Beck doth protest too much, methinks

Blog ››› ››› KATE CONWAY

Responding to criticism of his violent rhetoric, Glenn Beck spent much of his radio show's airtime today insisting that his mission is nonviolent and protesting attempts to link his violent rhetoric to real-world violent incidents.

Beck's protestations come in the wake of a potential attack on one of Beck's favorite targets that was thwarted before it began; a heavily armed California man who shot at police after being pulled over reportedly told investigators that "his intention was to start a revolution by traveling to San Francisco and killing people of importance at the Tides Foundation and the ACLU." Beck has admitted his role in publicizing the little-known Tides Foundation, which he has called an "extreme group" and accused of "indoctrination."

Beck has denied being "responsible" for the California shooter, but he must know that he doesn't dispense his terrifying predictions of coming "rivers of blood" into an unreceptive vacuum. Today he acknowledged that there must be "crackpots" prone to violence in a population as large as that of the United States:

BECK: Whoever strikes out in violence will lose. It's why Martin Luther King -- did the Huffington Post, if they were around, would they have asked Martin Luther King, "Why do you have to have all of your people that follow you sign a pledge of nonviolence? Why do you have to do that?" Because Martin Luther King instinctively knew, and I instinctively know, that you are dealing with a population of 350 million people and there are crackpots, and there are people that want to destroy the republic on the left and the right. And the only way we're going to win is if we reject it entirely. And so I'm having people sign the Martin Luther King pledge.

Beck's Martin Luther King comparison is inapt and self-indulgent. King was addressing an undeniably real, systematic injustice apparent to anyone who might have ridden a public bus; Beck is waging war on strictly hypothetical demons. Introducing a pledge of nonviolence doesn't absolve Beck of the responsibility he has for creating a tone of impending calamity on the airwaves. Surely he can't expect to tell his audience in no uncertain terms that "violence is coming" from an adversary rooted in "evil" and expect a pledge to be a reliable safeguard against the most unstable Beck devotees picking up a gun to defend against their imagined loss of freedom.

For all Beck's imaginative power, he is not a leader in a position that is analogous to Dr. King's; he shouldn't need to issue frequent reminders that violence is destructive -- yet he seems to be the only major media figure that finds it necessary to implore his audience over and over to reject violence.

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Glenn Beck
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