Michelle Goldberg had the goods yesterday at the Daily Beast on Glenn Beck’s “exposé” of philanthropist George Soros, entitled “The Puppet Master,” a “symphony of anti-Semitic dog-whistles” that Forward editor J.J. Goldberg called “as close as I’ve heard on mainstream television to fascism.”
Soros has long been a scapegoat of the right, which has smeared and demonized him as an atheist, anti-Semitic, anti-Israel, communism-promoting, one-world order-creating, evil mastermind of the progressive movement (even though he himself is a foe of communism and anti-Semitism). He’s wealthy; he’s a philanthropist for justice causes; he’s a Jew; he’s therefore the scapegoat, whether conservatives invoke tropes about wealthy Jews or their secret control of money or an imaginary one-world order; or as Beck put it, a “shadow government.” Beck — unoriginal, as usual, but also as usual taking his derivative conspiracy theories over the top — further peddled the utterly false claim that Soros, a child at the time, aided and abetted the Holocaust. Michelle writes:
To inoculate himself against charges of anti-Semitism, Beck hurled them at Soros, pointing out that he’s an atheist and a critic of Israel. He accused Soros of helping Nazis steal Jewish property as a teenager and of feeling no remorse about it. In fact, when Soros was 14 in Nazi-occupied Hungary, his father bribed an agriculture official to pretend that the boy was his Christian godson. Soros once had to accompany his protector to inventory a confiscated Jewish estate. Asked by 60 Minutes if he felt guilty about it, he said no, because he wasn’t at fault. The slander that he was a Nazi collaborator has proliferated on the right ever since.
What’s even more inexcusable here is that Fox (and Beck) have been questioned about Beck’s anti-Semitic broadcasts, have promised to end them, yet persist, unabashed.
Simon Greer, president and CEO of the Jewish Funds for Justice, issued a statement on Wednesday about how he and other Jewish leaders met with Fox News president Roger Ailes and Beck’s producer, Joel Cheatwood, in July, during which:
We spoke for almost an hour about the concerns held by many Jews and Jewish leaders about Glenn Beck’s constant and often inappropriate invocation of the Holocaust and Nazi Germany on the air. We were assured by Ailes and Cheatwood that they understand our concerns and would explain them to Beck. Two days later, I received a hand-written note from Glenn Beck, which stated: “Simon, Joel shared the details of your meeting yesterday. Please know that I understand the sensitivity and sacred nature of this dark chapter in Human History. Thank you for your candor and helpful thoughts.”
Yet, Greer continues, this week Beck:
and the leadership of Fox News made a mockery of their professed understanding. In an effort to demonize a political opponent, Beck and Fox News scurrilously attacked George Soros, a prominent Jewish philanthropist and Holocaust survivor. No one who truly understands “the sensitivity and sacred nature” of the Holocaust would deliberately and grotesquely mischaracterize the experience of a 13 year old Jew in Nazi-occupied Hungary whose father hid him with a non-Jewish family to keep him alive. Many other Jews survived the attempted extermination of the Jewish people by changing their identities and hiding with Righteous Gentiles. With today’s falsehoods, Beck has engaged in a form of Holocaust revisionism. Today, they have let their political ideology trump their values – exactly what America has had enough off. And they have revealed themselves to be willing to leave nothing sacred in order to score short term political points.
And in a letter to supporters yesterday, Greer added:
Of all the new “Tea Party” leaders, Glenn Beck is one of the most vitriolic, and – with more than 800 hours of on-air time a year – the most visible. His portrayal of Soros today as the “Puppet Master,” as the special was called, evokes anti-Semitic stereotypes from the “devaluer of many currencies” to “advocate for one world government” from “anti-American” to “thinks he’s smarter than the rest of us.”
Beck’s words have consequences. They advance a world view that ultimately places Jews like Soros in the crosshairs, not unlike what we saw with Father Coughlin in the 1930s or the John Birch Society in the 1950s. Byron Williams, a Beck acolyte who recently engaged in a shoot-out with police on his way to kill “people of importance at the Tides Foundation and the ACLU,” shares his hero’s hatred of Soros and other “progressives.” Given the more than 40 percent of Jews self-identify as liberal, this hatred targets us.
Beck doesn’t care — and of course neither does Ailes — especially if Beck’s downward spiral into the darkest corners of the most vile conspiracy theories not only score political points but boost ratings and give Beck another scalp, like that of ACORN or Van Jones. Beck might very well be harboring delusions that he could bring down what he claims is the most powerfully dangerous satanic force on earth.
While Beck claims to be an opponent of the genocidal Nazi regime, and a great supporter of Jews, as Alexander Zaitchik wrote in Common Nonsense: Glenn Beck and The Triumph of Ignorance, Beck’s career is actually built on three of the “eight most common social phenomena that precede and accompany genocide,” dehumanization, classification, and polarization. In his twisted propaganda screed against the right’s sworn enemy, he turned Soros into a sub-human, insidious force — the “them” in Beck’s vision of the “us” of “real America” under attack by the “puppet master.”