To wild applause, he labeled this alleged tumor of "community" the supposedly evil "progressivism" -- and he told disciples to "eradicate it" from the nation.
The lesson was eminently clear, coming in no less than the keynote address to one of America's most important political conventions. Beck taught us that a once-principled conservative movement of reasoned activists has turned into a mob -- one that does not engage in civilized battles of ideas. Instead, these torch-carriers, gun-brandishers and tea partiers follow an anti-government terrorist attack by cheering a demagogue's demand for the physical annihilation of those with whom he disagrees -- namely anyone, but particularly progressives, who value "community."
No doubt, some conservatives will parse, insisting Beck was only endorsing the "eradication" of progressivism but not of progressives. These same willful ignoramuses will also likely say that the Nazis' beef was with Judaism but not Jews, and that white supremacists dislike African-American culture but have no problem with black people.
Other conservatives will surely depict Beck's "eradication" line as just the jest of a self-described "rodeo clown" -- merely the "fusion of entertainment and enlightenment," as his radio motto intones. But if Beck is half as smart as he incessantly tells listeners he is, then he knows it's no joke.
What he's describing, of course, is the very subject of my last book, The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right:
What motivates this kind of talk and behavior is called eliminationism: a politics and a culture that shuns dialogue and the democratic exchange of ideas in favor of the pursuit of outright elimination of the opposing side, either through suppression, exile, and ejection, or extermination.
Rhetorically, eliminationism takes on certain distinctive shapes. It always depicts its opposition as beyond the pale, the embodiment of evil itself, unfit for participation in their vision of society, and thus worthy of elimination. It often further depicts its designated Enemy as vermin (especially rats and cockroaches) or diseases, and disease-like cancers on the body politic. A close corollary—but not as nakedly eliminationist—are claims that opponents are traitors or criminals and that they pose a threat to our national security.
Eliminationism is often voiced as crude "jokes," a sense of humor inevitably predicated on venomous hatred. And such rhetoric—we know as surely as we know that night follows day—eventually begets action, with inevitably tragic results.
I compiled the video above with a sampling from the past nine months. In it, you can see Beck call progressives a "cancer" (multiple times), "the disease that's killing us," a "virus," a "parasite," "vampires" who will "suck the life out" of the Democratic Party, and claim that progressives intend the "destruction of the Constitution" and will strike it a "death blow".
As Sirota notes, Beck is taking us down a certain path with this kind of rhetoric, and it always, as Beck himself puts it, "ends badly."