Airing a dangerous paranoia

Out There

April 14, 2009|By Eric Boehlert

In the wake of the killing of three police officers in Pittsburgh, we've learned that Richard Poplawski, the killer, was something of a conspiracy nut. He embraced dark, radical rhetoric about America and was convinced the government, at President Barack Obama's command, was going to take away his guns.

In the month before his killing spree, Mr. Poplawski reportedly posted a link on a white nationalist Web site to a video of Fox News' doomsday host Glenn Beck as he referenced a conspiracy theory about how the federal government, under the auspices of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, was building concentration camps in order to institute totalitarian rule. (It wasn't until weeks later that Mr. Beck was finally able to "debunk" the FEMA scheme.)

Here's what else Mr. Beck's been drumming into the heads of viewers, a portion of whom likely - and logically - hear his rhetoric as a call to action: that the government is a "heroin pusher using smiley-faced fascism to grow the nanny state." That it's indoctrinating our children. That we have "come to a very dangerous point in our country's long, storied history." Mr. Beck's concerned that the "Big Brother" government will soon dictate what its citizens can eat, at what temperature their house can be set, and what kind of cars they're allowed to drive.

Mr. Beck's sure "depression and revolution" are what await America under Mr. Obama, and he fears moving "towards a totalitarian state." The country today sometimes reminds Mr. Beck of "the early days of Adolf Hitler." And just days after the Pittsburgh police massacre, Mr. Beck announced to his radio listeners that Mr. Obama "will slowly but surely take away your gun or take away your ability to shoot a gun, carry a gun."

Is there any doubt that Fox News is playing an increasingly erratic and dangerous game by embracing the type of paranoid insurrection rhetoric that people like Mr. Poplawski are now acting on?

Eric Boehlert is a senior fellow at Media Matters for America. He is the author of the forthcoming "Bloggers on the Bus: How the Internet Changed Politics and the Press."

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