Thursday, September 17, 2009

Right-Wing Extremist Shapes Glenn Beck's Worldview

I wonder if the MI Chamber of Commerce knows this. According to TPM, a right-wing extremist heavily influences Glenn Beck. They point to a fascinating article in Salon which "reveals that a book by a Mormon "historian" deemed too extreme even by the modern conservative movement -- which argues that the U.S. constitution is based primarily on natural law -- has played a major role in Beck's "thinking.""
For several years, Beck has actively promoted "The 5000 Year Leap," by the late Cleon Skousen, on his radio and TV shows, and he recently wrote the foreword for a newly-released edition of the book, which was first published in 1981.
The Salon article describes Skousen as the man who changed Glenn Beck's life. They also described him as too extreme even for the conservative activists of the Goldwater era.

Who is Skousen? From the Salon article:
W. Cleon Skousen was not a historian so much as a player in the history of the American far right; less a scholar of the republic than a threat to it. At least, that was the judgment of J. Edgar Hoover's FBI, which maintained a file on Skousen for years that eventually totaled some 2,000 pages. Before he died in 2006 at the age of 92, Skousen's own Mormon church publicly distanced itself from the foundation that Skousen founded and that has published previous editions of "The 5,000 Year Leap."
Skousen was admired by leaders of the John Birch Society and spoke at their events. He also authored "more than a dozen books and pamphlets on the Red Menace, New World Order conspiracy, Christian child rearing, and Mormon end-times prophecy."
It is a body of work that does much to explain Glenn Beck's bizarre conspiratorial mash-up of recent months, which decries a new darkness at noon and finds strange symbols carefully coded in the retired lobby art of Rockefeller Center. It also suggests that the modern base of the Republican Party is headed to a very strange place.
TPM added one other interesting note about Cleon Skousen: "As reader J.S. notes, Beck isn't the only conservative leader with a taste for Skousen. In 2007, then-presidential candidate Mitt Romney expressed his affinity for his fellow Mormon."

Republicans and organizations like the MICOC may want to reconsider their courting of these extremists and the people who promote them. They just may come to the same decision conservatives did in 1963, when they decided Skousen's extremism was too much. "No conservative organization with any mainstream credibility wanted anything to do with him."

(Cross-posted at Blogging for MI.)


K. said...

So the guy is a genuine, bona fide weirdo. Why am I not surprised? This would seem to be too much even for Fox Noise, but apparently not. Which begs the question: What would be too much for Fox?

Kathy said...

K, another question that just begs to be asked is: Whatever happened to fair and balanced?

With the addition of John Stossel and Don Imus to the Fox lineup, it appears they're no longer trying to hide their true colors.

K. said...

Fair and balanced and Fox are mutually exclusive. I call them "Unfair and Biased."

There is the point, though, that the MSM's obsession with surface objectivity has led them to a lazy "he Said/She Said" kind of journalism that has had the effect of mainstreaming the loonies. How else to explain Ann Coulter on the cover of Time or Newsweek (it was one of them)?

Once, I wrote a letter to Dan Balz of the Washington Post calling him on this. He replied in all seriousness that Post readers were smart enough to figure it out for themselves, that his job was simply to present both sides. That's the kind of logic that got Creationism and Intelligent Design presented as a legitimate "other side" of the evolution debate. Ugh.

Kathy said...

There is the point, though, that the MSM's obsession with surface objectivity has led them to a lazy "he Said/She Said" kind of journalism that has had the effect of mainstreaming the loonies.

K, lazy is right. Responsible journalists do a lousy job of separating fact from friction and I blame part of that on their editors and dumbed-down readers. Paranoia, extremism and sensationalism sells papers, and papers depend on advertising revenue.

As for Dan Balz, professional journalists wouldn't assume their readers are smart enough to figure out the truth for themselves, only lazy ones would.