‘MORE AND MORE FRIGHTENING’…. Fox News’ Shep Smith probably ruffled a few feathers at his network by reminding the viewing audience, shortly after the shooting at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, of the DHS report that warned of potentially violent radicals. Smith probably ruffled a few more when he started talking about the emails he’s seen from Fox News viewers.

“I read a lot of email around here,” Smith said. “And the email to me has become more and more frightening. It’s not a new thing; it’s been happening over the past few months. It’s been happening, you know, to some degree, since the election process went along.”

He added, “There are people now, who are way out there on a limb. And I think they’re just out there on a limb with the email they send us. Because I read it, and they are out there. I mean, out there in a scary place…. I could read a hundred of them like this…. I mean from today. People who are so amped up and so angry for reasons that are absolutely wrong, ridiculous, preposterous.”

Smith, with good reason, seemed genuinely concerned about the severity of the right-wing rage. Just as important, he seemed to realize that these increasingly agitated conservatives are incensed, not because of justified concerns, but because of “ridiculous” developments that have been cooked up in the far-right imagination.

But here’s the kicker: soon after Smith had signed off for the day, his Fox News colleague, Glenn Beck told his national television audience “the Germans” during Hitler’s rise “were an awful lot like we are now.”

The reason the emails to Fox News have become “more and more frightening,” the reason so much of Fox News’ audience is “out there … on a limb,” the reason they’ve ended up “in a scary place,” is because of deranged demagogues like Beck telling confused conservatives they have reason to be enraged, reality notwithstanding.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.