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6 Lunatics Inspired by Fox News and Glenn Beck

By all accounts, the advertiser boycott of Fox News Channel over the ideological fuel it provides to right-wing extremists is going nowhere. Only Zurich Financial Services has said anything about it on the record: they're "reviewing the situation."

It was a quixotic quest, but not an unreasonable one given the way Fox -- and Glenn Beck in particular -- seem to be inspiring conservatives to engage in armed civil war with their liberal neighbors. Perhaps advertisers don't know quite how extreme Fox and Beck have become: The recent incident in which a Kentucky county campaign coordinator for Senate candidate Rand Paul stomped on the head of a female protester is not an isolated example. Here are six actual terrorists inspired by Fox News. They have killed six Americans and wounded six others between them. (Seven, if you count the woman who took a sneaker to the skull from Paul's man):
  1. Charles Wilson: Sentenced to prison last week for repeatedly threatening to kill Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.). His cousin, in a letter to the court, said: "While his actions were undeniably wrong and his choices were terrible, in part they were the actions of others played out by a very gullible Charlie. He was under the spell that Glenn Beck cast, aided by the turbulent times in our economy. I don't believe that Charlie even had the ability to actually carry out his threats."
  2. Byron Williams: Arrested while driving to the HQ of the liberal non-profit group The Tides Foundation carrying numerous guns and body armor, intent on killing everyone in the office, before moving on to do the same thing at the ACLU. Williams confessed he views Beck as a "schoolteacher" who "blew my mind." The would-be killer admitted that Beck "give[s] you every ounce of evidence you could possibly need" to commit violence. He awaits trial in jail.
  3. Jim David Adkisson: Killed two people and wounded six others in a shooting attack at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in West Knoxville, Tenn., in 2008. Adkisson was inspired by Fox commentator Bernard Goldberg: "This was a symbolic killing," Adkisson wrote. "Who I wanted to kill was every Democrat in the Senate and House, the 100 people in Bernard Goldberg's book. I'd like to kill everyone in the mainstream media. But I knew these people were inaccessible to me." Goldberg is the author of 110 People Who Are Screwing Up America (and Al Franken Is #37). UPDATE: See Bernard Goldberg's response below.
  4. Richard Poplawski: Charged with killing three Pittsburgh police officers who responded to a 911 call about a family dispute at his mother's Stanton Heights home in April 2009. Polawski "loved Glenn Beck," according to his mom.
  5. James W. Von Brunn: Fox itself was reportedly in danger from white supremacist Von Brunn who was arrested after opening fire at security guards, killing one, at the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. One of his targets was apparently a "Fox News location." One of Von Brunn's pet issues was President Obama's birth certificate, a "debate" that got plenty of air on Fox.
  6. Greg Lee Giusti: Arrested for threatening House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whom Beck himself has said he would like to poison. Giusti's mom said: "Greg frequently gets in with a group of people that have really radical ideas and that are not consistent with myself or the rest of the family, which gets him into problems ... I say Fox News, or all of those that are really radical, and he, that's where he comes from."
Beck spends a lot of time intimating that one day the federal government's jackbooted thugs will come for us all, at gunpoint. It's actually the other way around: Beck's own viewers are the gunmen who want to kill those with whom they disagree. (And note how it's law enforcement officers and security guards who are mostly taking bullets from Fox's viewers.)

I'm not saying Fox supports terrorists. I'm saying Fox inspires them.

In an email to BNET, Goldberg gave this response:
I am not writing to defend FOX. Rather, I'm concerned only with the shallow comments that have been written about me.

You say that "terrorists are inspired by Fox." Don't we need to know more? Don't we need to know why more people don't kill people in church -- if a book is so provocative? Isn't it interesting that only one person in the whole country committed violence?

Here's my humble suggestion to you, Jim: Be honest about why you wrote the piece. You hate Fox News, is my guess. You hate conservatives, or at least think they're inferior in some important ways. So you find ammo to support your biases -- even if you have to round up a bunch of crazies to make your point.

What if I went out and killed 20 people because your column deeply disturbed me? Would it be fair to say that YOU inspired violence? It's a serious question. The answer, of course, is no you didn't. The more likely reason for the 20 killings is that the killer is nuts.

Beyond that, an intelligent journalist might have gone a step further. He might have wondered what should we do in a free country about books that "inspire" one person -- in this entire big country of ours -- to do something terrible? Should we ban those books? What if someone reads the instructions on a box of Betty Crocker cake mix and kills somebody? Should we ban the sale of the product?

My point is that crazy people do crazy things -- and it's terrible. But there's nothing in my book that would lead a normal person to do such a thing.

I'm troubled by what journalism has become in this country. It's too bad that you seem to be part of the problem. I'm guessing you're a bright guy. You can write more intelligently, and more deeply, than you did in this case.

You got all the quotations right about the killer in Tennessee and my book, but I was taken by how shallow your piece was, at least as to how it pertained to me.

The book in question hit No. 2 on the New York Times bestseller list. Hundreds of thousands of people read it. Yet only one committed any kind of violence after reading it. One!

Does this tell you a little something about that one person? That perhaps he was unstable?

More important, I'll bet you can't find one sentence in the entire book that would "inspire" a sane person to commit violence. I'll also bet you never read my book.

As I say, I think you are one of those (many) journalists who don't think deeply. I'm guessing you allowed your ideology to trump anything resembling honest journalism.

You are just one of many, many people on the web to write about the church shooting in Tennessee. But I'm guessing you're the only one who went to Columbia. You should know better.


Image of Wilson from KOMO.
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