The last two days the internet has been abuzz with a YouTube clip of Glenn Beck in which he tells his audience “You’re gonna have to shoot them in the head.” The clip came from Beck’s June 10th, 2010 television show. Many have cited the video as perhaps the best evidence that Beck’s rhetoric goes too far, and could inspire some to commit acts of violence against the left. Some have produced a long list of Beck’s quotes and video clips which could arguably be interpreted as a call to violence. The video has gotten so much attention that Beck felt the need to respond today on his radio show. Beck’s response can be heard in the video clip to the left. I have summarized his comments below.
Beck first admits, “It’s pretty damning” when referencing the clip. However, Beck then goes on to argue that the quote has been taken out of context. Beck claims the “You” in his quote is in reference to the leftist politicians in Washington, and the people in the media on the left.” Beck goes to say that the “them” in the quote “refers to their radical leftist friends.” Beck attempts to explain that the “they” are radicals who have called for a violent revolution, and when the Democrats do not give them what they want, there will be trouble. Beck argues he has supported his claim – that there are radicals calling for a violent revolution – with evidence.
A reading of the full transcript of Beck’s June 10th, 2010 tends to support the very elaborate context Beck provides. However, what is not clear is if Beck’s audience understand this kind of context. Even in Beck’s explanation, he states that the left is “friends” with the violent “radical revolutionaries.” It took Beck nearly 15 minutes to try and explain what he meant by his quote. It is unlikely that Beck’s audience understood who the “you” and “them” was when he told people, “You’re gonna have to shoot them in the head.” The line between “radical revolutionaries” and everyone else can get very blurry in the Beck world. This is particularly the case when Beck refers to progressives as a “cancer” and proudly calls himself a “progressive hunter.” The line becomes even more blurry when Beck paints people like George Soros and employees at the Tides Foundation as being part of the progressive conspiracy to take over the country. If Beck’s listeners truly believe that these progressives are undertaking a campaign to bring about Nazi style “death camps” in America, is it really far stretched to imagine his audience’s interpreting his “You’re gonna have to shoot them in the head” quote differently?