Monday, October 11, 2010

The Real Connection Between Glenn Beck and Islam

Some weeks ago a nutter-butter right-winger named Byron Williams shot up a freeway in Oakland, California while ranting about wanting to destroy the ACLU and the nonprofit liberal-leaning Tides Foundation. He was likely influenced by conservative conspiracy theorists and had the altogether nutty idea that Obama and George Soros blew up the Deepwater Horizon oil rig intentionally so they could either make money or get cap-and-trade passed, or something. I dunno, it's tough to wade through that line of thought.

Sadly, the predictable attempts to turn this whole thing against Glenn Beck followed, most notably from Dana Milbank at the Washington Post. Milbank writes:
In August, I wrote that while it's not fair to blame Beck for violence committted by his fans, he would do well to stop encouraging extremists. Now, Williams has granted a pair of jailhouse interviews, one with the conservative and one to be published soon by the liberal group Media Matters. These recorded exchanges, which I have reviewed, show precisely why Beck is dangerous: because his is the one voice in the mass media that validates conspiracy theories held by the unstable.
Translation: I'm not blaming Beck, but really... I'm blaming Beck.

But something else occurs to me. Let's give Milbank's paragraph a little rewrite, eh?
In August, I wrote that while it's not fair to blame Islam for violence committed by its fans, Muslims would do well to stop encouraging extremists... These recorded exchanges, which I have reviewed, show precisely why Islam is dangerous: because it is the one religion in the mass culture that validates conspiracy theories held by the unstable.
I could have pulled that straight from Pam Geller's website.

Hey, this is fun! Let's see what Media Matters' Eric Boehlert has to say:
And thankfully, Williams wasn't able to take his place alongside a growing list of domestic, anti-government terrorists, such as the recent Pentagon shooter, the Holocaust Museum gunman, the kamikaze pilot who flew his plane into an IRS building in Austin, Texas, and the Pittsburgh cop-killer who set up an ambush because he was convinced Obama was going to take away his guns the Fort Hood shooter, the underpants bomber, and the Times Square bomber.

All the vigilante attacks appear to have been fueled by an almost pathological hatred for the U.S. government -- the same open hatred that right-wing bloggers, AM talk radio hosts, and Fox News' lineup of anti-government prophets Muslims have been frantically fueling for the last year, pushing doomsday warnings of America's democratic demise under President Obama attacks on Islam.

And the sad truth is we're going to see more like Byron Williams. We're going to see more attempts at vigilante violence during the Age of Obama simply because the right-wing media, lead by Beck,Muslims continue to gleefully (albeit irresponsibly) stoke dangerous fires with the kind of relentlessly incendiary rhetoric that has no match in terms of modern day, mainstream use in American politics or media.
Try it yourself, it's really quite entertaining.

And that is what I think we ought to remember. Blaming Beck and company (and by extension the entire populist right wing) for right-wing terrorism* is the same as blaming Islam or American Muslims for extremist Islamic terror attacks. In both cases, people seek to delegitimize an entire group because of the craziest actions of its craziest adherents. And both approaches are equally intellectually bankrupt.

My fellow lefties don't reach the same fever pitch as the conservatives do when they rant about Muslims - we're not going to be whining that Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina's campaign signs should be kept off that stretch of I-580 anytime soon, after all. But the line of reasoning is the same, and just as disgusting wherever it comes from or whoever it's aimed at.

*Let's be honest here, by any meaningful definition of the term Byron Williams is a terrorist, and a more successful one than either Faisal Shahzad or Captain Underpants since he actually did injure people.


Mike said...

It's too bad you can't make the Rally to Restore Sanity. Seems you'd fit right in.

(Also, because my word verification is "woomp", I'd simply like to add: "There it is!")

Matthew B. Novak said...

Isn't there a little bit of a difference in that the left-wing commentators are singling out a specific, identifiable leader inciting people to violence instead of the right-wing commentators generally criticizing an entire religion as inciting people to violence?

I probably wouldn't have commented, but baseball is done now for me (I can't pay attention anymore, after that pain) and I need something to engage me... can we talk about how the Twins will win it all next year?

Also, Mike's word verification is the best ever.

Jeff said...

Matt, when the Twins make the World Series, they'll lose to the Nats.