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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Paranoia Strikes Deep

The cover story of this week's TIME magazine has a picture of Glenn Beck on the cover.

He's sticking out his tongue and the cover reads: "Mad Man: Glenn Beck and the angry style of American politics."

Calling him, "The Agitator," author David Von Drehle introduces his piece with this:
"Glenn Beck is channeling the fears and anger of Americans who feel left out - but is he also stirring that anger and heightening those fears?"
You can read the article at the link above and answer the question for yourself.

What I found fascinating was the insert of a time line of "Them vs. Us" - which is, I discovered, a timeless theme in American politics.

I think this time line helps to put the insanity of paranoid politics into perspective. These guys come and these guys go.

They are not to be ignored, but, given the historical context, I suppose they are to be expected - and watched carefully.

1798 Illminari Scare

Prominent New England ministers warn of a plot by Illuminists - a secret society of European intellectuals to destroy Christianity and overthrow all governments.

1820's Anti-Masonic Movement

Freemasons are condemned for participating in secret societies; the Anti-Masonic Party is formed in opposition.

1850's Know-Nothing Party

Also known as the American Party, the anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant Know-Knothings fear that American Catholics are more loyal to the Pope than to the U.S.

1930's Father Charles Coughlin

Sermons of the "Radio Priest" attack capitalists and communists alike, rail against Jews and accuse FDR of being a tool of wealthy bankers. At their peak, his radio broadcasts reach some 40 million.

1951 McCarthyism

Senator Joseph McCarthy says, "Men high in this government are concerting to deliver us to disaster," and launches a probe into communist subversion in the U.S. - one that ultimately ends in his disgrace.

1958 John Birch Society

According to society founder Robert Welch, "both the U.S. and Soviet governments are controlled by the same furtive conspiratorial cabal of internationalists, greedy bankers and corrupt politicians." By late 1961, the society gains up to 100,000 members.

1963 JFK Assassination

The Warren Commission points to a single gun-man, but conspiracists spin cover-up theories that persist to this day.

1972 Watergate

The break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters exposes a pattern of paranoid behavior by the Nixon White House - and fuels Americans' mistrust of government.

1993 Siege at Waco, Texas

A 51-day standoff between Branch Davidians and federal agends ends with a fire that kills nearly 80 people. The government blames the cult's leader, David Koresh, for setting the blaze, but skeptics cite "evidence" that the feds are responsible.

1995 Oklahoma City Bombing

Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols orchestrate an explosion at the Alfred P. Murray Federal Building, partly in retaliation for the siege at Waco.

2001 World Trade Center Attacks

After terrorists kill nearly 3,000 in attacks in New York City and Washington, conspiracy theories surface on the Internet. Leftists "truthers" suggest that the Bush Administration was behind the attacks as a pretext to invade Iraq.

2009 "Birther" Movement

Fringe right-wing groups contend that Barack Obama was not born on American soil and therefore cannot legally be President.

The article quotes Glenn Beck as saying, "I'm afraid. You should be afraid, too." It's okay to be afraid, I suppose. As the old saying goes, "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean someone isn't out to get you."

There's nothing illegal about what Beck is doing - although, didn't it used to be against the law to "incite to riot"? It's simply a crime, however, what he is doing to the First Amendment Right to free speech.

Here's the thing I'd like to point out to Mr. Beck, just in case he stops by:

69 million people voted for Barack Obama as President.

When LGBT people marched on Washington in 1993, we were 800,000 strong.

In 2004, over 1 million Pro-Choice people marched on Washington.

And, in February 2009, over 1 million people celebrated Obama's Inauguration.

Mr. Beck inspired less than 100 thousand Tea Baggers and Birthers to march on Washington a few weeks ago.

Among other things, this man, like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, is clearly a legend in his own mind.

And, he - along with Limbaugh and Coulter and their disciples - should be very carefully watched.

Because these are desperate people. These are desperate times. And desperate people in desperte times do desperate things.


Kay & Sarah said...

I know that there are people who believe all that Glenn Beck says but I wonder if Glenn Beck actually believes what he says. He has found a niche and is probably laughing all the way to the bank never worrying that his words could cause some to commit acts that they might not otherwise commit.

John said...

I thought that is the way Beck always looks.

the Reverend boy said...

A few things ... 1) I'm sure I'm not the only one who thinks those boxes look eerliy like the LeMarchand configuration from the Hellraiser series of movies. 2) I think its slightly amusing the flag which mentions "Native Americans" are thinking strictly about WASPs. 3) The crazies we will always have with us ...

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Oh, I think he not only is laughing all the way to the bank, he knows what he's doing AND he's enjoying the hell out of it. What a meglomaniac.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

John - that's the way I always imagine him.

RevBoy - well, as the old saying goes "When the going gets weird, the weird turn professional."

Suzer said...

A friend and former co-worker of mine was once interviewed by Sean Hannity, and she got to chat with him for a bit after the interview. She (a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat) asked him if he really believed all the stuff he said, and he laughed and said "no, it's just good for ratings." Her interview had been somewhat adversarial, with all sorts of bluff and bluster. Once they were off camera, though, Hannity was jovial and friendly, and admitted he doesn't believe half the stuff he says.

The Faux News people know they are misrepresenting the truth and often outright lying. They prey upon people's prejudices and fears and exploit them for profit. It's sad, really, that anyone believes them, let alone shows up to a protest based upon what they heard from Glenn Beck.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Amen, Suzer. Beck says essentially the same thing in his article.

June Butler said...

Good grief! Were there really so many? I know. Rhetorical question.

"Foreign influence" (with the backward N) is us, unless we is native Americans.

susankay said...

Cute article in the NYT about how very similar the right wing weird ones are to gangsta rap. Hate people, love money, love guns -- profit big time.

MarkBrunson said...

I consider Glenn Beck to be an active agent for subversion of the government.

The approval word is "shill." Universal convergence on a theme.

ernie1241 said...

Glenn Beck recommends the writings of former FBI Special Agent (and John Birch Society endorser and JBS speaker) W. Cleon Skousen.

In fact, Glenn Beck wrote the "Foreward" to the 2009 edition of Skousen's best-selling book, The 5000 Year Leap

However, both Cleon Skousen (and his admirers) misrepresented Skousen's FBI background and inflated his credentials.

Some, like the John Birch Society, claim that Skousen was a "top aide" to J. Edgar Hoover [See, for example, JBS Bulletin, January 1968, page 1] OR that Skousen was an "administrative assistant" to Hoover.

Others claim that Skousen had extensive investigative experience while he served in the FBI -- particularly with respect to internal security-related matters.

But ALL of these claims are utter falsehoods.

Furthermore, senior FBI officials expressed very derogatory judgments about Skousen's post-FBI endeavors.

In fact, they scornfully described him as someone who allied himself with "professional anti-communists" who represented the "extreme right" in our country and FBI officials thought Skousen was mis-using his FBI service to falsely claim expertise in subject matters which he did not possess.

For a detailed 26-page report (recently updated) on Skousen which is based, primarily, upon his FBI personnel file, see:

For a 91-page report on the Birch Society and its assertions (also based upon first-time-released FBI files and documents), see:

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, Ernie.