Friday, September 04, 2009

Does Glenn Beck think the Prophet Micah was a Communist?

FOX News commentator Glenn Beck in this video clip of 09/02/09 is adopting the John Birch Society notion of Rockefeller as a Communist. Apparently you can pick any Rockefeller for the purpose. Since Beck (in good Bircher style) routinely conflates liberalism, communism, fascism and socialism, he thinks some Rockefeller or other was a fascist communist, too.

This would be funny if he weren't one of the most influential commentators among the Republican base. Although the content is anything but honest or rational, millions of Republicans take it as seriously as a heart attack. And among the hardcore "Patriot militia" type groups, they see even Glenn Beck as part of the Liberal Press establishment. So when they hear him spouting stuff like this, they are inclined to think that if "even Glenn Beck" is talking this way, things must be much worse than they thought.

What particularly struck me about this video is his expressed outrage over an sculpture of a man beating a sword into a plowshare. Although he bizarrely notes that he has a copy of the sculpture because he likes it. He explains that the sculpture was donated by the USSR to the United Nations, which sits on land donated by some Rockefeller. In the Bircher/Birther worlds, that a triple-supply of Communism there, the USSR, the UN and Rockefeller.

I'm pretty sure Glenn Beck and his fans don't much care. But that very swords-into-plowshares image was part of a leading symbol of the democratic opposition in the DDR (Communist East Germany):

The small print says "Micha 4", a reference to the 4th chapter of Micah in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. Micah 4:3 says, in the New Oxford Annotated version:

He shall judge between many peoples, and shall decide for strong nations afar off;
and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more;

At around 8:10 in the video, Beck kinda-sorta starts quoting Scripture. He does like to pose a big defender of Christianity, after all. You might think he wouldn't want to ridicule a concept straight out of the Christian Bible, even if he had been used at times by people of whom he disapproved. But you would obviously be wrong. Or maybe quotations from the Hebrew Bible are a little too "Jewish" for Beck's taste.

No, he didn't say anything overtly anti-Semitic in this little Bircher rant. But generally, when people start yapping about Rockefeller the Communist, some Jewish conspiracy theory is usually involved. Or a conspiracy of The Insiders, as the Birch Society founder Robert Welch called them.

This clip of Beck is a classic case of the "paranoid style" of political propaganda. It probably wouldn't pass muster as a high school paper, since it's logic and use of evidence are so pitiful. But, again, this is a credible commentator among Republicans. It would be a mistake to assume that because it's vapid or even because some Republicans might laugh with delight at its goofiness, that Republicans aren't taking stuff like this seriously. They do.

His shtick in this presentation turns around something he presents as though it were a shocking revelation, though it's actually one of the best-known incidents in 20th century art history, the Diego Rivera mural commissioned for the Rockefeller Center in the 1930s that John D. Rockefeller ordered removed because of its perceived leftwing imagery. Somehow, this story in which Rockefeller had the mural by the famous Mexican artist Diego Rivera (who was a co-founder of the Mexican Communist Party) removed from the Rockefeller Center is used by Beck as evidence of Rockefeller's Communist sympathies. Go figure.

He also refers to a relief at the Rockefeller Center depicting one figure holding a hammer and another holding a sickle and equates that with the Soviet hammer-and-sickle symbol, though he doesn't show anything remotely resembling the hammer-and-sickle symbol in the relief. He refers to another relief of a Roman charioteer for which he makes an even more obscure interpretation as an Italian fascist symbol because the charioteer is holding out his hand. (!?!) In Beck's bizarre political cosmology, communist and fascist and progressive and Rockefeller and the USSR and the Untied Nations mean more or less the same thing.

Does Beck himself believe this nonsense? Is he deliberately conning his audience? I'm not sure it makes any difference. Fanaticism can be a powerful thing.

Christopher Knight in the Los Angeles Times comments on the Beck performance in Glenn Beck and the Society for (In)sanity in Art 09/03/09.

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