It's been amusing watching Glenn Beck twist and squirm and try to explain what he meant last October when he proclaimed that President Obama was flying the American airplane right into the trees, "taking you to a place to be slaughtered."
After Arianna Huffington raised the matter with Fox Chief Roger Ailes this weekend -- and then explored it in some detail with Keith Olbermann -- Beck has been scurrying about coming up with a variety of shifting rationales for what he was saying.
First, he said, "I don't know if I've ever used the word 'slaughtered'." Then, upon discovering that he had indeed used it, still tried to claim he "had never used it on the air," but was only referring to SEIU's Andy Stern. Finally, he settled on the claim that he wasn't speaking "literally" about "slaughter," he was talking about, um, the economy! Yeah, that's the ticket!
That was the rationale he followed yesterday on his Fox News show, smirking and acting as though his rationale would reveal his critics for the fools they were. Of course, what you can really see is what a fool anyone who believes Glenn Beck is.
Here is what he actually said in October:
Beck: I told you yesterday, buckle up your seatbelt, America. Find the exit -- there's one here, here, and here. Find the exit closest to you and prepare for a crash landing. Because this plane is coming down, because the pilot is intentionally steering it into the trees!
Most likely, it'll happen sometime after Christmas. You're gonna see this economy come up -- we're already seeing it, and now it's gonna start coming back down again. And when you see the effects of what they're doing to the economy, remember these words: We will survive. No -- we'll do better than survive, we will thrive. As long as these people are not in control. They are taking you to a place to be slaughtered!
As Arianna noted in her response:
No, Beck contended again and again and again, the whole time he was just talking about "the economy." Barack Obama is going to slaughter the economy. Even though he clearly said "taking you" not "taking the economy."
So, to review the ever-changing explanations: Beck never used the word "slaughter" -- until it was proven that he did. Then he only used it in reference to Mao, Stalin, or Hitler -- until it was proven that this wasn't the case. Then, when he used it, he wasn't referring to the Obama administration, he was referring to Andy Stern. Then he was referring to Obama -- but didn't mean it literally.
Got it? You might need to use Beck's trademark chalkboard to keep track.
A little later in the show, Beck brought on Bill O'Reilly to chew over O'Reilly's segment of the night before in which Joe Klein castigated Beck for his "hateful crap," including "the part where he describes the president as intentionally steering the airplane of state into the ground." Yet Beck claimed Klein can't come up with any examples (and it's true that Klein's mention of the Birthers story was off; Beck has in fact never joined in on that conspiracy theory).
Somehow, the whole "the pilot is intentionally steering it into the trees" line doesn't matter because it was just a metaphor. Of course he didn't mean Obama was some kind of pilot, you silly liberals.
That, in essence, is his entire defense: Because these were simply metaphors to illustrate what Obama was doing to the economy, it shouldn't matter that he uses metaphors involving mass death.
Beck may think his audience is stupid, but the rest of us are dumb enough to fall for this. We understand metaphors and rhetoric at least as well as Beck does. The point Huffington raised, and Klein as well, was that this kind of rhetoric, employing violent metaphors, in fact has the effect of inspiring violent responses among its audiences.
People's economic well-being is nearly as vital to them and their families as their physical well-being. When you tell someone that the president is going to drown them economically, or crash the economic engine of the nation, or economically slaughter you, the reaction will be every bit as visceral and violent as if people were being told they were threatened physically.
Arianna made this point in her response:
The crux of the matter was never whether Glenn Beck really believes Barack Obama is planning to actually slaughter Americans. It's the damage being done by the inflammatory rhetoric and imagery he constantly uses. The evoking of "slaughter" and "killing sprees" and a president who "has a deep-seated hatred for white people" is meant to play into the public's legitimate anxiety over the economy -- and fan the flames of fear.
Indeed, even the references to Mao and Stalin and Hitler engaging in genocide were not as untainted at Roger Ailes wanted to claim. Because those references all came in the context of a week's worth of Beck shows attacking the "progressive movement" as a "cancer" and a "virus" that was "sucking the lifeblood" out of the country, and culminating in a pseudo-documentary based on Jonah Goldberg's fraudulent work whose entire thrust was to connect the "progressive movement" as the underlying force behind all of the great genocides of the 20th century.
Moreover, Beck has consistently claimed that Obama is a totalitarian of whatever stripe fits that day's thesis -- a socialist, a communist, a fascist, a Maoist -- and made clear his belief that the current White House is run by "radicals" who intend to "fundamentally transform" America into a totalitarian state. The genocide documentary was unmistakably a component of this thesis.
See for yourself: