Feb 1 2007

Flirting With Fascism

CNN’s Beck threatens Muslims with 'razor wire'

NPR’s David Folkenflik (1/25/07) cited CNN Headline News host Glenn Beck as the kind of conservative pundit who believes that “severe rhetoric only drives people apart.” The Washington Post profiled Beck (1/26/07)—who also has a top-rated talk radio show and was recently hired as a commentator for ABC’s Good Morning America—as someone who doesn’t “traffic . . . in absolute truths and certitudes.”

The New York Times (12/4/06) called him “brash” and “opinionated” with an “unfiltered approach,” reporting that he “take[s] credit for saying what others are feeling but are afraid to say.”

The Times and the Post both criticized one remark by Beck, his challenge to newly elected U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), a Muslim: “Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.” The Post called this “surely [Beck’s] most embarrassing moment.” But as press critic Eric Alterman pointed out (Altercation, 12/4/06), as offensive as that question is, it doesn’t begin to suggest the poisonousness of Beck’s rhetoric about Muslims.

On his August 10 radio show, distributed by Clear Channel’s Premiere Radio Networks, Beck issued this warning:

All you Muslims who have sat on your frickin’ hands the whole time and have not been marching in the streets and have not been saying: “Hey, you know what? There are good Muslims and bad Muslims. We need to be the first ones in the recruitment office lining up to shoot the bad Muslims in the head.” I’m telling you, with God as my witness . . . human beings are not strong enough, unfortunately, to restrain themselves from putting up razor wire and putting you on one side of it. . . . They will put razor wire up and just based on the way you look or just based on your religion, they will round you up. Is that wrong? Oh my gosh, it is Nazi, World War II wrong, but society has proved it time and time again: It will happen.

On September 5, Beck took the same message to his CNN Headline News audience, declaring, “In 10 years, Muslims and Arabs will be looking through a razor wire fence at the West. . . . When things heat up, the profiling will only get worse, and the razor wire will be coming.” He went on to say:

You want the profiling to stop? Then here’s an idea. Stop murdering innocent people. Stop excusing the people who do. . . . Stop blowing stuff up and the world just might be your oyster. . . . The Muslims will see the West through razor wire if things don’t change.

Calling on his audience to “embrace the good Muslims and eliminate the bad ones,” Beck concluded:

I don’t know if the Muslim community will ever step to the plate like the Japanese-American community did during World War II. You know, it was absolutely disgraceful how we rounded innocent people up then, and, sadly, history has a way of repeating itself no matter how grotesque that history might be. The Muslim community can prevent this if they act now.

When Beck is talking about “razor wire,” he’s talking about concentration camps—in the original sense of the word, places where masses of people are imprisoned “just based on the way you look or just based on your religion.” Since the overwhelming majority of U.S. Muslims are neither “murdering innocent people” nor “excusing the people who do,” there’s really nothing that they can do to avert Beck’s threat that “the razor wire will be coming.” And Beck is explicit that there’s nothing non-Muslims can do to avoid locking Muslims up en masse.

The New York Times, in its profile of Beck, referred to his criticism of the animated film Happy Feet, but failed to mention that he uses his Headline News slot to issue threats that he himself compares to Nazi behavior. For the Times, CNN’s decision to give Beck a TV show was a “success,” because he “has increased the ratings in his 7 p.m. time period 60 percent among all viewers, and 84 percent among viewers aged 25 to 54.”

In the Times article, CNN executive Kenneth Jautz said that the network didn’t take Beck’s politics into account when it hired him. “We did not set out to have anyone from any particular view fronting these shows,” he said. In fact, CNN hired Beck knowing that the host’s repertoire included hateful attacks—the Hurricane Katrina refugees seen on TV and the father of a terrorism victim were all “scumbags” (Mediamatters.org, 5/17/04, 9/9/05)—as well as a disturbing preoccupation with violence: Beck has fantasized on the radio about the violent deaths of Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich (3/16/03) and filmmaker Michael Moore (5/17/05). As FAIR predicted (Action Alert, 1/18/06), Beck has not changed his repellent tune simply because he’s been hired by a major media outlet.

Contrary to Beck’s suggestion, there are things that the people of the U.S. can do to avoid repeating the “grotesque” history of Japanese-American internment. One of these things is to take people seriously when they start threatening people with concentration camps—rather than looking the other way because of their ratings “success.”