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Glenn Beck and the Society for (In)sanity in Art

September 3, 2009 | 10:55 am

Last night Fox News ranter Glenn Beck went off on the art made more than 70 years ago for Rockefeller Center, corporate headquarters of NBC and -- not coincidentally -- supposed arch-enemy of Rupert Murdoch's television empire. To the surprise of no one, but to the great amusement of the blogosphere (here, here and here) -- Beck donned his art critic's tin-foil conspiracy hat to find hidden evidence of "progressives, fascists and communists" in the carved reliefs and paintings of a landmark Manhattan building complex that was made a national historic monument in 1987. (Let's see; who was president that year? Oh, yeah: Commie-symp Ronald Reagan.)

How nutty did Beck get? As nutty as usual. He pointed to a portrait of Lenin in Mexican master Diego Rivera's destroyed Rockefeller lobby mural, "Man at the Crossroads," but forgot to mention that old John D. had the mural removed because of it. (Facts are stubborn things -- even more stubborn than demagoguery.) With comedy stylings like that, Beck is turning out to be the Harold Harby of our day.

Who was Harold Harby? A Los Angeles city councilman in the early 1950s, Harby took up propaganda-arms with a paranoid group of right-wing loonies called the Society for Sanity in Art. They made it their patriotic duty to search out Communist symbols they just knew were hidden in that weird, postwar abstract art.

Here's an explanation of what went down back then, from a Times interview I once did with venerable L.A. artist June Wayne, witness to those events:

We had a little city councilman named Harold Harby. The occasion was a city-sponsored exhibition at Griffith Park, and in that exhibition was a watercolor [of a sailboat] by, as it happens, a Republican artist whose name was Rex Brandt. Rex liked to sail, and he had a certain class of sailing sloop, the insignia of which vaguely resembled a hammer and sickle. Harold Harby went to the exhibition and saw this painting, and the next thing we know, "communists invade the Griffith Park exhibition!" Before you knew it, the police were out there gathering in works of art and dragging them downtown to the City Council to be investigated.

So I thought to myself, this I have to see, because how do you investigate a painting for communism? I went down to City Hall, and it just scared the wits out of me. They had a circle of easels, with various paintings, semi-abstract. People came up and testified. There was one complete abstraction, and some woman got up and testified that this was really a secret code, and that this was how the communists were getting the details of Boulder Dam so it could be sabotaged. From this painting!

Remember that tale if you watch the Beck clip above, when he gets to the part about the hammer and sickle and how President Obama is trying to brainwash America's children.

-- Christopher Knight

Comments () | Archives (123)

Yeah thanks for pointing out all the things that Beck also pointed out.
How about writing a blog on Van Jones? You silly federalists just don't get it.
We don't want a powerful federal government because states should make their own decisions. What is wrong with that? Do you think our current spending habits are sustainable? You demonized Bush with us, but fail to see the obvious truths about your own president. It's actually really silly of you.

There is no arguing with stubbornness , but we'll keep trying--ohhh....
Here we go.. many of you believed all the lies that were told and beautifully articulated by BO. Some of you are still receiving your daily dose of spoon fed liberal brainwash by CNN,MSNBC and so on and so on.... You may have not noticed, but your numbers have diminished substantially, which simply means some of you are actually doing your own research away from any bias of either side--which is ..SMART! Good for some of you. It is now being reported that more people consider themselves independent or conservative in comparison
to democrat. I know you love to sling insults, but really YOU guys that are left on the left (No pun intended) need to consider issues other than healthcare and the war, etc. You need to consider who is surrounding Obama and as he himself proclaimed, we should see who he chooses as his advisors to know in which direction we'll be headed. No matter what party you align yourself with, you have to be able to look at what is going on besides the issues. Good Luck

Van Jones is Obama's Brain. He says what Obama deeply believes and has planned for America.

When I saw Glenn Beck on the Fox news channel expressing his dismay at the art at the NBC News and the Rockefeller center;I really thought he was just joking. But as I began to really review the footage and to read his comments; it is concerning that Fox news channel,even in the spirit of entertainment would have this guy on, with his own show. Is the man crazy or just going after ratings? The misinformation, that Fox news tolerates, is beyond comprehension.

Price of cable T.V. == $35.00
Price of soda while I watch Glenn Beck $.55
Never having to watch MSNBC == Priceless

Glenn Beck is a true patriot and you and your friends will be lucky if you are only starving in FEMA camps when the fight for our country to remain free starts.

Way to go Glenn Beck, too bad people are blinded by the truth. Obviously the guy who wrote this article voted for Obama. Keep writing Christopher you are making Glenn Beck more popular :)


what a silly article. Beck is no art critic and no one takes him seriously about art.
It's like the art world a bout politics -- equally silly, naive and ignorant. Knight,
meet your brother.

Im so glad Glenn Beck got such a rise out of all of the liberals out there. The liberals are all playing right into what the media wants you to think and all the comments made are apparent. Thank God we have people like Glenn Beck who bring out this stuff even if only to get a rise from liberals. Again this is why Fox News has the top ratings across the board!

Glenn Beck's rants and the ignorant folks who actually buy his nonsense remind me of Hitler's speeches and the dumb Germans who fell for it. And we all know how that ended.

Paranoid lunatic? Really. Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Van Jones just resigned. The spin from the Los Angeles Times is that he resigned because of comments he made about Republicans. Does the Los Angeles Times really believe us to be so naive? Guess it had nothing to do with the fact that Glenn Beck has spent a week educating the American people on Van Jones. The "lunatic" was onto something with absolutely no help from any other news agency. Glenn Beck single-handedly revealed a staunch revolutionary advising the POTUS and the American people were not ok with it. Twitter and Google Hot Trends are both showing exactly what America is talking about right now and what we think. In case you did not realize...we don't want your socialist agenda crammed down our throats. And we are NOT ok with the people that the President has chosen as advisers. I hope the Los Angeles Times has some deep pockets, because until you start practicing true journalism you can continue to expect your circulation rates to decline. Thank you Glenn, job well done sir.

We are with you.

Thank you Glenn and FOX...its time to flush out the commies wherever they hide. Shine the light on them so we can observe what they do and say and then decide for ourselves. "Sons of The Green Dragon"!

"Rally Mohawks"

Why do you democrats continue to fight for socialism/communism when it has been proven to fail? What part of individualism/freedom dont you understand?America is the land of the free, thats what the people at the town halls are trying to tell you. We will not let you take this country down.

useful idiot for the right.

Whether or not Glenn Beck's report proves evidence of "progressives, fascists and communists" in art produced for Rockefeller Center, isn't it great that we have a man willing to research and question what others may be trying to hide? Can we at least be informed so that we may form our own opinion? Did you hear how Glenn Beck exposed all the shady dealings of Obama's appointed Czar, Van Jones? Yes, I hear he had to resign. Who else is seeking to uncover the truth? Great job Glenn Beck!

Not since Joe McCarthy shuffled off this mortal coil in 1957 has anyone made a career by accusing people of being communists. Glenn Beck has resurrected the practice. Not only has he found a cabal of secret communists, he has uncovered an entire communist corporation chock full of commies. The name of this company, you may ask?


You heard me right, boys and girls. The network that gave us Uncle Miltie and Ma Perkins has apparently been secretly sending subliminal messages endorsing Marxist doctrine since it was formed in 1926. This would make perfect sense to me. Every time I watched the Rockford Files I had an unexplainable desire to read Das Kapital.

But seriously, folks. Twenty years after the fall of the Soviet Union, red baiting not only seems silly, it’s also kind of nuts. It’s not-at-all surprising that an organization would give this idiot a forum (after all, he’s on FOX Noise). What’s really stunning is the fact that his ratings are relatively high and that so many Americans take his word as gospel.

All kidding aside, half-witted ideologues are a dime a dozen. What separates Glenn Beck from his peers is the fact that he is doing some serious damage to the country he professes to love so much. For all of the comparisons to the Nazis he likes to make with regard to Liberals, Beck’s program has much in common with Adolf Hitler’s 1923 screed, Mein Kampf. Eighty-six years ago, Hitler attempted to arouse the anger of his fellow Germans by spouting half truths and utter nonsense – exactly what Glenn Beck is doing in 2009. So much of the insane dialogue that has been spewed forth at these Town Hall meetings across the country in recent weeks might have been lifted straight from a transcript of any of Beck’s programs.

Beck and his twisted ilk have done the seemingly impossible. They have deflected the blame for America’s current economic distress toward Barack Obama. An incredible feat when you take into consideration the fact that the President is one of the few people in government today whose guilt in the matter is almost nil. They have also let loose with a vengeance the very worst angels of the American nature. Opening this Pandora’s box was relatively easy. Closing it might prove to be a bit of a problem.

Deep in their hearts
They do believe
That they shall undermine someday….


Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

Biggato is the only one who got it right. The art is Fascist. It is very similar to Communist art in that the people are generic, they are workers with
no individual characteristics who toil unthinkingly for some greater goal unchosen by them. Contrast this with the intensely personal and heroic art of Michelangelo or Delacroix. There is a message in the art of Diego Rivera
and his ilk: self-sacrifice and slavery are right because it is for the common good.

Unfortunately, the mere existence of a television personality like Beck shows the "dumbing down" of our society. The fact that these networks make their money from advertising (they must have viewers), and they continue to make plenty, demonstrates the mentality and/or education level of the typical viewer. It's sad that 95% of the media has turned into a purely for profit entity, without regard to the negative impacts on society.
Until people walk away from these networks as viewers etc., there will be no change in the quality of the product or truths they wish us to believe.

Hmmmm, maybe Beck is crazy!
Mr. Green Jobs just stepped down, hmmm I guess Beck is just crazy enough to call out things that NBC, ABC and the rest will not! A free press?
I support all those who ask questions about everything. A free country demands it.
So here is to you Mr. Crazy Beck"man", Keep up the good work.

When Glenn Beck points out "communist symbolism," it is right wing nuttiness.
When the Anti Defamation League goes beserk about swastikas carved on public buildings circa 1750, the liberals slobber along in complete accord.
When Christians denounce the desecration of their symbols for political or shock purposes it is laughed at by the liberals.
When "indigenous people" denounce the use of any of their "native" symbols, the liberals rush to defend the "sacred art."

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