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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)

As regards Glenn Beck I must quote my good friend B. Bunny:

"I seen better heads on a glass of root beer!"

If you are unfortunate enough to listen to Beck's rant in its entireity (PLEASE, no one get the idea that it has any FORM or SHAPE when I use that word) you will notice it has the usual illogical, self-contradictory material:

The 1933 Diego Rivera Rockefeller Center mural was "broken" because some "crazy journalist" made a fuss. [Actually, Rockefeller had it destroyed in 1934.] Yet "thousands of people" go by it every day and Beck's sound man "hasn't noticed it" in the 29 years he's been working there.

Beck's sound man hasn't noticed it (of course) because IT IS NOT THERE--it was DESTROYED in 1934.

To quote my good friend Homer Simpson:


Now I think Glenn Beck, Michelle Malkin, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly et al (or maybe that should be ad nauseum) do an important public service: scientific studies have proven laughter boosts the immune system and with the H1N1 vaccine not yet readily available the Fox Comedy Channel (Rupert calls it Fox News for some reason--possibly trademark issues with the FCC) could be your best short-term defense!

And if you ever have trouble understanding Glenn Beck I ask you to remember Stephen Colbert's advice:

"Too many people focus on the first half of what Glenn Beck says, not the second half, where he immediately disavows the first half. Or maybe they're confused by the third half, when he repeats the first half."

Glenn Beck describes images of workers by NYC artists as communist. The NYC artist who is recognized for creating the genre of sculpture and painting of laborers was Mahonri Young. Mahonri Young was a Mormon. His grandfather was Brigham Young who founded the Mormon Church. Glenn Beck is also a Mormon. I posted on Facebook some of Mahonri Young's art including a painting of a man with a scythe working in a wheat field.
Noah G. Hoffman

He was just showing it as an EXAMPLE. I find it troubling this administration needs to "hire" the art community to push its campaign. Turning to the nation's children and pushing ideas is even worse. I call it desperate. But trying to argue with the left is like playing Tic Tac Toe. No one wins. Unless they're not paying attention...which they're not.

Swords into plowshares? Is this numbnuts trying to say that the quote fragment from Isaiah 2:4 is of Communist origin? But then why would a mormon know ANYTHING about the Bible? What a sad, inbred excuse for a human being.

This is just like the conspiracy theories we are all taught to ignore. Obsessive suspicions that consume the weak-minded. Thank you Glenn Beck, for contributing to unfounded paranoia and fear.

If Glenn Beck would take a lie detector test, it would clear up many things.

LA Times current circulation... does anyone care?

Glenn Beck's current numbers...more than MSNBC,CNN and other cable shows combined!!!

Times - BE A REAL PAPER - look at all the facts - all the facts - THE US is not a socialist county... we will never allow it.

How far fetched. spin, spin, spin. Will it never stop! What are the anti-by partisons so terrified of; securing their powerful positions I suppose. Do they never think of doing their jobs. Do they never think of passing on something of the nation that we inherited. Get off the scare tactic train, don't be so about yourselves or your rightious-ism. It really will be OK and if you look to the example of Christ life it is our calling.

This article misses the point of the clip and the message that Mr. Beck is trying to get out. Progressivism is not a new concept and for most of the twentieth Century, the Progressives aligned with Socialists and Communists to infiltrate and destroy our republic. That theme is very apparent in the artwork and in the foundations and organizations started with the vast Rockefeller oil fortune.
Like a cancer, the Progressive philosophy has slowly eaten away at the fabric of our government and our lives and it may only be a matter of time before the cancer kills the Constituion and our freedom. Patriots like Glenn and the millions who believe that Freedom is better than tyranny will continue to shout their message from the rooftops until the Constitution again prevails or they are silenced under the jackboots of the fascists in the Progressive movement.

Wake up before our way of life is changed forever.

God bless the United States of America!

Dear John

Glenn Beck has slowly eaten away at the fabric of what you call your brain.

"jackboots of the fascists in the Progressive movement"?!?!?!?!

For 8 years under George W. Bush you've HAD the most authoritarian, secretive, extra-constitutional, mendacious, money-hungry and just plain mean-spirited "leaders" at the helm of this suffering nation and you have the nerve to speak of freedom and liberty as if you know anything about what they mean?

Go get yourself water-boarded so you can "confess" to us how much Haliburton , UnitedHealth Group and Altria stock you own.

"Glenn Beck's current numbers...more than MSNBC,CNN and other cable shows combined!!!"

I hear Julius Streicher's Der Sturmer was very popular in its day as well.

I'm sorry to say this b/c I'm certain you are a wonderful art critic generally, but if you had looked into the history of that mural, I'm afraid to say that Glenn Beck was right as to the Italian Fascist origins of that mural. Attilio Piccirilli is the artist and the title of the mural is " Youth Leading Industry". It was installed in 1936. It glorified the political movement in Italy under Benito Mussolini. I dare say he changed his mind later (at around 1940-45).

Because of hindsight we think that it's terrible to have such a symbol in Rockefeller Center, but consider that in 1936 Fascism was a new idea (not really, but new to the United States) and none of the evil of German Fascism had yet to occur. In Italy it was a new idea and it was not racist or anti-Semitic in nature.

This is just history and there is nothing threatening about knowing about it. In fact, it might do some good.

California went bankrupt because they didn't raise the fee on car inspections??? Really??

Nobody really cares what Beck says about the art in Rockerfeller Center. He made his case. Apparently some agree and some disagree. Was Rockerfeller a communist? Who cares? What I do care about is Immelt being in bed with Obama while GE stands to profit from his climate bill all while owning NBC. Does anybody else see a problem with this?

If you want to know why the Fox ratings have gone through the roof, take a look at NBC, ABC, CNN, and CBS. Well, the Rather incident did it for me with CBS, but that's another rant for another day. The mainstream media refuses to provide a balanced news report. Those of us who are more center have no choice but to turn to Fox. Start reporting the real news and maybe your viewers will come back. Did the media really believe Americans were so stupid that we wouldn't notice? Americans don't do well with idols and kings and we demand a balanced press. It must suck to be an elite journalist who gets scooped by a college dropout making 3 times your annual salary. As for the NYT, I wouldn't line a bird cage with that rag. Aren't they owned by the Mexicans now? Still paying that ridiculous rate of interest to keep their butts in business?

Thanks for posting this. I missed this one. If confirms what I have been discovering myself about the intentions of Obamas Administration. He is trying to take us down a road toward destroying the US Constitution and instituting Socialism at best and full on Communism at worst. NOT ON MY SHIFT BUDDY!!! Thanks Glenn for the hard work in exposing this blueprint for the new US. I will be diligent and I don't care who calls me names.

You want irony? I gots you some irony! Glenn Beck is a major driving force behind today's 9.12 Taxpayer March on Washington. The event logo? Stark, stylized red fists raised in unison in front of the nation's capital. I think Kim Jong Il might be Comrade Beck's art director...

Check it out at http://912dc.org/store/!

Beck is to news what the DaVinci Code is to literature. Those able to suspend their disbelief and participate in the fear/panic/anger can get a real adrenaline rush. It's like trying to avert your eyes from a train wreck, or to put down that big dish of deep fried ice cream once you've taken the first bite. We are proud Amerians....we deserve to watch and yes, to participate in, our own bread and circuses.

Beck claims that seeing a certain piece of art "just drives him crazy."

I would observe that that's not a drive, just a short putt.

The idea that J.D. Rockefeller, the epitome (pronounced "ee-pit-o-mee, Glenn) of the American capitalist, was a closet communist is laughable beyond belief. That Beck's audience is too stupid & bigoted to understand this dichotomy is the real tragedy. Oh, and the inference that the quote fragment from Isaiah 2:4 is of communist origin, well: apparently there aren't as many devout Christians watching this show as they would have us believe, otherwise they would have called this manure out for what it is.

BTW, anybody who thinks Beck is great is obviously an inbred.

But the most amusing fact revealed here is that Beck likes to keep a statue of a naked Russian man on his desk...

I read about this news, but hadn’t watched the clip until today. I stopped actively listening to Glen Beck around 38-40 seconds into it, not because of that irritating adolescent and sarcastic twang in his voice, but because he made it clear that he was not addressing anything that should be of concern to me. In fact, he made it quite clear that he is speaking only to a limited group of people.

Listen to that part in the beginning of the tape, when Beck says, “you and your wife . . .” Right there, he immediately limits his message to straight, married male Americans. He completely ignores all single men and women, straight married women, and married gay men. I suppose one might argue that he was still including married lesbian women, but we all know that they’re excluded from his audience demographics.

If his message is SO important to America, why not address all Americans? Oh. Wait . . . I see. I totally get it now! (I didn’t go to graduate school, so these deeper meanings take a while for me to process.)

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