Following up on my back and forth with Roger Ailes yesterday on ABC's This Week, Glenn Beck went on his radio show today and attacked what I'd said about him -- and, in the process, ended up spewing a lot more misinformation.
Beck's key point of contention was over my assertion that he had warned people that they were in danger of being "slaughtered" by the Obama administration and its friends.
Ailes had insisted that Beck had been "talking about Hitler and Stalin slaughtering people, so I think he was probably accurate." Beck and his on-air partners, executive producer and head writer "Stu" Burguiere and contributing editor Pat Gray, tried to stick with that story. Press the play button below to listen and click here for the transcript.
BECK: I don't even know if I've ever used the word "slaughtered." And if I used the word "slaughtered," if it wasn't in a context of Mao, Stalin, or Hitler, it was in the idea that the truth is being slaughtered by this administration... not saying that this administration is going to slaughter anyone.
GRAY: Never, never.
Unfortunately for Ailes, Beck, and Gray -- but fortunately for fans of facts, reality, and the truth -- we live in the era of DVRs, YouTube, and embeddable video. And what Beck actually said is recorded for posterity.
And here's the transcript:
BECK: I told you yesterday, buckle up your seatbelt, America. Find the exit -- there's one here, here, and here. Find the exit closest to you and prepare for a crash landing. Because this plane is coming down, because the pilot is intentionally steering it into the trees! Most likely, it'll happen sometime after Christmas. You're gonna see this economy come up -- we're already seeing it, and now it's gonna start coming back down again. And when you see the effects of what they're doing to the economy, remember these words: We will survive. No -- we'll do better than survive, we will thrive. As long as these people are not in control. They are taking you to a place to be slaughtered!
Not Stalin. Not Hitler. Not Mao. Not "the truth" being slaughtered. YOU. "They are taking YOU to a place to be slaughtered."
Chiding me on This Week, Ailes said of Beck: "I think he speaks English. I don't know. I mean, I don't misinterpret any of his words."
Well, if Ailes didn't misinterpret what Beck was saying (and if Beck didn't misinterpret his own words), I suppose that means they either weren't paying attention -- or they are willfully walking away from the kind of paranoid statements that have become Beck's stock-in-trade.
And, perhaps, we also misunderstood or misinterpreted what was being said this morning when Beck's cohorts had so much fun mocking the suffering of millions of people all across this country.
After playing a soundbyte of me on This Week, saying: "There's a lot of suffering out there..." Pat Gray jumped in:
GRAY: What is this, Haiti?
BURGUIERE: What suffering?
I guess they missed that brief mention in the news about record unemployment, record foreclosures, record credit card failures, and the growing numbers of Americans going hungry.
That, Pat and Stu, is "suffering." Right here in America, not Haiti.
Finally, Beck asked me to explain why, in light of my criticism of him, I had invited him at last year's TIME 100 dinner to write a blog post for HuffPost.
First of all, let me re-issue my invitation. From the day we launched, HuffPost has always welcomed blog posts from people with whom we disagree, and preferred a full debate about the issues to just preaching to the converted.
At the same time, Glenn, as you would find out if you decided to take me up on my invitation and went backstage where our bloggers go to post, there are guidelines that have to be followed -- and they include a prohibition on conspiracy theories or inflammatory claims. So no post mentioning people being led to "slaughter" or being "the next victim" of an administration "killing spree." And no grand conspiracy theory in which you claim, as you did on your show back in August, to have deciphered a secret code proving that President Obama is trying to create an oligarchy -- although you spelled it "O-L-I-G-A-R-H-Y" on your chalkboard.
These are actually very good ground rules for Fox News to adopt. I'll send you a copy and cc Roger.
For context, it's good to remember that Glenn Beck didn't come out of nowhere. He's the latest example of what the great historian Richard Hofstadter called "the paranoid style in American politics," which he defined as angry minds that traffic in "heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy," and that see "the fate of conspiracy in apocalyptic terms... always manning the barricades of civilization."
Beck preys on fear, political instability, and economic suffering, which, in turn, means that Fox News profits from fear, political instability, and economic suffering. The question I didn't get the chance to ask Roger Ailes is: you put Beck on the air -- would you want to live in a world in which Beck triumphed? In which his worldview won out? Is that a world you want your children to grow up in?
UPDATE, 2/2/10: "Glenn Beck Update: The Backpedaling Begins"
BONUS: Here's a montage Brave New Films put together showing, side-by-side how wrong Ailes and Beck were.