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Four hundred Rabbis ask Fox News to tone down the Nazi references



beck-nazi-jfj-ad.jpgIt's two steps forward one back for Fox News this week.

Typically dominant in cable news ratings for Tuesday's State of the Union - 4.9-million viewers compared to CNN's 2.9-million -- Fox News Channel now faces criticism from another front, 400 Rabbis who have asked the channel's executives to penalize star Glenn Beck for his repeated references to Nazis.

One quote: "You diminish the memory and meaning of the Holocaust when you use it to discredit any individual or organization you disagree with. That is what Fox News has done in recent weeks, and it is not only ‘left-wing rabbis’ who think so."

Unfortunately, their protests seem to have fallen on deaf ears. According to Yahoo's The Cutline blog, Fox News senior vice president Joel Cheatwood said: "We haven't seen the ad (published in the Wall Street Journal, a newspaper owned by Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch), but this group is a George Soros-backed left-wing political organization that has been trying to engage Glenn Beck primarily for political purposes."

The group, Jewish Funds for Justice, bought ads in the Jewish-focused publication Forward and the Journal for its message, sparked by Beck's ill-founded assertions that well-known liberal philanthropist and Holocaust survivor George Soros helped deliver Jews to the Nazis. Beck has a habit of trying to equate his enemies' messages with Nazism and Nazi propaganda, complaining once that a clipped quote in a report on his Restoring Honor rally was an example of a Hitler-style information control technique.

Besides the JFJ, the Anti Defamation League has complained about Beck's Soros smear, and Daily Show performers Lewis Black and Jon Stewart have both aired sidesplitting collections of all the references to Nazis and Hitler that fill the pugnacious political commentary on Fox News. (Fox News star Bill O'Reilly explained his actions in a way that likely makes sense only to his fans, who need little encoujragement to support their idol.)

Their argument, made different ways, is simple and sensible: Turning Nazi references into a political tactic minimizes the horror of what actually happened. Or, as Stewart once put it, an argument over politics does not equal subjugating and murdering millions of people in a religious minority. Fortunately, few things in our lives really do.

Indeed, Fox News' widespread use of such references are testament to their power. Beck and his compatriots level such references because they still shock and move us, 70 years later. And yes, liberal lion Keith Olbermann used the same language too much in his arguments, too.

Fox News has an odd blind spot on these issues, reaching back to 2008, when its morning show Fox and Friends aired a caricature of a New York Times reporter and his editor that struck some -- including me and world class NYT TV reporter Bill Carter -- as anti-Semitic. Fox resisted that notion.

Don't get me wrong, I I don't mind such references when they're on point. For example, I think the practice of building a loyal audience by bending facts to encourage unreasonable fear of an imagined threat is a tactic straight out of Nazi propaganda. But there is a way to make those points without implying political opponents deserve the same shame as modern history's worst mass murderers.

And I think 400 religious leaders just told Fox News it is time for them to explore those alternatives. 

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[Last modified: Thursday, January 27, 2011 5:26pm]


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