EGGING ON THE VIOLENT…. We talked recently about Byron Williams, an anti-government zealot, who loaded up his mother’s truck with firearms, put on body armor, and headed to San Francisco two weeks ago with a rampage in mind. He didn’t reach his destination — Williams initiated a shootout with police in Oakland after being pulled over for driving erratically — but he intended to “start a revolution” with bloodshed at the ACLU and the Tides Foundation.
It’s hard to say with certainty how Williams chose his targets, but given his politics — his mother said he was angry at “the way Congress was railroading through all these left-wing agenda items” — he very likely heard about the relatively obscure Tides Foundation through Glenn Beck.
The non-profit organization supports “sustainability, better education, solutions to the AIDS epidemic and human rights,” but the deranged Fox News personality nevertheless considers Tides as a major cog in some larger conspiracy to destroy capitalism. Beck even boasted that “no one knew what Tides was” until he started scribbling on his chalkboard.
Dana Milbank highlighted Beck’s obsession with condemning the Tides Foundation — including two denunciations the week before Williams loaded up for a murdering rampage — and the fact that over the last 18 months, other than a couple of Hannity references, Tides’ name wasn’t uttered in any other news broadcast by any other network.
Beck has at times spoken against violence, but he more often forecasts it, warning that “it is only a matter of time before an actual crazy person really does something stupid.” Most every broadcast has some violent imagery: “The clock is ticking. . . . The war is just beginning. . . . Shoot me in the head if you try to change our government. . . . You have to be prepared to take rocks to the head. . . . The other side is attacking. . . . There is a coup going on. . . . Grab a torch! . . . Drive a stake through the heart of the bloodsuckers. . . . They are taking you to a place to be slaughtered. . . . They are putting a gun to America’s head. . . . Hold these people responsible.”
Beck has prophesied darkly to his millions of followers that we are reaching “a point where the people will have exhausted all their options. When that happens, look out.” One night on Fox, discussing the case of a man who killed 10 people, Beck suggested such things were inevitable. “If you’re a conservative, you are called a racist, you want to starve children,” he said. “And every time they do speak out, they are shut down by political correctness. How do you not have those people turn into that guy?”
Here’s one idea: Stop encouraging them.
To be clear, Byron Williams is responsible for Byron Williams’ crimes, just as every other right-wing lunatic who’s turned to violence — and the list seems to be growing — is responsible for their own actions.
Beck, however, shouldn’t say he has no role here. He’s whipping up a confused and easily-misled mob into a rage, lying to them with deranged theories, and pointing them in a direction. The sooner he shows some restraint, and takes some responsibility for dousing a simmering flame with lighter fluid, the safer we’ll be.