Beck exploits economic misery, provides 'scapegoats': Huffington

Fox News host Glenn Beck is the media's "fearmonger-in-chief," helping to sow distrust and paranoia about the government through conspiracy theories, says the Anti-Defamation League.

The ADL, one of the world's most prominent groups devoted to fighting racism and anti-Semitism, singled out the controversial TV and radio personality as having gone beyond other similar commentators in his opposition to the Obama administration.

Beck creates "an intersection between the mainstream and the extreme," says an ADL report released this week. Beck's claims "play an important role in drawing people further out of the mainstream, making them more receptive to the more extreme notions and conspiracy theories.

"While other conservative media hosts, such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, routinely attack Obama and his administration, typically on partisan grounds, they have usually dismissed or refused to give a platform to the conspiracy theorists and anti-government extremists. This has not been the case with Glenn Beck," the report states.

Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington told MSNBC's Keith Olbermann Thursday night that news personalities like Beck are exploiting the current economic crisis to radicalize the population, as has happened before throughout history.

"What makes it possible for Glenn Beck to enable and take advantage of what's happening is the fact that there's a lot of misery out there, there is a lot of legitimate anger, people are losing their jobs, losing their homes or they're afraid of losing their jobs or losing their homes. It is in this climate of often legitimate rage that Glenn Beck comes in and provides scapegoats," Huffington said on MSNBC's Countdown.

"Traditionally, throughout history, these are the dangerous times," Huffington continued. "And that's why our various establishments need to become much more sensitive to what's going on out there, and not leave it up to the Glenn Becks of the world to take advantage of what's happening."

While Huffington did not explicitly mention Germany in the era of the Third Reich, her comments in the context of a report from the ADL strongly suggested a parallel to the Nazis' scapegoating of Jews for Germany's economic woes in the 1920s and 1930s.

But in this case, it is a black president, rather than a Jewish community, that is being scapegoated, the ADL report suggests.

"In the year since we marked the historic election of the nation's first African-American president we have seen a tremendous amount of anger and hostility," said ADL head Abraham Foxman. "There is a toxic atmosphere of rage in America being witnessed at many levels, and it raises fundamental questions for our society."

The ADL report subtly hints that the political trend of mainstreaming militant views could lead to politically motivated violence.

"The fact that these anti-government sentiments are coming from such a broad spectrum makes it more likely that some individuals will become so inflamed with anger that they will move farther toward the fringes," ADL National Chair Robert G. Sugarman said in a press release. "This could result not only in the swelling of the ranks of anti-government extremist groups and movements, but might give rise to more individuals who are willing to act on their anger."

This video is from MSNBC's Countdown, broadcast Nov. 19, 2009.

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