Historians take Glenn Beck to task

Viewers tuning into MSNBC at 5 p.m. on Friday would have seen Chris Matthews riffing on President Barack Obama's speech in Ohio, while CNN's "The Situation Room" led with the earthquake in Haiti.

But Fox News wasn't focusing on the day's news. Instead, host Glenn Beck ran through the atrocities of Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, and Ernesto 'Che' Guevara — "the true unseen history of Marxism, progressivism and communism" as Beck described it — with some implied lessons for today.

Over the past year, Beck has used images from Nazi rallies or the Soviet Union when stoking fears of creeping socialism in the United States. And he's often placed historical figures into the far-out theories he diagrams on his chalkboard. But in Friday's hourlong documentary, titled "The Revolutionary Holocaust: Live Free ... or Die," Beck doubled down on the use of imagery pulled from the 20th century's totalitarian past to make a point about citizens needing to be wary of government overreach in the present.

Beck, in teasing the documentary Thursday, claimed that "progressives" don't want the public to know about this history and that it's "not being taught in classrooms in America."...

Clemson University professor Steven Marks, author of "How Russia Shaped the Modern World," said that while Beck doesn't explicitly tie the left-wing totalitarian regimes of the past to contemporary liberals, that's what "he's hinting at here."

"No one in their right mind is going to defend Stalin or Mao or Che Guevara," Marks said. "The implication is that this is what's going to happen if Democrats get their way. This is just a complete lie."...

Michael Kazin, a history professor at Georgetown, described Beck's special as "a classic piece of anti-Communist propaganda" which he said doesn't mean most of the facts are wrong, but that the host's selectively using some, while ignoring others.

For instance, Kazin said, Beck doesn't mention that "the first anti-Communists were democratic socialists and anarchists like Emma Goldman" or that "socialists in Europe after 1945 were allies of the U.S. against the USSR."...

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    More Comments:

    Douglas Hainline - 1/28/2010

    It's true that there were democratic socialists abroad and (in the US, liberals, who were their political equivalents) who were fierce opponents of communism. So Beck is wrong to leave out this historical fact.

    It's also true that the dominant trend in American liberalism, after the 60s, was to disparage these "Cold War liberals". The new breed of liberals shouldn't claim credit for the deeds of their anti-Communist ancestors.

    Liberals loved Ho Chi Minh, and even notional pacifists like the American Friends Service Committee became apologists for Third World totalitarians. Bob Scheer came back from a trip to North Korea all starry-eyed. And so on.

    So Beck's history could be more nuanced, but it still would not leave liberals looking good.

    Michael Davis - 1/27/2010

    I love how Glenn Beck drives all you idiot liberals nuts.
    No one defends Che Guevara?? Then why do I see all manner of snapperheads wearing t-shirts with his likeness??

    Lisa Kazmier - 1/27/2010

    How about the most obvious point -- that this buffoon cannot even correctly define fascism or Nazism and cannot figure out why communist and socialists not only disliked Hitler, they were among the first to be silenced.

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