In an interview yesterday with Media Matters, a prominent historian criticized Glenn Beck's "ludicrous" promotion of an anti-Communist screed written in the 1930s by a "crackpot" anti-Semite.
On June 4, Beck praised The Red Network: A 'Who's Who' and Handbook of Radicalism for Patriots, a 1934 book written by Elizabeth Dilling. Beck said: "This is a book -- and I'm a getting a ton of these -- from people who were doing what we're doing now. We now are documenting who all of these people are. Well, there were Americans in the first 50 years of this nation that took this seriously, and they documented it."
As we noted, Dilling was a virulent anti-Semite and a Nazi sympathizer. According to Glen Jeansonne, a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee history professor who has written about Dilling, she referred to President Eisenhower as "Ike the Kike" and labeled President Kennedy's New Frontier program the "Jew frontier."
Reached for comment yesterday, Jeansonne said that it is "ludicrous that this book written in the 1930s by a woman who was considered a crackpot at the time ... could be cited as an authority on Communism."
Jeansonne described Dilling as a "bigot who believed in ludicrous conspiracy theories" and whose "anti-Semitic" and "sophomoric" writings "appealed to the lunatic fringe" and the "far right."
Jeansonne isn't a left-wing ideologue. He told Media Matters, "I agree with some things Glenn Beck says but certainly not this." He explained that he "personally believe[s] Communism was a terrible idea and was glad to see it implode" but added that "people like Dilling did the cause of anti-Communism a disservice."
According to Jeansonne, Dilling was probably the "most bigoted woman anti-Semite of the period around World War II" and used "long-discredited conspiracy theories" -- including theories advanced in the infamous Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion -- in an effort to link Communism and Judaism.
Jeansonne said that "in addition to being anti-Semitic and anti-Communist, Dilling purported the most convoluted conspiracy theories that are imaginable." He added, "She viewed all sorts of groups with no connection or only the loosest connection as being bound together in an international conspiracy."
"I think she was mentally unstable," said Jeansonne.