Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Beck guru Skousen's "story of slavery" suggests slave owners were "worst victims of the system"

Fox News' Glenn Beck has heavily promoted the writings of far-right activist W. Cleon Skousen, even making Skousen's book, The 5000 Year Leap, a central part of his 9-12 Project. Skousen is the author of several controversial works, including The Making of America: The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution, which presented as "the story of slavery in America" a passage from a book that attacked abolitionists for delaying emancipation; cast slave owners as "the worst victims of the system"; claimed white schoolchildren "were likely to envy the freedom of their colored playmates"; and claimed that "[s]lavery did not make white labor unrespectable, but merely inefficient," because "the slave had a deliberateness of motion which no amount of supervision could quicken."

Skousen: a fringe conservative embraced by Beck

Salon: "Skousen was not a historian so much as a player in the history of the American far right; less a scholar of the republic than a threat to it." In a September 16 article titled, "Meet the man who changed Glenn Beck's life," Salon's Alexander Zaitchik chronicled Skousen's controversial writings and associations, as well as the central role Skousen's writing plays in Beck's activities. According to Zaitchik, Skousen was "a professional anti-communist" who, according to FBI memos, "affiliated himself with the extreme right-wing 'professional communists' who are promoting their own anticommunism for obvious financial purposes."

Zaitchik also noted Skousen's links to the far-right John Birch Society and its founder, Robert Welch, writing that Skousen "aligned himself with Robert Welch's charge that Dwight Eisenhower was a 'dedicated, conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy.' " In 1963, Skousen wrote a pamphlet titled, "The Communist Attack on the John Birch Society," in which he argued that those who criticized the group "usually did so without realizing they were promoting the official Communist Party line."

Beck frequently touts Skousen's "divinely inspired" work. Zaitchik documented instances in which Beck "furiously promot[ed]" Skousen's books on his radio program, asking his guests if they had read any of Skousen's writings and exhorting his listeners to purchase The 5000 Year Leap, which Beck sells through his website. Zaitchik also noted that Beck authored a foreword for the 30th anniversary edition of The 5000 Year Leap, in which Beck wrote, "I beg you to read this book filled with words of wisdom which I can only describe as divinely inspired."

Skousen at the center of 9-12 Project. On the March 13 edition of his Fox News program, during which Beck announced the launch of the 9-12 Project, Beck told his studio audience: "Do we have the books? Where are the books? Underneath everybody's seat here in the audience, there are some books here. I've got a couple of books for you that you can start. This one is called The 5,000-Year Leap. It is fantastic. I want you to know I don't make any money on these things. The 5,000-Year Leap -- it is the 29 principles that our founders put together, and how they put this genius country together." Beck added: "You read these and you read them with your friends. And you meet once a week or, you know, a couple of times a month. And you start small, and you just really figure out what you believe in." [Fox News' Glenn Beck, 3/13/09, retrieved via Nexis]

The Making of America featured in 9-12 Project meetings. Several local chapters of the 9-12 Project have conducted seminars to discuss The Making of America. The seminars appear to have been organized in conjunction with the National Center for Constitutional Studies, which, as Zaitchik noted, was founded by Skousen in 1971.......................

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