In the wake of so much speculation regarding the motives of a murderous madman—something none of us can ultimately know—it is worth taking a look at just what have been the extremes of discourse that help legitimate hatred in our society, and could, conceivably, lead some to believe in the legitimization of violence. The role, in recent times, of Glenn Beck is a particularly useful vehicle for examining this question.

When, for instance, Mr. Beck posits the outrageous notion that President Barack Obama “has a deep-seated hatred for white people, or white culture,” including, say, his mother and the grandparents who raised him, Beck sounds like a madman to most of us. But not only do his views represent a consensus among many of his Fox colleagues and viewers, they also were actually endorsed by the network owner, Rupert Murdoch.

Between Beck’s television program and his even less restrained daily radio broadcast, Fox is supporting the spreading of some genuinely worrisome, potentially violence-inducing arguments against America’s president. Beck feels no compunction in terming the president the leader of an “army of thugs” and comparing the country under his presidency to “the damn ‘Planet of the Apes.’” Beck has promoted a 1936 book, The Red Network, written by Elizabeth Dilling, in which the author claims that “un-Christianized” “colored people” are “savages” and that “American Negroes have acquired professions, property, banks, homes, and produced a rising class of refined, home loving people” thanks to the “American government and the inspiration of Christianity.”

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