I don't know why Fox News' Glenn Beck, railing against Barack Obama again on his show Thursday, felt the need to reference the 1968 movie "Planet of the Apes," but since I've been instructed it's bad form to call the folks on Fox "racist," it can't be racism.Beck may not have intended any racial subtext to his remark, but as Walsh notes, it's there none the less. And Beck has a history of making remarks that echo extremist ideas. This is probably a consequence of his traveling in the intellectual borderlands where movement conservatism merges and mingles with the extremist fringes.
Nope. No racism there. Beck didn't mean anything by the reference to "apes." Don't be oversensitive. How could Glenn Beck know that you can find "Planet of the Apes: A four year Obama survival guide" on the white supremacist site Stormfront.org? Or countless Google images and blog posts comparing Michelle Obama to the character "Dr. Zira"? Or the fact that, frankly, you can't swing a cat on the Internet without coming across some comparison of Obama's political rise to the apes' ascendance in, yes, "Planet of the Apes" (but some of them are careful to state upfront that race has nothing to do with the comparison!)
And of course Beck never read "Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America," where historian Rick Perlstein places "Planet of the Apes" in the panorama of racial paranoia and fear that defined early 1968. In the wake of bloody Newark riots, armed white vigilantes patrolled the streets, while across the country, 5,000 Black Panthers celebrated the birthday of Huey Newton, in jail for killing an Oakland cop, where H. Rap Brown saluted Newton "as the only living revolutionary," and asked, "How many white folks did you kill today?" One book advised families on how to defend themselves "as the crime rate continues to soar in the Great Society jungle." And, Perlstein added, "A new movie, 'Planet of the Apes,' imagined what life would be like if whites found themselves a subject population."
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