About Glenn Beck’s Extremist Rhetoric

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Michael A. Cohen has a piece in Politico today about the over-the-top irresponsible extremism and conspiracy theories promulgated by weeping Glenn Beck: Extremist rhetoric won’t rebuild GOP.

Watching Fox News’ new sensation Glenn Beck is not for the faint of heart. It is a disquieting entree into the feverish mind of a conspiracy theorist who believes, among other things, that the government wants to remotely control our thermostats, that the relaxing of the ban on stem cell research — as well as efforts to prevent global warming — is reminiscent of Nazism, that the Federal Emergency Management Agency might be setting up concentration camps [Slightly off here - Beck actually semi-debunked that story. – ed.] and, finally, that the country is on the path to socialism or possibly fascism but definitely some “-ism” that should be avoided.

Yet for all of his conspiracy-addled and occasionally tear-filled declarations, Beck has become the new darling of the conservative right. His show is a regular stomping ground for Republican congressmen and party pooh-bahs like Karl Rove, Sarah Palin and Michael Steele, and his ratings rival those of Fox stalwarts Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly. According to The New York Times, Beck has become “one of the most powerful media voices for the nation’s conservative, populist anger.”

Populist agitators such as Beck are nothing new, particularly in times of economic instability — and they aren’t restricted to the right. During the Bush years, liberal anger over the administration’s policies bred bizarre conspiracy theories of its own, like accusations that the Sept. 11 attacks were an inside job.

However, Beck’s paranoid style is seeping into the discourse of conservative politics, which should be of concern to Republicans. The charge that President Barack Obama is a socialist, first raised in the 2008 campaign, has become a de rigueur epithet heard not only on talk radio but in the halls of Congress. Calls by China to consider replacing the dollar as the global reserve currency have been met by bizarre warnings from congressional Republicans that the Obama administration wants to scrap the greenback for a new global currency. Thirty-four House Republicans have even signed on to a constitutional amendment that would prevent this from occurring, though no such proposal is being considered.

He’s right. This turn toward the extreme right on the part of Fox News is troubling, and will achieve nothing in the long run except further marginalization of the GOP—unless people start behaving like adults instead of angry kids throwing tantrums and ranting about conspiracies and revolution.

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