August 2, 2010

It was a little amusing that Fox News contributor Wayne Simmons this weekend attacked WikiLeaks as "a terrorist organization that uses the First Amendment of the United States to hide behind."

Talk about projection -- for anyone associated with Fox News.

Because Glenn Beck has made it perfectly clear on his Fox News show this week that he has no intention whatsoever of backing down from his demonization and scapegoating of the Tides Foundation on Fox, even after one of his TV acolytes, ginned up by Beck's repeated smears and attacks on Tides, engaged Oakland police in a massive shootout that wounded two police officers, en route to a planned terrorist attack on Tides' Bay Area offices that no doubt would have left a number of innocent people dead had he not been apprehended beforehand.

Indeed, all this week he stepped it up: For much of the week, he pretended that the shootout hadn't even happened, refusing to even mention it in segments featuring Netroots Nation panel remarks in which the planned terrorist attack was the de facto context. On Wednesday, as you can see above, he continued to smear Tides' work by claiming it promotes an ideology identical to that held by the Weather Underground. Then on Friday, he made up his own "facts" in order to compare it to a sniper shooting in Oakland that had no known political component.

Make no mistake: Glenn Beck has been inciting acts of terrorist violence, and the Byron Williams case clearly establishes it -- even though it is far from the first such case. It in fact was preceded by several similar cases in which the dehumanizing rhetoric, scapegoating and conspiracist smears promoted by Fox clearly played a powerful role in the violence that ensued:

-- Jim David Adkisson's shooting attack on a Knoxville Unitarian church. Adkisson left behind a manifesto that repeated numerous right-wing talking points generated by Fox commentators and specifically cited a Bernard Goldberg book. His library at home was stocked with books by Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and Michael Savage.

-- Richard Poplawski's shooting of three Pittsburgh police officers, because he believed a conspiracy theory that President Obama intended to take Americans' guns away from them, and he reportedly believed the cops had arrived to carry it out. Poplawski, a white supremacist, liked to post Beck videos about FEMA concentration camps to the Stormfront comments board.

-- Scott Roeder's assassination of Dr. George Tiller. Roeder was heavily involved in Operation Rescue and avidly read its newsletters -- which featured weekly pieces from Bill O'Reilly, including several attacking Tiller as a "baby killer" -- and its website, which liked to feature O'Reilly videos attacking Dr. Tiller. Indeed, O'Reilly had indulged a high-profile and unusually obsessive (not to mention vicious) jihad against Tiller, resulting in 42 such attacks on Tiller, 24 of which referred to him generically as a "baby killer."

The Byron Williams case was functionally a shot across Fox News' bow: a warning that it is playing with extreme fire by allowing Beck to recklessly demonize specific targets and to inflame his audience against them by imputing the most extreme and nefarious motives to them. In the case of Tides, Beck has been claiming all along that they are trying to "brainwash your children" -- a charge that always raises extremely visceral reactions.

If Fox allows this continue, then eventually someone -- someone who eats, breathes and lives Fox News, as so many right-wingers do these days -- is going to succeed. Eventually, someone is going to walk into (or drive up to) the offices of some group that Beck has singled out as being part of a nefarious progressive "cancer" that is "destroying America" -- whether it is the Tides Foundation, or the ACLU, or the SEIU, someone at MSNBC, or from ACORN -- and shoot the place up or set off a bomb.

And then not just Glenn Beck, but Fox News and all its affiliates, are going to have blood on their hands. And there will not be any hiding it or pretending otherwise.

Beck wants to pretend that all he's done is "discuss" the Tides Foundation -- but in fact he's consistently portrayed them as nefarious key players in the progressive "conspiracy" to "destroy America from within", and he's cast them in a particularly slimy role: propagandizing your unsuspecting children. Is it any wonder someone decided to "take them out"?

We can talk until we're blue in the face about how profoundly irresponsible Fox and Beck are being. But matters have reached the point now that it is necessary to call them all out as an organization that is aiding and abetting domestic terrorism.

It must stop.

It's important to understand that the conspiracism with which Beck smears groups like the Tides Foundation is, as Chip Berlet explains, a powerful form of scapegoating:

Societal outbreaks of conspiracism are a distinct form of scapegoating in the political arena rather than an outcome of a paranoid psychological pathology. In conspiracist discourse, the supposed conspirators serve as scapegoats for the actual conflict within the society.

... By blaming a small group of individuals for vast crimes or simple evil, conspiracism serves to divert attention from the institutional locus of power that drives systemic oppression, injustice and exploitation.

As explained by Frank P. Mintz:

"Conspiracism serves the needs of diverse political and social groups in America and elsewhere. It identifies elites, blames them for economic and social catastrophes, and assumes that things will be better once popular action can remove them from positions of power."

Right wing conspiracist scapegoating not only identifies and blames elites, but also identifies and blames alleged subversives and parasites from groups that have relatively lower social or economic status. This is the classic producerist stance. Conspiracist allegation can also be used to attack the status quo by outsider elite factions seeking power.

Remember the scapegoating role played by electronic media in the Rwandan Genocide:

Due to high rates of illiteracy at the time of the genocide, radio was an important way for the government to deliver messages to the public. Two radio stations key to inciting violence before and during the genocide were Radio Rwanda and Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM). In March 1992, Radio Rwanda was first used in directly promoting the killing of Tutsi in Bugesera, south of the national capital Kigali. Radio Rwanda repeatedly broadcast a communiqué warning that Hutu in Bugesera would be attacked by Tutsi, a message used by local officials to convince Hutu that they needed to protect themselves by attacking first. Led by soldiers, Hutu civilians and members of the Interahamwe subsequently attacked and killed hundreds of Tutsi.

At the end of 1993, the RTLM's highly sensationalized reporting on the assassination of the Burundi president, a Hutu, was used to underline supposed Tutsi brutality. The RTLM falsely reported that the president had been tortured, including castration of the victim (in pre-colonial times, some Tutsi kings castrated defeated enemy rulers). From late October 1993, the RTLM repeatedly broadcast themes developed by the extremist written press, underlining the inherent differences between Hutu and Tutsi, the foreign origin of Tutsi, the disproportionate share of Tutsi wealth and power, and the horrors of past Tutsi rule. The RTLM also repeatedly stressed the need to be alert to Tutsi plots and possible attacks and called upon Hutu to prepare to 'defend' themselves against the Tutsi. After April 6, 1994, authorities used the RTLM and Radio Rwanda to spur and direct killings, specifically in areas where the killings were initially resisted. Both radio stations were used to incite and mobilize then give specific directions for carrying out the killings.

Glenn Beck is taking Fox down that road. It's time for the network to pull the plug before a lot of people get hurt.

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