Making Sense of Ezra Taft Benson, Civil Rights and Glenn Beck
Killgore Trout wrote some amazing, amazing stuff on Glenn Beck’s neo-Lindbergh/McCarthyist rantings. To be able to make sense of Beck is quite an accomplishment, and his isolating Ezra Taft Benson, the author of Civil Rights: Tool of Communist Deception, who Beck has quoted from on air, is truly valuable in understanding the ideology driving him to his conclusions.
ThinkProgress has reported at length on Benson, detailing many lurid elements of Benson’s writing history:
In an interview with the blog Scholars and Rogues, Zaitchik noted that “Benson actually wrote the forward to a Mormon-authored book of race hate called Black Hammer: A Study of Black Power, Red Influence, and White Alternatives, which had on its cover the bloody, severed head of an African-American.”
There is actually something really great here. For a really long time, the Civil Rights era has been so obscured and simplified, with Martin Luther King Jr. becoming reduced to his “I Have A Dream” speech, that we’ve been able to really forget who the players were.
One nugget of Benson’s pamphlet gives a good look at the time of his writing:
Police and national guard units will never be adequate to handle such widespread anarchy—especially if a large part of our men and equipment are drained away in fighting a foreign war. In self-defense, larger numbers are brought into fighting on both sides. The appearance of a nationwide civil war takes form. In the confusion, potential anti-communist leaders of both races are assassinated, apparently the accidental casualties of race war.
Time the attack to coincide with large-scale sabotage of water supplies, power grids, main railroad and highway arteries, communication centers, and government buildings. With fires raging in every conceivable part of town, with wanton looting going on in the darkness of a big city, without routine police protection, without water to drink, without electrical refrigeration, without transporation or radio or TV, the public will panic, lock its door in trembling fear, and make it much easier for the small but well-led and fully disciplined guerrilla bands to capture the power-centers of each community. Overthrow the government! After complete control is consolidated, (and that may take many months, as in Cuba), only then allow the people to discover that it was a communist revolution after all.
Benson wrote this in 1967. Cuba had become communist in 1959. Something looking pretty close to war had broken out throughout much of the south. At that point, Martin Luther King Jr. had already given his “I Have A Dream” speech. John F. Kennedy and Malcolm X had already been assassinated. For an America frightened by the anarchy of the 1960s, the explanation that all this chaos was a communist conspiracy must have provided a powerful opiate.
I wrote at Gonzo Times that Beck is essentially holding White America’s hand as it grapples with social change that is messing up its cognitive assessment of what America is supposed to be. Christopher Hitchens has made a similar evaluation. Just like in the 1930s and later the 1960s, America is coming off of an economic and influential high point and grappling with social change (more the case in the later than the former) and economic turmoil.
Take Beck’s advice and read for yourself. From the plots to overthrow governments to the quoting of Mormon founder Joseph Smith, reading Civil Rights: Tool of Communist Deception makes sense of not only Glenn Beck but of the civil rights era.
Extra: Here is a clip of Ezra Taft Benson addressing students.