I am pleasantly surprised when I locate something that is so good and comes from an unexpected place. So, in that spirit, I give you…
(Yes, it is written by the movie review guy and NO, It is not a movie review.)
Put up or Shut up
by: Roger Ebert
We already know the numbers. Pew finds that 18% of Americans believe President Obama is a Muslim. A new Newsweek poll, taken after the controversy over the New York mosque, places that figure at 24%. Even if he’s not a Muslim, Newsweek finds, 31 percent think it’s “definitely or probably” true that Obama “sympathizes with the goals of Islamic fundamentalists who want to impose Islamic law around the world.”
When the focus is narrowed to Republicans, a Harris poll finds 57 percent of party members believe he is a Muslim, 22% believe he “wants the terrorists to win,” and 24% believe he is the Antichrist.
These figures sadden me with the depth of thoughtlessness and credulity they imply. A democracy depends on an informed electorate to survive. An alarming number of Americans and a majority of Republicans are misinformed. The man who was swept into office by a decisive majority is now considered by many citizens to be the enemy. Some fundamentalists believe he is the Antichrist named by Jesus in the Bible.
This many Americans did not arrive at such conclusions on their own. They were persuaded by a relentless process of insinuation, strategic silence and cynical misinformation. Most of the leaders in this process have been cautious to avoid actually saying Obama is a Muslim. They speak in coded words and allow the implications to sink in. I recently watched Glenn Beck speaking at great length about Obama’s Muslim father, but you would not have learned from Beck that the father, who Obama met only once, was not a practicing Muslim in any sense.
Rush Limbaugh has told his listeners he can find “no evidence” that Obama is a Christian. In Paul Krugman’s op-ed column in the New York Times on 8/29, Limbaugh is quoted: “Imam Hussein Obama, is probably the best anti-American president we’ve ever had.” Limbaugh obviously doesn’t believe Obama is an imam. How many of his listeners realize that? Is he concerned that his words will be taken seriously?
These opinions have an agenda. They seek to demonize the Obama Presidency and mainstream liberal politics in general. The conservatism they prefer is not the traditional conservatism of such figures as Taft, Nixon, Reagan, Buckley or Goldwater. It is a frightening new radical fringe movement, financed by such as the newly notorious billionaire Koch brothers, whose hatred of government extends even to opposition to tax funding for public schools.
The money behind the movement has been shaken in its boots by the recent exposure of criminal activities in the money markets. Our economy has collapsed and it seemed clear to many Americans that the unregulated greed of Wall Street trading, especially in derivatives, was responsible. These were not investments in industry, the economy or the future. They were investments in a bold Ponzi scheme which defrauded home owners into fronting for a pyramid of worthless loans. Citizens lost their homes, investment houses went bankrupt, but the criminals responsible continued to pay themselves multi-million-dollar bonuses.
From the same column by Krugman: “Wall Street has turned on Mr. Obama with a vengeance: last month Steve Schwarzman, the billionaire chairman of the Blackstone Group, the private equity giant, compared proposals to end tax loopholes for hedge fund managers with the Nazi invasion of Poland.”
Say what? Proposals to end loopholes? Read that again. Our recession and the collapse of the housing and jobs markets squeezed through those loopholes. And if you agree with the Democratic attempts to close them, you are compared to Hitler? Republicans in Washington vote nearly as a block against financial reform. Shouldn’t the implications be clear to an informed electorate?
This process may soon be arriving at a moment of truth. The new issue of Vanity Fair mentions in its profile of Sarah Palin, as a casual aside, that Glenn Beck has booked the Dena’ina Center, the largest venue in Anchorage, for the date of September 11, 2010. What do you think that means? It could mean Beck simply wants to hold a rally in the home state of the woman who shared his podium on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s famous speech.
Beck says he chose that date without realizing its significance. But it cannot be a coincidence that he has chosen 9/11. Nor does it take special insight to connect that date with Palin’s many statements about the “Ground Zero Mosque” and the even more pointed “9/11 Mosque.” The association is obvious: “9/11” feeds into “mosque” feeds into “Muslims” feeds into the misperception that Obama is a Muslim. Beck and Palin speak about “taking back America.” The buried message is that they will take it back from Muslims. This is a heartless misuse of the tragedy of 9/11 and its victims.
If Beck had planned to come to Anchorage on another date, it wouldn’t have excited much notice. But any meeting in Alaska on 9/11 without Palin also present will be anticlimactic. It’s too far to go not to feature her. The symbolic date of 9/11 invests this event with the inescapable possibility that he and Palin plan to announce their Presidential candidacy for 2012.
This is their privilege, and is not exactly unexpected. What is inescapable, given the timing, is that their candidacy would benefit from the paranoia already infecting so many Americans about Obama’s fictitious Islamic religion. Palin and Beck have so far both been content to let this process work without specific comment on their part. Their silence is a symptom of a cancer infecting American democracy. Our political immune system has only one antibody, and that is the truth.
The time is here for responsible Americans to put up or shut up. I refer specifically to those who have credibility among the guileless and credulous citizens who have been infected with notions so carefully nurtured. We cannot afford to allow the next election to proceed under a cloud of falsehood and delusion.
We know, because they’ve said so publicly, that George W. Bush, his father and Sen. John McCain do not believe Obama is a Muslim. This is the time — now, not later — for them to repeat that belief in a joint statement. Other prominent Republicans such as Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul also certainly do not believe it. They have a responsibility to make that clear by subscribing to the statement. Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh must join, or let their silence indict them. Limbaugh in particular must cease his innuendos and say, flat out, whether he believes the President is a Muslim or not. Yes or no. Does he have evidence, or does he have none? Yes or no.
To do anything less at this troubled time in our history would be a crime against America.
Dana Milbank writes for the Washington Post and I enjoy his work.
So now you can too.
Civil rights’ new ‘owner’: Glenn Beck
by: Dana Milbank
Sunday, August 29, 2010
There is a telling anecdote in Glenn Beck’s 2003 memoir about how the cable news host was influenced by the great fantasist Orson Welles. To travel between performances in Manhattan, Beck recounts, Welles hired an ambulance, sirens blaring, to ferry him around town — not because Welles was ill but because he wanted to avoid traffic.
Most of us would regard this as dishonest, a ploy by the self-confessed charlatan that Welles was. Beck saw it as a model to be emulated. “Welles,” he writes, “inspired me to believe that I can create anything that I can see or imagine.”
I was reminded of Beck’s affection for deception as he hyped his march on Washington — an event scheduled for the same date (Aug. 28) and on the same spot (the Lincoln Memorial) as Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic march 47 years ago. Beck claimed it was pure coincidence, but then he made every effort to appropriate the mantle of the great civil rights leader.
Beck as the fulfillment of Dr. King’s dream? And you thought “War of the Worlds” was frightening.
It’s been just over a year since Beck famously called the first African American president a “racist” with a “deep-seated hatred for white people.” And now, accused of racial pot-stirring, he apparently has determined that the best defense is to be patently offensive.
“Blacks don’t own Martin Luther King,” he tells us, any more than whites own Lincoln or Washington. “The left” doesn’t own King, either, he says.
No, Beck owns King. “This is the moment, quite honestly, that I think we reclaim the civil rights movement,” he said this spring. “We are on the right side of history. We are on the side of individual freedoms and liberties and, damn it, we will reclaim the civil rights moment. We will take that movement because we are the people that did it in the first place.”
We are? Let’s review Beck’s history as a civil rights pioneer, a history I’ve studied while writing a book about Beck.
When Beck was a radio host in Connecticut in the 1990s, his station apologized for an on-air skit in which Beck and his partner mocked an Asian American caller and used their version of an Asian accent. As a CNN host a couple of years ago, Beck interviewed Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the first Muslim elected to Congress, and challenged him to “prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.”
President Obama, who Beck says was elected because he isn’t white, is “moving all of us quickly in slavery,” Beck has asserted. On his radio show, he declared that “you don’t take the name Barack to identify with America. . . . You take the name Barack to identify with . . . the heritage, maybe, of your father in Kenya, who is a radical.” He accused Obama of seeking “reparations” from white America, seeking to “settle old racial scores.”
Beck has spoken on air about “radical black nationalism” in the White House and “Marxist black liberation theology” influencing Obama. He has further determined that the New Black Panthers have “ties to the White House in a myriad of ways” and are part of Obama’s “army of thugs.”
This is not quite the ideal background for a man who would claim to be King’s heir — and that’s where Orson Welles comes in.
Second, he invoked some selective history, using his Fox News show to deliver a three-part series updating the history of the civil rights movement. “How has the Democratic Party assumed the mantle of defender of minorities, if you know their early history?” he asked. “Dating to Andrew Jackson — this is the 17th century . . . .”
Seventeenth century, 19th century, whatever. He informed viewers that “it was the GOP that took the lead on the civil rights” cause.
Finally, Beck updated the meaning of the civil rights movement so that it is no longer about black people; it is about protecting anti-tax conservatives from liberals. Civil rights leaders, he said, “purposely distorted Martin Luther King’s ideas.” Over the past century, Beck reasons, “no man has been free, because we’ve been progressive.” To his followers, he says: “We are the people of the civil rights movement.”
All that is left is for Beck to drive around town by ambulance.
Dana Milbank’s book, “Tears of a Clown: Glenn Beck and the Tea Bagging of America,” will be published Oct. 5.
HERE IS A LINK TO THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE