Glenn Beck went on Bill O'Reilly's program last night, protesting his innocence after Paul Krugman ably limned the culpability that people like Beck, Bill O'Reilly, and other right-wing yammerers have in raising the temperature of the national discourse to the level that now violent right-wing nutcases are popping off like so much popcorn.
It was, of course, an extended exercise in frantic obfuscation, like a cat trying to cover its dung:
Beck: Well, first of all, the only people responsible for anybody's death are the people --
O'Reilly: Are the murderers.
Beck: Are the murderers.
Ah yes, the nonexistent "lone wolf" defense. Gee, I guess this means that those suicide bombers in Baghdad and Jerusalem are just "isolated incidents" too, and no one but the bombers themselves are responsible. At least in Beck's and O'Reilly's world.
O'Reilly: Well, now, Paul Krugman doesn't feel that way.
Beck: Oh, no. No. But you know what I found? Paul Krugman -- he's of course blaming you as -- well, you're the baby killer ... killer -- whatever --
O'Reilly: The assassin enabler.
Beck: Yeah. And I am, uh, I am responsible for all kinds of conspiracy theories, I think I'm also responsible for the Holocaust shooter --
O'Reilly: Well, lemme, lemme, lemme quote -- here's what Krugman said about you today. He's criticizing Fox News:
Exhibit A for the mainstreaming of right-wing extremism is Fox News’s new star, Glenn Beck. Here we have a network where, like it or not, millions of Americans get their news — and it gives daily airtime to a commentator who, among other things, warned viewers that the Federal Emergency Management Agency might be building concentration camps as part of the Obama administration’s “totalitarian” agenda ... .
Beck: Never said that. Never said that.
O'Reilly: But Krugman doesn't care whether you said it or not. It sounds good.
Beck: Oh, I know. Never said that. You know, the reason I did that concentration camp thing or that FEMA story was because I snapped on the air one day.
O'Reilly: No! You?
Beck: Somebody called me on the radio and I said, 'Can we stop with the FEMA camps? Can we stop with the FEMA camps? I want, one way or another, I want it yes or no.' So I went to my staff and I said, 'I want proof that these don't exist, please?' A couple -- oh, maybe about a week later they came to me and said, 'Well, we don't really have proof' -- I said, 'You've gotta be kidding me. What do you mean, we don't really have proof.' We contracted with Popular Mechanics. It took us, ah, four weeks -- the reason why it took us four weeks is because I said, 'See this video on television? I want you to find that prison, go there, and tell everybody what it is so we can A-B compare.'
O'Reilly: And they couldn't find it.
Beck: No, we found what's called the 'prison'. It's an abandoned train depot.
O'Reilly: But it wasn't a prison.
Beck: It's not a prison.
O'Reilly: But it doesn't matter what you say, or what I say. They're going to take it and -- what Krugman wanted to do was he wanted to tell is readers -- who never watch you, by the way, they never watch Fox News either -- that you are accusing Obama of building concentration camps.
Well, Beck did indeed run a noteworthy segment that actually debunked the FEMA concentration-camp theories. But it was something akin to running a single correction on A23 for a series of sensationally bannered stories on A1.
Just as important, Beck has continually charged that the Obama administration is leading us, as Krugman charged, down the path to totalitarianism. That has, in fact, been the entire theme of his show for several months now.
You see, what's missing from Beck's account is the fact that he broadcast to the world, on numerous occasions, the fact that "he couldn't disprove" the concentration-camps story. First there was his March 3 appearance on Fox and Friends:
Beck: We don't even understand freedom anymore. We are a country that is headed toward socialism, totalitarianism, beyond your wildest imagination.
I have to tell you, I am doing a story tonight, that I wanted to debunk these FEMA camps. I'm tired of hearing about them -- you know about them? I'm tired of hearing about them. I wanted to debunk them.
We'll we've now for several days been doing research on them -- I can't debunk them! And we're going to carry the story tonight.
...It is our government -- if you trust our government, it's fine. If you have any kind of fear that we might be headed toward a totalitarian state, there is something going on in our country that it's -- it ain't good.
Beck tried a month later to portray himself as fundamentally skeptical of the claims -- but he sure had a funny way of showing it a few weeks before.
He also reported it credibly, twice, on his own Fox News program. As he promised on Fox and Friends, he announced on the air that night that "we can't disprove" the FEMA concentration camps story.
Now, that's modern media ethics for ya: Broadcast to the world that "you can't disprove" a cockamamie, half-baked and wild-sounding theory, do it several times, and then quietly run a story in fact disproving the theory four weeks later.
So, I keep hearing that Glenn Beck fellates Bill O'Reilly under the anchor desk each week just prior to his regular appearance on The O'Reilly Factor (why do you think they call it "At Your Beck and Call"?). And you know what, I've set my staff about finding out the truth, and they can't disprove it!
We'll get back to you in about four weeks with the real scoop on that one. Have lots of brain bleach handy. In the meantime, we'll repeat this several times: We hear Beck fellates BillO, and we can't disprove it!