Monday, February 7, 2011

Beck's Scare Tactics

For some there is no better way to get attention for oneself than to appeal to the fears of an unknowing audience. To do so risks inciting hatred but ultimately it may be the act of a desperate person.

These were my thoughts as I watched Glenn Beck spew his secret plot for a Muslim takeover of the world. Last week he stood at a map of the Arab states and concluded that Islam would soon be united as a Caliphate stretching from Iran west to Morocco. The center, or the capital, would be Babylon, in Iraq. Beck said that President Barack Obama and President George W. Bush were complicit in this plot. What evidence did he cite? Well President Obama is, of course, a liberal. And President Bush ordered his military not to bomb Babylon, one of Islam's holiest cities, during the Iraq War.

This irresponsible presentation has received condemnation from many conservative pundits such as William Kristol. But the Fox News Channel, on which his program airs weekdays, has said nothing. Now Beck has doubled down. He "revealed" that the radical Muslim Brotherhood is being run from Detroit, Michigan. The Muslim Brotherhood has been banned in Egypt because it was responsible for the assassination of Egypt's leader Anwar Sadat thirty years ago. However, the organization represents a minority of Egyptians today and is angling for a voice in any new government that forms following President Hosni Mubarak's departure from government.

Beck's premise in ludicrous, yet he promises to reveal more of his findings each night this week. He says that he will detail how this country is threatened by the future imposition of Sharia Law, which is derived from the Koran. Sharia means "path to the watering hole." In its strictest form it covers sexuality, hygiene, diet, prayer, and fasting. Penalties meted out by religious judges can be severe, and include stoning.

Beck's tirade feeds into the fears and biases of some extreme right wing Americans. In fact, there has been an attempt to outlaw Sharia Law in a couple of states even though it does not exist anywhere in the U.S. For instance, last year voters in Oklahoma approved a constitutional amendment that would prohibit judges from consulting Sharia Law. A federal judge subsequently blocked the ban. Now a Wyoming lawmaker has said he will make a similar proposal in that state as a "pre-emptive strike" against judges who may want to consult the law for their decisions.

So why is Beck, a Mormon, devoting so much airtime to this subject? Is he paranoid? Is he seeking attention? Maybe. After all, his program on Fox has suffered a large decline in ratings over the past few months.

Whatever his reason he appears to be out of control. He is on the path to ruin, not the watering hole. And his commentaries threaten to severely damage what credibility the Fox News Channel can claim. Or perhaps it should be "Fair and Unbalanced"?

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