On his Monday Fox News program, Glenn Beck complained that he had not seen any leaders emerge in the wake of the Tucson Slaughter who would stand up and say “Stop it!” He must not have been looking very hard because dozens of Democrats and progressives in the media did just that, even as their counterparts on the right dismissed them.
Now, after taking 48 hours to make any statement at all, Beck thrusts himself into the role of leader with this challenge:
I challenge all Americans, left or right, regardless if you’re a politician, pundit, painter, priest, parishioner, poet or porn star to agree with all of the following.
- I denounce violence, regardless of ideological motivation.
Does that include fantasizing about choking the life out of Michael Moore or beating Rep. Charles Rangel to death with a shovel?
- I denounce anyone, from the Left, the Right or middle, who believes physical violence is the answer to whatever they feel is wrong with our country.
Does that include your guest Michael Scheuer who said that the only hope for America was for Bin Laden to attack again?
- I denounce those who wish to tear down our system and rebuild it in their own image, whatever that image may be.
Does that include yourself who has said that “progressivism is a cancer in America, and it’s eating our Constitution” and that America needs to be “re-founded?”
- I denounce those from the Left, the Right or middle, who call for riots and violence as an opportunity to bring down and reconstruct our system.
Does that include Rush Limbaugh who said “Screw the world – Riot in Denver” in an attempt to sow unrest at the Democratic Convention?
- I denounce violent threats and calls for the destruction of our system – regardless of their underlying ideology – whether they come from the Hutaree Militia or Frances Fox Piven.
Does that include Sharron Angle who advocated “2nd Amendment remedies” and Joyce Kaufman who said that “if ballots don’t work, bullets will?”
- I hold those responsible for the violence, responsible for the violence. I denounce those who attempt to blame political opponents for the acts of madmen.
Does that include yourself who even today blamed political opponents for politicizing Tucson simply because they called for toning down the rhetoric?
- I denounce those from the Left, the Right or middle that sees violence as a viable alternative to our long established system of change made within the constraints of our constitutional Republic.
Does that include accepting an administration that campaigned (and won) on a platform of “fundamental change” within the constraints of our constitutional Republic?
If Glenn Beck will acknowledge that he and his rightist cohorts bear significant responsibility for the hostile environment in our nation, then his challenge is reasonable, even if it is obvious and represents the common sense approach that has always been advocated by the majority of Americans. I’m not sure where Beck gets the idea that the issuing of this challenge is either unique or demonstrative of leadership. It is more akin to a kindergarten decree to play nice.
If Beck is serious he will acknowledge that threats are not merely direct assertions of imminent harm. They are also implicit in language that dehumanizes rivals and casts them repeatedly as mortal enemies of goodness and Godliness. If he is serious he will apologize for (and stop) his campaign of vilifying his political opponents like Van Jones, George Soros, Cass Sunstein, Nancy Pelosi, and Barack Obama, and the long list of others he hates with such ferocity. He will cease to trivialize violence as he did just last month when he joked that an attempted murderer must have been a liberal because “The guy is a really bad shot.”
Today, in an interview with music impresario Russell Simmons, Fox News CEO Roger Ailes said…
“I told all of our guys, shut up, tone it down, make your argument intellectually. You don’t have to do it with bombast. I hope the other side does that.”
Color me skeptical. I find it hard to believe that someone with Ailes’ record of bombast has suddenly become a disciple of Gandhi. This is the man who recently called the executives at NPR Nazis. This is the man who said of the infamous Willie Horton ad that…
“The only question is whether we depict Willie Horton with a knife in his hand or without it.”
Time will tell if Beck and his colleagues on the right are genuinely seeking to restore civility to public discourse, or are engaging in the rank hypocrisy that has come to define conservative politics. For the sake of people who may become future victims of political violence, I have to retain some hope. But I’m not holding my breath.