Intellectual underpinnings of Glenn Beck

Mostly Glenn Beck is an entertainer, who traffics in noise to the delight of his angry base. But he is also a keen student of a Mormon anti-communist crusader, W. Cleon Skousen (1913-2006), whose 5000 Year Leap: The Miracle that Changed the World has been selling like hotcakes in its 30th anniversary edition (with an introduction by Glenn Beck). Here’s some of Beck’s endorsement:

It’s the book Ronald Reagan wanted taught in high schools and Ted Kennedy stopped it from happening. That should tell you all you need to know. It is so easy to understand. When you read these principles, your mouth will fall open. You’ll read it and you’ll be — the scales will fall off your eyes on who we are. Please, number one thing: Inform yourself about who we are and what the other systems are all about. 5,000 Year Leap is the first part of that. Because it will help you understand American free enterprise. You’ll be able to defend it. You’ll be able to know what makes it possible for 6% of humanity living under our free economy to produce 1/2 of the Earth’s developed wealth every single year. That’s staggering! What is it? It’s the virtues and the principles that our founders believed in, that took us and pushed us and made us — allowed us to take a 5,000 year leap from the dark into the sunshine.

And here’s how Time magazine described Skousen in 1961:

one of the busiest speakers in the rightist movement…. a balding, bespectacled onetime FBI man who hit the anti-Communist circuit in earnest in 1960 after being fired from his job as Salt Lake City’s police chief (“He operated the police department like a Gestapo,” says Salt Lake City’s conservative Mayor J. Bracken Lee). Skousen freely quotes the Bible, constantly plugs his book, The Naked Communist, [and] presses for a full congressional investigation of the State Department.

Because Beck has been touting him so hard, Skousen has been getting a lot of attention in the blogosphere in the past few weeks, for instance in Alexander Zaitchik’s fascinating article in Salon, “Meet the Man Who Changed Glenn Beck’s Life.”

Skousen did much to popularize (and distort) Carroll Quigley’s scholarship about secret societies and enjoyed a certain amount of influence during the Reagan years as a member of the Council for National Policy. In 1982, he got caught up in a controversy when his textbook The Making of America was pulled from the California public school system and members of the committee that approved it came under fire. The most-vehemently criticized chapter of the book, The New York Times wrote at the time, was

…a 1934 essay on slavery by the historian Fred Albert Shannon.

Referring to the standard of living on plantations, the essay said, ”If the pickaninnies ran naked it was generally from choice, and when the white boys had to put on shoes and go away to school they were likely to envy the freedom of their colored playmates.”

Other sections present a picture of the white slave owner as victimized by malingering blacks who shirked their duties and left their owners with a costly burden of supporting them and their numerous offspring, concluding that ”slave owners were the worst victims of the system.”


3 thoughts on “Intellectual underpinnings of Glenn Beck

  1. Glad you knew I was just stirring the hot-brown. I have some stuff but I gotta burn the day. The ol’ lady don’t like me playing politics during family time so it might be tomarrow am. Good dig. I gotta research, thanks

  2. I have been getting a lot of flack from admirers of former FBI Special Agent W. Cleon Skousen who are claiming that I am intellectually dishonest — OR that I am inventing the statements which I attribute to senior FBI officials in FBI memos discussed in my Skousen report.

    So, this afternoon, I revised sections of my Skousen report to include actual scanned copies of several relevant FBI memos pertaining to Skousen.

    I copied the memos which:

    (1) establish that Skousen WAS NOT considered an authority on communism while he worked at the FBI

    (2) prove that Skousen WAS NOT “a top aide to J. Edgar Hoover” as he and his admirers claimed and

    (3) establish that the FBI dismissed as untrue several of Skousen’s assertions which he made in his 3/71 article entitled “Home Grown Subversion” — and those assertions are also made in Skousen’s book, The Naked Capitalist.

    You may see these scanned documents here:


    within the text of my Skousen report here:

    This should prove, once and for all, that my critics are attempting to libel me because of their own ignorance and malice about this matter.

  3. Arthur, Ernie, let me say that you guys are way beyond me in terms of academia and experience. Thanks for letting me play along!
    The Mormon Conspiracy is one of my favorites, I’d like to add. It is old but there is so much good stuff there. I am suprised nobody has done turn-about on Becky. Give me a campfire and a talking stick to raise sparks and I will give you an audience that will be nervous in any Utah town!
    “We all know there are things in nature we cannot explain. A certain order in the chaos that flashes and then is gone. The indians around the Bonneville Basin thought that The Great Salt Lake was a great trick of Coyote…and where that Satan rose from the earth. Is it any wonder, then, that that was the place where Young’s followers say it as a promised land. Not by photograph, or chance, they passed up many beautiful places to settle. No…they were guided by a vision, a dream…” Arch eyebrow and let the fire rise with snapping sparks. “A hell on earth, a hellmouth, where they were mysteriously protected in their own words from the plagues of crickets, disease and famine. As if welcomed there.” Warning flames flash in the eyes of the speaker…
    Okay, sorry. Couldn’t resist. This is the article I wanted to excert about consiracy. It’s from Time by Carl Zimmer about…dogs.
    “…Without the distraction of a human being, the babies(human) were far more likely to pick the right cup. Small children, it seems, are hardwired to pay such close attention to people that they disregard their other observations…One question the research of Topal, Hare and others raises is why chimpanzees-who are in most ways smarter than dogs-lack the ability to read gestures. Hare believes that the chimps’ poor performance is one more piece of proof that the talent is rooted not in raw intelligence but in personality. Our ape cousins are simply too distracted by their aggression and competitiveness to fathom gestures easily. Chimps can cooperate to get food that they can’t get on their own, but if their is the slightest chance for them to fight over it, they will. For humans to evolve as we did, Hare says, “We had to not get freaked out about sharing.””

    Hardwired to look to a “parent” figure rather our own observation. I think the sharing is something we still need work on as our groups become larger.

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