Vigorous debate about the many challenges that face America is welcome. But there is something disturbing about the extremes to which so many of today’s radio and television talk show hosts go in tapping deep wellsprings of rage as part of the all-important quest for top ratings.
The ongoing conflict between Fox News host Glenn Beck and the Jewish Funds for Justice offers a window into this dynamic.
Beck's stock and trade is outrage. As the JFSJ has pointed out, his serial use of Holocaust analogies is deeply offensive to many in our community and undermines constructive political debate.
The Washington Post's Dana Milbank offers some appalling statistics; since President Obama's inauguration in 2009, Beck's show has featured “202 mentions of Nazis or Nazism ... 147 mentions of Hitler, 193 mentions of fascism or fascist, and another 24 bonus mentions of propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. Most of these were directed in some form at Obama — as were the majority of the 802 mentions of socialist or socialism on Beck's nightly report.”
That's not news and it's not entertainment; a better name for it might be “incitement.” There are many good reasons to criticize the Obama administration; comparing it to the onset of Nazism is a sure-fire way to stifle any reasonable discussion about its successes and failures.
As the ADL has pointed out, using the Holocaust as just one more rock to hurl in today’s political world demeans memory and is an affront to survivors.
JFSJ is also upset about Beck's claim that “social justice” activism is a code for socialism or worse. His primary targets were the many churches with a strong social justice focus, but he might just as well have been speaking about a huge chunk of the Jewish community that regards the quest for justice as a religious imperative.
Fox News, for its part, has played a two-faced game – meeting with a group of Jewish leaders and indicating sensitivity to their concerns, but then insisting the network backs Beck “1,000 percent.” The real test of the network's intentions: will Beck tone down his troubling rhetoric, or keep fanning the flames of unrestrained rage?
This isn't about partisanship; as we have noted before, both Democrats and Republicans show a growing and shameful willingness to hurl Holocaust charges in the interests of political expediency. Glenn Beck is merely the most obvious example of a destructive form of entertainment, packaged and sold as political “dialogue” and consumed with gusto by an increasingly enraged public.
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