July 31, 2010

We knew Glenn Beck was going to deny any culpability for his role in inciting a right-wing nutcase named Byron Williams, who got into a shootout with Oakland police officers last week when they pulled him over en route to his planned attack on the San Francisco offices of the Tides Foundation and the ACLU. After all, Beck always cries, like his conservative cohorts, that eeeeevil libruls are just trying to "silence" him whenever he incites acts of violence.

Personal responsibility? That's for liberals and black people, we guess.

But his denial yesterday on his Fox News show went beyond mere cries of "bloody shirt!" -- though it contained that, too. What he attempted to do was claim some kind of equivalence and another Oakland incident involving shots fired at the police -- even though the claim is just nakedly false:

The next thing is, they're painting people into terrorists -- painting people into dangers.

Um, you know, we had a sniper in, um, Oakland, California, trying to kill police. At the same time we have another guy who appears to be against the Tides Foundation, uh, and he goes down and he's going to try to kill people at the Tides Foundation. I'm tied to the Tides Foundation in this story because, quote, how scary is this? We have searched all the television records and Glenn Beck is the only host that spoke about the Tides Foundation in the past year. That's terrifying.

But I'm tied to that. But nobody's even talking about the sniper from the left trying to shoot the police officer.

So where do you stand on violence?

Let's parse this carefully, because it's important to understand just how deep Beck's mendacity is here.

First, let's be clear that no one is "painting" Glenn Beck as a terrorist -- and there should be no question, frankly, that Byron Williams fully intended to be a terrorist.

More significant, though, is the fact that there is no evidence whatsoever that the sniper case in Oakland involved any political motive at all. As you can see from the Oakland Tribune report, this appeared to be largely a case of someone who was angered by a police drug bust, or simply hated cops. That stands in direct contrast to the Williams case, which was unmistakably motivated by political hatred.

We know that particularly because of the information from Williams' mother about his motives:

She said her son, who had been a carpenter and a cabinetmaker before his imprisonment, was angry about his unemployment and about "what's happening to our country."

Williams watched the news on television and was upset by "the way Congress was railroading through all these left-wing agenda items," his mother said.

... She said she then checked the locked safe where she kept her guns, all legally purchased and owned, and found that they were also missing.

Janice Williams said she kept the guns because "eventually, I think we're going to be caught up in a revolution." But she said she had told her son many times that "he didn't have to be on the front lines."

And how did Byron Williams come to choose the Tides Foundation as a target? What television show did he watch that made him think the Tides Foundation was an evil entity worthy of being shot up and terrorized.

Well, as Beck openly admits -- and as Media Matters explains in detail -- there was only one show that did so -- Glenn Beck's.

Moreover, Beck is being disingenuous in the extreme to describe his role in this as merely "talking about" the Tides Foundation -- he viciously (and groundlessly) demonized them as an organization intended to "destroy capitalism", a "Trojan horse" engaged in "indoctrinating children" and "warping your children's brains" with the idea that "capitalism is evil", the "nastiest of the nasty," a bunch of "far left radicals" who are "infiltrating" and "failing capitalism" so they can "destroy it."

These are all utterly false and base smears, of course. But if you were a violent and gullible right-winger prone to anger, you probably would be inspired by this kind of rhetoric to try to take them out. Which fits the description of Byron Williams to a T.

As we've said about Beck previously:

Because we believe in freedom of speech and freedom of thought, there will probably always be haters like Richard Poplawski among us. Inevitably they will be driven by fear: the fear of difference. Because to them, difference of any kind is a threat.

And what we know from experience about volatile, unstable actors like them is that they can be readily induced into violent action by hateful rhetoric that demonizes and dehumanizes other people. And thanks to human nature and those same freedoms, we will certainly always have fearmongering demagogues among us. But the purveyors of such profoundly irresponsible rhetoric need to be called on it -- especially when they hold the nation's media megaphones.

Tragically, it's becoming increasingly clear that both Beck and Fox News have no intention whatsoever of stopping this profoundly irresponsible behavior. Which means that he's going to continue whipping up violent, unstable nutcases with his scapegoating and demonization.

Which means that someday, someone is going to finally succeed in a violent attack on one of his targets. Someday, there will be a lot of people killed by one of Beck's eager acolytes. Someday, he won't be able to hide behind his whining that eeeevil libruls are trying to "silence" him. Someday, it will be unmistakably clear to everyone exactly what he has been doing. Someday, he will be finally, irrevocably, disgraced.

We will all be in mourning that day. But it seems that until then, he will never stop.

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