Media Comment: The anti-Beck crusade

Why have the local media given such a cool reception to the US television superstar?

Glenn Beck in Israel 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Glenn Beck in Israel 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
The media, it has been asserted, are the main ally of the liberal-progressive elite. It permits insulated cultural and academic circles to extend their disconnected worldviews. Although often lacking true popular support, the media employ powerful tools – agenda-setting, framing and shaping policies and, perhaps not less important, influencing how those are packaged.
Thomas Sowell, in his 1996 book, The Vision of the Anointed, discusses what he perceives as the driving forces that promote the liberal agenda, which includes “the denigration and even demonizing” of persons “who present evidence that can be used in contemporary culture wars.... Opponents must be shown to be not merely mistaken but morally lacking.”
This approach was quite apparent in the coverage of the ongoing (as we write) trip of American broadcast personality Glenn Beck and his “Restoring Courage” campaign.
Ben Hartman, writing on the website of Atlantic Monthly, highlighted Beck’s analogy of the tent demonstrators in Tel Aviv to communists and his questioning whether or not they were being financed by some sort of international left-wing organization. Well, we know for sure that extreme socialists are involved.
A 12-year-old member of the “Socialist Struggle” grouplet became an overnight sensation due to his rhetorical skills and was even a star on the Channel 2 game show 1 vs. 100. It is a fact that the New Israel Fund – as far- Left as one can be in the Jewish world, except perhaps for J Street – actually did provide funds and training. In other words, Beck was basically correct – but who cares?
Hartman asserted, without supplied proof, that “Beck’s ‘mega-events’ did not look to be especially popular or anticipated in Israel.” He claimed that “the domestic attention received by Beck’s visit appeared to be largely negative,” quoting former Yasser Arafat aide MK Ahmed Tibi (UAL-Ta’al). He lamented that Beck didn’t fulfill the script dictated by the left wing at his first event of the “Restoring Courage” week, which took place on Monday evening in Caesarea: “Far more tent revival than political rally, Sunday’s event lacked the sort of red meat anti- Obama or Muslim-baiting rhetoric that had made Beck so popular among the American Christian right.”
In other words, the event was very respectable, and poor Hartman could not really justify his rantings.
Hartman was not alone. A member of the foreign press corps, Dan Ephron, under the headline “Beck’s Holy Land Crusade,” also aligned himself with the imposed “story line.” What was important was not Beck’s words, but that he had been “denounced by critics who regard the former Fox News host as anti- Semitic.” When you do not have facts to prove your assertion, you rely on unnamed “critics” who state certain views and turn these into “facts.” Ephron slips into the “help-your-Israel comrade” mode, quoting Haaretz’s Bradley Burston, who had ridiculed the idea that Beck would be “arriving from America to teach us the meaning of courage.”
This type of spiteful writing was prevalent in the Israeli press. Tal Schneider writes in Globes, perhaps picking up on a previous article with similar content and predictions of dire consequences by Natasha Mozgovaya from Haaretz: “It could be that he repels the Israeli public since he does not speak Hebrew, or because the Israelis and even the right-wingers among them are repelled by the extremist views of a foreigner and Christian who preaches hate and extreme racism.”
He then goes on to actually explain what these extremist views are: “Beck is vehemently opposed to the establishment of a Palestinian State and the division of Jerusalem, and he blames fundamentalist Islam for almost all the woes of the world.”
Schneider, of course, knows what the Israeli public thinks; after all, he is the Israeli public.
Interestingly MK Einat Wilf, who is not a Likudnik but a former Labor Party member and currently part of the Independence faction, made a point of coming to Beck’s Tuesday night dinner. In an eloquent speech and excellent English, she described herself as a liberal and an atheist. Yet she was “courageous enough” to be part of the event, since she firmly believes that “if people stand with Israel, we should stand with them.”
This should be contrasted with the opinions expressed at Ma’ariv’s NRG and Yediot Aharonot’s Ynet websites, where Beck is considered a serious danger to Israel. Ben Tyne warns that Israelis should not side with Beck, since this puts them on one side of the political divide in America. Jay Rosenberg calls upon his fellow Israelis not to become Beck’s suckers. He argues that Beck is using Israel as a springboard for his US comeback.

Dr. Michael Evans, a well-known writer and journalist in the United States as well as one of the founders of the Christian Zionist movement, who came especially for Beck’s “Restoring Courage” week, paints a somewhat different picture. He notes that “you have a man according to the Gallup polls last year who was more popular than the Pope, [former president] Bill Clinton and [evangelical preacher Rev.] Billy Graham. A man does not come to Israel to launch a network. There is hardly any media of this event in America. This is a very smart media man. If he wanted to do anything for his media enterprise, any man would have done it in America.”
“Restoring Courage” brought some “balance” to Israel’s media. For the first time in a long while, some leading rabbinical figures from Judea and Samaria were widely and approvingly quoted on the Walla website for their religiously motivated opposition to Beck’s visit.
Channel 2 actually had a three minute clip on the visit in its nightly news show. The anchor, Ms. Haimovitz, took pains in her introduction to remind the public that Beck had been fired from the right-wing Fox News network and that his visit perturbed quite a few people in Israel. Beck was called “ultra-right-wing” by reporter Ilan Lukacz, who made sure to publicize in advance that Peace Now, which was not even cited as a left-wing movement in the clip, would hold an anti-Beck demonstration. The report ended with Haimovitz raising her eyebrows, letting all know what she thought about the tour. One wonders whether Beck’s advisers did their homework before agreeing to the interview with Lukacz.
Not all of the local media were negative. The Yisrael Hayom daily covered the events, providing a factual description. Ya’acov Ahimeir largely defended Beck in an interview on the Israel Broadcasting Authority’s Moreshet radio station. However, the media generally did not give Beck the opportunity to present himself as he is. It is thus only appropriate to end by allowing him to speak for himself.
The following are some excerpts from his speech at the Tuesday night dinner at Jerusalem’s Bible Lands Museum:
“We have spent 2,000 years at each other’s throats, mainly us at your throat. It is time to stand and say, ‘Enough.’ It is time to return home to His throne and beg His forgiveness and tell him unequivocally we will knock it off, we will stand arm in arm. The times require it; it is not a human rights movement, it is a human responsibility movement. If we do not recognize our responsibilities, we have no rights. This is the beginning, there is no end until we all live in peace and we all respect the Jewish people and their rights to live here in peace.”

Eli Pollak and Yisrael Medad are, respectively, chairman and vice chairman of Israel’s Media Watch.