The Washington Postcolumist  Dana Milbank has a few words to say about Glenn Beck and his new-found affection of civil rights.

Civil rights’ new ‘owner’: Glenn Beck

By Dana Milbank
Sunday, August 29, 2010

There is a telling anecdote in Glenn Beck’s 2003 memoir about how the cable news host was influenced by the great fantasist Orson Welles. To travel between performances in Manhattan, Beck recounts, Welles hired an ambulance, sirens blaring, to ferry him around town — not because Welles was ill but because he wanted to avoid traffic.

Most of us would regard this as dishonest, a ploy by the self-confessed charlatan that Welles was. Beck saw it as a model to be emulated. “Welles,” he writes, “inspired me to believe that I can create anything that I can see or imagine.”

I was reminded of Beck’s affection for deception as he hyped his march on Washington — an event scheduled for the same date (Aug. 28) and on the same spot (the Lincoln Memorial) as Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic march 47 years ago. Beck claimed it was pure coincidence, but then he made every effort to appropriate the mantle of the great civil rights leader.


Beck as the fulfillment of Dr. King’s dream? And you thought “War of the Worlds” was frightening.

It’s been just over a year since Beck famously called the first African American president a “racist” with a “deep-seated hatred for white people.” And now, accused of racial pot-stirring, he apparently has determined that the best defense is to be patently offensive.

“Blacks don’t own Martin Luther King,” he tells us, any more than whites own Lincoln or Washington. “The left” doesn’t own King, either, he says.

No, Beck owns King. “This is the moment, quite honestly, that I think we reclaim the civil rights movement,” he said this spring. “We are on the right side of history. We are on the side of individual freedoms and liberties and, damn it, we will reclaim the civil rights moment. We will take that movement because we are the people that did it in the first place.”

We are? Let’s review Beck’s history as a civil rights pioneer, a history I’ve studied while writing a book about Beck.

When Beck was a radio host in Connecticut in the 1990s, his station apologized for an on-air skit in which Beck and his partner mocked an Asian American caller and used their version of an Asian accent. As a CNN host a couple of years ago, Beck interviewed Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the first Muslim elected to Congress, and challenged him to “prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.”

President Obama, who Beck says was elected because he isn’t white, is “moving all of us quickly in slavery,” Beck has asserted. On his radio show, he declared that “you don’t take the name Barack to identify with America. . . . You take the name Barack to identify with . . . the heritage, maybe, of your father in Kenya, who is a radical.” He accused Obama of seeking “reparations” from white America, seeking to “settle old racial scores.”

Beck has spoken on air about “radical black nationalism” in the White House and “Marxist black liberation theology” influencing Obama. He has further determined that the New Black Panthers have “ties to the White House in a myriad of ways” and are part of Obama’s “army of thugs.”

This is not quite the ideal background for a man who would claim to be King’s heir — and that’s where Orson Welles comes in.

First, Beck employed the hand of God in justifying his decision to co-opt King. He said he chose the date without knowing it was the anniversary of King’s march, claiming it happened because of “divine providence.”

Second, he invoked some selective history, using his Fox News show to deliver a three-part series updating the history of the civil rights movement. “How has the Democratic Party assumed the mantle of defender of minorities, if you know their early history?” he asked. “Dating to Andrew Jackson — this is the 17th century . . . .”

Seventeenth century, 19th century, whatever. He informed viewers that “it was the GOP that took the lead on the civil rights” cause.

Finally, Beck updated the meaning of the civil rights movement so that it is no longer about black people; it is about protecting anti-tax conservatives from liberals. Civil rights leaders, he said, “purposely distorted Martin Luther King’s ideas.” Over the past century, Beck reasons, “no man has been free, because we’ve been progressive.” To his followers, he says: “We are the people of the civil rights movement.”

All that is left is for Beck to drive around town by ambulance.


There is just something horribly annoying about Beck’s proclamations of innocence regarding the date. Even more annoying is his attempt to claim some sort of perverted ownership of the civil rights movement. He needs to leave it alone. Not only do many black folks feel that he and his kind have attempted to hi jack the civil rights movement, so do a lot of white people. I learned a long time ago to take the high road on some issues. This is one of them.

If Beck is  truly interested in furthering civil rights he needed to have started out a long time ago, before he committed so many faux pas in that department.  Furthermore, he does not have the right to redefine the heart and soul of the civil rights movement.  He is a middle age white man who had nothing to do with the real movement.  He was  not even born when the I have a Dream speech was originally made.  He doesn’t even qualify as an honorary member of the Civil Rights Club, not with the remarks he has made.

Note (from the Washington Post):  Dana Milbank’s book, “Tears of a Clown: Glenn Beck and the Tea Bagging of America,” will be published Oct. 5.

70 Thoughts to “Dana Milbank Calls Out Glenn Beck”

  1. NTK, I removed the kickers from those words about 6 months ago. I have no idea why Slowpoke wanted to get into Hitler.

    I suppose Beck is providing a spot for everyone. I believe his movement bears watching very closely. That’s the reason I torture myself at 5 pm. groan.

    The thing all of us need to ask ourselves is what McCain would have done differently and how different would the outcome be?

    I like Teddy Roosevelt also. He goes to hero status with me over the National Parks and the preservation of nature. I believe the government must set aside lands that are our national treasures. It cannot and will not be done privately or by corporation.

  2. Slowpoke, actually I would prefer self deportation. That is how it has always worked in the past. Right now lets just say there is an entertainment factor. You know, something to laugh at.

  3. Slow

    Your rantings and constant attacks on people on this site only further proove my point that certain members of the Tea Party are very unstable and are fully capable of stooping down to the next level and carry out political/ civilian assisanations to obtain their fantastic dogmatic objectives.

    Sorry Moon for bringing up these dark thoughts, but I’m not joking… This is the same kind of rhehtoric that has traditionally proceeded the darkest days of many a nation’s history and allowing that kind talk to go unchecked is dangerous.

  4. Need to Know

    I admire Teddy on so many levels. National parks and conservation are among the best reasons to put him on the hero pedestal. I’m reading Douglas Brinkley’s new book, “The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America” now. Brinkley quotes Teddy in the front of the book;

    “Defenders of the short-sighted men who in their greed and selfishness will, if permitted, rob our country of half its charm by their reckless extermination of all useful and beautiful wild things sometimes seek to champion them by saying that “the game belongs to the people.” So it does; and not merely to the people now alive, but to the unborn people. The “greatest good for the greatest number” applies to the number within the womb of time, compared to which those now alive form but an insignificant fraction. Our duty to the whole, including the unborn generations, bids us to restrain an unprincipled present-day minority from wasting the heritage of these unborn generations. The movement for the conservation of wild life and the larger movement for the conservation of all our natural resources are essentially democratic in spirit, purpose, and method.”

    Compare what Teddy wrote to Wally Covington’s words during the debate over the Brentswood development in 2006:

    “Virginia property owners have a vested right to develop properties. Local governments cannot restrict this right for a greater public good or require property owners to construct adequate public facilities, e.g. schools, roads, libraries, to support their developments. These amenities are only obtained through the voluntary proffer process, e.g. individual, private negotiation with the developer. Proffers come only with rezoning cases, like Brentswood, in contrast to some of the “by right” development (when a property does not have to be rezoned, e.g. 1 house on 10 acres in the Rural Crescent) which is constructed with no public facilities.”

    Wally Covington or Teddy Roosevelt? Please give me a break.

    Look at the actions of Stewart, Covington, Nohe, Jenkins and Caddigan on the recent Avendale scam.

    People such as this pro-development Gang of Five on our Board of County Supervisors represent the “unprincipled present-day minority” who waste our heritage and deprive unborn generations of its use. What do they say about rights of the unborn?

    Compare Teddy to the puny, selfish minds in office now. I know we have an important election this fall, but I’m also looking forward to 2011 and some massive turnover on our own Board of County Supervisors.

  5. PWC Taxpayer

    Absolutely !! stiffling dialog is a conservative tradition with a long worldwide 20th century history. Name calling and race bating is another traditional technique used by conservatives to describe historical political philosophies and where they are, once again, headed. Those monachists and laissez-fare economists must be checked or there will be un-equalized, un-normalized economic justice. Those old, fat white men have unrealistic and dogmatic political fantasies about freedom and self reliance and need to be re-educated in special camps and forced to do farm labor in order to understand the plight of the poor and the need for their reparations.

  6. Slowpoke Rodriguez

    Moon-howler :Slowpoke, actually I would prefer self deportation.

    So you DO understand the concept and it’s effectiveness! Progress!

  7. @PWC Taxpayer

    If your simplistic sarcastic rant is representative of your perception of the whole progressive social community and thier ultimate mission, then I pity you TP. You go out of your way to defend the Tea Party members who are tainted by the NIMBY media broad brush, only to use ignorant generalizations to justify your right wing media manufactured fears.

    Their are independent progressive communities across the vast expanse of this country who want no part in a big federal government. We are represented by no party, all we want is some land to grow on and a quiet self sustaining life that does not revolve around mindless consumption and politics.

    Small agrarian communities living peacefully off the fruit of their own toils while preserving the natural beauty of God’s world was the American dream of Thomas Jefferson.

    In Floyd and Louisa county of this great commonwealth, that dream is being realized by more and more people; people who are proud to call themselves Socialists as they carry on the prime principal of achieving social harmony amoungst the various communities, conservative, liberal, religious or otherwise.

    Stalin, was not a Socialist, nor was Hitler; They were Fascist… meerly exploiting the people to gain absolute power.

    So what of Beck and Palin, what of Jackson and Sharpton, what of Bush, Obama and the parties?

    I don’t think any of them have the criminal mentality of Stalin and Hitler, but I think all of them are exploiters of the people! They seek to devide the populace as part of a business model to gain power and ulitmatly money. They take decent social concepts of Conservatism and Progressivism and distort their definitions to further cause division.

    The truth of the matter is basic conservative and socialist philosophy are seperated by meer trifles, easy overlooked through compromise.

    If the collective peoples kick over the pitchers of extreme “kool-aid” that is being forced upon us by charlitans on both sides of the isle and joined forces, then yes, the second revolution would sucessfully reform this country into a sustainable nation and key world player.

  8. PWC Taxpayer


    “The truth of the matter is basic conservative and socialist philosophy are seperated by meer trifles, easy overlooked through compromise.”

    Ahh, NO. There are fundemental differences of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

  9. “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”

    Which is the core rights of the people in any true Socialist Democracy and Free-market Capitalist society… To think otherwise is to be misinformed.

    Note that before Jefferson changed it, the line was supposed to be Life, Liberty and Land (Property)… Jefferson recognized that worldly posessions (property) were not equatable to higher concept of the Human Right of to the persuit of happiness and reflected that in the Declaration of Independence.

    America today is neither a Free Market Capitalist Society or a Socialist Democracy… We are free people who oft get mislead from propaganda bombarding us from many different warring factions which are connected to a sole concept…

    “Do what ever it takes to get dat money!”

    To break it down, we are engaging in a Cleptocracy at the moment, but I sense change is in the wind.

  10. Rod, there is no doubt that hateful rhetoric can set off crazies. I think we just have to be careful about who we label as crazy. To assign crazy to only the tea party participants leaves off a whole bunch of other people out there from all political persuassions who might go postal (sorry postal workers) at the drop of a hat. I don’t think it is fair to suggest that tea party members (whatever that means) are more likely than others to go off the deep end.

    Assassinations and assassination attempts have marred this countries history. The ones during my conscious lifetime have been very troubling to me. Then there are the assassinations of the assassins. It makes no sense.

    I think you are right about rhetoric causing others to do violence. You knew know what might set someone off. Operation Rescue, the anti-abortion group, doesn’t go around killing abortion providers. However, the words they say might very well set off some nut case like Roeder who killed Dr. Tiller, Dr. David Gunn, or my uncle’s boyhood friend, Dr. Britton.

    For that matter, while we are small potatoes, even a blog should be careful about speech that might set off others.

    Regarding nut cases being set off. Paul Hill, Presbyterian minister. Who would have thought a man of God would do something like this?

    The doctor killed, Bayard Britton, had been a friend of my uncle. As young men they took a motorcycle trip to Texas from Vriginia. My uncle had permanent wind burn on his face, for the rest of his life.

    Sometimes violence is just lurking beneath the surface, as this article shows. How can people of faith turn into killers?

  11. I hope we can keep to our words and votes to effect change. Gandi, Sadat and Rabine all had their lives taken by people who once shared their own values, but went off the deep end when they could not bring themselves to compromise.

  12. Elena suggested that John Lennon’s assassination could be likened to a political assassination, even though he wasn’t an elected official. The killer was just too twisted to know the difference.

  13. -sigh- poor John… That was just a tragedy of pure insanity…

  14. kelly3406

    Bear :
    If Congress does nothing the tax break for the wealthiest tax payers will elapse and go back to the rate they had 10 years ago and it will mean Billions in revenue.If you want to check it out I’ve included a link: from June 2002

    That argument means nothing to me. A flat tax is the more honest and straightforward way to go. Somehow the idea that “the rich should pay their share” has come to mean that they are required to pay a higher proportion of their earnings than everyone else. A progressive tax system that has become increasingly progressive is the reason that almost 50% pay no income taxes. If the result is revenue that is insufficient to balance the budget, then we should reduce spending rather than increase taxation. The economy is already in enough trouble as it is.

    The massive spending by Roosevelt did not end The Great Depression until WWII. Massive spending was a failure then and it has been a failure so far in present recession.

  15. And there are a whole bunch of folks out there that would advance the notion that the New Deal jobs and initiatives kept people from starving and helped the country.

    Massive spending during WWII also ended up amassing huge debt to GDP, more so than now. It looks like getting rid of 2 theatered wars did a lot to bring down debt.

    The 50% paying no fed tax irritates me also. Everyone should have to pay something. Of course, we aren’t sure who those someones are. I don’t think anyone is paying more than 35% fed are they? I try not to think about it.

    The problem with ‘reducing spending’ is that it is a sound bite. When the biggest bite is medicare and social security, that poses a problem. And when the wars end up taking a huge chunk, what do you do? Kill off the seniors? Wasn’t that the opposition to health care, or one of them?

  16. kelly3406

    Actually your point about social security and medicare is a good one. I think they should be separated from the federal budget and treated as a trust fund (by law). Then it should be run like a business in which benefits increase/decrease based on the health of the fund and the amount contributed by each recipient. The benefits of these programs (and all state pension funds) have to be reigned in to prevent the nation from being bankrupted.

    I would be willing to forego all social security/medicare benefits in the future if I could end payments to those funds right now and invest those dollars where I see fit.

  17. Elena

    Slowpoke Rodriguez :

    Elena :Comparing Obama to Hitler over health care??????? WTF!

    Comparing anyone involved with enforcing our nation’s immigration laws to Hitler?????? WTF??(no idea what I’m referring to, right?)

    Slow, you are getting obnoxious again. I figured you were directing this comment at me since you did the ole @Elena…blah blah blah. I never compared specifically, immigration laws to Hitler, as was pointed out in your comment directed AT me. I HAVE talked about the danger of dehumanizing an entire ethnicity, i.e. latin American.

    And no, I do not believe the world revolves around me, my husband and children remind me of that everyday, have no fear.

  18. Are you speaking of the Virginia pension fund or all state pensions in general?

    The problem is, you just can’t pull the rug out from under people. Those people who plan and prepare for retirement around those things rely on them. They haven’t been given the opportunity to make the private investments because they were busy paying into pensions and FICA.

    I think making a switch over is the problem. If you are young enough, switching shouldn’t pose a problem. If you are older, then you can’t just blow off all the plans.

  19. VRS would be a lot healthier if it weren’t being used as an ATM. That is the state’s fault and no one else’s. I want to know what’s going to happen when they are unable to pay back that which they have borrowed. (by non payment)

    What I find sad is that the state and localities have used VRS payments in place of raises time and time again. Then when everyone starts howling about it, somehow the recipients and state (and locality) employees somehow are accused of bankrupting the system and being greedy pigs for wanting to defend that which they see as theirs…that which has been promised to them. Unions are tossed in the fray, Unions have nothing to do with it.

  20. Slowpoke Rodriguez

    I’m saying that the comparison was made often by many during the local immigration debate. And I mean a LOT. No, maybe not by you, but you also weren’t referring to yourself about making the comparison for the health care bill, either. The comparison was just made, that’s all.

    I’m obnoxious? How does the song go? “I GOTTA BE MEEEEE!” Think of the tough gig my wife’s got!

Comments are closed.