The Reading Room

Philanthropy goes digital

The shooting rampage in Arizona has shaken Americans and prompted a national debate about heated political rhetoric in the news. Fox news and right wing radio stations have suddenly had the spotlight turned on them. A protest has already been staged against rightwing talk show host Glenn Beck calling for his immediate removal from Fox News. The organisers, Jewish Funds for Justice (JFSJ), a charity that campaigns for social change, delivered a petition with 10,000 signatures. In the wake of the Tucson shooting, the TV and radio personality has had to defend his record against accusations that he has whipped up hatred within the public discourse.

The attack on the right is also coming from a resurgent liberal media which is cleverly leveraging the internet . Arianna Huffington of course set up her own liberal blog called the Huffington Post which is now more widely read than many traditional print publications.

But it is ‘media matters’ which is really making waves and has now caught the beady eye of Philanthropist George Soros. He recently announced a donation of $1milion dollars to this not-for-profit website that monitors the conservative wing of the US media. The organisation says it will use the money to intensify its efforts to hold Fox News hosts, such as Glenn Beck, accountable for their reporting.

Launched in May 2004, Media Matters has waged war on Fox and others in the conservative press. It issued a statement saying that Fox is a Republican Party “attack machine, dividing Americans through fear mongering and falsehoods and undermining the legitimacy of our government for partisan political ends.” In an accompanying statement, Soros, who has a history of supporting liberal politicians and causes, accused Fox News hosts of “incendiary rhetoric”, which is a challenge “to civil and informed discourse in our democracy.”

Soros’s money is usually donated to worthy NGOs such as Human Right Watch ($100 million received from Soros’s genius of speculating on the money markets) and the highly influential Open Society Institute, whose on the ground work in funding democratic forces in the Balkans has been more effective than many Western Governments. But his crossover to the digital world is not at all surprising. Beck constantly berates Soros. “Here’s a Jewish boy helping send the Jews to the death camps”. The remark was made in reference to Soros as a 13-year-old teenager in Hungary, who survived the Holocaust because his father hid their Jewish identity through elaborate forged documents.

The comment was made as part of a three-part Beck “exposè” of Soros on Fox News last November called the “Puppet Master”. Beck’s portrayal of Soros was so mendacious and malicious that he was accused by the New Yorker of broadcasting tropes that corresponded “uncannily to those of classical antisemitism”. The Daily Beast noted that “nothing like it has ever been on American television before”.

The great American tradition of philanthropy is finally influencing the news agenda and not a moment too soon. News is having a greater impact than ever before on people’s lives and possibly deaths. PS

Glenn Beck sound bites below:

  • Social justice is a “perversion of the Gospel, not what Jesus was saying”. 11 March 2010
  • “Charles Darwin is the father of the Holocaust.” 20 August 2010
  • “We have been sold a lie … that the poor in America are suffering.” November 20 2010
  • Beck mocks President Obama’s daughter Malia and questions her “level of education”. He later apologises. 28 May 2010
  • Uncle Sam is a “child molester” who is “raping our wallets … and destroying our families”. 16 April 2010
  • Beck said the prime goal of his coverage of the midterm elections was to “make George Soros cry” which was hard to do as Soros “saw people into gas chambers”. 2 November 2010
  • “Women are psychos”. 20 January 2010
  • Putting the “common good” first is the kind of thing that “leads to death camps”. 28 May 2010
  • “God will wash this nation with blood if he has to.” 25 August 2010

(As selected by the Jewish Funds For Justice)

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