The 45-year-old "highway shooter" who engaged in a 12-minute shootout with California Highway Patrol officers earlier this year now says Fox News host Glenn Beck has been an inspiration for his activity.
In a several thousand word expose for MediaMatters, Pacifica journalist John Hamilton interviewed the so-called highway shooter, Byron Williams, from prison.
In the interview, Williams details what he saw as an elaborate global conspiracy and tells the journalist -- whom he sees as his "media advocate" -- to look to specific broadcasts of Beck's show for information on the conspiracy he describes. (MediaMatters says Beck's show provided "information on the conspiracy theory that drove him over the edge: an intricate plot involving Barack Obama, philanthropist George Soros, a Brazilian oil company, and the BP disaster.")
The release on Hamilton's story explains that "Williams also points to other media figures -- right-wing propagandist David Horowitz, and Internet conspiracist and repeated Fox News guest Alex Jones -- as key sources of information to inspire his 'revolution.'"
Williams is quoted as saying that "Beck would never say anything about a conspiracy, would never advocate violence. He'll never do anything ... of this nature. But he'll give you every ounce of evidence that you could possibly need."
"I collect information on corruption," Williams says, "I've been at it for some time."
Beck, in particular, he says, is "like a schoolteacher on TV." Williams reportedly told Hamilton, "You need to go back to June -- June of this year, 2010 -- and look at all his programs from June, and you'll see he's been breaking open some of the most hideous corruption."
Hamilton notes that extremism linked to anti-progressive propaganda is nothing new:
Conspiracy theory-fueled extremism has long been a reaction to progressive government in the United States. Half a century ago, historian Richard Hofstadter wrote that right-wing thought had come to be dominated by the belief that Communist agents had infiltrated all levels of American government and society. The right, he explained, had identified a "sustained conspiracy, running over more than a generation, and reaching its climax in Roosevelt's New Deal, to undermine free capitalism, to bring the economy under the direction of the federal government, and to pave the way for socialism or communism."
In a 2009 report, the Southern Poverty Law Center found that the anti-government militia movement -- which had risen to prominence during the Clinton administration and faded away during the Bush years -- has returned. According to the SPLC, the anti-government resurgence has been buttressed by paranoid rhetoric from public officials like Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and media figures like Fox News' Glenn Beck.
Just last month, Gregory Giusti pleaded guilty to repeatedly threatening House Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- including threatening to destroy her California home -- because he was "upset with her passing the health care law." His mother told a local news station that he "frequently gets in with a group of people that have really radical ideas," adding, "I'd say Fox News or all of those that are really radical, and he -- that's where he comes from."
After the 2008 election, Fox News personalities filled the airwaves with increasingly violent rhetoric and apocalyptic language. On his Fox News show, Beck talked about "put[ting] poison" in Pelosi's wine.
Observers of this most recent act were mystified by one of Byron Williams' reported targets: the Tides Foundation, a low-profile charitable organization known for funding environmentalists, community groups, and other organizations.
Beck, it turned out, had attacked Tides 29 times on his Fox News show in the year-and-a-half leading up to the shooting.
In their writeup, The Huffington Post provided a video that detailed Williams' attack, as posted on YouTube. It follows.