Probably the most ironic -- no, make that flat-out bizarre -- aspect of Glenn Beck's ultimately successful campaign to force out Van Jones is that it was predicated on Jones' supposed indulgence in extremist rhetoric ideas.
This isn't just a matter of the pot calling the kettle black. It's more like the black hole calling the sunspot dark.
Glenn Beck's history of indulging in extremism -- not just turning a blind eye to its presence, but promoting it outright to an audience of millions -- is so deep and wide that whatever indiscretions Jones might be guilty of fade into total insignificance.
Of course, we're all familiar with the remarks that lie at so much of the root of this matter: Beck's outrageous claims that President Obama is a "racist" who has a "deep-seated hatred of white people", which prompted a largely succesful campaign by Color of Change to encourage advertisers to pull their support for Beck's Fox News program. But that, frankly, is barely scratching the surface.
Still, what Olbermann -- and everyone else wondering how to fight back from this latest round of right-wing viciousness -- should focus on is the inordinate number of times that Beck has simply promoted extremist ideas and memes straight out of the most fringe elements of the American far right.
It goes back several years. Beck, in fact, openly promoted the John Birch Society and its "New World Order" conspiracy theories frequently when he was still at CNN Headline News. As I observed at the time:
Beck is busy building a narrative that not only opens the Pandora's Box of mass public consumption of far-right conspiracism, it also portrays the most hateful and paranoid and poisonous bloc of American politics as credible and normative.
Since joining Fox in January of this year, however, the tendency has not only intensified, it's simply gone off the rails.
Most notably, Beck has actively promoted ideas, theories, and concepts taken directly from the far-right "Patriot"/militia movement, many of which in turn derive from the ugliest sector of the right, white supremacy:
-- He "war-gamed" out an apocalytpic American future in which society has completely crumbled, leaving behind a "Road Warrior" society in which militias remained the only defenders of the remnants of white society.
-- He told his audience for several weeks running that he "could not disprove" the existence of concentration camps run by FEMA in which conservatives were to be rounded up. After a few weeks of this, he finally ran a segment that in fact did debunk these claims, explaining that in reality all of the supposed "evidence" for these camps was the product of a long-running hoax that began in the 1990s with the "Patriot"/militia movement. (He then later claimed that he had done nothing to promote these theories.)
-- He ran several segments, including one on his radio show, in which he promoted the concept of the secession of Texas from the Union. A little later, he tried to pretend he didn't agree with the concept while in fact giving a secessionist the opportunity to promote his plans to Beck's audience.
-- He tried to argue that the chief cause of the sour economy was the United States' reliance on a central banking system.
-- He hosted an entire hourlong segment devoted to promoting militia-derived constitutional theories about state sovereignty.
-- Later, when a Beck fan named Richard Poplawski shot three Pittsburgh police officers because he believed the cops were going to take his guns away on behalf of President Obama -- and a number of other acts of right-wing violence occurred that were similarly inspired by Beck's kookery -- Beck attacked C&L and other blogs for having the audacity to point out the connection.
-- Then, after building up his audience's paranoia, anger, and fearfulness, he pleaded with them not to indulge in acts of violence.
Of course, this is only a sampling of the ugly lunacy that has permeated Beck's Fox program since just this January. Some of the more notable other instances including some really classic examples of right-wing projection, not to mention complete incoherency:
-- He accused Al Gore of creating a new "Hitler youth" by promoting environmental awareness among young people.
-- Even before the election, he declared that Barack Obama was a Marxist. Then, after the election, he began calling Obama a communist and socialist. A few weeks later, he changed course and decided that Obama was actually leading us down the path to fascism.
It's not as though any of this could have been a surprise to the Fox executives who hired him. Before he ever joined Fox, these tendencies were self-evident. There was the time, for instance, when he asked newly elected Rep. Keith Ellison, a Muslim, the following:
"[W]hat I feel like saying is, 'Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies'."
He's also made clear that he's a compulsive liar and self-serving jerk by disingenously pretending that he hasn't said things that he has in fact said. For instance, he tearily praised a 9/11 widow who died this year, but back in 2005, he had said this:
Beck: You know, it took me about a year to start hating the 9/11 victims' families. It took me about a year. Um, and I had such compassion for them and I really, you know, I wanted to help them, and I was behind -- let's give them money, let's get them started, and all of this stuff. And I really didn't -- all the 3,000 victims' families, I don't hate all of them, I hate about, probably about ten of them. But when I see 9/11 victim family, you know, on television, or whatever, I'm just like, 'Oh, shut up.' I'm so sick of them. Because they're always complaining. And we did our best for them. And again, it's only about ten.
As we say, this really is only a portion of the ceaseless deluge of insanity flooding out from Beck's show. The attacks on Van Jones, of course, were of a piece with this (along with his attacks on ACORN).
But you know what is strangest of all about this? People in the media -- not just at Fox, but throughout the rest of the cable-news business -- have considered this not just acceptable business as usual, but have stood back in admiration at the high ratings Beck has garnered as a result.
There's something profoundly wrong with that kind of tolerance. And it is long past time that it ended.