As anyone who has spent time watching the British Parliament in operation could tell you, no one would ever suggest that the various factions sit together for anything, because they typically spend their time brandishing broken glass and hurling Elizabethan vulgarities at one another. But for one day at least, one member of Parliament -- Tom Watson (Lab., West Bromwich East) -- focused his considerable ire statesward at Fox News' Rupert Murdoch and inciteful host Glenn Beck.
It all went down as part of a larger discussion on anti-Semitism in the media, and the Glenn Beck show, which is available on Sky TV on Knifecrime Island. Citing both Beck's show and Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank, Watson ran down both numerous instances of anti-Semitic content as well as a litany of glib invocations of Nazis and the Holocaust:
I hope we all agree that that is a disturbing number of instances to raise those terms, in a way that is both irresponsible and does not provide any educational or beneficial basis for doing so; for instance, labelling President Obama a "Nazi." The Holocaust Educational Trust has said:
"One of the best ways to combat anti-semitism and prejudice of all kinds is to encourage tolerance and respect twinned with advocacy of engagement with civil society and the democratic process."
The Glenn Beck show in no way achieves those vitally important aims. That type of journalism is dangerous and can have wide-ranging negative effects on society. The kind of material broadcast by Glenn Beck is not unique; a number of other "shock jocks" operate in the States. However, none has displayed intolerance on such a frequent and irresponsible scale as Glenn Beck. It is vital that that kind of "news" is not made or broadcast in the UK. However, the proposed acquisition of BSkyB by News Corp means that there is an increased threat of its becoming a reality.
At that point, MP Robert Halfon (Cons., Harlow), who is Jewish, offered some pushback: "Although I have not seen the Glenn Beck show, I have seen other parts of Fox News, which tend to be much fairer on extreme Islamism and on Israel than other news outlets. Would the hon. Gentleman acknowledge that, whatever Glenn Beck may or may not do, Fox News-and, indeed, the Murdoch newspapers-has a good record on this?"
Watson wasn't having it:
People tell me that Fox News is positive about Israel but negative about Jews. It is possible for Glenn Beck to represent that negative angle of Fox News. The reason why I am so concerned is that Rupert Murdoch has claimed that Sky News would be much more popular if it were more like Fox News. I do not want that to become a reality in the United Kingdom.
The issue has been picked up in the UK media recently. There have been articles on the subject by Deborah Lipstadt for The Jewish Chronicle and by Ian Burrell in The Independent. Lipstadt states:
"At the same time, Roger Ailes was interviewed by Tina Brown's Daily Beast about NPR's decision to fire one of its commentators, who also appears on Fox News. The commentator had said that, upon boarding a plane and seeing someone dressed in Muslim garb, he gets nervous. A silly comment but one that did not seem to warrant dismissal. Speaking of NPR officials, Ailes said: 'They are, of course, Nazis. They have a kind of Nazi attitude. They are the left wing of Nazism. These guys don't want any other point of view.'"
When a barrage of criticism rained down upon him, he apologised not to the people he called Nazis, but to Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League.
That was the wind up for Watson's parting shot:
If Glenn Beck were here today I would say to him: "Glenn Beck, you are a bigot. You bring shame to your country, not because you lack balance, but because you are an unthinking buffoon. Rupert Murdoch tolerates you because you are his useful idiot. He uses you to get a foothold in the doors of the powerful. Like his phone-hacking journalists and his pugnacious leader-writers in Australia, you are expendable. Let us hope he disposes of your nasty brand of intolerance sooner rather than later."
It is Rupert and James Murdoch who should answer for bigots such as Glenn Beck and phone hackers such as Clive Goodman and Glen Mulcaire. They employ them. They promote them. They are responsible for them. It is time for thinking citizens in the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia to unite against the Murdochs' vicious brand of politics that masquerades as publishing.
To which Glenn Beck would probably reply that he is only doing "comedy" or something, and then whine about how no one is subjecting The Daily Show to this sort of scrutiny.
Well, this is all well and good. But if I were a Member of Parliament, I think I'd be less worried about Glenn Beck's addled rantings and more concerned with, say, the English Defence League, who are terrifying.