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Is Glenn Beck the Father Coughlin for the current economic crisis?

March 30, 2009

The Sunday New York Times has an article by Brian Stelter and Bill Carter about the ratings success of Glenn Beck as the early evening host of his own show on Fox’s News Channel. Returning to its role as the network of the opposition, Fox in general and Beck in particular are enjoying a resurgence. Beck’s show draws more viewers than any other cable news show that does not include Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity. Becks viewers seem taken by his openly emotional style, which sometimes includes tears, and his fervent beliefs

He says that America is “on the road to socialism” and that “God and religion are under attack in the U.S.” He recently wondered aloud whether FEMA was setting up concentration camps, calling it a rumor that he was unable to debunk.

Critics on the other side, however, warn that Beck is not just commenting on the difficulties of the current economic crisis, but he is exploiting them. Such an approach happened before, during the Great Depression:

“There are absolutely historical precedents for what is happening with Beck,” said Tom Rosenstiel, the director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism. “There was a lot of radio evangelism during the Depression. People were frustrated and frightened. There are a lot of scary parallels now.”

As mentioned on this site previously, Father Coughlin used the legitimate fears and anxieties of the American public in the Great Depression in order to blame Jews and immigrants for the economic troubles and openly called for fascist solutions to the crisis. Though Beck doesn’t make the same type of allegations, comments like this one reported by the Times

“He recently wondered aloud whether FEMA was setting up concentration camps, calling it a rumor that he was unable to debunk.”

call to mind the highly charged rhetoric of the Depression era moralists.

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