Beck’s ‘Symphony of Anti-Semitic Dog-Whistles’
I fully realize that highlighting the incendiary ramblings of Glenn Beck has become yawn inducing. They occur so frequently that news junkies, such as myself, have become desensitized. However, Beck’s latest shotgun blast of offensiveness, related to his two day effort to further demonize liberal philanthropist George Soros, makes all of his previous efforts seem quaint.
According to Beck, Soros is a danger to America whose sinister influence guides liberal legislative initiatives and the actions of president Obama from behind the scenes. Beck supports his accusations with series of quotes taken out of context and some rather shocking sins of omission.
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There are too many disprovable accusations to list here, and fortunately Media Matters has already done most of the debunking for us. One notable example, however, is Beck’s charge that Soros “collapses regimes…”
BECK: With his Open Society Fund, which was founded in 1979, Soros has helped fund the Velvet Revolution in the Czech Republic, the Orange Revolution in the Ukraine, the Rose Revolution in Georgia. He also helped to engineer coups in Slovakia, Croatia, and Yugoslavia. So what is his target now? Us. America.
That’s right, America. Soros yearns for your collapse; that is, if by collapse you mean “[provide] support to popular pro-democracy groups battling repressive regimes led by Communist of former Communist autocrats,” as Robert Mackey explained on his blog, (11/11). Of course, this part of Soros’ past didn’t fit Beck’s narrative, and went without mention. Perhaps this is because, as Mackey suggests, Beck’s critique of Soros’ anti-communist exploits puts the Fox host squarely in agreement with the Mullahs in Iran.
But this is a pretty standard half-truth smear from Beck; by itself, it’s just misleading, and not the source of the outrage that has erupted in the wake of the Fox host’s smearing of Soros. That comes from Beck’s cropping of events further in Soros’ past, and the disturbing theme chosen for his presentation.
If you know Soros only as the favorite boogeyman of the right (Eek! A billionaire liberal!), you should also know that he is a Holocaust survivor. Soros survived because his his parents arranged for a Christian family to take him in as the Nazis invaded his native Hungary.
Considering that, the theme chosen by Beck to attack Soros seems deliberately callous. Over the course of two days, on his Fox television program and on the radio, Beck set about casting Soros as “The Puppet Master” whose influence on world affairs, past and present, points toward a goal of “one world government.”
So, on the anniversary of Kristallnacht, Beck’s chosen angle for attacking Soros was to emulate the language and propaganda employed by the Nazis for the purpose of labeling the Jews as the root of the world’s problems. As Michelle Goldberg wrote in The Daily Beast, (11/10)
In classic anti-Semitic narratives, Jews control both the elites and the masses; they’re responsible for the communist revolution and the speculative excesses of capitalism. Their goal is to undermine society so that they can take over. Through the lens of anti-Semitism, social division, runaway inflation, and moral breakdown all make sense because they all have the same cause. Nazi propaganda called [them] Jewsdrahtzieher—wire-pullers. They constitute a power above and beyond ordinary government authority...
Goldberg goes on to characterize Beck’s framing of Soros as “a symphony of anti-Semitic dog-whistles,” concluding, “Nothing like it has ever been on American television before.”
Similarly, M.J. Rosenberg, commentator on Jewish and Israeli issues for TalkingPointsMemo, noted, “I watched the first show but it was so anti-Semitic (my wife’s parents survived the Holocaust, like Soros) that I couldn’t watch the second. For the first time in my life, I felt that ‘it could happen here.’ Rosenberg praises Anti-Defamation League’s Abe Foxman for condemning Beck’s remarks as “either out of total ignorance or total insensitivity.”
Foxman, also a Holocaust survivor, was reacting to Beck’s characterization of Soros’ experience as a teenager in Nazi occupied Hungary during his Nov. 9 television show:
BECK: But when he had to go over and take the lands from the people, his Jewish friends and neighbors who were being sent to the gas chambers, I can’t imagine what that would do to a teenager, or anybody, an adult. Well, what did it do to George Soros? In an interview with Steve Kroft, Soros was asked if he felt guilt at all about taking the property from the Jews as a teenager. He responded, no.
Beck fails to mention that Soros explained to Kroft moments later, “I had no role in taking away that property. So I had no sense of guilt.”
Beck reiterated the ‘sure, he had no choice, but shouldn’t Soros feel guilty about it?’ meme on his Nov. 10 radio show (audio via Media Matters), adding, “That’s between him and his God.”
This is the implication that has raised so many eyebrows. Indeed, Soros, having assumed the identity of Sandor Kiss, the Christian godson of a Hungarian Ministry of Agriculture employee named Baumbach. “This is what actually happened…,” Soros biographer Michael T. Kaufman explained in Soros: The Life and Times of a Messianic Billionaire (excerpt via Media Matters):
Shortly after George went to live with Baumbach, the man was assigned to take inventory on the vast estate of Mor Kornfeld, an extremely wealthy aristocrat of Jewish origin. The Kornfeld family had the wealth, wisdom, and connections to be able to leave some of its belongings behind in exchange for permission to make their way to Lisbon. Baumbach was ordered to go to the Kornfeld estate and inventory the artworks, furnishings, and other property. Rather than leave his “godson” behind in Budapest for three days, he took the boy with him. As Baumbach itemized the material, George walked around the grounds and spent time with Kornfeld’s staff… He collaborated with no one and he paid attention to what he understood to be his primary responsibility: making sure that no one doubted that he was Sandor Kiss. Among his practical concerns was to make sure that no one saw him pee.
In his attempt to paint Soros as a Nazi collaborator, Beck makes no mention of these circumstances.
To emphasize why Beck’s implication is “totally off limits and over the top,” here’s more from the ADL head’s reaction by way of James Besser’s Nov. 11 post at The Jewish Week:
“Look, I spit on Jews when I was six years old,” Foxman told me. “Does that make me an anti-Semite?”
The issue of the Shoah “is so sensitive that I’m not even sure Holocaust survivors themselves are willing to make such judgments,” Foxman went on “For a political commentator or entertainer to have the audacity to say, there’s a Jewish boy sending Jews to death camps, that’s horrific…”
Read Besser’s post for other similar reactions from the leaders of Jewish, interfaith, and Holocaust survivor groups.
For video and audio of Beck’s Soros hatchet job, along with a detailed dissection of its numerous distortions and inaccuracies, see the following links from Media Matters:
- “Puppet Master”: Beck’s lies about Soros, Day 1
- Day 2 of Glenn Beck’s “Puppet Master,” unabridged
- Beck’s Soros smear machine relies on inaccurate, discredited book
- Glenn Beck lashes out at the Anti-Defamation League
It should also be noted that many of the above cited sources express doubt as to whether or not Beck’s remarks were deliberately anti-Semitic. Rosenberg, for example, noted:
I am not saying Beck is anti-Semitic. I think he is so utterly ignorant of Jewish history and the history of Germany 1933-1945 that he is unaware of what he is doing. And, given that he works at Fox, there are no smart Jews there to say, “look, Glenn, this looks like classic Jew-baiting.”
Similarly, after his condemnation of Beck, noted above, Foxman told Salon.com, “[Glenn Beck] is a strong supporter of Israel and the Jewish people… But I also believe that there are certain things he doesn’t understand which have led him to make insensitive remarks.”
Beck has repeatedly asserted as much, but I think Foxman and Rosenberg are being generous. After hearing the bulk of his attack of Soros, and knowing full well Beck’s habit of pandering to fundamentalist Christians, the Fox host’s support for Israel seems to have more to do with its geographic importance related to end-times Biblical prophecy than it does with his concern for those residing there. Of course, that’s just my impression. I look forward to reading yours in the comments section, below.
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Glenn Beck image by Gage Skidmore via Flickr