Sunday, February 11, 2007

Glenn Beck: Catalyst for Anti Semitism

Last year, Keith Ellison became the first American Muslim to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. It is an historic, noteworthy accomplishment, reflective of the diversity in America and the effective integration of Muslims into our nation. But when CNN Headline News' Glenn Beck interviewed Ellison on his show, he didn't congratulate him. Rather he challenged him to prove his loyalty to America, because being a Muslim, Beck didn't trust him and didn't think the rest of America should either.

The Beck CNN Headline News show is a daily dose of prejudice against a wide range of issues. He chastises critics of the U.S. war in Iraq, discourages immigration and eschews action against global warming. But Islam, Muslims and Arabs are his obsessions. He daily features some aspect of 9/11-related fear and alerts Americans to be suspiciously watchful of Arabs or Muslims they come into contact with in their daily lives. His distorted gaze does not distinguish between Islam and Muslims, or between Arabs and Muslims. If he were to make those distinctions, he would see wide diversity in the practice of Islam and the role culture and the political environment play in religion. But the finer points of journalism escape Beck.

On February 5, he interviewed the author of “Londonistan.” This book is an alarmist work on ghetto-living in the UK. The author, Melanie Phillips, argues that Muslims are corrupting the fabric of British society. She concludes that conscientious enforcement of the rule of law has allowed “Islamofascism” to prosper there. Beck praised Phillips’ thesis and referred to a similar "danger" in Dearborn, Michigan, a community wherein 30 percent of the population is Muslim.

There are five to six million American Muslims, the overwhelming majority of whom are employed, educated and integrated into our society. This is not the case with Muslims in Europe, where poor labor and immigration policies have kept many Muslims isolated and marginalized in overcrowded city suburbs. Alas, the average viewer does not have the background to know that and are thus intentionally misled.

On his August 10 radio show, distributed by Clear Channel's Premiere Radio Networks, Beck told listeners, "The world is on the brink of World War III," then issued this warning:
"All you Muslims who have sat on your frikin' hands the whole time and have not been marching in the streets and have not been saying, 'Hey, you know what? There are good Muslims and bad Muslims. We need to be the first ones in the recruitment office lining up to shoot the bad Muslims in the head.' I'm telling you, with God as my witness... human beings are not strong enough, unfortunately, to restrain themselves from putting up razor wire and putting you on one side of it. When things — when people become hungry, when people see that their way of life is on the edge of being over, they will put razor wire up and just based on the way you look or just based on your religion, they will round you up. Is that wrong? Oh my gosh, is Nazi, World War II wrong?, but society has proved it time and time again: It will happen."

On September 5, Beck took the same message to his CNN Headline News audience, declaring, "In 10 years, Muslims and Arabs will be looking through a razor wire fence at the West." He explained:
"Since 9/11, Americans have gotten so fed up with the 'yes, but' Muslims. The 'yes, but' Muslims are the ones who show up on talk shows and in the media and say, 'Yes, terrorism is bad, but' — and then they go through a list of reasons on why we should try and sympathize with people who fly planes into buildings.... If, God forbid, there's another attack, we won't have anymore patience for the 'yes, buts.' The Muslim community better find a spokesman who isn't a 'yes, but' Muslim. They shouldn't even understand the word 'but,' because when things heat up, the profiling will only get worse, and the razor wire will be coming."

Beck looks for support to back up his ethnic assaults. With a passion to prove his thesis, he hunts for spurious evidence. He tends to select “expert” interviewees with exaggerated claims. These guests are prompted to predictably articulate their views. The guest experts, often in need of public recognition, eagerly comply. When he is interviewing an “ally” he props him/her up to deliver a message about Islam that is usually negative. He programs the guest’s testimony to fit the theory that Muslim danger to American society is being ignored.

In striking contrast, when Beck interviews an “opponent” such as a Muslim leader, he goes on the attack. His body language and his questions visibly unnerve the speaker and put him on the defensive.

Why in the world has CNN adopted Glenn Beck, an extreme conservative with a passion for shock programming? Competition for viewers is cutthroat. Beck is popular, and CNN may be losing viewers to other networks. On radio and on TV he has established himself as a powerful persona whose style integrates sarcastic humor, biased news and bitter social commentary.

But this energetic talk show host has taken the art of shaming Muslims to new heights. Beck demonstrates remarkable audacity in bashing Muslims, one of several Semitic groups; he is, in effect, practicing unabashed and unchallenged anti-Semitism. Instead of being condemned, his program is astonishingly popular. It airs nightly for an hour at seven and is replayed at 9 and at midnight.

Any communicator who practiced the same mobilization against any other minority, whether Latino, Black or Jewish, would be immediately silenced by public outrage. But the license to attack Muslims and Islam is still valid in the US. Some in the Jewish community have responded to former President Jimmy Carter’s recent book about apartheid in Palestine with an accusation of anti-Semitism. In contrast, Beck dishes out three hours of Islamophobia every night and the response in America is “encore”!
The Anti-Defamation League has championed the cause of non-Jewish groups that have been threatened, and their mission statement includes these words: "To secure justice and fair treatment for all." If the ADL joined together with Arab and Muslim anti-discrimination groups in condemning this Islamophobia, it would help heal some of the rifts between the Jewish and Arab/Muslim communities and serve America by giving the lie to Beck's diatribes.

Beck’s success comes partly from his acting talent. But his popularity is a function of a growing need of Americans for conflict catharsis in a chaotic world where the war in Iraq and the tension in the entire Middle East continue to escalate. Since 9/11 we Americans have not been assured that terrorism is being handled successfully. We are worried and anxious. Regrettably, we need a scapegoat. Americans need to express anger at Muslims who are guilty by association. Today Muslims are made to feel that they are collectively responsible for being accomplices in the 9/11 tragedy and all the subsequent international acts of terror.

Beck is a good “soldier” for a war-mongering foreign policy that is in perpetual search of public legitimacy. He is an actor with a taste for preaching, a passion for fame and an ego that allows him to dream that he is a social reformer. The Glenn Beck show is about Glenn Beck first. He is not a conduit but a maker of news.

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