Yesterday Washington Post humorist Gene Weingarten Tweeted a glib defense of Glenn Beck against Michelle Goldberg‘s accusation (via a post on The Daily Beast) that Beck’s latest jihad against George Soros amounted to anti-Semitism.
“This charge of antisemitism is so thin and unfair that I’m forced to take the side of … Glenn Beck,” he wrote, prompting me to wonder as I often do about the precise nature of the seemingly immutable “force” within the Washington Post newsroom that so often seems to “force” their mostly well-intentioned journalists to rally to the defense of an indefensible media behemoth exponentially more profitable and powerful than itself.
Just over two months ago, Das Krapital’s favorite editorial board member Charles Lane wrote an stern blog post rebuking Barack Obama for failing to “get” Glenn Beck and condescending to his noble Real American viewers, a million or so of whom had turned up in town the previous weekend, when a 2,722-word story on the front page of the Post grappled earnestly over the vexing debate as to whether Beck’s rally—where the prevailing “atmosphere” was that of a “church picnic”, according to Post columnist Ruth Marcus, who commended Beck for stating that same-sex marriage is “not a threat to the country”—represented a sincere effort to “pick up Martin Luther King‘s dream” and “restore it and finish it” as he had claimed, or whether (as those mirthless “critics” were charging) he was just using the civil rights leader’s memory for “partisan political gain.” And in a studiously “balanced” profile in March, Howard Kurtz quoted Rush Limbaugh criticizing Beck for being “just as bad” as Obama but described his appeal as essentially undeniable: “Love him or hate him, Beck is a talented, often funny broadcaster, a recovering alcoholic with an unabashedly emotional style.”
There has been, of course, a conspicuous outlier amidst all these assaultively evenhanded chroniclers of Glenn Beck’s rising profile: Dana Milbank, whose book on Beck was published over the summer, would have us believe Beck is a “demagogue” whose show serves only to peddle a “nightly diet of falsehoods and conspiracies” about the Obama Administration policies to launch a secret police, add sterilization agents to the drinking water and force teenage mothers to have abortions. But until recently Milbank’s argument was based on the idea that Beck himself was an outlier, a “charlatan” whose extreme opinions threatened the network’s (admittedly somewhat checkered) “reputation” as a legitimate newsgathering enterprise. Recently Milbank changed his tune slightly, in a column penned after a long night subjecting himself to the network’s election night coverage, and quickly found himself the target of Bill O’Reilly‘s joking calls for his head (and also, sharia law).
Non-Fox viewers know about O’Reilly’s jihad against Milbank (and his boss Fred Hiatt because Milbank flew into an incredulous snit over them in his Wednesday column, which he began by invoking the memory of his “”late friend and colleague Danny Pearl,” who Milbank helpfully informs us “replaced me in the Wall Street Journal‘s London bureau.”
I hope he wasn’t too busy finishing this column Tuesday night to catch his old foe Glenn Beck deliver the aforementioned apocalyptic sermon on the villainous George Soros, because someone at the Post should probably explain to Gene a bit about the context of that particular Goldline-bankrolled jihad. For starters, it was not exactly “anti-semitism” that was the biggest problem with it, although Beck tends to sound like a Nazi when he delivers his most depraved lies, the one about Soros consisting of a viciously skewed version of a childhood tale of the financier’s in which Nazis ordered the Gentile with whom he was hiding as a 13-year-old boy in Nazi-occupied Hungary to inventory the evacuated estate of a Jew who had fled. The young Soros came with his host, presumably in fear of what might happen if he didn’t, and it made an impression he later shared with an interviewer. In Beck’s version, though, Soros’ story is one of a “Jewish boy helping send the Jews to death camps” (and the boy’s age is upgraded to 14.)
Yesterday the Anti-Defamation League’s Abe Foxman told Golberg that “Beck’s description of George Soros’ actions during the Holocaust is completely inappropriate, offensive and over the top,” said Foxman. “For a political commentator or entertainer to have the audacity to say—inaccurately—that there’s a Jewish boy sending Jews to death camps, as part of a broader assault on Mr. Soros, that’s horrific.” Foxman is very familiar with the “broader assault on Mr. Soros”, which has fixed its sights most recently on his funding of the left-leaning Israel policy lobby J Street, which somewhat inexplicably spent a lot of time denying Soros’ involvement with the organization before the Washington Times‘s Eli Lake got his hands on the lobbying group’s tax records. The ever-intensifying right-wing fixation with Soros has a long and complicated history, but generally they hate him because he’s a billionaire who is eloquently and unapologetically progressive. Right-wing Likudnik types castigate Soros for being “anti-Israel” for sympathizing with the plight of Palestinians in much the way Glenn Beck relentlessly accuses Christians whose churches preach the cause of “social justice” of being heathenous pinkos.
In any case, we can forgive Weingarten for missing out on all this, because the “broader assault” on George Soros has been largely elided by the Washington Post, which ran a single story on the J Street tussle a full week after the Times broke the news, in precisely the sort of display of apparent obliviousness to conservative character assassination plots conservatives so relish deliberately misinterpreting as the condescending dismissal at the hands of the “liberal media elites” and giddily seizing upon to fuel to their persecution complexes.
A little over a year ago, after the Post arrived similarly late and addled to the Fox-sponsored mendacity-fests to sabotage ACORN and the career of Van Jones, ombudsman Andrew Alexander penned a column titled “Wrongly Deaf to Right-Wing Media?” chastising the newsroom for its “tardiness” to “Fox-fueled controversy” and quoting executive editor Marcus Brauchli describing Post reporters as “not well-enough informed about conservative issues.” After a year of dogged attempts to ply their admirable brand of “objective” journalism to Glenn Beck and his wretched and regressive movement, it looks like most of its staffers still have a looooooong way to go when it comes to adjusting their radars to catch the nuances of and motivating factors perpetuating the litany of right-wing “issues. For whatever it’s worth, they’ll have plenty of opportunities over the next few years to get up to speed.