It's important to remember when watching conservatives discuss the Middle East that many of them see events over there on a slightly larger scale than world politics. Back in 2006, numerous conservative media figures -- including Glenn Beck and Pat Robertson -- used unrest in the Middle East to question whether we were facing an "impending Apocalypse."
In fact, prominent conservatives regularly dabble in Biblical Armageddon soothsaying. In recent weeks, Beck has hosted End Times-obsessed Joel Rosenberg to forward Apocalyptic talk about an Islamic Caliphate. (Beck previously hosted Rosenberg on his CNN show to examine "end of days scenarios.")
As we documented, last year prominent conservative pastor John Hagee released a book positing that we are fast-approaching Biblical Armageddon. Beck endorsed Hagee's "excellent" book, and said that "a lot of the pieces that have never been here for the prophecy are here now."
In this vein, Fox Nation is currently asking if a video of the Egyptian protests shows evidence of the "Fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse":
In the wake of Weekly Standard editor and Fox News contributor Bill Kristol calling out Glenn Beck for his "hysteria" over Egypt, prominent conservatives have been choosing sides.
Beck has responded by lashing out at critics -- including telling people that call him "crazy" because of his New World Order theory to "go to hell" -- and wrongly insisting that articles in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal have proven him right.
This weekend was not a particularly good one for Team Beck - as we noted, Bill O'Reilly and several Fox News guests directly contradicted Beck's Egypt theories on Friday night.
During his regular "At Your Beck and Call" segment, O'Reilly challenged Beck, going so far as to say "I don't see it," and adding that "there's no evidence that says I'm not right."
But while prominent conservatives distanced themselves from Beck's incoherence, Beck found solid support from a couple attendees at CPAC.
WorldNetDaily's Jerome Corsi, whose love for conspiracy theories leads him to say things like Obama "has stolen the identity of a natural born citizen" and is "using someone else's Social Security number," said that he and WND have "supported Glenn Beck" and that "Glenn Beck is right on it." Corsi referenced a piece by fellow WND writer Aaron Klein, in which Klein wrote that he was "compelled to join Glenn Beck's side":
Fox Nation frequently dabbles in race-baiting, but rarely are they as overt about it as they are with the following "story" that is currently featured on their home page:
Unsurprisingly, the Wall Street Journal article that Fox Nation excerpts and links to does not share the same headline. The article, headlined "Big Union to Step Up Recruiting," is about how the SEIU is increasing recruiting efforts in various cities around the country in order to "counter political pressure on public-sector unions."
While WSJ reports that the campaign will focus "mostly" on recruiting "low-wage minority workers," nowhere does the article mention Obama (or a "Minority Army," for that matter.) It's focused on the SEIU trying to mobilize people living in cities that "have high concentrations of SEIU members and are in states where governors have proposed cutting benefits to public-sector workers amid worries over pension costs and broader budget woes."
This is just blatant race-baiting, and based on the reactions from their unhinged commenters, the article has served its intended purpose.
Last week, Glenn Beck unfurled an elaborate, nonsensical conspiracy theory purporting to explain the uprisings in Egypt.
As we documented, over the course of the week, he connected the events in Egypt to the AFL-CIO, Code Pink, the Tides Foundation's Drummond Pike, Frances Fox Piven, Marxist communists (not to be confused with Islamic socialists, who are also involved), ACORN co-founder Wade Rathke, the Muslim Brotherhood, food prices, and Bill Ayers. (Last night, Beck confirmed that our description of his theory was accurate, though he protested that it's "not a conspiracy.")
Much of his theory revolved around how people on the left are supposedly working with Islamists who want to install a caliphate in the Middle East.
For a brief sampling, here's a segment from Beck's show from last Monday, where he laid out part of his caliphate theory.
In response to Beck's attempt to explain what's going on in Egypt, Fox News contributor and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol wrote that Beck has been "marginalizing himself" through his "hysteria," and said that his rantings recall Robert Welch and the John Birch Society.:
Now, people are more than entitled to their own opinions of how best to accomplish that democratic end. And it's a sign of health that a political and intellectual movement does not respond to a complicated set of developments with one voice.
But hysteria is not a sign of health. When Glenn Beck rants about the caliphate taking over the Middle East from Morocco to the Philippines, and lists (invents?) the connections between caliphate-promoters and the American left, he brings to mind no one so much as Robert Welch and the John Birch Society. He's marginalizing himself, just as his predecessors did back in the early 1960s. [The Weekly Standard, 2/14/11]
Unsurprisingly, Beck and his co-hosts responded by lashing out at Kristol, suggesting that he hasn't done "a minute of research" into the issue and joking about "dumbing it down" for Kristol's benefit.
As their feud continues, several conservative commentators are picking sides. Salon's Alex Pareene got the ball rolling on trying to separate commentators into "Team Beck" and "Team Kristol" - or, as he put it, the "crazy right-wingers against merely nutty."
Here's how things are shaping up so far.
Conservatives have spent the last several years trying to cast doubt on President Obama's Christianity, often by suggesting he is a secret Muslim or claiming that he is a non-believer pretending to be Christian for political benefit. Sadly, their smear campaign has been effective - Pew reported last year that only 34 percent of Americans believe Obama is Christian (compared to nearly 18 percent who think he is Muslim.)
You might think it would be difficult for conservative smear merchants to continue to cast doubt on Obama's faith when he calls Jesus Christ "my lord and Savior," like he did at yesterday's annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC.. But, as "news" outlets like Fox Nation have shown time and again, they have absolutely no standards and are willing to manufacture scandals out of thin air when reality doesn't coincide with their chosen narrative.
If you visit Fox Nation right now, you are greeted by the following story on their front page:
If you follow the link, you are taken to a page on Fox Nation that claims Obama "misquoted a familiar Bible verse" during his address yesterday:
President Obama misquoted a familiar Bible verse during a faith-based address at the National Prayer Breakfast.
"Those who wait on the Lord will soar on wings like eagles, and they will run and not be weary, and they will walk and not faint," the president said during a speech to several thousand people at the breakfast.
But the actual passage, from Isaiah 40:31, states: "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."
Somewhat ironically, while Fox Nation appears to be positioning themselves as the arbiters of authentic Christianity, they seem unfamiliar with the fact that there is more than one version of the Bible.
This would be funny if it weren't so pathetic.
Most likely, they won't bother to correct their story, and their goal will be accomplished: the readers that trust them will remember the time Obama "misquoted" the Bible, some more people will question the authenticity of Obama's faith, and the smear machine will move on.
Some readers have correctly pointed out that while the New International Version is closer to what Obama said than the King James passage Fox Nation used is, Obama didn't quote word-for-word from the NIV either.
The NIV says: "but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."
Other versions of the Bible are also pretty close to what Obama said.
Here's the Holman Christian Standard Bible, for example: "but those who trust in the LORD will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint."
So while Fox's criticism of Obama is still wrong, I should not have asserted that Obama was directly quoting from the NIV.
Last night during his State of the Union address, in addition to calling for investment in infrastructure and education, President Obama called for our government to end subsidies to oil companies and instead invest in clean energy technologies:
OBAMA: We need to get behind this innovation. And to help pay for it, I'm asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies. I don't know if you've noticed, but they're doing just fine on their own. So instead of subsidizing yesterday's energy, let's invest in tomorrow's.
Now, clean energy breakthroughs will only translate into clean energy jobs if businesses know there will be a market for what they're selling. So tonight, I challenge you to join me in setting a new goal: by 2035, 80% of America's electricity will come from clean energy sources. Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal, and natural gas. To meet this goal, we will need them all - and I urge Democrats and Republicans to work together to make it happen.
Today on his radio program, Glenn Beck responded to Obama's call for government investment, and tried to draw a contrast between the type of government-funded innovation Obama was calling for, and what Beck thinks entrepreneurs like Bill Gates would prescribe:
So, according to Beck, it's "guaranteed" that innovators like Gates would say to Obama: "The first thing I need is the federal government to get out of my face."
Rather than try to read Gates' mind, Beck would have been better served by looking into what Gates has been up to lately. Bill Gates is a member of the American Energy Innovation Council, which has, very publicly, called for the government to drastically increase its investments in "accelerating energy innovation."
Fox Nation is a profoundly ridiculous website.
When it first launched, Fox VP Joel Cheatwood described it as a place that was not "going to be limited to die-hard Fox News fans." Ads touting the site announced that it was "Time to Say NO to Biased Media and Say YES to Fair Play and Free Speech."
In the intervening 22 months, Fox Nation has revealed itself as a site with even lower standards than its parent network. Fox Nation regularly hosts egregious falsehoods, openly roots for the GOP (see this subtle reporting on the House vote to repeal health care reform last week, for example) and frequently promotes birtherism, much to the delight of their commenters.
Often, it seems that the site exists solely highlight whatever nonsense Jim Hoft and NewsBusters are complaining about on any given day.
Despite their utter lack of standards, they somehow still manage to surprise me with some of the petty, inane "stories" they put on their website. For example, here is today's "Pic of the Day,"asking if Obama was given a "waiver" to kiss Jill Biden in front of Michelle. Why? I don't know.
Fox News president Roger Ailes is big on loyalty. In the wake of criticism of Glenn Beck by members of the Fox News staff, Ailes told Howard Kurtz that it was "the first time in our 14 years we've had people apparently shooting in the tent, from within the tent." He added that "We prefer people in the tent not dumping on other people in the tent."
Ailes' message of unity has apparently been received by his staff. It's why, for example, Fox News host Andrew Napolitano can reveal himself to be a 9-11 truther and not a single Fox News staffer makes a peep (even after they had spent years enthusiastically attacking truthers as "mentally ill" "idiots.")
When Fox employees are confronted publicly with any of a wide variety of things their colleagues have done that should cause the network embarrassment, their response is often to obfuscate and defend their kin at all costs.
Last week, America Live host Megyn Kelly responded to the (inarguably correct) allegation that Fox's opinion hosts regularly traffic in Nazi analogies by claiming she watches the network "every night" and never hears anything like that. And, just as the news division covers for the "opinion" division, Fox's nighttime hosts are happy to return the favor.
On his radio show today, during a lecture to MSNBC and CNN about why their ratings aren't higher, Glenn Beck said that Fox's "news department doesn't have any opinion."
This is often the canard you hear from Fox execs when they are trying to distance people like Bret Baier and Chris Wallace from Beck's nightly fantastical conspiracy-mongering. Beck is clearly happy to play along in order to insulate his colleagues.
But no matter how many times Fox News personalities repeat variations of "our news is straight down the middle," it won't be true. In addition to their news programming regularly echoing the falsehoods and distortions from Fox's opinion shows (including following Beck's lead on stories), Fox's DC News Bureau is run by Bill Sammon.
The New York Times recently reported that frequent Glenn Beck target Frances Fox Piven has been receiving death threats. The threats against Piven are the latest in a growing series of threats and incidents of violence linked to Beck's extremist rhetoric.
Fox News' 2010 featured the network's hosts and contributors aggressively campaigning and fundraising for the GOP, trafficking in over-the-top rhetoric, and hyping an unending cavalcade of manufactured scandals (like Obama supposedly giving a major chunk of Arizona back to Mexico).
2010 also marked the network's hiring of Sarah Palin, their continued employment of serial misinformer Glenn Beck, and the revelation that Fox execs are deliberately slanting the network's news coverage.
In likely related news, Public Policy Polling released their second annual TV News Trust Poll, which found that, in contrast to a year ago, a plurality of Americans now distrust Fox News.
As they explain in their blog post about the poll's findings, this loss of support comes mostly from moderates and liberals. Trust among conservatives has fallen slightly:
A year ago a plurality of Americans said they trusted Fox News. Now a plurality of them don't. Conservatives haven't moved all that much- 75% said they trusted it last year and 72% still do this time around. But moderates and liberals have both had a strong increase in their level of distrust for the network- a 12 point gain from 48% to 60% for moderates and a 16 point gain from 66% to 82% for liberals. Voters between left and center tend to be more trusting of the media across the board, which is why a fair number of them were still rating Fox favorably even a year ago at this time. But it looks like with a lot of those folks it has finally crossed the line to being too political to trust.
Here's PPP's graph showing the highest net trust for networks to the worst: