Almost since its inception, Fox News has been a hotbed of irresponsible discourse that encouraged intolerance and hostility. They have harbored hosts, contributors and guests whose language was sometimes thinly veiled advocacy of violence, and sometimes there was no veil at all.
- Bill O’Reilly threatened to “hunt down” and “strangle” members of the media.
- Liz Trotta joked that “somebody knock off Osama … uh … Obama … well, both if we could.”
- Rush Limbaugh told his listeners to start riots at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, “with burning cars, protests, fires, literal riots, and all of that. That’s the objective here.”
- Sarah Palin has taken to giving her followers this advice: “Don’t retreat…Reload!”
- Glenn Beck agreed with his guest Michael Scheuer that the only hope for America “is for Osama bin Laden to deploy and detonate a major weapon in the United States.”
Beck is one of the worst perpetrators of hostile rhetoric. He used to have a regular radio bit wherein he speculated about who he would like to beat to death with a shovel. He fantasized about choking Michael Moore to death with his bare hands. And more recently he frequently condemns progressives as a cancer that has to be “cut out.” So perhaps it was Beck to whom this Fox News story was referring when they said that provocative remarks “could easily incite a rabid fan to commit violent acts.” And that fans “could be influenced because of their devotion.” The article quoted Cooper Lawrence, the author of “Cult of Celebrity” saying that:
“The fear isn’t that a celebrity will influence someone to do something violent or out of character due to the sheer devotion to the celebrity, the fear is that someone who is already vulnerable, mentally disturbed, already considering something dangerous, may be encouraged to do so if it is advocated by their favorite star.”
Image consultant Michael Sands concurred saying that he “is taking his fame too seriously. He is having delusions and his anger” could “get him arrested!”
These criticisms ought to be taken seriously by anyone, left or right, who ventures into such disturbing scenarios and has the ability to influence others who may not be of particularly sound mind. Certainly that would apply to someone with the public posture of Glenn Beck. Just one little thing…The article was not referring to Beck or any of the other viscerally divisive characters above. It was referring to actor John Cusack who Tweeted…
“I AM FOR A SATANIC DEATH CULT CENTER AT FOX NEWS HQ AND OUTSIDE THE OFFICES ORDICK ARMEYAND NEWT GINGRICH-and all the GOP WELFARE FREAKS”
Much of the reaction at Fox News, and elsewhere in the rightist blogosphere, is that Cusack was articulating some kind of threat. That just illustrates how deficient their comprehension skills are. Anyone with a functioning cerebrum can see that Cusack was responding to the bigoted and illogical arguments against the Islamic community center being planned near ground zero in Lower Manhattan. Cusack was satirically turning the controversy on its head by proposing a church of Satan near Fox’s offices. But the dimwits at Fox, and their ideological peers, just don’t get it.
It’s too bad that when Fox News finally gets around to making a principled statement against violent hate-speech that they direct it toward someone who wasn’t engaging in it and ignore their own complicity. It would be nice if those getting so worked up about this phony misinterpretation of Cusack’s comments would be similarly outraged by the very real violent rhetoric that is a regular part of Fox’s programming, as noted above. But I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for that expression of fairness and balance to occur.