When Beck’s minions get the message

WHEN BECK’S MINIONS GET THE MESSAGE…. Glenn Beck doesn’t just rail against perceived enemies, whom he considers dangerous villains who must be stopped; he also chooses obscure enemies he considers worthy of his rage.

It’s one of the many oddities of Beck’s bizarre message. The condemnations of President Obama and Nancy Pelosi are predictable, but Beck sees imaginary patterns and conspiracies involving figures most Americans neither know nor care about: Van Jones, Frances Fox Piven, George Soros, Saul Alinsky, the Tides Foundation, etc.

In Beck’s unhealthy imagination, each are nefarious players in a plot to destroy you and everything you hold dear. Sane people don’t see the danger, Beck says, but that only proves the point — the mentally healthy are probably in on it.

The problem, of course, is Beck’s minions take all of this seriously, and consider Beck’s perceived enemies their perceived enemies.

On his daily radio and television shows, Glenn Beck has elevated once-obscure conservative thinkers onto best-seller lists. Recently, he has elevated a 78-year-old liberal academic to celebrity of a different sort, in a way that some say is endangering her life.

Frances Fox Piven, a City University of New York professor, has been a primary character in Mr. Beck’s warnings about a progressive take-down of America. Ms. Piven, Mr. Beck says, is responsible for a plan to “intentionally collapse our economic system.”

Her name has become a kind of shorthand for “enemy” on Mr. Beck’s Fox News Channel program, which is watched by more than 2 million people, and on one of his Web sites, The Blaze. This week, Mr. Beck suggested on television that she was an enemy of the Constitution.

If you’ve never heard of Frances Fox Piven, don’t feel bad. Up until a couple of weeks ago, I hadn’t either. Apparently she wrote some radical stuff about poor people and political activism in 1966, and the voices in Beck’s head tell him this is important and relevant in 2011, never mind the fact that the vast majority of liberals haven’t read her work and have no idea who she is.

Though it’s tempting, it’d be a mistake to dismiss this is inconsequential silliness. With Beck having singled out Piven as an instigator of political violence, Beck’s audience has published death threats against the CUNY professor, and some of his followers have even contacted her directly with menacing messages.

The Center for Constitutional Rights this week urged Fox News chairman Roger Ailes to intervene, explaining that Beck has put Piven in “actual physical danger of a violent response.”

Fox News disagrees and has said it will take no action.

No good can come of this.