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Report: Would-Be Terrorist Inspired by ‘Schoolteacher’ Glenn Beck

By Alexander Zaitchik on October 11, 2010 - 3:44 pm, Posted in Extremist Crime, Media Extremism

The media watchdog Media Matters for America today released audio of an interview conducted with Byron Williams, the would-be terrorist who last July was arrested after a shootout with cops on his way to San Francisco, where he allegedly planned to kill employees at the offices of the ACLU and the Tides Foundation.

The interview and the accompanying article, by Pacifica Radio producer John Hamilton, illuminates the role Fox News and specifically Fox host Glenn Beck played in turning Williams’ attention toward the groups and convincing him that they were at the center of a vast plot to destroy the country.

“I would have never started watching Fox News if it wasn’t for the fact that Beck was on there,” Williams tells Hamilton. “And it was the things that he did, it was the things he exposed that blew my mind.”

Beck’s influence seems especially salient with regards to Williams’ strange obsession with the Tides Foundation, a low-profile group that dispenses grants to liberal causes. According to Hamilton, Beck had attacked Tides 29 times on his Fox News show in the year-and-a-half leading up to the shooting, often placing it at the center of fantastical diagrams depicting liberal-socialist plots to wreck America.

In the interview from prison, Williams describes Beck as being “like a schoolteacher on TV.” This contradicts statements made by Williams in another interview with the Examiner, in which he claims he already knew everything Beck discussed on his show.

In his conversation with Hamilton, Williams also mentions the influence of David Horowitz, whose Discover The Networks website is the source of much of Beck’s material, and Alex Jones, the Austin-based radio conspiracist whose friend Andrew Napolitano will soon host a daily show on Fox Business.

Beck’s breathless demonization of Tides and other liberal groups has not occurred in a vacuum. The rhetoric that helped inspire Williams to pack his car with guns and ammo and head toward San Francisco finds echo throughout the rightwing media world. Media Matters has a compiled a useful archive of this material here.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    Alan, please substantiate your ridiculous claims with evidence. Also, note that while some yahoos will say things like that about Beck or Sarah Palin, the difference is that the “progressive” media routinely condemns such people. I suggest you read David Neiwert’s essays on “Eliminationism” to understand the difference between how the right and pseudo-left handle threats of violence.

  • Alan Davidson

    What about the very serious death threat on Sarah Palin recently where the FBI got involved? Or the DAILY death threats Beck receives? Not to mention the threats that other conservatives or non-liberal personalities receive constantly?

    You don’t think they get there ideas that folks like Beck, Palin, O’Reilly, etc., are “dangerous” from MSBNC personalities like Maddow, Olbermann? Not to mention the tomes written by Klein, Fineman, Cohen, Kurtz, etc. What about the daily radio rantings of Malloy or Rhodes who state that beck and others should be “stopped in any way possible” ?

    Not to mention this website which places Beck in the same category as Hitler. What happens when someone shoots Beck or Palin or blows up the Fox News headquarters and they find that the guy was a big fan of Malloy or MSNBC, The Daily KOS, or The Huffington Post?

    What then? Will the SPLC place the aforementioned in their “hate group” category?

    You don’t think that the premise in this article cannot be flipped to present the same danger by personalities on the Left side of the dial?

    If, not, then you are ignorant and hypocritical.

  • Brett

    This goes to show not only how stupid people are, but also how ignorant people are. Millions of people watch Glenn Beck and only one guy was dumb enough to plot against a liberal group thinking that they were trying to take down America. It also debunks the stereotype that muslims are the terrorist because this guy was a normal American.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    The thing about Beck and his followers is that until I ran into our resident “Dick” on this board, I could not believe that Obama’s “czars” would be used as evidence of his Marxism. I honestly thought people could not be that stupid, so stupid as not to know that the relationship between Marxists and Czars hasn’t been very beneficial to the latter throughout history.

    So far the record is: 1 czar shot(Nikolai II), and 1 exiled(Simeon II of Bulgaria).

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    Paul Revere(who is actually pretty overrated if you bother to read what he really did, as opposed to the poem), upon looking at Beck, would most likely vomit in disgust, and then direct him to speak with Thomas Paine who would beat him senseless for saying so much about him without reading his writings.

  • Mitch Beales

    Ruslan you might be more likely to get a response from Walter if you post in Russian. He clearly doesn’t do well with English and his problems with the Czar definitely peg him as a Bolshevik. Just a thought…

    It seems that Glenn Beck’s famous blackboard would be better used diagramming sentences so that his followers could learn to use the English language.

    Guardian you have a lot of gall defaming Paul Revere like that.

  • Guardian

    Don’t blame the messenger!
    There are nut everywhere, but the truth is still the truth. Paul Revere would be proud of you Glenn. Keep spreading the word and let’s hope America wakes up before it’s too late.

  • SAS

    This incident does not surprise me in the least. The fact is, that the hatred and incitement that is spewed each day by Glenn Beck and the rest of Fox News is so rabid it was only a matter of time before people actually came forward to carry out potentially violent acts due to what they hear.

    The precedent of Yigal Amir, who shot Yizhak Rabin in 1995 after listening to the rabid rhetoric of the Israeli far right is one that readily comes to mind.

  • Leslie

    Now that corporations such as Fox News have the same rights as people shouldn’t they have the same responsibilities too? Individuals who incite violence are considered dangerous and threatening to kill someone is illegal. When Glenn Beck asks people to “hunt down progressives” he is using language similar to the Nazis who wanted German citizens to hunt down Jews.

  • skinnyminny

    I think a good example would be Charles Manson. Manson was allegedly not involved in the actual acts, yet, he was convicted.

    As for me, growing up in ‘the ghetto,’ or ‘urban sprawl,’ as some people would call it, I’ve learned the hard way. I had a friend who had a passenger in the car. The passenger asked to be taken to the store to buy cigarettes. Instead, the passenger went in to rob the store. My friend was convicted as get-away driver.

    When I was about 19 years old, I had a guy in my car. The police was behind us, and he thought the police would pull us over. He threw drugs on the floor near my feet. I threw it back on his side. He left it there on the floor. At the time, I didn’t realize that if the police had pulled us over, I still could have been convicted if he had denied it was his because it was my car. This lesson has taught me, not to give people rides, and not to ride in other peoples’ cars if they are not family members.

  • Fredric L. Rice

    And the right wing Republinzi media has not yet reported on the fact that FOX “News” insites their Christian Republican followers to commit terrorist acts against America.

    For that matter, no legitimate news agency has reported the fact that FOX “News” eggs these Christian Republican loons in to terrorism and treason against us.

  • Solis

    “There have been people convicted of the same. People who have hinted that they wanted certain things done, or they complained about certain things without actually calling for the act to be done.”

    Would you mind pointing me towards a couple of specific cases? I’m not well-versed in law either, but I think that Fox News, being the media giant that it is, would have some kind of disclaimer removing them from liability. If these were individual persons that hinted or complained about certain things, they probably didn’t have that same protection.

  • Ethan

    Good Morning!,Dick,walter needs a man huggggg!,and while your at it,send him Rand Paul’s E-mail and you can all petend to take back america together. Wait!,i never new it was stolen. Be careful folks,the foxes are in the hen house. Hang in there America.

  • Snorlax

    I bet you won’t hear THIS on FOX “News”.

    They are NOT journalists. They have no ethics.

  • dave

    It really looks like there is a segment of the entertainment industry that makes a living promoting the idea that it’s cool to be real angry. And if you are not really angry there is something wrong with you and they will call you names and make insinuations and stuff untill you’re as mad as they are.

  • Shadow Wolf

    Someone noted herein, that the ACLU does not defend all people(or groups). That was especially true, in the said case of the “Lone Wolf” rambling lunatic, otherwise known as Hardy Lloyd.
    If I recall, Hardy Lloyd’s so called “Religious Rights” were violated, when he and his girlfriend(or wife at the time?) had decided to into the local Mall. Hardy was stopped by the Mall security because he had appears to be a large knife in his waist band. Hardy claims that the knife is sacred and is consistent to his religious views(huh???). So he calls the ACLU, but was turned down, due to the fact that there was no substantial religious evidence that knives are deities or religious objects of worship.

    So does the ACLU defends everyone? Not necessarily. Certianly not in Hardy Lloyd’s case.

  • Lloyd

    It is scary to think that people take Glenn Beck seriously.

  • Dick Lancaster

    I saw “Bullit” in the theater when it fist came out in the 70s. A lot of the young men screeched out of the parking lot hyped up by the chase scene. No one thought to give Steve McQueen a ticket for their reckless driving.
    The SPLC hypes up much of their propaganda against conservaties. When a lefty pops up against one, I’ll be looking for you to turn yourselves in. i admire Beck. Where else are you going to find such courage to speak the truth? Who else is going to expose the Tides Foundation? Beck constantly reminds his viewers that violence is not the answer and only plays into the hands of those who seek the destruction of America and its traditions. The comments here prove he is right.

  • Joe T

    This is just another repulsive example of media mogul Rupert Murdock who owns Fox and several other communication powers total disregard for responsible journalism in favor of keeping audiences paying for radically divisive bs to add to his billions

  • skinnyminny

    I’m no lawyer, but, I disagree. There have been people convicted of the same. People who have hinted that they wanted certain things done, or they complained about certain things without actually calling for the act to be done. Again, I say look at the cases of alleged street gangs, alleged mob figures, and alleged drug dealers that have been convicted under RICO statutes. There’s a little phrase that goes around about ‘wanting the Big Fish.’ So, if this is the case, maybe people should start challenging past convictions citing 1st Amendment rights. I’m saying this because as someone noted, cases of ‘association,’ this is usually as a cause of revocation of parole, as well as injunctions used in California for alleged street gangs.

  • Stephen D. Calhoun

    Beck has confessed to being a former patient of Dr. Jack Daniels.
    He claims to have stopped drinking and ceased his fifteen years of smoking marijuana in 1994, after going to Alcoholics Anonymous. Beck has Attention Hyperactivity Deficit Disorder and was diagnosed as having it. Beck has damages to his psyche from years of self abuse by his consumption of mind altering substances. The chronic use of drugs and alcohol damage brains.

  • Solis

    Walter, can you provide a source for your comment? I really have no idea who you’re talking about.

    As for Beck being to blame, I think he is partially to blame. The man who did the shooting believed that he was trying to save America because of things Beck said. Taking Beck’s hyperbolic, fearmongering warnings seriously was his choice, but without said warnings the man wouldn’t have been thinking that he had to save America from these groups.

    Should Beck be tried over this? No. Is he partially to blame? In my opinion, yes. As someone else said, unlike Hal Turner, Beck is within his 1st Amendment rights. Until he starts outright saying that there needs to be violence against some certain group, he’s untouchable. Boycott his show and his advertisers, try to get others to do the same.

  • Kate De Braose

    Limbaugh and Beck are trying to stimulate the same hysterical hatred against certain segments of the population that Nazi groups did in pre-World War II Germany. There were, and still are, the same kind of people in every nation.

    Many of them feel aggrieved because they are doing poorly in a bad economy while they perceive that their neighbors are doing well. Wealthy and cynical men like Beck are using the dissatisfaction of Tea Partiers for their own political gain.

    It so happens that today’s Germany is doing very well, while the US, because of it’s poor treatment of wage earners, is doing very poorly in comparison to the majority of European nations. Germany has not outsourced its industry as the US has done.

    Of course we can only speculate about the motivation of broadcasters like Fox and their premier personalities like Beck, but it definitely has to do with more money and power for the American “ownership” class.

    I view their statements as an attempt to get approval for a 2-class system in America. Those classes would be the desperate and powerless workers and their overseers who would own all of the resources of America, including land and water.

    I believe we would end up in the same position as most poor people in countries like India, Mexico, etc. Is that what we want for cheap thrills now?

  • punkmar77

    Is it just me or does anybody else notice a trend in the writings of the Glenn Beck fan club? I don’t think it is a coincidence that almost all of them have problems structuring a complete sentence or even spelling words correctly, it’s really creepy. Byron Williams murdered a CHP officer because of the unhinged rantings of one person, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Last week another shooter attacked an elementary school in Carlsbad Ca., shooting randomly at schoolchildren playing innocently at recces, after he was stopped and arrested he was asked why he would do such a terrible thing and he only managed to mumble a few anti-Obama words before clamping his mouth shut tight. Any bets on who influenced this winner?

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    Walter, please explain then how this guy found out about the Tides Foundation’s plot to destroy America without Beck then. It seems like a pretty obscure organization. And don’t even pull this “he’s not responsible crap” when Fox News is famous for running programs about how liberal Hollywood an rap music is ruining America.

    Also could you please tell us the name of this new “Czar”? And did you consider CHECKING with the ACLU website to see what they have to say about wire-tapping and electronic spying? Or did you just assume that because they are a bunch of “libruhls”, they don’t care about wire-tapping when a Democrat is in the oval office?

    That brings me to another point- were you in a coma from 2001-2009? I’m asking because you seem to think that invasions of privacy are somehow tied to the “new government”(you know, the one that was elected by a majority of the American people). You HAVE heard of the Patriot Act right?

  • Ethan

    Okay!, Glen Beck,L.D.S, ask him when is he moving to his new planet,isn’t that all inclusive with every mormon marriage.

  • Walter

    I am a GB fan for at lest 85% of is program on Fox News. I would not jump off the top a mountain even if GB would subject do so. For those who blame GB:,”This deranged person’s who do this stupid things,are the only one responsible for their own action”.
    Where is ACLU doing about the new Czar who is or will be in charge about monitoring everyone emails either we like it or not, Do we have the right of privacy or is it part of the change that we were told from the new government ???/. You tell me. you decide!!!.

  • beholder

    Didn’t Beck learn from Dobbs?

  • Sam Molloy

    Beck was a non political shock jock of sorts on the radio here (broadcast from Louisville but aimed out in the state) before he discovered that Fox pays better for hate. I’m sure he honed his skills at manipulating morons here ’cause we sure got ’em. Ever hear of Rand Paul?

  • kevin

    Yes I have to back up what Leslie is saying. I worked as a cooperating attorney for the ACLU for many years and was the legal coordinator for an ACLU office in the late 1990’s and we defended everyone who constitutional rights were being violated. I personally took on cases as varied as a member of a motorcycle gang who was being denied his First Amendment rights to freedom of association, the KKK’s right to hold a demonstration in a small town and Christian groups who were being unfairly treated by government. We helped anyone who were having their constitutional rights violated.

  • Bob

    Concerned Citizen, I suggest you actually look at the records of the ACLU, rather than listening to the lies and propaganda about them.

    I’ve read that between a quarter and a third of the cases they take are protecting Christians from unlawful harassment or limitations. At the same time, a large number of cases are when “Christians” (usually dominionists) try to force their ideology on others. Separation of Church and State protects EVERYONE. Keeping religion out of government is as important as keeping government out of religion.

    The ACLU supports the constitution. Sometimes the constitution goes against public opinion, but without it’s provisions, we would not have freedom.

    Someday you may be thankful that the ACLU exists.

  • Charlotte Moore

    Of course, people like Beck carry some responsibility for these terrorist acts.
    Extremists and crazies would not “act” without a cheerleader.

  • Leslie

    It simply isn’t true that the ACLU defends all people except white Christians. They defended Rush Limbaugh in Florida when his constitutional right to privacy was violated after his medical records were confiscated by the Florida state attorney’s office in 2004. Fox News reported this.

  • Paen

    Concerned citizen says that the ACLU hates conservative Christians,but when the rights of those same Christian fanatics are attacked who do they go running to,the ACLU.

  • skinnyminny

    I agree with you 110%. This type of conspiracy have taken the alleged Mob, alleged Street Gangs in this country. They are usually convicted under RICO – and I think this applies in this case.

  • skinnyminny

    I personally think Beck is responsible, as a mastermind of conspiracy. I personally think Beck should be held to account. I have seen some of the clips where he says, “the president doesn’t like white people…” and this is at a time when FOX viewers already believe the pres is not a citizen. Beck recently said that he and some of the new candidates will CONTROL 90% of the POPULATION.

    But most of all, Beck has a responsibility to his viewers and the public at large to do the right thing, especially when lives are at stake. For example, if a psychiatrist or law enforcement felt a person was a danger to him/herself or others, there must be intervention.

    Beck makes a habit of using a Chalk Board to make sure that most of his viewers understand his message. At a time when most of FOX viewers are MAD at the government, it is not helpful to take advantage and make these people even more MAD. Beck knows what he is doing with this mind control – btw, he had some contact with Alex Jones. This is unrelated, but, I will use this as an example, the Rodney King riot in Los Angeles. The people in Los Angeles was already upset with alleged police brutality, lack of jobs, and other things – after watching the Rodney King incident played out on teevee, followed by the no guilty verdicts of the officers, this was a tipping point. So let’s turn this around, you have people angry about the economy, lack of jobs, among other things, then you have the constant repetition of FOX saying the pres isn’t a citizen, the pres is a muslim, the pres doesn’t like white people, the pres wants to take away your guns…you end up with toxic stew. I personally believe FOX and some of the candidates running for office will cause more people to snap! People are already at their breaking points, and the above individuals are rubbing it in and placing blame in the opposite direction.

  • ruben

    memo to any want to be right wing nut out there!….do not take beck,limbaugh or any other person on fox news seriously they only want to use you to do there dirty work…as soon as you do they will throw you under the bus.i suggest that you just continue to pull the wings off flies at least that won’t get you life in prison.

  • Shadow Wolf

    Unlike Hal Turner, who previously incites violence through his vile radio show. Glen Beck isn’t exactly doing that. He is merely instigating extreme paranioa among his feeble-minded zombies, who tune in to hear his hyperbole. Unlike Hal Turner, Beck is playing within the confines of the 1st Amendment, sadly to say……

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    Oh in case anyone needs a list of non-Muslim terrorists in the US…

    1. This guy the article is about.
    2. Timothy McVeigh
    3. Buford Furrow
    4. Benjamin Smith
    5. The Hutaree Militia
    6. The Montana Freemen
    7. The Republic of Texas
    8. The Order
    9. Posse Commitatus
    10. And many, many more!!!

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    Concerned Citizen, I suggest you look up the trial of Julius Streicher. He was hanged because it was determined that his propaganda played a crucial role in inciting ordinary Germans to commit atrocities against Jews and foreign peoples.

    People who continually incite people to hate and fear things are cowards if they try to deny responsibility when someone takes their rhetoric to its logical conclusion. If the Tides Foundation were really “destroying America”, then logically anyone who gives a damn about America ought to prevent it. Of course not only is the Tides Foundation not destroying America, but this gentleman knew nothing about it until Beck did his little chalkboard skit.

    Beck is a coward, plain and simple.

  • Concerned Citizen

    I may not like beck and his right wing ilk, but that does not mean Beck and his cronies are directly responsible for Williams’ actions and plot to kill ththose in the Tides Foundation and the ACLU.
    Heck. I hate the ACLU, because they defend everybody under the sun but Chrstians(particularly thise with conservative values).
    I wouldn;t waist my time to kill because I don’t them ot anybody else and go to prison. No thank
    you very much. Life is too precious to do such foolish things.

  • Joe

    When you teach that your neighbor is the enemy, should we surprised that some people take up arms against them?

  • john

    Every single terrorist I can think of in the last ten years has proudly proclaimed the religion of Islam as their motivation. Yet I do not blame Islam for their radical criminal behavior. Am I missing something here?

  • Paen

    In the mean time innocent Muslems are being harrassed while nuts like this run loose.

  • skinnyminny

    Wow! This just doesn’t get any more spooky! Reminds me of a certain person ‘winking’ and men at home all across America thought she was winking at them!

    Sad part of this is, Beck didn’t even thank this guy for being a loyal follower. In fact, Beck didn’t even produce a youtube video like O’Donnell’s saying, “I’m not what they say I am, I am you.”

    This is too funny! This guy had Beck’s back, but, as it shows, Beck didn’t have this guy’s back. I’m willing to bet, Beck sleeps like a baby, without tossing and turning in his millions.

  • Vicki

    The hate expressed here is so extreme that it cannot be defended.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    Naturally there will be a twofold response: 1. Accuse the perpetrator of being a lone nut who would have targeted the obscure Tides Foundation anyway. 2. Insist that this criticism constitutes attempted “silencing” of poor ol’ Beck.

    The thing is, why is it a surprise that people wouldn’t act when Beck says these organizations are “destroying” America?