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Did Glenn Beck inspire a right-wing terrorism plot?

In two jailhouse interviews, alleged Bay Area "progressive hunter" Byron Williams says the attack he planned on the ACLU and the environmentalist Tides Foundation in July was fueled by Fox News host Glenn Beck (who often criticizes the Tides Foundation) along with other "conspiracy truths" purveyors. (Williams was arrested in a shootout with police on an Oakland freeway before he reached his targets.) Is it fair to blame Beck for violence committed by volatile, impressionable listeners?

(Listen to Byron Williams' comments)

Blame the shooter, not Beck: Williams was a "violent kook" before he started listening to Beck, says Jesse Walker in Reason. Not only did he have an extensive criminal background but he had already started exploring his last-straw, Tides-involved conspiracy theory before getting Beck's "confirmation." Besides, Beck is "very explicit about urging nonviolence."

"Byron Williams talks"

Beck is a dangerous "enabler": The Fox host's nod to avoiding violence "misses the point," says Dana Milbank in The Washington Post. "Beck is dangerous" because he is "the one voice in the mass media" that validates unhinged conspiracy theories on the "violent fringe" of the right. It doesn't matter if Beck urges his fans to listen "between the sentences" rather than spelling out the need for violence: He is an "enabler" of "unstable" fans like Williams.

"Conspiracy theorists find validation from Glenn Beck"

Beck isn't responsible for all his "crackpot" listeners: That "goes too far for me," says Kevin Drum in Mother Jones. I'd like Fox to can Beck because he is a "conspiratorial loon" who "promotes ignorance," but he is no more responsible for Williams than MSNBC liberal Keith Olbermann would be if one of his fans "tosses a bomb onto the floor of the New York Stock Exchange." That's just not a "persuasive argument," from the left or right.

"Paging Glenn Beck"


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