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October 15, 2010 12:42 PM   Subscribe

In 2007, Beck, then the host of “Glenn Beck,” on CNN’s Headline News, brought to his show a John Birch Society spokesman named Sam Antonio, who warned of a government plot to abolish U.S. borders with Mexico and Canada, “and eventually all throughout the Americas.” Beck told Antonio, “When I was growing up, the John Birch Society—I thought they were a bunch of nuts.” But now, he said, “you guys are starting to make more and more sense to me.”
A secret history of Glenn Beck, by way of Robert Welch, Willard Cleon Skousen and the John Birch Society. From the New Yorker.
posted by gerryblog (41 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Hmm, I still think the John Birch Society is nuts, but then again I think Glenn Beck is seriously off too.
posted by bearwife at 12:56 PM on October 15, 2010


At this stage, I'm just waiting for Beck's tipping point. What will either push him over the edge into non-functional madness, or what will it take for his followers to make them stop listening? Riddle me this.
posted by pyrex at 1:06 PM on October 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


> “When I was growing up, the John Birch Society—I thought they were a bunch of nuts.” But now, he said, “you guys are starting to make more and more sense to me.”

A sane person reads this and realizes that it's not the JBS that has changed.
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:09 PM on October 15, 2010 [8 favorites]


At this stage, I'm just waiting for Beck's tipping point. What will either push him over the edge into non-functional madness, or what will it take for his followers to make them stop listening?

I'd say we're stuck with him and his listeners just like we're stuck with the guy who started it all: Limbaugh.
posted by uraniumwilly at 1:16 PM on October 15, 2010


Sean Wilentz was on Fresh Air this week discussing the article (both are worth a listen/read).
posted by activitystory at 1:19 PM on October 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Rush didn't start the fire.
posted by ND¢ at 1:19 PM on October 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Milton Rokeach wrote some amazing stuff on dogmatism and ideology, and some of it was in regards to the Birchers.
Read these books, not because they mention the Birchers, but because they have incredible -- incredible -- insight on how people think, what they believe and how they came to believe those things.

The Nature of Human Values
Understanding Human Values

On the Birchers in general:
Mobilizing Resentment: Conservative Resurgence from the John Birch Society. Written in 2000.

The John Birch Society: A Movement of Social Protest of the Radical Right. Notice that phrase? Radical Right? Tying it back into Rokeach's study of dogmatism, there were two groups in the U.S. that were similar dogmatically: one was the Students for a Democratic Society; the fractious leftist organization that morphed (partially) into the Weather Underground, and the other was the John Birch Society. So, the John Birch society, while it holds different beliefs, is just as radical as the SDS and Weather Underground.
posted by boo_radley at 1:19 PM on October 15, 2010 [10 favorites]


At this stage, I'm just waiting for Beck's tipping point. What will either push him over the edge into non-functional madness, or what will it take for his followers to make them stop listening? Riddle me this.



What will happen is that once Beck produces diminishing returns the right will produce an even crazier automaton to distract lazy liberals into faux outrage so they feel like they are actually doing something while achieving nothing. Then Glenn Beck will look like a statesman in comparison like that nut O'Reilly looks compared to Beck and Reagan looks in comparison to Bush and Bush looks in comparison to any Tea Party candidate. Keep chasing those windmills...
posted by any major dude at 1:20 PM on October 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


The tipping point will actually be when the supposedly non-right-wing media stop paying attention to him. I'm hoping that this article will be the LAST time the New Yorker gives him page space. Remember, he gets less than half the Cable TV ratings of Spongebob Squarepants and more viewers still get their news from Katie Couric on CBS (not to mention the other old skool network news). Of course, then they'd also have to stop paying attention to Jon Stewart, whose ratings are about half of Beck's (but much more 'demographically desirable'). Still, if Stewart/Colbert's Washington events get anything close to the turnout of Beck, it will be a significant sign. Unfortunately, the "lamestream" media won't pay attention unless the Comedy Central guys outdraw the Foxist by an indisputable number (and you know how easy it is to dispute the numbers).
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:28 PM on October 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


The tipping point will actually be when the supposedly non-right-wing media stop paying attention to him. I'm hoping that this article will be the LAST time the New Yorker gives him page space.

I know they say all publicity is good publicity, but I can't imagine that the universe of New Yorker readers who will read this article and decide to become a member of the Glenn Beck Society is very large.
posted by gerryblog at 1:44 PM on October 15, 2010


Okay, it's a Mediamatters link, but I found it interesting:

Glenn Beck is calling on his listeners to donate money to the US Chamber of Commerce. The USCoC is *not* your local CoC, and it's a very strange thing to ask of people.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 1:45 PM on October 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


Mr. Beck talks about the Black Tom Bombing of 1916 as an example of a historical event that has been "hidden" from us for purposes of god-knows-what. He mentions that this bombing registered 5.0 on the Richter Scale.

The Richter Scale came into being around 1936.

So what the fuck Glenn, did Jesus tweet from the cross as well?
posted by Danf at 1:54 PM on October 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Glenn Beck is calling on his listeners to donate money to the US Chamber of Commerce.

In related news:
Foreign-Funded ‘U.S.’ Chamber Of Commerce Running Partisan Attack Ads

"The largest attack campaign against Democrats this fall is being waged by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a trade association organized as a 501(c)(6) that can raise and spend unlimited funds without ever disclosing any of its donors. The Chamber has promised to spend an unprecedented $75 million to defeat candidates like Jack Conway, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Jerry Brown, Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA), and Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA). As of Sept. 15th, the Chamber had aired more than 8,000 ads on behalf of GOP Senate candidates alone, according to a study from the Wesleyan Media Project. The Chamber’s spending has dwarfed every other issue group and most political party candidate committee spending. A ThinkProgress investigation has found that the Chamber funds its political attack campaign out of its general account, which solicits foreign funding. And while the Chamber will likely assert it has internal controls, foreign money is fungible, permitting the Chamber to run its unprecedented attack campaign. According to legal experts consulted by ThinkProgress, the Chamber is likely skirting longstanding campaign finance law that bans the involvement of foreign corporations in American elections."
posted by ericb at 2:04 PM on October 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Glenn Beck is calling on his listeners to donate money to the US Chamber of Commerce. The USCoC is *not* your local CoC, and it's a very strange thing to ask of people.

What the..? I don't even... I can't listen to the audio right now, so what is the justification he's using?
posted by brundlefly at 2:09 PM on October 15, 2010


Glenn Beck is calling on his listeners to donate money to the US Chamber of Commerce.
Defending Foreign-Funded Chamber, Rand Paul Says It’s ‘More Popular Than Any Politician Running For Office’.

Chamber’s Latest Lie: Our Foreign Fundraising Program Isn’t Part Of The Chamber.

‘U.S.’ Chamber Of Commerce Funded By Top Offshoring Companies.

GOP Candidate Bob Gibbs Calls On FEC To Audit The Chamber Of Commerce.

‘Are You Guys Eventually Going To Disclose?’ Chamber Responds Bluntly, ‘No!’

Chamber Receives At Least $885,000 From Over 80 Foreign Companies In Disclosed Donations Alone.
posted by ericb at 2:11 PM on October 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


...so what is the justification he's using?

"The largest attack campaign against Democrats this fall is being waged by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a trade association organized as a 501(c)(6) that can raise and spend unlimited funds without ever disclosing any of its donors. The Chamber has promised to spend an unprecedented $75 million to defeat candidates..."
posted by ericb at 2:12 PM on October 15, 2010


In an extraordinary move to nip the inflammatory commentary coming from Glenn Beck, the founder and CEO of the Tides Foundation (a frequent Beck target) has written advertisers asking them to remove their sponsorship of the Fox News program or risk having "blood on their hands."
posted by gerryblog at 2:18 PM on October 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Glenn Beck gives $10,000 to Chamber of Commerce‎
“Worried that $400 billion in secret corporate slush funds is not enough to buy Republicans control of the Congress, Glenn Beck donated, on Oct.14, a check for $10,000 to the American Chamber of Commerce. After announcing his charitable ‘gift’ on radio, he urged his listeners to also chip in for the cause.

Beck’s move to launch a charity drive surprised many who remember his wooden-heart reaction to the plight of the unemployed. He has opposed extensions of unemployment benefits and has described the long-term jobless as ‘un-American, anti-capitalist, socialist losers.’

The Chamber, however, is a fitting recipient for Beck's largess.

Investigations show that it is spending $75 million to push candidates who, if elected, will oppose new rules that discourage American firms from outsourcing jobs. Most of the candidates for whom the Chamber is trying to purchase congressional seats also want to repeal minimum wage laws, weaken workplace safety rules and destroy collective bargaining rights.

For those interested in transparency, the very public Beck donation does not add to the huge amounts of money whose source the Chamber is keeping under raps.

The Chamber is not the only purchaser of congressional seats that has drawn the outrage of people supportive of democratic elections.

Rupert Murdoch's media empire, another big player in the mid-terms, is running into some problems from its own shareholders.*
Murdoch's News Corp. gave $1 million each to the Republican Governors Association and to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.” [more]
* -- News Corporation Shareholders Rebel Against Company’s Political Donations.
posted by ericb at 2:25 PM on October 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Riddle me this.

I have a vision of him standing on top of a billboard, wearing a dynamite vest, sobbing uncontrollably about his firing from Fox for having forced too many boycotts of their sponsors. He's screaming to the crowd that "This is what happens under the ultra socialist Obama and his fascist states efforts to hide the truth, and if I had a blackboard, I could trace how this all goes back to Obama's Freemason/ Black Panther/ Alien origins."

The crowd gathers below.

I turn to one of them and say "See, he was crazy all along." to which I am shushed reproachfully.

"Quiet, man. He's speaking Truth to us..."

Shorter: I don't think there is a too-crazy for his crowd.
posted by quin at 2:25 PM on October 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Curiously, the US Chamber of Commerce was formed at the urging or at least strong encouragement of the federal government, during the early Progressive era, 1907 specifically. It was a corporatist arrangement, not in the current, colloquial use of "corporatism" to mean collusion between business and large and/or global corporations, but in the more healthy or benign European sense. It was a way of organizing interests to work with and have a voice in government, a so-called peak organization for the government to turn to in debates. The Dept. of Commerce and Labor had been formed just a few years before. Many other such large, national trade organizations were formed around the same time, including the American Farm Bureau. All very Progressive Era. (What we have now is more of a free-for-all in interest competition, with former peak organizations just another part of the chaotic mix.)

Now, who changed the US Dept. of Commerce and Labor into two separate departments? Woodrow Wilson, who put the faeces on the American dime, thus bringing fascism to America or ... something like that. So the US Chamber of Commerce is both fascistic and, because it was earlier founded with the help of govt., socialist and maybe even communist simultaneously. Somebody help me with the communist part.
posted by raysmj at 2:33 PM on October 15, 2010


Not many people know this, but Glenn Beck is actually an NEA-funded performance artist. According to the terms of his grant, on November 1, 2012, he will reveal this live on his show, then yell "Psych, bitches!," thereby throwing US conservative politics into a tail-spin days before the presidential election.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 2:52 PM on October 15, 2010 [7 favorites]


raysmj: " Somebody help me with the communist part."

"The CoC is like a labor union but for corporations." There you go; that should get you some Answer Me This Space Robot Why Do We Park On A Driveway But Drive On A Parkway reactions.
posted by boo_radley at 2:54 PM on October 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Others focussed on what they considered a fearsome Communist menace inside the United States...he designed the Birch Society roughly, if not explicitly, on the Marxist-Leninist model of a vanguard revolutionary party."
posted by kirkaracha at 5:56 PM on October 15, 2010


If Glenn Beck had a tipping point, it's long since past:

Glenn Beck defends GOP candidate Rich Iott over his Nazi reenactments
posted by mek at 6:18 PM on October 15, 2010


I'm hoping that this article will be the LAST time the New Yorker gives him page space.

I really appreciated the article. I knew he was nutty and a blowhard, but I was unaware that he was running a "university" to indoctrinate people into a shared, in fact conspiratorial, and inaccurate view of American history that was initially shaped by the hardline McCarthy supporters, then the John Birchers. In other words, I learned he was a lot crazier than I thought, and that his followers are a lot more gullible than I thought. Not just angry, but willing to imbibe utter nonsense. This was an intriguing look into the intellectual development of the far right wing -- and its right wingnuts.
posted by Miko at 7:01 PM on October 15, 2010


I don't know if this is off-topic, but I've been pissed for a while that over the last two weeks, the New York Times has had giant somewhat-sympathetic feature stories on Beck, Ann Coulter, Fred Phelps, and Islamophobe Pam Geller. WTF NYT????
posted by fungible at 7:02 PM on October 15, 2010


I don't fear. These people are so crazy and idiotic that increased exposure can only help to rid us of them.
posted by Miko at 7:14 PM on October 15, 2010


In an extraordinary move to nip the inflammatory commentary coming from Glenn Beck, the founder and CEO of the Tides Foundation (a frequent Beck target) has written advertisers asking them to remove their sponsorship of the Fox News program or risk having "blood on their hands."

Jailhouse Confession: How the right-wing media and Glenn Beck's chalkboard drove Byron Williams to plot assassination
posted by homunculus at 7:37 PM on October 15, 2010


Sean Wilentz chews up 6,300 words of guilt-by-association to tell use what we already know: Beck is a Mormon populist with controversial ideas.
posted by Yakuman at 7:53 PM on October 15, 2010


I say with a slight grumble, I posted this in comments in the Tea Party thread a few days ago, and it seemed to get lost in all the "how many times did you say Teabagger?" and "MeFi thinks they know everything" comments.

I've sent this to a buncha folks, and they never get past the Glenn Beck aspect. What I hoped was

a. people would actually read the whole thing,

b. realize that this new alleged populism in America is just re-harshing, and churning to a boil of some both sad and scary rhetoric that has floated around for more than half a century. This is nothing more than whipping a not-so-educated-on-the-true-issues crowd into a mob mentality, even if the only violence that mob does is by voting for idiots.

I think I get the Tea Party a little, and this new populism a little. I can appreciate some folk's frustration at the way things are going.

I understand this the same, the exact same way I was ecstatic to see a black President elected, but sullen at the same time, knowing that that same President just inherited a burning paper sack of dog crap on his front step, and as much as he tries to stomp it out, is going to end up with a bill from the fire department and dogshit on his shoe when all is said and done.

Glenn Beck is to true political discourse, as Jerry Springer is to Charlie Rose.

In our great melting pot that is America, it never ceases to confound me that both the scum and the cream seem to rise to the top in equal measures.
posted by timsteil at 8:20 PM on October 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


The right, he explained, had identified a "sustained conspiracy, running over more than a generation, and reaching its climax in Roosevelt's New Deal, to undermine free capitalism, to bring the economy under the direction of the federal government, and to pave the way for socialism or communism.

And again I find myself reflecting on the 5-part essay featured in this FPP... "undermine free capitalism"... "pave the way for socialism"... it's all explained right there in the links. (The discussion thread gets bogged down in theological semantics. Read the links.)
posted by hippybear at 9:08 PM on October 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Rupert Murdoch's media empire, another big player in the mid-terms, is running into some problems from its own shareholders. Murdoch's News Corp. gave $1 million each to the Republican Governors Association and to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.”

On the other hand: Murdoch fund-raiser for Clinton creates buzz.
posted by Jahaza at 9:31 PM on October 15, 2010


The Richter Scale came into being around 1936.

he/his writers probably just looked at the wikipedia article which says it "was the equivalent of an earthquake measuring between 5.0 and 5.5 on the Richter Scale", along with this citation
posted by p3on at 10:11 PM on October 15, 2010


You all remember who one of the founders of the John Birch Society was don't you.
posted by adamvasco at 12:17 AM on October 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


he/his writers probably just looked at the wikipedia article which says it "was the equivalent of an earthquake measuring between 5.0 and 5.5 on the Richter Scale", along with this citation

Which says it's an estimate: "According to a recent study, the resulting explosion was the equivalent of an earthquake measuring between 5.0 and 5.5 on the Richter Scale." So assuming that study was done properly it's not unreasonable to state it on a radio show without too many caveats. It's also important to understand that a heavy truck rumbling can register 3.0 to 3.5 and that a 5.0-5.5 quake in California would most likely not make the national news.

Also worth mentioning: Glen Beck apparently isn't aware of the Oklahoma City federal building. He's also confusing an act of war orchestrated by the German government against a military target with terrorism. If Black Tom is terrorism then, by virtually any measure, the United States is the most infamous terrorist organization that has ever existed. It's pretty easy to put together that list Mr. Beck, Dresden, Tokyo, Nagasaki, Cambodia, Kobe, Nagoya, Hiroshima, Vietnam . . .
.
posted by Locobot at 1:57 AM on October 16, 2010


At this stage, I'm just waiting for Beck's tipping point.
Dude's tipped like 20 times, he just tipps right back like one of those punching balloons. Legit advertizers don't even advertize on his show. Rupert Murdoch likes him, and he just doesn't give a fuck.
Curiously, the US Chamber of Commerce was formed at the urging or at least strong encouragement of the federal government, during the early Progressive era, 1907 specifically. It was a corporatist arrangement, not in the current, colloquial use of "corporatism" to mean collusion between business and large and/or global corporations, but in the more healthy or benign European sense.
Please, the reality is actuall Progressives -- as opposed to todays "progressives" (liberals who two cowardly to call themselves that) -- were actually pretty bad people. Woodrow Wilson was one of the most racist presidents ever, especially compared to his contemporaries, and it was progressives who got prohibition put in place. They were all about the elites and corporations.
Woodrow Wilson, who put the faeces on the American dime, thus bringing fascism to America or ... something like that.
Well, he did inspire the creation of the ACLU... because people were so shocked by his civil liberties abuses.

Badmouthing Woodrow Wilson is the one thing Glenn Beck gets right.
posted by delmoi at 2:39 AM on October 16, 2010


the scum and the cream seem to rise to the top in equal measures

Which means you end up with scummy cream.
posted by Grangousier at 3:07 AM on October 16, 2010


Richard Hofstadter's 1964 article The Paranoid Style in American Politics is a remarkably prescient analysis of the Beck-style right-wing fringe.
posted by narcotizingdysfunction at 4:26 AM on October 16, 2010


but I was unaware that he was running a "university" to indoctrinate people

It's true. When people write that Glenn Beck is a useless cult don't assume there is always a typo.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:37 AM on October 16, 2010


lease, the reality is actuall Progressives -- as opposed to todays "progressives" (liberals who two cowardly to call themselves that) -- were actually pretty bad people.

Oh, no no no. That's a laughably broad brush with which to paint a whole sociopolitical movement that transformed the nation and the culture in many ways, positive as well as negative. To brush the leading figures of the era aside as "pretty bad people" is to present an idea as shallowly ahistorical as Beck's. Contemporary criticisms of Wilson and others are valid enough, but it's much too much to write off the entire movement - we live with most of its assumptions regularly today.
posted by Miko at 8:43 AM on October 16, 2010


When I was younger, I was so proud of the ways that America had managed to heal, that despite all the violence of the past we would never fragment like Balkan states, that movements like the JBS and the KKK were reduced to a scuttling mass of roaches fleeing the light as we all moved towards rationality.

Well, as I say, I was younger. But this is the important lesson I've learned: America's worst ideas are like prions. They might lay undisturbed in the soil for decades, even centuries, but in time, when people start to get their nourishment from the wrong places, the brainsickness will return.
posted by Countess Elena at 8:54 AM on October 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


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