Glenn Beck vs. Van Jones: McCarthyism Enters the 21st Century

mcbeckWhen Fox News’ Glenn Beck called President Barack Obama a “racist” and claimed that he had “a deep-seated hatred for white people” an African-American netroots group,, organized a successful boycott of Beck’s corporate sponsors. It wasn’t long until 57 of Beck’s sponsors jumped ship lest they be associated with Beck’s own “deep-seated” white supremacy.

Burned, Beck and his right-wing Republican producers sought revenge by using his slice of the echo chamber to go after Van Jones, one of President Obama’s most important advisers on green jobs, who could be linked to ColorOfChange. Beck and his buddies viewed Jones as the low-hanging fruit of the Obama White House and launched a focused smear campaign against him.

During one of his many conspiracy-laden tirades Beck asked: “Will progressive pigs fly right out of Van Jones’ butt and pedal bicycles to” replace coal power? It didn’t take much time under the glare of Beck’s assault for Jones to make the politic move and resign his official post.

The New Republic‘s John McWhorter criticized Beck’s bullying of Jones raising the question: “What, precisely, would have been wrong with letting Glenn Beck and the others keep screaming their heads off about Jones’ purported radical intentions?” I think McWhorter poses a valid question but in the current political context of the looming health care Battle Royale handing the Far Right a 24-hour news cycle feeding frenzy centered on Jones would be a distraction the president does not need right now. Regrettably, the right-wing echo chamber flexed its muscle and Jones is gone. He had little choice but to leave. (Van Jones is still the “Top Story” on Beck’s website.) But that doesn’t make it right.

The Beck vs. Jones saga illustrates that even with the Republicans out of power their control over a propaganda ministry called Fox News, combined with their domination of the AM radio dial, still allows them to frame the debates within our wider political discourse.

What Glenn Beck, Roger Ailes, and their allies did in drumming Van Jones out of the government was an example of 21st century McCarthyism. They smeared Jones’ past political remarks and associations the same way Joe McCarthy and Roy Cohn smeared a young Boston lawyer named Fred Fisher for being a member of the National Lawyers Guild, which they called “the legal mouthpiece of the Communist Party.” There’s no difference.

I always said that if Joe McCarthy were alive today he’d have his own show on Fox News. Well, there you have it. Beck’s tactics, which are identical to McCarthy’s, have entered the bloodstream of our body politic. At some point someone has got to ask the well-timed question that Joseph Welch asked Joe McCarthy: “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?” That “sense of decency” to which Mr. Welch referred left our political discourse long ago, somewhere between Lee Atwater and Karl Rove.

What I find interesting about the hyperventilating and shrill denunciations of Jones’ mild past remarks coming from Beck and his legions of aggrieved white men is that President George W. Bush had surrounded himself for eight years with a stunning collection of political hacks and charlatans who had said things in the past that would make Minnesota Representative Michelle Bachmann sound cool and rational.

To take just one of many possible examples, Bush chose a guy, not just to be one his advisers, but to sit on the federal bench in Little Rock, Arkansas named James Leon Holmes. Holmes was the former president of Arkansas Right to Life who wrote that “the wife is to subordinate herself to her husband” and “the woman is to place herself under the protection of Christ.” An earlier example of what flowed from Holmes’ pen said this: “[c]oncern for rape victims is a red herring because conceptions from rape occur with approximately the same frequency as snowfall in Miami.” (Miami saw snow once in a hundred years; there were 32,000 women who became pregnant by rape the year Holmes wrote this drivel.)

I only bring up this example to show that no right-wing administration has to worry about purges of their people from a powerless but noisy Left, showing once again the bankruptcy of the faux balance the mainstream press insists on imposing on these types of political fights.


If you serve a right-wing Republican president you can write or say anything you want, even be connected to the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens (C of CC). But if you serve a liberal Democratic president, like the “pinks” who fell victim to McCarthyism, you can be taken down in a heartbeat.

Joseph Palermo

Originally published by the Huffington Post. Reprinted with permission from the author

Follow Joseph A. Palermo on Twitter:


  1. in_awe says

    The current “post partisan”, “post racial” administration recruited some interesting people to its ranks, including Van Jones. I assume that Beck’s quoting Van Jones’ comments transcribed from video tapes of recent speeches was somehow “McCarthy”-like…

    For example, here are some of the former Green Czar’s comments:

    “The white polluters and the white environmentalists are essentially steering poison into the people of color communities.”

    “I’m willing to forgo the cheap satisfaction of the radical pose for the deep satisfaction of radical ends.”

    “This movement is deeper than a solar panel! Deeper than a solar panel! Don’t stop there! Don’t stop there! We’re gonna change the whole system! We’re gonna change the whole thing. We’re not gonna put a new battery in a broken system. We want a new system. We want a new system!”

    And just to be crystal clear, Mr. Jones was not referring to some minor piece of energy generating equipment here, he was clearly talking about replacing the capitalist system of this nation with a socialist one that embraces “social justice” and “economic justice” and wealth redistribution. Quite a policy initiative for someone who the President’s spokesman said was limited to green energy matters.

    I doubt that Mr. Obama’s election margin would have held up had he announced ahead of time that his idea was to pack his administration with people who advocated transforming the country into a socialist nation. In addition to Mr. Jones, the President had a top adviser who in the same time frame as Mr. Jones’ troubles spoke wistfully of her most admired political idol – Mao. Can you see how more than a few citizens might be concerned about a growing cast of advisers to the President that espoused such visions and goals?

    Let’s also recall Van Jones’ support of the “9/11 Truthers”. Do we really need to open that can of worms?

    Finally, despite the liberal take on McCarthy, the release of the Venona papers and the opening of the Soviet archives under Yeltsin vindicated McCarthy. Most of his points regarding the depth and breadth of the Soviet espionage apparatus and influence in America were true and in fact perhaps underestimated the role played by members of the Roosevelt administration in accommodating these “liberals in a hurry”. Evidence also came to light that Truman repeatedly suppressed and failed to act on the information contained in the decoded messages that constituted the bulk of the Venona papers.

    So, I guess in the end you are saying that Beck told the truth about Van Jones. How ’bout that…

  2. pegw says

    So you must agree with Obama & the Czars he surrounds himself with that are all radicals, socialists, communist or Marxist? Van Jones is a communist & admitted to it. Obama wrote in one of his books when he was in college that this is the type of people he surrounded himself with & he evidently still believes these are the types of people that bring social change to the United States of America & help him on his way trying to socialize us all. He passed that 787B bill & everybody let him get away with it not questioning it but just believing the man was being honest with us. Everything had to be now, right now, a matter of importance that was so big & who cares what was in that bill, it just had to pass. That is when I started paying attention to politics. Then they let that other 400 & some dollar bill passed. Now he wants to shove rationed, socialized,government run so called healthcare down our throats where we will have less coverage costing more money & expects us to believe this is for the good of the country & wants to take 500B from our parents & seniors in their Medicare. These are the people that have taking care of us all of our lives. My parents lost most of their retirement a year ago & my Dad & my uncles fought in WWll for our freedoms, our Constitution, & fought for Germany & other countries to rid them of Hitler but Obama & his cronies want to disrespect them & has no compassion for them. To him after they get a certain age about 65 to him is old it is best for cost reasons just to send them home with pain pills instead of doing anything for them. Now that is real compassion. He said he was going to listen to all people but that was a lie. 60% do not want this healthcare bill.85% of us have our own health insurance & do not want to loose it. What he needs to do is get the abusers out of Medicare & the people that overcharge them for medical items, & people that keep collecting checks for dead people. He wants to shove cap & trade down our throats when it finally came out that these scientist & “chicken little Gore” have been lying to us all these years & are still lying. With the economy as bad as it is & the people who have lost their jobs why is he trying to push up our cost for electricity? We cannot afford higher electricity, we cannot afford bad medicine being forced on us. Besides it is unconstitutional to force any American to buy anything they don’t want, penalize them for not having it, imprison them, & have IRS add 25,000 to our income tax. He has caused all of this recession by bailing out auto companies, banks, & most of all the Unions which is one of the largest reasons that these auto companies went down. CNN, ABC,CBS,MSNBC,NBC all of these stations try to sell Obama anyway they can. So when they take over our freedoms & turn you all into little commies that tell on your neighbors like he wanted you to do then maybe you might wake up. Yes, you idiots, why don’t you spread the wealth?


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