A Civil Society?
I know no religion that destroys courtesy, civility, and kindness.
You can turn on the television and see people who claim expertise that they don’t possess. And I say that, because the kind of expertise we need is not a facile grasp of policy, but a love of humanity. That’s what we need.
This year, former Congressman Jim Leach (R-Iowa), Chairman of the National Humanities Foundation, is on a fifty-state “civility tour” emphasizing the importance of civility in public discourse: “Little is more important for the world’s leading democracy in this change-intensive century than establishing an ethos of thoughtfulness and decency of expression in the public square.”44 Leach continues, “It is particularly difficult not to be concerned about American public manners and the discordant rhetoric of our politics. Words reflect emotion as well as meaning. They clarify—or cloud—thought and energize action, sometimes bringing out the better angels in our nature, sometimes lesser instincts.” Commenting on the latter, likely Leach had Beck in mind when he added, “Public officials are being labeled ‘fascist’ or ‘communist.’”
Beck appears oblivious to Leach’s message, given that his discourse is habitually uncivil. He calls his opponents “idiots” (one of his books is titled, Arguing with Idiots), speaks of hating President Woodrow Wilson, labels Wilson and President Franklin D. Roosevelt (and Iranians) “bastards,” and speaks of others as “dirtbags,” “nutjobs,” “crybabies,” “brownshirts,” “thugs,” and “pinheads.” As Lacey Rose writes in a recent issue of Forbes, “He’s left a long trail of words—millions of passionate, angry, weepy, moralizing, corny, offensive words—in his wake.”45
The following examples reveal Beck’s tendency to draw absurd conclusions and make outrageous statements:
• “I’m thinking about killing Michael Moore, and I’m wondering if I could kill him myself or if I would need to hire somebody to do it.”46
• “Al Gore’s not going to be rounding up Jews and exterminating them. It is the same tactic, however. The goal is different. The goal is globalization.”47
• In attempting to diminish Supreme Court nominee Sonja Sotomayor, Beck asks sarcastically, “What would Sonja do?”48
• Beck portrays Obama and Democrats as vampires “going after the blood of our businesses,” and suggests “driv[ing] a stake through the heart of the bloodsuckers.”49
• Claiming Obama is “letting our troops literally bleed and die” in Afghanistan, Beck suggests he will “pay for it” in the afterlife.
• On TV, Beck imitates Obama pouring gasoline on “average Americans” and says, “President Obama, why don’t you just set us on fire? . . . We didn’t vote to lose the Republic.”50
Whether aimed at Beck or not, an October 2009 statement on the news section of the Church’s website could certainly apply to him. Called “The Mormon Ethic of Civility,” it states, “So many of the habits and conventions of modern culture . . . undermine the virtues and manners that make peaceful coexistence in a pluralist society possible. The fabric of civil society tears when stretched thin by its extremities. . . . Civility is not only a matter of discourse. It is primarily a mode of engagement.” The article adds, “The Church views with concern the politics of fear and rhetorical extremism that render civil discussion impossible. . . . The Church hopes that our democratic system will facilitate kinder and more reasoned exchanges among fellow Americans than we are now seeing.”51
Emphasizing core gospel values in its position, “The Mormon Ethic of Civility” states, “The moral basis of civility is the Golden Rule, taught by a broad range of cultures and individuals, perhaps most popularly by Jesus Christ: ‘And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise’ (Luke 6:31). This ethic of reciprocity reminds us all of our responsibility toward one another and reinforces the communal nature of human life.”52
Beck seems unaware of or indifferent to the fact that some fellow Saints are liberal/progressives. Further, he seems insensitive to the fact that hundreds of thousands of Latter-day Saints live happily with the full blessings of Church membership in countries with socialist governments. The Church’s statement on civility recognizes the virtue of pluralism in an international church: “The need for civility is perhaps most relevant in the realm of partisan politics. As the Church operates in countries around the world, it embraces the richness of pluralism. Thus, the political diversity of Latter-day Saints spans the ideological spectrum.”53
“Hanging by a Thread”A persistent Mormon Myth that Beck has passionately latched onto is the infamous “White Horse Prophecy,” the prediction, attributed to Joseph Smith, that “there will be confusion, revolution, and wickedness in the last days prior to the coming” of Christ. There will be “turmoil and trouble and great tribulation” and the people represented by the white horse (the Mormons) “will become rich and powerful and will see many come to them for safety.”54
The most commonly cited portion of the prophecy (which has not been officially disavowed) is that at some future point, the U.S. Constitution will “hang by a thread,” and if it is to be rescued, it will be so only by the intervention of “the elders of Israel.”55 His belief in this aspect of the prophecy was confirmed in an interview Beck conducted with Senator Orrin Hatch:
Beck: Senator, do you believe—I mean, when I heard Barack Obama talk about the Constitution and I thought, we are at the point or we are very near the point where our Constitution is hanging by a thread.
Hatch: You got that right . . .
Beck: We are so close to losing our Constitution. We are so close to losing what we have, and people aren’t thinking. The next generation, our children will look to us and say, “You sold my freedom for what?”
Hatch: Well, let me tell you something. I believe the Constitution is hanging by a thread.56
Beck appears to see himself as one of those called to “rally the righteous of our country and provide the necessary balance of strength to save the institutions of constitutional government,” to be one of those who will “step forth” to “save [the Constitution] from utter destruction,” “to rescue that great and glorious palladium of our liberty.”57 Judging from his rhetoric, Beck seems to believe he’s on a divinely appointed mission to fulfill modern-day prophecy. It is important to note that various apostles and presidents of the Church have disavowed the authenticity of at least some portions of White Horse Prophecy and have distanced themselves from some of its more extreme predictions.58
Church leaders have good reasons to fear the extreme rhetoric of someone like Beck. If Beck’s fearmongering or that of the Tea Partiers and other anti-government groups, should lead to violence against the President, then people like Beck who have fomented such anger and hatred could legitimately be held responsible, even if they attempt, as Beck sometimes does, to warn his viewers against violence. That Beck has become concerned about his listeners’ committing violent acts is evidenced by his recent plea to have them sign a non-violence pledge and send it to him.59 The pledge, borrowed from Martin Luther King, Jr., is found on Beck’s website, along with “Five Principles of Non-violence,” many of which Beck violates almost every day on his programs:
• Walk and talk in the manner of love; for God is love.
• Observe with friend and foes the ordinary rules of courtesy.
• Refrain from violence of fist, tongue, and heart.60
Though Beck tries to wrap himself in the mantles of Gandhi and King, his behavior, like that of his followers, is far from the principled actions of such non-violent leaders. If, indeed, Mormon elders are ever called on to save the Constitution, it will not be because they are partisan, political, or powerful, but because they will act on principles of righteousness—humility, mercy, forgiveness, long-suffering, and love.
Apocalypse Now!People should be scared! —Glenn Beck
The spirit of the White Horse Prophecy is woven into Beck’s persistent warning that the Republic is about to collapse, be invaded, or suddenly and subversively occupied from within. He also implies that his listeners and viewers are those “called” to rescue it. Night after night he uses end-of-times scare tactics. In almost every broadcast, Beck warns that the impending Apocalypse is upon us. Beck’s apocalyptic vision is often articulated by his guests. One, Damon Vickers, warned on Beck’s TV show in February:
The other side of a debt implosion, which is what we’re in the process of realizing right now, is potentially even anarchy. Anarchy in a society. And so individuals and families have to have the foresight—that’s situational awareness—to perhaps consider, maybe, maybe having a farm, maybe growing your own food, maybe you need to take up arms if you have any to protect your family. The period that’s emerging in front of us could be very, very scary.61
Vickers’ recommendations are hardly disinterested since he is the chief investment officer of Nine Points Investment62 and, like Goldline, one of Beck’s corporate sponsors, promotes investing in gold as a hedge against the coming economic and social collapse.
For Beck, America is a ticking time bomb about to explode. He warns that we could be on the verge of “the darkest period in American history” and predicts that we will have a civil war sometime in the future. His nostalgia for the early days of the Republic punctuate nearly every broadcast. Inspired by Skousen’s view of history, Beck suggests that if we can just get back to the glorious days of the American Revolution, we will find our way out of the darkness. Of course Beck’s idealization of the founding of the United States relies on a selective, hagiographic reading of American history.63
As with his other key points of emphasis, Beck bolsters his vision of the apocalypse with scripture, end-of-times mythology, and guests who support his point of view. On a recent show he said, “If you look at the extremist Muslim version of the Mahdi, and then you read the Book of Revelation, he suspiciously looks like the Antichrist. Seeing that he’s the one that’s running a one-world government and executing everyone that disagrees with him from Babylon.” Then he added sarcastically, “I don’t know where I’ve heard that one before.”64
Beck, Romney, and ReidLatter-day Saints can’t help wondering what influence Beck might have on Mitt Romney’s presidential ambitions. Some see Romney caught between wanting to capitalize on Beck’s popularity, especially with the Far Right whose support Romney likely needs to win a presidential election, and worrying that association with Beck might negatively impact his attempt to tack to the center. In “New and Improved Romney,” David S. Bernstein reveals what he believes to be the new Romney strategy—to surrender most of the South (which never trusted him during the last campaign), distance himself from the Far Right, and embrace what many consider his true moderate position.65 If so, association with Beck could confirm impressions many moderates have of Romney’s conservative leanings and, worse, his reputation for “flip-flopping.”
Yet, judging from some recent statements, Romney is having a hard time truly moving to the center. Some of his remarks seem to approach Beck’s extremism. At the recent Conservative Political Action Conference, Romney referred to the Obama administration as “Liberal neo-monarchism,” a tag suggestive of Skousen via Beck. Shortly after passage of the health care legislation, Beck’s website linked to Romney’s response which denounced what he called “Obamacare,” even though, as many commentators have remarked, the new healthcare bill is remarkably similar to what the Massachusetts legislature enacted while Romney was governor.66
In “Latter day Taint: How Glenn Beck Is Driven by Mormonism—and why his fellow faithful (including Mitt Romney) should be worried,” Adam Reilly of the Boston Phoenix writes, “Should members of the LDS Church be cheering or lamenting Beck’s protracted moment in the spotlight? Could Beck’s forays into stealth Mormon sermonizing make his conservative evangelical fans rethink their loyalty? And if Beck’s religiosity finally becomes a story, what might that mean for the lingering presidential hopes of 2012 Republican contender Mitt Romney?”67 Beck’s recent alienation of a broad swath of Christians over his views on “social justice” (see below), could also prove problematic for Romney. Responding to Beck’s statement, a Presbyterian friend of Mormon writer Joanna Brooks writes, “[Beck] has gone too far. The only thing that’s going to come of this is that Christians in the South will dislike Mormons even more.”68
Others, however, see Beck’s Mormonness as helping Romney. In “Glenn Beck and Mitt Romney’s ‘Dirty Little Secret,’” Dave Rosner speculates that Beck’s confrontational style will cause him to challenge any anti-Romney sentiment on the right: “Beck’s popularity has the ability to quash much of the anti-Mormon feeling from both sides of the aisle. Beck will speak in his blunt no-nonsense way about the idiocy of opposing Romney for being Mormon. No one knows who Beck will support, but Beck taking those to task for fomenting religious discrimination will pay in votes. Any airing of Beck being a Mormon will help Romney.”69
Certainly, the Beck-Romney link would help Romney among Mormons, if he needed any further help with them. Romney praised Beck in a recorded introduction to Beck’s address at the George Wythe University gala in Salt Lake City in June 2009, calling Beck “a friend and a statesman in his own right.”70
But contrast Beck’s evidently friendly relationship with Romney to his attitude toward fellow Mormon and Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid. On 5 March 2010, Beck criticized Reid’s comments about the lower-than-expected number of job losses as “upping the idiocy ante.”71 Beck’s criticism of the Obama healthcare bill targeted Reid as well, since he was the bill’s driving force in the Senate. Beck’s Nevada affiliate heavily promoted an anti-Reid rally in Searchlight, Nevada, on 26 September 2009,72 and Beck seems to favor Reid’s opponent, Danny Tarkanian, in next November’s election.73
Given Beck’s conservative leanings, his call for the defeat of three-term conservative Mormon Senator Robert Bennett may be more troubling. On his radio program in late April, Beck said dismissively, “I may vote for a mouse over Bob Bennett.”74 By all objective measures, Bennett is a tried and true conservative. According to the New York Times, “Conservative advocacy groups have consistently given Mr. Bennett high marks, including an ‘A’ ranking from the National Rifle Association, a 98 percent rating by the United States Chamber of Commerce and an 84 percent rating from the American Conservative Union.”75 Yet Bennett was not chosen by Utah’s Republican delegates, who considered him too moderate and too bipartisan to be returned to the Senate.76
Beck seems to be applying a rigid litmus test for politicians. In this he resembles other resurgent purists on the right. As the New York Times reports, “Tea Party movement and advocacy groups on the right are demanding that candidates hew strictly to their ideological standards and are moving aggressively to cast out those they deem to have strayed, even if only by participating in the compromises of legislating.”77 Beck contributes to, rather than diminishes, the polarization presently plaguing our society.
Social Justice = Socialism?This is the one cause that ranks above all others in bringing about the social justice so much desired in governments.
—Church editorial issued during the Great Depression78
A recent episode on Beck’s program illustrates the risk he represents to the Church. On 2 March 2010, Beck outraged a broad array of Christians when he said, “I beg you, look for the words ‘social justice’ or ‘economic justice’ on your church website. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words.” Just in case his viewers weren’t able to decode the words, Beck held up a swastika in one hand and a hammer and sickle in the other: “Communists are on the left, and the Nazis are on the right.”79 (A couple of nights earlier, Beck had both placed on the left.) He said, “Am I advising people to leave their church? Yes! If I am going to Jeremiah Wright’s church [Obama’s former church in Chicago]. If you have a priest that is pushing social justice, go find another parish. Go alert your bishop.” He further said that social justice “is a perversion of the gospel.”8
Watching this, I thought, “Is he totally unaware that social and economic justice are woven into the fabric not only of American history but of the gospel itself? Does he not know a group of active Latter-day Saints has formed an organization called Mormons for Equality and Social Justice?81 I was not surprised to see a tremendous backlash to Beck’s words from everywhere—the left, center, and right. Jim Wallis, a respected Christian writer and social justice advocate, said in “An Open Letter to Glenn Beck: Social Justice and the Gospel,” “Perhaps you don’t realize that most Christians believe social, economic, and racial justice are at the heart of the gospel, not a perversion of it.”82 In another article, “Biblical Social Justice and Glenn Beck,” Wallis added, “The Bible is clear: from the Mosaic law of Jubilee, to the Hebrew prophets, to Jesus Christ, social justice is an integral part of God’s plan for humanity.” Wallis called on Christians who believe that social justice is an expression of their faith to “send [Beck] thousands of names.”83 As of April 2010, more than fifty thousand believers from many denominations had responded.
In the New York Times’s “Outraged by Glenn Beck’s Salvo, Christians Fire Back,” Laurie Goodstein observes that Beck’s attack on churches includes his own church. She quotes Phillip Barlow, the Leonard Arrington Professor of Mormon History and Culture at Utah State University, as saying, “A lot of Latter-day Saints would think that Beck was asking them to leave their own church.” Barlow adds, “One way to read the Book of Mormon is that it’s a vast tract on social justice.” Barlow also notes that Beck’s position is at variance with the Church’s recent addition of caring for the poor to its list of central missions.84
Responding to such criticism the next day, Beck tried both to spin his words and blame the Times (which he called “the organ of the Obama administration”). On his website, he said he was referring only to churches like that of Jeremiah Wright, but his original words were very different from this narrow parsing. Instead of admitting he was wrong and apologizing, Beck called Wallis “a leftist,” “an operative for the Democratic Party,” “an apologist communist for atrocities in Cambodia and Vietnam,” and “a dedicated foe of capitalism.”85 On his radio program the next day, Beck personally threatened Wallis: “The hammer is coming . . . and when the hammer comes, it’s going to be hammering hard and all through the night, over and over.”86 On his 5 April 2010 telecast, Beck said Wallis is “a political hack [who is] using his religious background to do the President’s dirty work.”
Michael Otterson, Director of L.D.S. Public Affairs, argued that the conflict between Beck and Wallis is “political, not theological,” but Beck’s statement is clearly theological even if also political. Otterson asserted that Beck does not speak for the Church and that his identification as Mormon “is irrelevant in this debate.”87 It might be irrelevant to this particular issue, but viewers who know that Beck is Mormon are likely to confuse his values with those of the Church. An indication of that possibility is seen in the following response to Beck’s social justice comments by Dan Neif, of Faith in Public Life: “I don’t know what to make of Beck’s absurd rant. The fact that a person with a multimedia platform and an audience of millions is either so addled that he believes social justice is a tool of tyranny, or so craven that he would use fearmongering and vitriol to come between people and their churches, is—to say the least—a troubling indictment of what we as a society value and reward. I just hope nobody comes to believe that the Gospel According to Beck is the word of the Lord.”88
In her Time magazine blog Swampland, Amy Sullivan asks, “Does Glenn Beck Hate Jesus?” She says Beck “managed to outrage Christians in most mainline Protestant denominations, African-American congregations, Hispanic churches, and Catholics—who first heard the term ‘social justice’ in papal encyclicals and have a little something in their tradition called ‘Catholic social teaching.’ (Not to mention the teaching of a certain fellow from Nazareth who was always blathering on about justice . . . ).”89 Peg Chemberlin, President of the National Council of Churches of Christ, weighed in: “If Mr. Beck’s rants stemmed simply from an honest lack of familiarity with Scripture, that would be one thing. But what is perhaps most disturbing about Mr. Beck’s recent statements is that he is urging his listeners to follow a piecemeal Gospel because it better fits his worldly political views.”90
Several Latter-day Saints responded to Beck’s criticism of churches that promote social justice. In the Deseret News’s “Mormons, Other Christians Decry Glenn Beck Comments on Social Justice,” Lynn Arave cites a Church spokesman as saying that Beck’s statement represents his own views and not those of the Church. Further, Arave quotes BYU Associate Dean of Religion Kent P. Jackson as saying, “My own experience as a believing Latter-day Saint over the course of 60 years is that I have seen social justice in practice in every LDS congregation I’ve been in. People endeavor with all of our frailties and shortcomings to love one another and to lift up other people. So if that’s Beck’s definition of social justice, he and I are definitely not on the same team.”91
From the beginning, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been committed to social justice, a principle supported by ancient and modern scriptures and prophets. The Church has always taught that working for social justice is the responsibility not only of individuals, churches, and organizations, but also of governments, although Beck often tries to make a contrary distinction: “I want to make this clear: Some people look at social justice as going out on mission[s] and going out and doing good works for God. That’s great—as long as it’s Jesus and the church or your synagogue or whoever it is who you are serving, not a government-bloated program.”92 How diminished social justice would be without the actions of local, state, and national governments and joint-national organizations such as the United Nations.
“None dare call it Sedition”Beck’s response to Jim Wallis’s criticism indicates a fundamental character flaw—the inability to be self-reflective and honestly consider the validity of criticism. Although Beck presents himself as being the first to admit when he is wrong, he is in reality reactive and retaliatory. Consider Beck’s reaction to Time magazine columnist Joe Klein’s contention that Beck’s extreme and constant criticism of President Obama might constitute sedition. Klein likely had in mind such things as Beck’s frequent linking of Obama with Hitler and comparing the President’s administration with the Third Reich. Comedian Lewis Black quipped that Beck invokes the Nazis so often that he has “Nazi Tourette’s Disease.”93
In several telecasts following Klein’s accusation, Beck seemed somewhat sober and subdued, possibly genuinely hurt by the charge: “Time Magazine’s Joe Klein said I’m engaging in sedition. It was like a horse stepped on my chest.” Then, as if a simple declaration of patriotism were sufficient to counter Klein’s charge, he exclaimed, “I love my country!” His impulse is characteristic: attack Klein and defend himself by deliberately distorting the facts: “I don’t understand how speaking out now can be sedition. That’s what Klein said about me and then Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh. . . . How is it sedition to disagree with the President of the United States? How is it sedition to say the Democrats and Republicans spend too much money? How is it sedition to tell people to get involved?”
Responding to Beck and other conservative commentators who considered his remarks over the top, Klein said: “Let me be clear: dissent isn’t sedition. Questioning an Administration’s policies isn’t sedition. But questioning an Administration’s legitimacy in a manner intended to undermine or overthrow it certainly is.” He added, “It’s not illegal—unless actions are taken to overthrow the government in question—but it is disgraceful and the precise opposite of patriotism in a democracy.”94
Beck’s reaction to Klein included one of his favorite strategies—accuse his critics of baiting him: “It’s a game. They’re trying to set us up to argue and call us names and just ratchet it up and umm . . . I’m not going to play that game.” He repeated his patriotic mantra, “I love my country,” adding, as if he has been the most reasonable person in the world, “I don’t hate Obama. I pray for this president every single night with my children.” He added that he merely wants to have a conversation with the President and progressives about the Constitution—”A real debate in the open.” Looking like someone wrongly accused of a great crime, he concluded, incredulously, “If that’s seditious . . . whew!”
Beck’s describing his attacks on Obama and his administration as just a simple guy wanting to have a reasonable conversation, a guy who’s “just asking questions,” is dishonest and disingenuous, as is his statement, “I think I may be the most naïve person in America.” In this way, he presents himself as just a lone and lonely voice crying in the wilderness: “I don’t think anyone really wants to tell the truth anymore in America. . . . I . . . I . . . don’t know what it is, but I don’t think there is anyone else” (that is, anyone besides Beck). Then, like a typical confidence man, he brings his audience into his circle of virtue, “Many in America are just like me and you. We get it; we see it.” Beck casts himself and his followers as the only honest people in America: “I think there is an honesty shortage in America. I think that’s maybe what we just have to do on this program. . . . How do people not just see it, [this] lack of honesty?” Earlier, just before launching into a distortion of President Clinton’s concerns about the extreme rhetoric of the Tea Party and right wing commentators, Beck said, without irony, “The enemy is the distortion of the truth; that’s the enemy.”
The Gospel According to St. Beck
“The philosophies of Glenn, mingled with scripture”
For several weeks before 20 April 2010, Beck had been promoting “The Plan”—a plan to restore our country from its fallen state to its original greatness, to restore the pristine government and society the Founding Fathers shaped for our future, a plan of salvation for America. While many pundits offer plans to get us out of our present financial, political and social morass, Beck presents his as The Plan, revealed to him by God. After telling viewers that there is no such thing as coincidence (meaning their watching his program is no accident), he tells of a coincidence in which he and fellow Mormon Pat Gray, co-host of The Glenn Beck Program, felt simultaneously inspired to look in the Bible for the answer to our nation’s troubles. The next day, they reported having arrived at the same conclusion through different but complementary scriptures. Beck says:
God is giving a plan, I think, to me . . . I think the plan that the Lord would have us follow is hard for people to understand. . . . Because of my track record with you, I beg of you to help me get this message out, and I beg of you to pray for clarity on my part. The plan that He would have me articulate, I think, to you is “Get behind me.” And I don’t mean me, I mean Him. “Get behind Me. Stand behind Me.” I truly believe I have done years now of reading the Founders, their diaries, their letters; the Pilgrims, their diaries, their letters. . . . I have seen it with my own eyes . . . and I will tell you that God was instrumental, and they knew it! They knew they had very little to do with it. They just stood where they were supposed to stand, and they said the things that they were supposed to say as He directed. . . . That’s what He’s asking us to do . . . is to stand peacefully, quietly with anger, loudly with truth.95
Beck seems to see himself as a vessel for God’s revelation, the spokesman for God’s Plan to help us restore America’s greatness, to make it once more “a city set on a hill:”
Faith . . . is the answer. Get on your knees, don’t let it take a September 11th, get on your knees, please. I don’t care what church you go to, no church at all, I don’t care. Turn to Him.96
Doubtless for some Mormons, such language confirms that Beck is inspired, that he is called to be God’s prophetic voice to a fallen America, and the one (or at least one of the ones) to save the Constitution. Other Latter-day Saints are disturbed by such language because they distrust a divisive and polarizing spokesman and because they’ve been taught that if such a plan were to be revealed, it would be to the Prophet, not to a Fox television commentator.
Not coincidentally, one of Beck’s next books is called The Plan and will soon be available for purchase. Of Beck’s promotion of his “plan,” liberal commentator Bob Cesca says, “It’s classic televangelism, which is commonly seen as nothing more than an exploitation of religious naiveté with the goal of making the televangelist rich.”97
Perhaps the most salient question to ask about Beck is—does he believe the things he says, or not? Either answer is disturbing. If he does believe them, then we should at least question his judgment if not his stability. If he doesn’t, if it is all a Wizard-of-Oz-behind-the-curtain-manipulated show, then the situation is much more serious. Michael Harrison, publisher of Talkers, a magazine devoted to talk radio, says of Beck, “I don’t necessarily believe that [what Beck says] is reflective of his own personal politics—I don’t even know if he has personal politics. I see him as a performer.”98
The 1 March 2010 Forbes cover displays a photo of Beck, dollar signs scribbled in chalk all over his grey pinstripe suit, looking like a smug Wall Street tycoon. The lead article is titled, “Glenn Beck Inc.: Inside the Cash Machine.” A report of the Forbes article in the New York Daily News titled, “Cash from Controversy: Glenn Beck Made $32 M In the Last Year,” avers, “Beck insists he’s not political, even after leading the charge against health care reform, feeding the frenzy of the Tea Party members, and telling his loyalists President Obama has ‘a deep-seated hatred for white people.’ Speaking of his company, Glenn Beck, Inc., he says, ‘I could give a flying crap about the political process. We’re an entertainment company.’” Beck adds, “I aspire to Walt Disney’s never-ending quest to try to improve the quality of what he’s doing, his never-ending vision of, ‘Yes, it can be done.’”99 A startling confession. If Beck is playing with his audience, and if individuals are hurt by the fury he unleashes then, to quote from one of Emily Dickinson’s poems,
Would not the fun
Look too expensive!
Would not the jest—
Have crawled too far!100
Responding to criticism of his comment in Forbes (“I got all kinds of heat for telling Forbes magazine my company is an entertainment company, but only after they printed half of the quote from that conversation”), Beck launched into his shape-shifting revisionist mode: “My company is an entertainment company, but now I find myself in the position that I believe my country is on fire. . . . The reason I tell you this is because I believe our lives are about to change. . . . I find myself talking more and more about God these days because that’s where our solution lies.”101 In other words, if people see Beck as just an entertainer, then they may stop listening to and watching his programs and stop buying his products.
Beck seems to be saying, I used to have the luxury of being a funny man and an entertainer, but now that our President has shown he is a Marxist and our country is going to hell, and I have been called to save it, I must put away foolish things. In this vein, Beck launches again into his prophetic mode. Speaking of why he introduced his trinity of Founding Fathers—Samuel Adams (representing faith), George Washington (hope) and Benjamin Franklin (charity)—Beck says, “I introduced them on TV because I felt led. I felt led by the promptings of the Spirit or whatever you want to call it.” He adds, “I’m being completely honest with you . . . I’m not sure where this is going to lead. I don’t know how this ends. I really don’t.” Seemingly as surprised as a Galilean fisherman called from his nets, he continues, “I’m just a guy who happens to be sitting in a chair. It doesn’t seem to me anybody else is going to do it, and it makes me . . . It’s changed my life.” Then, acting as if the past year of broadcasts had been delivered by some other “guy,” he says:
I sat down with my family one-and-a-half years ago, and we got down on our knees and prayed, and we had a family conversation, and I said, ‘You guys believe your Dad, don’t you?’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘If I say these things and if I start to do these things on television and radio, it’s going to change our lives, and not for the better. . . . And we made a decision as a family that we didn’t really have a choice.102
If we are to understand that the whisperings of the Spirit, the “call” to save the Republic, and the family council’s decision to courageously accept opprobrium had transformed Beck from clownish entertainer into a sober prophet, the programs broadcast since that supposed turning point offer no evidence of it. Beck continues to cultivate his sardonic sideshow persona: criticizing the President, demonizing progressives, castigating his critics, mocking everyone on “the Left,” lampooning those who disagree with him, moving photos around on his blackboard in a flurry of fury to unmask the conspiracy he sees as a cancer on the body politic.103 Beck seems as unrepentant and out of control as ever. I wonder if he is even able to stop himself.
In a 2007 interview with Doug Robinson of the Deseret News, Beck seemed to acknowledge the disconnect between his public persona and his religious identity. Robinson writes, “Outspoken, blunt and confrontational on the air, Beck wrestles continually to reconcile the man he is on the radio and the Mormon he wants to be.” Robinson quotes Beck as saying, “At first I told people on the air that I was a Mormon all the time, but as I became more and more converted and saw others in the Church I wanted to be like, I stopped saying it. I didn’t want people to think that’s the way Mormons are.”104 (Contrary to this claim, Beck has since referred to his religion numerous times on the air.) Beck added, “The show is such a balancing act. I do stuff on the show every day that I regret or question. My language is loose. I’m just different. Every day I get off the air, I think, ‘Lord, help me be better. How do I balance this and be a good reflection of you?’ I don’t think I hit it very often.”105
The Beck ProblemThe problem for Mormons is that Beck is unlikely to change his aggressive, bombastic, confrontational style or to be deterred from his self-appointed mission to rescue the nation and set the world aright. Since Beck is a recovering alcohol and cocaine addict, one might propose that he has replaced substance abuse with the adrenaline rush of celebrity and notoriety. Having grown up in a family of addicts, I recognize some of the signs in his behavior.
Another reason Beck is unlikely to change tactics is that they have made him fabulously wealthy, earning him an estimated $32 million in the twelve months between February 2008 and March 2009,106 thus making him one of the most highly paid people in the political/publishing/entertainment industry. Although much he does and says seems at variance with his new-found religion, Beck is unlikely to surrender his fame and fortune or modify his style in any way that would diminish his colossal media power.
Beck has become such a giant on the entertainment/media landscape that he cannot help impacting the Church and its central missions. Many of Beck’s non-Mormon followers, who include evangelicals and fundamentalists, may have difficulty reconciling their devotion to him with his religion. Yet some may be willing to overlook his being Mormon because of their fervor for the cause he represents. Because of the Church’s past history of racism, its recent involvement in Proposition 8, its connection in the public mind with Mormon fundamentalists, and its general conservatism, the moderate-to-liberal populace may see Beck as confirmation of what they are already convinced is Mormonism’s extremism. Thus Beck’s identification with Mormonism could hardly be positive for the Church.
Some have argued that Beck’s conservatism led him to Mormonism, but in “How Mormonism Built Glenn Beck,” Mormon writer Joanna Brooks argues, “The extent to which Mormonism has given Beck key elements of his on-air personality and messaging—and how it may shape the future of American conservatism.”107 Brooks quotes from Beck’s conversion narrative: “‘I was baptized on a Sunday and on Monday’—Beck’s throat tightens again; he wipes tears from his eyes with his index fingers—‘an agent called me out of the blue.’ Three days later, Beck was offered his own political talk radio show at WFLA-AM in Tampa, Florida, the job that put him on the road from ‘morning zoo’ radio prankster to conservative media heavyweight.” Brooks comments: “Spiritual narratives of the I-once-was-lost-now-I-am-financially-sound variety are commonplace within Mormonism, which, like most of American Protestantism, has never been allergic to wealth.”108
A recent Beck telecast shows how completely the “gospel of wealth” has infiltrated Beck’s consciousness. In encouraging viewers to invest in gold through Goldline, one of his show’s corporate sponsors, Beck touts the virtues of gold as the soundest investment against what he sees as the coming financial collapse: “When the system eventually collapses, and the government comes with guns and confiscates, you know, everything in your home and all your possessions, and then you fight off the raving mad cannibalistic crowds . . . , don’t come crying to me. I told you: get gold.” On radio and TV, he not only promotes Goldline, he tells his listeners and viewers they should pray about whether to invest in Goldline! The problem, as some critics have pointed out, is that Beck has a clear conflict of interest in this case, because, as Media Matters reports, he is (or at least was at the time) “a ‘Paid Spokesman’ for Goldline International, which has an ‘exclusive’ sponsorship deal with his radio show and bills itself as ‘Glenn Beck’s Choice for Gold.” Goldline is also listed as “the exclusive sponsor” of Beck’s “Common Sense Comedy” tour.109
Some feel Beck’s commingling of fear and financial advice is unethical and possibly illegal. In an article on Politico, “Rep. Anthony Weiner targets Glenn Beck and Goldline International,” Weiner (D-NY) is quoted as saying, that “Goldline rips off consumers, uses misleading and possibly illegal sales tactics, and deliberately manipulates public fears of an impending government takeover – this is a trifecta of terrible business practices,”110 Weiner says that Beck “should be ashamed of himself” for scaring his audience into investing with Goldline.111 Again, typical of his response to criticism, Beck has launched a savage and mean-spirited attack on Weiner, even starting a website called WeinerFacts.com.112
Instead of reflecting the messages of the New Testament, the Book of Mormon, and the more enlightened teachings of the Restoration, Beck has latched on to some of the worst ideas from the Mormon fringe to shape his political and social persona. Where in Beck’s universe do we find the messages of the Sermon on the Mount, King Benjamin’s address, or the 121st section of the Doctrine and Covenants? Where are the long-held Latter-day Saint principles of respect for civil authorities? Has Beck read the 134th section of the Doctrine and Covenants which states, “We believe that all men are bound to sustain and uphold the respective governments in which they reside. . . . We believe that every man should be honored in his station, rulers and magistrates as such”? (D&C 134:4–5) There is a dramatic disconnect between these texts and the critical, pejorative, mean-spirited labeling, name calling and demonizing characteristic of much of Beck’s broadcasts and writing.
The extent to which Beck and Mormons can be identified with virulent right-wing hate groups is seen in a video posted online by AmericaForever.com, a Utah-based super patriotic, anti-homosexual, anti-government organization. The video, called “Obama Killer Song,” which sets new words to the Paul Simon song, “The Sounds of Silence,” shows a figure wearing a mask of President Obama strangling an old woman in her sleep, stabbing a pregnant woman in the stomach, hanging a CIA agent, brain-washing children, stealing money from taxpayers, cross-dressing, shooting Representative Joe Wilson with an assault rifle, and forming a shadow army. Three times in the video there is a cut to Beck’s TV program.113 Beck likely had nothing directly to do with the video, but his ideological fingerprints are all over it.
Where do we go from here?Glenn Beck poses a challenge for the Church. Because its publishing company has produced a DVD describing Beck’s conversion, and because a significant number of Mormons follow his radio and television shows faithfully and identify closely with his political views, the Church may have difficulty distancing itself from so prominent and visible a figure. Beck is especially popular among Utah Mormons. He has been the speaker at Provo’s Stadium of Fire celebration and its Freedom Festival’s Annual Patriotic Service. He was the keynote speaker at the Mormon-associated George Wythe University gala in Salt Lake City in June 2009, and he will be appearing at his American Revival show in Salt Lake City on 17 July 2010 titled “The End of America and Looking Back to the Founders as a Plan to Find a Way Out.”
Beck’s Mormon conversion seems genuine and appears to have profoundly impacted his and his family’s life. Apparently, he serves faithfully in his ward as a priesthood instructor, ward missionary, and—with his wife—in the Church’s addiction counseling program. I understand he holds a temple recommend and, one would guess, pays a gargantuan tithing. However, the difference between Beck’s Sunday demeanor and his weekday media personality makes him a Mormon Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which may portend trouble for the Mormon community and beyond since religious incoherence (or, worse, hypocrisy) does not engender trust or confidence.
When Beck takes positions such as denying global warming and warning viewers against having their children vaccinated for swine flu, when he indicates that he doesn’t believe in evolution and says he refuses to complete the required information on the Census survey (contrary to the First Presidency’s specific directions that Latter-day Saints should complete the survey114), he risks endangering those who accept his positions as enlightened.
Were I called to counsel Beck, I would urge him to be more temperate in his expressions, more moderate in his style, more sensitive to the ways his positions and language might affect others and the Church itself. I would also counsel him to be more attuned to political and social diversity within the Church and the culture at large. I would ask him to be more respectful of our leaders, including those in government, treating them the way Beck himself would like to be treated. I would encourage him to read more broadly than he apparently has; in addition to the scriptures and the writings of General Authorities, I would suggest that he read Mormon writers such as Lowell Bennion, Eugene England, Terry Tempest Williams, Claudia Bushman, Levi Peterson, and Margaret Young. I would also recommend he rely on more reputable and mainstream historians than Skousen and the like, read the best books from other spiritual traditions, and good novels and poems as well. In brief, I would like the more expansive, compassionate, and inclusive voices among us to be part of his regular reading fare. Most of all, I would encourage him to read deeply and thoughtfully the words of Nephi, King Benjamin, Alma, Moroni, Joseph Smith and, especially, Jesus. I would hope he would take such counsel into his heart.
As I watched General Conference on Easter Sunday 2010, I hoped that Beck was also watching—and listening—especially to those who spoke about the core principles of the gospel and how those principles should govern our relations with one another and our behavior in the world. I particularly hoped he heard the following words of Apostle Quentin L. Cook:
As we listen to the messages of this conference, we will be touched in our hearts and make resolutions and commitments to do better. But on Monday morning we will return to work, school, neighborhoods, and to a world that in many cases is in turmoil. Many in this world are afraid and angry with one another. While we understand these feelings, we need to be civil in our discourse and respectful in our interactions. This is especially true when we disagree. The Savior taught us to love even our enemies. The vast majority of our members heed this counsel. Yet there are some who feel that venting their personal anger or deeply held opinions is more important than conducting themselves as Jesus Christ lived and taught.115
But in watching Beck’s first broadcasts after Conference, I was disappointed to see the usual sophistry, fear-mongering, and demagoguery. Holding up a “Chairman Mao” doll bought at Disneyland, he asked, “What in the hell is going on in our country? We’re selling Chairman Mao dolls at Disneyland!” He instantly segued to a photo of President Woodrow Wilson and said, “I hate this guy.” Pointing to the photo, he added, “That guy was one of the most evil dudes ever.” Then, indicating that his viewers didn’t know the truth about the real Woodrow Wilson, he said, “We didn’t learn anything about him for a reason—the Progressives controlled the history books.” He accused Wilson of abridging free speech and controlling the media and then connected Wilson with President Obama. Arguing that we now have a “new anti-free speech government,” he asked, “Why is our government teaching people all over this country to shut up and sit down?”
As usual, Beck stirred up a witches’ brew of photos, film clips, and diagrams to warn his audience of threatening conspiracies: “The free ride our grandparents gave us—it’s all over! Our rights are slipping away. They are trying to squash free speech through mockery, intimidation of advertisers, the Internet, any way they can.” He warned his viewers that they are the target of the administration’s nefarious campaign: “They think you’re dangerous . . . They want to teach you a lesson . . . They want to convince you that you can’t make a difference . . . They want you to believe that your vote doesn’t matter, that your voice doesn’t matter. They want to silence your speech by silencing my speech.” Positioning himself on the side of the angels, Beck pointed to three, large, captioned photos referred to earlier (Samuel Adams—”Faith”; Washington—”Hope”; Franklin—”Charity”). “This is about the Founders,” he intoned. “It’s about the Constitution, it’s about our country and our children.” Indeed it is, Brother Beck; indeed it is.
PostscriptWhen I began my study of Beck, I regarded him as a comic curiosity. The more I have listened, watched, and read from his books, the more my attitude has shifted from curiosity to concern. The more I have learned about Beck’s life story, the trajectory of his professional career, his conversion to Mormonism, and his gravitation toward the extremes of Mormon and American culture, coupled with his growing popularity, the more my concern has turned to alarm.
Instead of being just another charismatic, wacky, out-of-control entertainer or news personality, Beck has evolved into a dangerous figure. I find it difficult to reconcile his values and his behavior with the Church to which we both profess allegiance.
I suspect that many fellow Mormons will be displeased by what I have written here. I ask them to consider how they would feel were a powerful, prominent radio and television host to be as critical of President Monson or Mitt Romney as Beck has been of President Obama. Should Romney run for the presidency again, as most people assume, he will get his share—perhaps more than his share—of negative publicity. Some will distort his record and disseminate misinformation about his religion. Should he eventually become president, I hope he would not be subject to the kind of savage criticism and personal attacks Glenn Beck has unleashed on President Obama.
In writing this article, I have been aware of constant tension between my wish to be fair to Beck as a human being and fellow Latter-day Saint and my concern for the damage I feel he is doing and will likely continue to do to the country and the Church. Endowed Latter-day Saints make a covenant in the temple not to “speak evil of the Lord’s anointed.” While most Latter-day Saints tend to understand this charge as referring exclusively to General Authorities, like Titus who admonished, “Speak evil of no man” (Titus 3:2), I feel it refers to all who have been anointed by the mercy and grace of God. And for me, that includes Brother Glenn Beck.
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1. “Sunbeams,” The Sun, December 2009, 48.
2. Deitrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community (New York: HarperCollins, 1954), http://www.barnabas
ministry.com/review-bonhoeffer-life.html (accessed 9 May 2010).
3. Mark Levin, “Mark’s New Note, Feb 21, 2010,” 21 February 2010, http://www.facebook.com/notes/mark-levin/marks-new-note-feb-21-2010/
322101900945 (accessed 7 March 2010).
4. Robert Byrd, letter to the editor, Charleston Daily Mail, http://www.dailymail.com/Opinion/LetterstotheEditor/201003030609 (accessed 7 March 2010).
5. Alex Koppelman, “What’s Beck Doing with His Bigger Audience? Promoting Birchers,” Salon, 17 March 2009, http://www.salon.com/
politics/war_room/2009/03/17/beck/ (accessed 18 Dec 2009); Mike Bates, “Former Fox News Host Rips Glenn Beck, Kicks Fox,” Newsbusters, 5 December 2009, http://newsbusters.org/blogs/mike-bates/2009/12/05/former-fox-news-host-rips-glenn-beck-kicks-fox (accessed 18 Dec 2009).
6. According to the Huffington Post, “For the month of April, Glenn Beck suffered his first year-over-year decline since joining Fox News in January 2009, declining 7% in total viewers and 6% in the demo compared to April 2009. Moreover, Beck shed 28% of his audience between January and April in both total viewers and the demo.” Danny Shea, “Glenn Beck Hits 2010 Ratings Low,” Huffington Post, 18 May 2010, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/
2010/05/18/glenn-beck-hits-2010-rati_n_580440.html (accessed 20 May 2010).
7. “Oprah Winfrey regains Favorite TV Personality title, Glenn Beck second,” Internet Movie Database, 25 January 2010 http://www.imdb.com/
news/ni1466752/ (accessed 8 May 2010).
8. Robert Quigley, “Poll Surprise: Glenn Beck Is Almost As Admired As Nelson Mandela?”, Mediaite, 30 December 2009, http://www.mediaite.com/
online/glenn-beck-almost-as-admired-as-nelson-mandela/ (accessed 2 April 2010).
9. Sarah Palin, “Glenn Beck,” Time, 29 April 2010; http://www.time.com/
time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1984685_1984864_1985415,00.html (accessed 29 April 2010).
10. Lacey Rose, “Glenn Beck Inc.,” Forbes, April 26, 2010; http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2010/0426/entertainment-fox-news-simon-schuster-glenn-beck-inc.html (accessed 8 May 2010).
11. Chris Henrichsen commenting on Geoff B. “Fair and Balanced: Glenn Beck Part II,” The Millennial Star, 4 March 2010, http://www.millennial
star.org/fair-and-balanced-glenn-beck-part-2/comment-page-1/#comment-46107 (accessed 5 March 2010).
12. Eric Samuelsen, “Glenn Beck, Cleon Skousen, Amerigo Vespucci, and Me,” Sunstone, March 2009, 18–24, https://www.sunstonemagazine.com/
glenn-beck-cleon-skousen-am (accessed 5 March 2010).
13. Joanna Brooks, “How Mormonism Built Glenn Beck,” Religion Dispatches, October 7, 2009, http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/politics/1885/how_mormonism_built_glenn_beck (accessed 8 March 2010). Mormon lore about the Founding Fathers is reflected in an 1877 vision of President Wilford Woodruff that prompted him to be baptized by proxy for the signers of the Declaration of Independence. In his last conference address, Woodruff recounted George Washington’s words to him in this dream/vision: “We laid the foundation of the government you now enjoy, and we never apostatized from it, but we remained true to it and were faithful to God.” Thus Beck’s identifying with the Founding Fathers is something that many Mormons identify with. See “Wilford Woodruff’s Final General Conference Talk as LDS Church President,” Moroni’s Latter-day Saint Page, http://www.moroni10.com/General_Conference/Wilford_Woodruff_Final_Talk.html (accessed 8 May 2010).
14. http://www.millennialstar.org/fair-and-balanced-glenn-beck-part-2/; (accessed 8 May 2010).
15. Margaret Blair Young, “Mormon Like Me: Black Saints, Bigots, and Beck,” TPM, October 26, 2009, http://tpmcafe.talkingpointsmemo.com/
talk/blogs/jason_echols/2009/10/mormon-like-me-black-saints-bi.php (accessed 8 May 2010).
17. Alexander Zaitchik,”Meet the Man Who Changed Glenn Beck’s Life,” Salon, 16 Sept. 2009, www.salon.com/news/feature/2009/09/16/beck_skousen (accessed 8 May 2010).
18. Mormons will recognize this as an echo of the saying, “When our leaders have spoken, the thinking has been done.”
19. Foreword to W. Cleon Skousen, The Five Thousand Year Leap: 28 Great Ideas that Changed the World 30th Anniversary Edition (Franklin, TN: American Documents Publishing, 2009), 6.
21. David Frum, “What Is Going On at Fox News?” Frum Forum, 16 March 2009, http://www.frumforum.com/what-is-going-on-at-fox-news (accessed 14 March 2010). Some contemporary Latter-day Saints have come to Skousen’s defense, including Brian Mecham, the author of “An Open Letter to Latter-day Saint Detractors of W. Cleon Skousen and His Works,” on the Latter-day Conservatism website. Mecham calls Skousen “a modern-day Founding Father” and cites President David O. McKay and Apostle Benson among those who admired Skousen. He also cites the glowing remarks President Thomas S. Monson, then a counselor in the First Presidency, made at Skousen’s funeral. Skousen may well have been a good man and a good Latter-day Saint, but he also did enormous damage, as one can see afresh through his disciple, Glenn Beck. Brian Mecham, “An Open Letter to Latter-day Saint Detractors of W. Cleon Skousen and His Works,” Latter-Day Conservative, 21 October 2009, http://www.latterdayconservative.com/blog/
an-open-letter-to-latter-day-saint-detractors-of-w-cleon-skousen-and-his-works (accessed 14 March 2010).
22. Sam Antonio, a national spokesman for the John Birch Society, on the 25 July 2007; “The Glenn Beck Chart,” Media Matters for America, 19 October 2009, http://mediamatters.org/research/200910190048 (accessed 8 May 2010).
23. Koppelman, “What Is Beck Doing,” Salon, http://www.salon.com/
news/politics/war_room/2009/03/17/beck (accessed 2 April 2010).
24. Gregory A. Prince and Wm. Robert Wright, David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism (Salt Lake City Utah: University of Utah Press, 2005), 290.
25. Ibid., 291.
26. Ibid., 309.
27. “Obi wan kolobi,” “Mormonism and Conspiracy Theories, From Behind the Zion Curtain,” 11 October 2007, http://frombehindthezioncurtain.blogspot.com/2007/10/mormonism-and-conspiracy-theories.html (accessed 5 March 2010).
28. “Joseph N. Welch,” Wikipedia; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_
N._Welch (accessed 22 May 2010).
29. Bill Press, “Glenn Beck: Joe McCarthy Lives!” LA Times, 10 September 2009, http://www.latimes.com/sns-200909101253tmsbpresstt–m-a200909
10sep10,0,2241894.story (accessed 8 March 2010).
30. Steve Benen, “Looking Lovingly to Joe McCarthy,” Washington Monthly, 12 March 2010, http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2010_03/022823.php (accessed 11 April 2010).
31. “A Conversation with Senator Arthur V. Watkins,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought vol. 3, no. 4 (1968), 115.
32. Ibid., 116. The opposition Watkins experienced is similar to that faced by Senator Bob Bennett in his quest for reelection.
33. “McCarthyism,” Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McCarthyism (accessed 12 March 2010).
34. See “Benson and the John Birch Society,” in Gregory A. Prince and Wm. Robert Wright, David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2005) 286-295.
35. Ronald Feinman, “Glenn Beck: The Most Dangerous Demagogue Since George Wallace!” The Progressive Professor, 4 January 2010, www.theprogressiveprofessor.com/?p=10775 (accessed 17 April 2010).
36. “Charles Coughlin,” Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
Charles_Coughlin (accessed 2 April 2010). An important difference between Coughlin and Beck is that whereas Beck is an unapologetic champion of free-market capitalism, Coughlin was critical of the way that system led to the Great Depression and economic devastation for millions of Americans who were left jobless and homeless. He was also concerned about social justice and, as one commentator has noted, considered it “sinful—not just unfair, but a crime against God—for the poor to suffer while others prospered.”
37. Scott Horton, “The Heirs of Father Coughlin,” Harper’s, 17 March 2009, http://www.harpers.org/archive/2009/03/hbc-90004568 (accessed 2 April 2010).
39. “Glenn Beck, Obama Is a Racist,” CBS News, 29 July 2009, http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/07/29/politics/main5195604.shtml, (accessed 7 March 2010).
40. “CNN’s Beck to First-ever Muslim Congressman: ‘[W]hat I feel like saying is, ‘Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies,’” Media Matters for America, 15 November 2006, http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/200611150004 (accessed 7 March 2010).
41. Kate Zernike and Megan Thee-Brenan, “Poll Finds Tea Party Backers Wealthier and More Educated,” New York Times, 14 April 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/15/us/politics/15poll.html (accessed 14 April 2010); Charles M. Blow, “Trying to Outrun Race,” New York Times, 8 May 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/08/opinion/08blow.html (accessed 24 May 2010); Brendan Nyhan, “Disturbing Poll on Beliefs about Obama’s Birth,” Pollster, 31 July 2009, http://www.pollster.com/blogs/disturbing_poll_on_beliefs_abo.php (accessed 16 April 2010); Robert Schlesinger, “Party of Nuts: Poll Shows GOP Thinks Obama is Muslim, Socialist,” U.S. News and World Report, 24 March 2010, http://www.usnews.com/blogs/robert-schlesinger/2010/03/24/party-of-nuts-poll-shows-gop-thinks-obama-is-muslim-socialist.html (accessed 14 April 2010).
42. http://thinkexist.com/quotes/with/keyword/civility/ (accessed 22 May 2010).
43. Transcript of an interview between Bill Moyers and Barry Lopez, Bill Moyers’ Journal, 30 April 2010, http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/
04302010/transcript5.html (accessed 7 May 2010).
44. E.J. Dionne, Jr., “E.J. Dionne Jr. Welcomes Jim Leach’s Call for Civility,” Washington Post, 30 November 2009, http://www.washington
post.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/29/AR2009112902014.html (accessed 6 April 2010).
45. Lacey Rose, “Glenn Beck Inc,” Forbes, 26 April 2010; http://
www.forbes.com/forbes/2010/0426/entertainment-fox-news-simon-schuster-glenn-beck-inc.html (accessed 10 April 2010).
46. “Radio host Glenn Beck ‘thinking about killing Michael Moore,’” Media Matters for America, 18 May 2005, http://mediamatters.org/research/200505180008 (accessed 9 May 2010). This is what Beck said on his program for 17 May 2005: “Hang on, let me just tell you what I’m thinking. I’m thinking about killing Michael Moore, and I’m wondering if I could kill him myself, or if I would need to hire somebody to do it. No, I think I could. I think he could be looking me in the eye, you know, and I could just be choking the life out—is this wrong? I stopped wearing my What Would Jesus—band—Do, and I’ve lost all sense of right and wrong now. I used to be able to say, ‘Yeah, I’d kill Michael Moore,’ and then I’d see the little band: What Would Jesus Do? And then I’d realize, ‘Oh, you wouldn’t kill Michael Moore. Or at least you wouldn’t choke him to death.’ And you know, well, I’m not sure.”
47. “Beck said Gore using ‘same tactic’ in fight against global warming as Hitler did against Jews,” Media Matters for America, 1 May 2007, http://mediamatters.org/research/200705010003 (accessed 9 May 2010).
48. For other critical remarks about Sotomayor, see “Outrageous comments about Sotomayor,” Media Matters for America, 13 July 2009, http://mediamatters.org/research/200907130047 (accessed 9 May 2010).
49. “Glenn Beck: Washington Vampires Out for Blood,” The Glenn Beck Program, 31 March 2010, http://www.glennbeck.com/content/articles/article/198/23380/ (accessed 9 May 2010).
50. See “The Most Outrageous Media Comments of 2009—Glenn Beck Takes the Cake,” http://www.alternet.org/media/144863/the_most_outrageous_media_comments_of_2009_–_glenn_beck_takes_the_cake?page=3 (accessed 20 March 2010).
51. “The Mormon Ethic of Civility,” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Newsroom, 16 October 2009, http://www.newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/commentary/the-mormon-ethic-of-civility (accessed 8 March 2010).
54. George Cobabe, “The White Horse Prophecy,” F.A.I.R., 2004, http://www.fairlds.org/pubs/whitehorse.pdf (accessed 19 April 2010).
55. “White Horse Prophecy,” Mormonwiki, http://www.mormonwiki.org/
White_Horse_prophecy (accessed 14 March 2010).
56. Adam Reilly, “Latter Day Taint,” Boston Phoenix, 10 October 2009, http://thephoenix.com/boston/news/91016-latter-day-taint/ (accessed 8 March 2010).
57. “White Horse Prophecy,” MormonWiki, http://www.mormonwiki.org/
White_Horse_prophecy (accessed 20 March 2010).
58. See George Cobabe, “The White Horse Prophecy,” FAIR, http://
www.fairlds.org/pubs/whitehorse.pdf, (accessed 14 March 2010). The following statement is found on the Church’s official “Newsroom Blog”: “The so-called ‘White Horse Prophecy’ is based on accounts that have not been substantiated by historical research and is not embraced as Church doctrine”; http://newsroom.lds.org/blog/2010/01/church-statement-on-white-horse-prophecy-and-political-neutrality.html (accessed 19 April 2010).
59. “Glenn Beck: The Non-violence Pledge,” The Glenn Beck Program, http://www.glennbeck.com/content/articles/article/198/39574/ (accessed 27 April 2010).
61. David Neiwert, “The Glenn Beck Apocalypse Now Hour: Guest advises audience to buy farms, ‘take up arms’ to prepare for anarchy,” Crooks and Liars, 12 February 2010, http://crooksandliars.com/david-neiwert/glenn-beck-apocalypse-now-hour-guest (accessed 9 April 2010).
63. Beck’s apocalyptic vision is the subject of a video cartoon viewable on YouTube: “The Glenn Beck Apocalypse: Supernews!”, http://www.you
tube.com/watch?v=U4NMoyarAM4, (accessed 21 May 2010).
64. David Neiwert, “Glenn Beck’s latest looming apocalypse: Iran,” Crooks and Liars, 10 February 2009, http://crooksandliars.com/david-neiwert/glenn-becks-latest-looming-apocalyps (accessed 21 May 2010).
65. David S. Bernstein, “New and improved Romney,” Boston Phoenix, 12 February 2009, http://thephoenix.com/Boston/news/96976-new-and-improved-romney/ (accessed 22 May 2010).
66. In Kevin Sack, “Romney on Health Care: A Particular Spin,” New York Times, 10 April 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/10/us/politics/
10romney.html (accessed 23 May 2010), Sack describes the delicate dance Romney is forced to make in trying to distinguish his healthcare program from Obama’s. Marc Ambinder offers a counterargument in Marc Ambinder, “Five Reasons Why Romney’s Political Career Isn’t Dead,” The Atlantic Monthly, 29 March 2010, http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2010/
03/five-reasons-why-romneys-political-career-isnt-dead/38182/, (accessed 2 April 2010): “It’s ungrounded to assume that health care will be the Big Issue among Republican primary voters two years from now. If it’s not the biggest issue, or the second biggest issue, then it’s not really Romney’s problem.”.
67. Adam Reilly, “Latter Day Taint,” Boston Phoenix, http://thephoenix.
com/boston/news/96976-new-and-improved-romney/?page=5#TOPCONTENT (accessed 8 March 2010).
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73. See VegasVoter, “Glenn Beck Praises Nevada Republican Senate Candidate Danny Tarkanian,” Reid-B-Gone, 30 January 2010, http://www.reid-b-gone.com/?p=825 (accessed 2 April 2010).
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78. “The General Welfare,” Deseret News Church Section, 7 December 1934. I am indebted to Michael Quinn for this reference.
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86. Ryan Rodrick Beiler, “‘Jim Wallis Loves His Enemies’ (With a Little Help From His Friends),” Sojourners, 19 March 2010, http://blog.sojo.net/
2010/03/19/jim-wallis-loves-his-enemies-with-a-little-help-from-his-friends/ (accessed 19 March 2010). Joanna Brooks, in commenting on Beck’s threat against Wallis, said, “Glenn Beck is a Mormon. So am I. During the nineteenth century, my Mormon ancestors crossed the plains to live their faith without fear of attack from the mobs that had hounded them out of Missouri and Illinois. Watching Glenn Beck threaten to “bring the hammer down” on another person of faith makes my stomach turn. I could cite a host of scriptures from the Bible and the Book of Mormon about how Beck’s attack on Jim Wallis is not in keeping with faith-based values. Suffice it to say, Glenn Beck does not speak for the Mormons I know.” Joanna Brooks, “Bringing the Hammer Down: Glenn Beck Doesn’t Speak for the Mormons I Know,” Huffington Post, 19 March 2010 (accessed 24 May 2010). Mormon writer Jana Riess also challenged Beck’s understanding of Mormonism in “Glenn Beck Versus Social Justice,” at Beliefnet, http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/2010/03/Glenn-Beck-Versus-Social-Justice.aspx (accessed 19 March 2010).
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