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.”