text really is. You can read it here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.
The problem with the Aldrich Plan was that the regional banks would be controlled individually and nationally by bankers, a prospect that did not sit well with the populist Democratic party or with Wilson. As the debate began to take shape in the spring of 1913, Congressman Arsene Pujo provided good evidence that the nation’s credit markets were under the tight control of a handful of banks – the "money trusts" against which Wilson warned.1 Wilson and the Democrats wanted a reform measure which would decentralize control away from the money trusts.
The legislation that eventually emerged was the Federal Reserve Act, also known at the time as the Currency Bill, or the Owen-Glass Act. The bill called for a system of eight to twelve mostly autonomous regional Reserve Banks that would be owned by the banks in their region and whose actions would be coordinated by a Federal Reserve Board appointed by the President. The Board’s members originally included the Secretary of the Treasury, the Comptroller of the Currency, and other officials appointed by the President to represent public interests. The proposed Federal Reserve System would therefore be privately owned, but publicly controlled. Wilson signed the bill on December 23, 1913 and the Federal Reserve System was born.6
Conspiracy theorists have long viewed the Federal Reserve Act as a means of giving control of the banking system to the money trusts, when in reality the intent and effect was to wrestle control away from them. History clearly demonstrates that in the decades prior to the Federal Reserve Act the decisions of a few large New York banks had, at times, enormous repercussions for banks throughout the country and the economy in general. Following the return to central banking, at least some measure of control was removed from them and placed with the Federal Reserve.
It is true that the Fed was a progressive institution at the outset. And doing away with it and returning control of the banking system to the banks would be the opposite of progressive.
Moreover, ending the Fed is really more about the larger far-right enterprise of gutting the power of the federal government on a number of fronts: taxes, regulating the financial sector, civil-rights laws, public education, the environment.
It will be interesting to watch Friday and see just how deeply into this morass Glenn Beck dives. Given his track record, it likely will be a headfirst plunge.