Monday, October 5, 2009

Glenn Beck, Cleon Skousen, Secret Combinations, and Conspiracy Theories

It's well known by now that Glenn Beck loves W. Cleon Skousen. If you are a Beck follower, Skousen's The 5,000 Year Leap is practically required reading. I won't go into a history of Skousen, but you can find some good information here.

In brief, Skousen is a member of the church, sometime FBI employee, BYU professor, Salt Lake City Police Chief, author, and lecturer. He devolved from conservative to right-wing conspiracy theorist. He was denounced by conservatives of the 50s and 60s after finally getting to the point where he called President Eisenhower a communist agent and warning against a New World Order. President Kimball and the church leadership issued a statement in which local leaders were not to support or advertise for Skousen's groups. The 5,000 Year Leap and other Skousen writings flit about from American history in religious terms to worldwide conspiracy theories linking fascists, communists, rich people, and anyone else opposed to the Skousen world view.

This is the man Glenn Beck is putting forth as the foundational thinker for his 912 Project. Now, there is enough take-down material on Skousen out there that I do not want to rehash it all. But are we not alarmed that the man too conservative and radically right-wing for McCarthy-era Republicans has become the new touchstone for the tea-baggers and birthers of today?

I cannot read Beck's mind, but after reading this article from the Dallas Morning News I have a theory for what might be going on. Beck, like Skousen before him, is trying to identify secret combinations like those chronicled in the Book of Mormon. Since there is no proof of anything of the sort he has been reduced to groping about for any little perceived evidence that crosses his consciousness. The now-famous communo-fascist art history lesson Beck put on a few weeks back stands as the perfect example.

I think we are all susceptible to a conspiracy theory or two. For instance, there was a time when I could be convinced that the moon landing was a hoax (A moon rock with a letter "C" on it?! Come on!). It's just in our nature to tend to believe some of these. Most of us don't think President Obama is the Manchurian candidate or that President Bush was behind the 9/11 attacks, but we've all got something.

But what happens if you take a particularly sinister conspiracy theory and link it your religion? Then it gets a little dangerous. Then you stop thinking objectively and critically and start seeing the the hand and will of God in your nutty theories. Then what happens when you a take an ascending figure in American T.V. and radio, a prominent Mormon who happens to be incredibly charismatic and has tapped into an angry segment of American society that feels disenfranchised, and really convince him of a grand conspiracy theory and link it to secret combinations that were prophesied by his religion? Could anything possibly go awry there?


Kengo Biddles said...

Beck's latest bug-bears are Community Organizers. He practically said on his show last night that he thought President Obama was out to destroy our country.

Andrew said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again; anyone who tells you that the Book of Mormon, the Bible, or any other piece of scripture has anything to say about politics is trying to sell you something. I think it's a self-reinforcing cycle for Beck. Perhaps bubble is a better word, because one day it will burst and his ratings will crash to the ground. He sees his rising popularity as being a product of the snakeoil he sells, so he's starting to believe it himself. And that's a dangerous place to be -- just ask anyone who bought a credit default swap...

Daniel H said...

"... I taught them, even until I had much success, insomuch that I verily believed that they were true; and for this cause I withstood the truth ..."

Just had that quote float to the fore-front of my mind as I read through Andrew's comment. I'm not saying that the person quoted is any similarity to Beck...just the situation.

Anonymous said...

With regards to Glen Beck, just remember this.

The devil doesn't actually murder anyone.

He just encourages others to.

ernie1241 said...

I'm not aware that Skousen ever called Eisenhower a Communist but he (and his admirers like Glenn Beck) have misrepresented his FBI career.

Contrary to his admirer's claims, Skousen was never "a top aide" or "administrative assistant" to J. Edgar Hoover nor was he regarded as an authority on communism while he served in the FBI. In fact, most of Skousen's assignments were administrative in nature or unrelated to internal security matters.

For details, see my report on Skousen which is based upon his FBI files:

Anonymous said...

Here is some additional information about Cleon Skousen.

Anonymous said...

Why don't you guys go ahead and leave the Church now and avoid the rush? You're going to leave it eventually anyway. Why do you remain members of an organization for which you all so obviously disagree with? Don't try to convince youselves that it's only some of the radical members you disagree with. Of course scripture has something to say about politics. Only someone whose politics differ so much from scripture would say that they don't.

Michael said...

Romney is attacked with the miss use of the word cult. Ron Paul is attacked with the miss use of the word Conspiratorial. you bring something to out attention using vague terms and is no more informative than any other information from a Google search. Because President Benson and McKay support Much of what Cleon Skousen says I would rather be in the company of prophets of God before some random Blogger. Try to be more informative instead of using vague mudslinging terms. I don't Like Beck ether BTW but as a Eng2020 persuasive paper I give you a D- which is better than an F. so don't take what i say as too big of an attack. your argument is about as good as my grammar and spelling.