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Hullabaloo


Monday, October 04, 2010

 
What Actually Watching Beck Teaches You

by digby


I have never been a great fan of Dana Milbank who has often seemed to have been competing for the chance to succeed Maureen Dowd as Queen Bee of the Mean Girls.But he is doing great work on Glenn Beck. (Perhaps it takes a special kind of snarky perspective to be able to get Beck right.) Milbank wrote this in his most recent piece over the week-end:


When the subject turns, as it usually does, to President Obama, Beck again sees lessons from history. In particular, he has seized upon two individuals who he believes provide excellent historical parallels to the 44th commander in chief: Woodrow Wilson and Adolf Hitler.

You don't understand how Obama is tied to a genocidal monster and to an American president who died 86 years ago? Allow Professor Beck to explain.

On Aug. 11, 2009, in the middle of a summer of rage-filled town hall meetings over health care, Beck said he would describe some Obama administration plans that "should horrify America . . . particularly if you're elderly, handicapped or have a very, very young child." And with that, the lesson began.

American "progressives" such as Wilson, Beck explained, were responsible for inspiring "the Nazi eugenic idea [which] evolved naturally into the eventual Holocaust and the deaths of 6 million Jews." He went on: "The builder of the master race was only part of the problem in Germany, made possible after they began to devalue life. They tried to figure out how much is a life worth, and put a price on how much each individual was worth -- and some were worth more than others."

Naturally, this led straight to Obama. Beck explained -- without benefit of actual fact -- that Obama's advisers favor health-care rationing and sterilants in drinking water, and then he went on to endorse Sarah Palin's allegations that Americans would have to stand before Obama's "death panel" so bureaucrats could decide who was worthy to live.


Voila! We go from Hitler's eugenics to Obama's health-care plan, with an assist from poor Woodrow Wilson.


The good news is that nobody listens to him, right?

He averages more than 2 million nightly viewers on his Fox show, brings in $32 million in annual revenue from his various ventures, according to Forbes magazine, and is an unofficial leader of the tea party and its mass anti-government rallies.


Beck is, by far, the most admired leader in the Tea Party movement. Indeed, Americans rate him only below Obama, GWB and Mandela as most admired person in the world. And according to recent polling, he is extremely popular among the Tea Partiers:


Glenn Beck is the most highly regarded individual among Tea Party supporters of the people we tested. He scores an extraordinarily high 75 percent warm rating, 57 percent very warm.

This affinity for Beck came through very clearly in the focus groups. The only news source that participants said they could trust was Fox. Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, and Sean Hannity were cited as people who “are not afraid to tell it like it is” and support their arguments with solid facts. Beck was undoubtedly the hero in these groups. Participants consider him an “educator” (in contrast to the popular Rush Limbaugh who is an “entertainer”) who teaches people history and puts himself at risk because he exposes the truth. In the words of a woman in Ft. Lauderdale, “I would trust my life in his hands.”

Other comments are just as laudatory:

I like the way he’s trying to get back to the basics of the Constitution of the United States because I think that’s where our government is losing focus. They’re trying to change the Constitution or somehow twist it…

He brings out facts… And he actually shows the people saying the things. It’s not like just sound bites. It’s not chopped and really edited. And he is scary because every time I watch the show, which is pretty much every day, my heart feels…and I feel like I want to do something.

I’m frightened for him… Because of the things that he says. I think that he is stepping on some big toes.

He really does his research and he really lays it out to you well; a good professor.


Keep in mind that he has also made a recent and significant shift to the religious right, synthesizing his "historical" perspective with the Christian Reconstructionist views of David Barton (who follows the same line as theocrat Bill Gothard -- mentor to Grayson's opponent Daniel Webster and Mike Huckabee.)

Beck is where all the strains of anti-Obama far right energy culminate --- his roiling, fertile, inchoate imagination bringing it all together in a toxic stew of paranoia, fundamentalism, victimization, exceptionalism and violence. He may be a clown, but he's an evil clown. And his power shouldn't be underestimated. Good for Milbank for using his new perch to say it.


Update: Read this transcript with Milbank on Reliable Sources with Howard Kurtz trying with everything he has to help Beck avoid responsibility for his rhetoric. What's interesting about it is that Milbank is a Villager in extremely good standing and he is breaking the rules and being quite shrill about a Real American. It's obvious that Kurtz doesn't want him to go where he's going, but he's doing it anyway, in a pretty serious way, which is unusual in itself.

I'm guessing that the difference between them at this point is that Milbank has actually watched Beck.

Update II: This gives reason for hope that at least in some parts of the country, his schtick has started to wear thin.

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