Dana Milbank: Glenn Beck vs. the rabbis

Jan 31, 2011

Dana Milbank will be online Monday, Jan. 31, at noon to discuss his latest column, Glenn Beck vs. the rabbis, in which he writes, "Olbermann's departure really should give Beck pause: With political speech coming under new scrutiny, how much longer can Beck's brutal routine continue at Fox News?"

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Good afternoon, readers!  Just back from the USDA's announcement of its new dietary guidelines at George Washington University. I supplied the donuts. 

But you are not here to talk about donuts.  You are here to talk about nuts.  Let's have at it.

'...how much longer can Beck's brutal routine continue at Fox News?" I'd like to think the answer is 'not long' but this is Fox News we're talking about. Somehow I don't see that network, of Murdoch, making a rational decision in this matter any time soon. Do you?

I wouldn't have thought so a while ago, but I wonder if the change in tone of the national discourse will accelerate this.   There are, as I've said before, plenty of good journalists at Fox, including Bret Baier and Shep Smith, and dozens of solid correspondents and producers.  They're the ones who are hurt most by Beck's shenanigans. 

Your otherwise excellent column about Beck could have gone farther in examining the nature of anti-Semitic dog-whistling. Beck is one of those phony populists who bashes "elites" and "the intelligensia" in ways evoke the old myths about Jewish cabals in academia, the media and entertainment. There's another public figure who uses the same terms to try to sound populist, but from my listening her dog whistling isn't as loud or frequent as Beck's. Would you agree? In case you didn't already guess, she's the target of your commendable pledge not to mention her name during the month of February.

This is my last day before I begin my abstinence only program for Palin.   She certainly hasn't gone as far as Beck has gone into the dark recesses of anti-Semitism.  Her mention of blood libel was not to spread the blood libel but to say she's a victim of a (different) blood libel.  And I doubt she had any idea what the phrase meant when she made the video.   Beck, however, is a very smart man who doesn't do much by accident.

You never see anyone on the right demanding that left wing personalities be taken off the airwaves. Why is the left so afraid of the Becks of the world? Why is the left so afraid of IDEAS?

I really don't speak for the left (you may recall that Olbermann took me off of his airwaves a couple years back because I wasn't in sync ideologically) but I don't think people such as the rabbis are concerned about Beck because of all-caps IDEAS, as you put it, but because of certain very specific ideas he has expressed about Jews and the Holocaust.

Dana, I appreciate your kind words to the good folks at FOX. While Beck is out there (somewhere :) ) , there are indeed some good journalists. And I would add, there are some good commentators. Hannity is a joke, Beck is, well, out there. But others? Some solid things do take place on FOX and I appreciate your fair remarks.

I'd name all their solid journalists here but I don't want to get them in trouble.

Also I don't think Hannity is at all in the same class as Beck.  He's much more of a conventional party-line guy. You may not agree with him but he's not validating the fringes the way Beck is.

Does Beck believe what he says? You say he is smart, but to me he seems paranoid and delusional. I was surprised and horrified when Time mag named him as a 100 most influential person. I didn't think anyone like him could get as much traction as he has in the media. I don't understand Ailes reasoning in giving him air time. It diminshes the little credibility the network has-- and as you say some --like Shep do some good reporting. I don't get it. Can't follow the logic. Is it me?

Best part of the Time 100:  The tribute to him was written by Sarah Palin.  Oh, February is going to be a cruel month.

I'm often asked about whether Beck believes what he says.  It's unanswerable, because only one person, mercifully, can be inside that head.  But I think that even if he had originally come to such views as a marketing strategy, once he began saying the same thing night after night he surely came to believe it at some point.  My Psych 101 knowledge would chalk this up to cognitive dissonance but maybe somebody with more expertise out there can set me straight.

What about Beck and his comparisons of AmeriCorps to the Hitler Youth? Is there any level he won't stoop to?

Well, his lederhosen costume was pretty good.

Interestingly, he later denied that his costume and marching had anything to do with the Hitler Youth, but even O'Reilly said he didn't believe Beck.

Lets give her a little credit. She has never been that way. She has said a ton of really stupid things, and the blood libel thing was a bad analogy. However using a bad analogy doesn't make you hate that group. By this theory all the gays who compare themselves to the civil rights movement are racists.

Agreed. That's why I think she's in a different category from Beck.

... everyone would just stop watching cable?


That would mean HBO!  Fighting words, in my household.

Thanks for writing yet another piece detailing Beck's anti-Semitic leanings. I have no idea why so many people--even liberals who dislike him for other reasons--haven't latched on to this yet. It's so gross and so obvious. And I second your note about Shep Smith; I thought his live coverage of the Tucson shooting was immense, much better than the coverage at the same time on other nets.

And he was spot-on after State of the Union.

This chat is becoming a Fox love fest!

Having dared to criticize Glenn Beck, will he still call you a Nazi even though you're Jewish?


Soros is a Holocause survivor and Beck called him a Nazi collaborator.   I think it's similar to when Beck called Obama a racist and when he held his march on Washington on the anniversary of MLK's.  The best defense is a good offense.


I read the title of this chat as "Glenn Beck vs. the rabbits." Possibly a more profound topic, don't you think?

In that case would it be the rabid vs the rabbits?

I do aim to give my chats a certain through-the-looking-glass feel.

What did people use as a baseline for atrocity before the Holocaust?

Vlad the Impaler.

My faint hope of Milbank and Olbermann reuniting to bash politicians(or Beck) in signature fashion is no more. Truly Dana, you were never funnier or more incisive than with Keith Olbermann as your set up man. It’s sad to say but you or Keith may never reach such heights again.

True dat.  And Keith is much taller than I am.  Think I should take the screen shot of me in the Cheney hunting outfit off of my Twitter and Facebook pages?

I have a hard time taking the letter seriously because they did not even issue a statement condemning the house democrat who keeps using the term nazi. I am not a member of either party, so I would like to see a little more even handedness to take these people seriously. Two things I have learned in my volunteer activities is that the Reform (and reconstructionist) movements have an outright hatred for Fox news and that anytime a group uses the term " Social Justice" in it, it is generally liberal. Glen beck is wrong, but these people are just political opportunist.

Interesting.  I'm in a reconstructionist synagogue and I was unaware that "outright hatred for Fox News" is part of the doctrine.  In fact I had never heard mention of Fox News. 

As for Congressman Steve Cohen, the Democrat you mentioned, I think that was out of line.  He apologized, as people in both parties usually do after the impassioned Nazi reference.

In my hometown of Perth, Western Australia yesterday a man was jailed for 3 years for racial vilification, he abused a group of Jewish people at a community gathering. I know your 1st amendment of free speech, but should it be absolute. Our laws would see Beck before the courts, our free speech carries with it obligations.

Thanks, mate, but we'll keep our First Amendment.  That said, you're free to do what you like in Perth when Beck's "Bold and Fresh Tour" makes its way over there.


Isn't comparing Olbermann to Beck a false equivalency? Yes, Olbermann is also obnoxious and partisan, but he wasn't a liar. He didn't devote his entire show to consciously misrepresenting facts in order to push an agenda. Beck is a liar. Beck does consciously misrepresent. This is a pretty fundamental difference, and one that many observers (not necessarily you) have failed to understand. Thanks.

I think comparing anybody to Beck is false equivalency because there's no equivalent in cable news.   It's not even a matter of misrepresenting facts, though, because they're all guilty of that to some extent.   I think this is about something very specific:  Giving life to conspiracy theories (from the FEMA concentration camps to the perpetrators of the "big lie") in the mass media.

Your comment is an interesting one about Hannity. While he is a conventional party-line guy, he seems less informed to me than does Beck. To me, his ignorance does precisely what you say he does not do - namely, validate the fringes. He is so **lin-esque it kills me.

Well, if ignorance were a crime, our TV screens would go blank.  And so, for that matter, would our computer screens. 


Well, it's time for the Egyptian government to flip the "kill-switch" on this chat.  Thanks for participating.


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Dana Milbank
Dana Milbank writes the Washington Sketch column about political theater in the capital. He joined The Post as a political reporter in 2000, after two years as a senior editor of The New Republic and eight years with the Wall Street Journal. He is also author of two political books, Homo Politicus (Doubleday, 2008) and Smashmouth (Basic Books, 2001). He lives in Washington with his wife and daughter. • Dana Milbank Bio & Archive
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