This time, Glenn Beck has managed to outdo even himself. Finally, can we say enough is enough?
Recently, the Fox News host made some unacceptable comments about George Soros, the Hungarian-American philanthropist and Holocaust survivor. On his radio show, Beck claimed that Soros — who as a 13-year-old boy was separated from his parents in Nazi-occupied Hungary — “used to go around with this anti-Semite and deliver papers to the Jews and confiscate their property and then ship them off. … It was frightening. Here’s a Jewish boy helping send the Jews to the death camps.”
In order to escape the Nazi death camps, Soros posed as a Christian, and was taken in by the Baumbachs, a righteous Gentile family. His adopted father was ordered to take the inventory of Mor Kornfeld, a wealthy Jewish aristocrat who had since left for Lisbon with his family. Rather than leave the boy behind in Budapest for three days, Baumbach took Soros with him to the Kornfeld estate.
Those who monitor Beck on a regular basis know that his rants are consistently offensive and over the top. He crafts conspiracy theories involving left-leaning figures such as Soros, whom Beck has dubbed the “progressive puppet master.” He vilifies people such as Nancy Pelosi and Van Jones, and progressive groups such as the Tides Foundation and ACLU. Beck has compared people such as Simon Greer, executive director of Jewish Funds For Justice, to the Nazis. Beck equates social justice with communism and, no surprise, Nazism. And apparently Beck’s rhetoric has inspired some of his viewers, perhaps even more unstable and unhinged than he, to threaten public officials and conspire to commit acts of violence against Beck’s targets, even murder.
Without question, Beck has a Nazi fetish. As Dana Milbank of the Washington Post noted, from the time of Obama’s inauguration through June of this year, Beck mentioned Nazi or Nazism 202 times, fascism or fascist 193 times, Hitler 147 times, and Joseph Goebbels 24 times. Not unlike the virulently homophobic politician or pastor who is caught with a male escort, perhaps Beck’s obsession with Nazis reflects a hypocritical admiration for them. After all, he has hosted white supremacists, secessionists and defenders of slavery on his program. On his Twitter page, he listed a white supremacist website as among his favorites.
Beck’s latest hit job on George Soros is classic anti-Semitism, and is disturbing for a number of reasons. For one, he chose the 72nd anniversary of Kristallnacht — the infamous pogrom against Jews throughout Nazi Germany — to make his comments. During Kristallnacht, which means “Night of Broken Glass,” mobs of storm trooper thugs destroyed 7,000 Jewish businesses, burned over 900 synagogues to the ground, and murdered 91 Jews. 30,000 Jewish men were shipped to concentration camps. Announced by Nazi Propaganda Minister Goebbels, this pogrom laid the groundwork for Germany’s decision to remove Jews from public life.
Further, Beck’s depiction of Soros as an enabler of Nazi murder represents a classic example of anti-Semitism and Holocaust revisionism. And the “puppet master” analogy is a variation on the “Jewish conspiracy” theme, the Jew as usurer and villain. In Beck’s twisted mind, Soros is Shylock the ruthless moneylender in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, or Fagin the Jew in Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, a man who deals in stolen goods and leads a gang of pickpocketing young boys.
Elan Steinberg, vice president of the The American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants, said that Beck’s charges are “monstrous,” and “go to the heart of the instrumentalization and trivialization of the Holocaust.” Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) said that Beck’s statement was “completely inappropriate and offensive,” adding that “For a political commentator or entertainer to have the audacity to say, there’s a Jewish boy sending Jews to death camps, that’s horrific. It’s totally off limits and over the top.”
But just weeks earlier on October 22, Foxman had written a letter to Beck, calling him a “friend of Israel,” and apologizing for an ADL mailer that “inadvertently misidentified you on a list of celebrities who made anti-Semitic statements over the past year.” And on October 13, the ADL presented an award to Rupert Murdoch, Beck’s boss, “for his stalwart support of Israel and his commitment to promoting respect and speaking out against anti-Semitism.” In his acceptance speech, Murdoch announced that the most virulent forms of anti-Semitism come from the left, often dressed up as legitimate criticism of Israel. That day, the ADL released its blacklist of the so-called top 10 anti-Israel groups in America, all of whom are leftwing civil rights and human rights groups critical of the occupation of the Palestinians. On the list is Jewish Voice For Peace — a progressive Jewish group whose advisors include respected rabbis in the American Jewish community, and prominent Jewish Americans such as actor Ed Asner and journalist Naomi Klein.
Old-guard Jewish organizations such as the ADL and AIPAC have entered into a marriage of convenience with the American conservative movement, thereby enabling anti-Semites like Glenn Beck. That marriage has turned into a Faustian bargain. The ADL and others court the Christian Right for their so-called “pro-Israel” stand, although evangelical support for Israel is based on the belief that all Jews will die when Jesus Christ returns. Critics of Israel’s hard-right, ultra-Orthodox coalition government — including anti-occupation and pro-Palestinian rights groups — are branded as “anti-Semites.” Progressive pro-Israel, pro-peace Jewish groups such as J Street are branded as self-haters. Shutting down debate stalls the peace process and undermines everyone, including American Jews, the Israelis and the Palestinians.
Meanwhile, Fox News holds onto Beck as its useful idiot, albeit a dangerous one. Fox is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Republican Party, or vice versa. It is no secret that Murdoch has given truckloads of money to the GOP, and that Fox is the official Tea Party network. And it is no secret that as Beck pimped the legacy of Martin Luther King, he also partnered with the Tea Party corporate front group FreedomWorks to elect extremist-right candidates.
All of us should be concerned about Glenn Beck’s verbal assault on George Soros and his mocking of the Holocaust. Yet, this is more than a Jewish issue. We live in a time of scapegoats, the “other,” including Muslims, Arabs, Latino immigrants, and the LGBT community. Hard economic times do that to “civilized” societies. People need someone — anyone — to blame for their misfortunes. And they delude themselves into believing that once the “other” is eliminated, their problems will disappear.
Kristallnacht was the culmination of a campaign of racist rhetoric against a group of people. This led to full-scale violence against that group, and laws designed to bring about their civil and physical death. The Glenn Becks in a given society are the propagandists that get the process going. They soften up the public through media manipulation, and make their audience receptive to the persecution of others.
So, how long will Glenn Beck last? Certainly, he is important to Fox News as their money-maker, their rising star. But one should remember that when stars turn into black holes, they can destroy everything in their path, even light. With a successful boycott effort causing Beck’s sponsors to drop like flies, we must ask if this latest chapter will prove to be his undoing.
David A. Love is the Executive Editor of BlackCommentator.com, and a contributor to The Progressive Media Project and theGrio. He is based in Philadelphia and is a graduate of Harvard College and the University of Pennsylvania Law School. His blog is davidalove.com.