Through countless diagrams and diatribes, chalk-wielding Fox News commentator Glenn Beck has made it his mission to inform his audience that left-wing progressives are purportedly on the brink of revolution. Many of Beck’s fans take him seriously. In the past two years, at least three have decided the best response to his warnings is violence.
Kenneth B. Kimbley Jr. of Spirit Lake, Idaho, is the latest to face prison time for interpreting Beck’s rants as a call to action.
Kimbley claims to be the leader of the Brotherhood of America Patriots, an extreme-right militia whose mission, he says, is to “resist in the event the government started rounding up the patriots” and to stand up in the face of foreign invasions or societal breakdowns. (Authorities believe Kimbley’s group was tiny.) At the time of his arrest in July, Kimbley had 20,000 rounds of ammunition, a stock of firearms, and materials he planned to use to construct grenades, according to court documents.
According to the Spokesman-Review of Spokane, Wash., Kimbley’s lawyer described her client as a man with strong political views who posed no real danger to society. “In fact, everything said by Mr. Kimbley is no different than what his idol, TV commentator Glenn Beck, typically states on the air,” public defender Kim Deater wrote in court papers.
Williams, who likened Beck to a “schoolteacher,” is charged with shooting and wounding two members of the California Highway Patrol during a July confrontation that occurred on his way to San Francisco, where he allegedly planned to start a revolution by assassinating leaders at the ACLU and the Tides Foundation, both regular targets of Beck’s furious rants. (The Tides Foundation, in fact, would be barely known if not for at least 29 mentions made by Beck, including two in the week before the shootout, according to Media Matters.)
Poplawski, for his part, allegedly shot three police officers to death in April 2009 after his mother called them to the Pittsburgh home they shared.
“Rich, like myself, loved Glenn Beck,” Eddie Perkovic, Poplawski’s best friend told reporter Will Bunch of Media Matters, among others. Prior to the shooting, Poplawski reportedly was “obsessed” with two of Beck’s pet theories: that there is an imminent food crisis and that paper money will soon be worthless. Like Kimbley and Williams, Poplawski worried that the government planned to intern dissidents in concentration camps.
Although Beck in the past has denied responsibility for the extreme actions of his viewers, it isn’t surprising his inflammatory expositions about what the government and its “progressive” allies are doing could push certain people over the edge and into violence.
Dubbing himself a “progressive hunter,” Beck proclaimed in January that like the “Israeli Nazi hunters … I’m going to expose what [progressives] have done and make sure that people understand.” In June, he said “anarchists, Marxists, communists, revolutionaries, Maoists” would need to “eliminate 10% of the population” to “gain control.” In July, he said that “[t]he army… of the extreme left is gathering” and that it believes that “cops are bad, kill the cops, they’re the oppressors.” In September, he warned, “Violence will come. And violence will come from the left. Violence is part of the plan.”
The connection between Kimbley’s beliefs and Beck’s provocative on-air statements seems clear, especially his fear that the government plans to round up and intern liberty-loving Americans, a fear that was also expressed by Poplawski and Byron.
One of Beck’s earliest public flirtations with the idea that government concentration camps might be real came in March 2009, exactly a month to the day before Poplawski allegedly opened fire on officers responding to a domestic dispute at his home. (Alex Jones, a far-right antigovernment conspiracy theorist and repeat FOX guest who Williams cited as an additional influence, also had trumpeted the theory for some time.) Beck has since claimed to debunk the idea of government camps, but the rest of his rhetoric is hardly even-handed. And though he tempers his endless alarms with reminders that “it is not time to pick up guns” or “blow anything up,” his most volatile fans apparently take these admonitions with a grain of salt.
“Beck is gonna deny everything about a violent approach and deny everything about conspiracies,” Williams told John Hamilton of Media Matters. “But he’ll give you every reason to believe it.”