On July 18, an ex-felon named Byron Williams was pulled over by the CHP (California Highway Patrol) while driving on I-580 in Northern California. Apparently intoxicated, heavily armed, attired in body armor and wielding "a-high powered hunting rifle, a pistol and a shotgun," Williams opened fire at the officers as they approached his vehicle. Within minutes, eight more officers arrived. What then ensued was a five to eight-minute shootout in which an estimated 60 rounds were fired and at least two officers were injured by flying glass. Suffering multiple gunshot wounds himself, Williams was eventually subdued, arrested and then hospitalized.
Williams reportedly told investigators that "his intention was to start a revolution by traveling to San Francisco and killing people of importance at the Tides Foundation and the ACLU." According to Williams' mother, her son "watched the news on television and was upset by the way Congress was railroading through all these left-wing agenda items."
Not surprisingly, this story did not make it into the New York Times, Washington Post or Ft. Laud. Sun Sentinel. It was obviously deemed a story of only passing local interest for folks in the Bay Area. I learned about it in an email I received from
Drummond Pike an old and dear college friend, who is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Tides Foundation. Drummond and I were thick as thieves back in the late '60s at the University of California's Adlai Stevenson College, where we engaged in a lot of campus (read: anti-war) politics. Drummond is, without question, the most engaged idealist I've ever known. At the same time, he is a total political animal; he knows how to get things done.
Drummond graduated a year before me, became a Fellow at the Eagleton Institute of Politics (Rutgers University), went to work for a Washington, D.C. advocacy group called the "Center for Community Change," (yes Drummond, I do remember Ralph Caprio!) and eventually went back home to "The City" (S.F.) and created the Tides Foundation. (I became an Eagleton Fellow the year after Drummond, then went to work for Westinghouse Broadcasting, and eventually went off to rabbinic school.)
Few people are aware of the Tides Foundation, despite the fact that its has been engaged in truly important work for a long time. For more than 30 years, its mission has been "Working with people . . . to make the world a better place." Over the years, Tides has "partner[ed] with philanthropists, foundations, activists and organizations across the country and across the globe to promote economic justice, robust democratic processes, and the opportunity to live in a healthy and sustainable environment where human rights are preserved and protected." For those of us who were privileged to know and work with Drummond back in college, it comes as no surprise what he has been doing all these years; he has always been the sort of person who could not sit idly by without doing everything in his power to make the world a better, most just and equitable place. In creating the Tides Foundation, Drummond found a way of making his ideals real.
So how did it happen that Bryon Williams -- an obviously unstable ex-con -- came to be aware of the Tides Foundation in the first place? And what in the world made him believe it was essential to "kill people of importance" at Tides (and the ACLU) if America was to be delivered from the hands of the far-left?
In two words: "Glenn Beck."
According to a Nexus search undertaken by Media Matters for America, since his television program premiered on Fox back on January 19, 2009, Beck -- and Beck alone -- has brought up the Tides Foundation no fewer than 31 times. Moreover, the same Nexis search showed that during this same year-and-a-half period, Tides was not mentioned even once on any ABC, NBC, CBS, MSNBC or PBS newscast.
And precisely what is it that Beck had to say about Tides and Drummond Pike while working his by now infamous chalk board? Why that Tides and its subsidiary groups are at the epicenter of the left-wing revolution against America;
that it is peopled with members of the "Weather Underground" and are indoctrinating children to believe all sorts of wicked things, including that Capitalism is evil. In this latter case, Beck told his viewers, "Our Children are being indoctrinated and it must be exposed. It must end because history has shown us where it can lead. Kids in elementary schools are being taught about cross-dressing, that they shouldn't listen to their parents all the time because their parents don't always know what's best. They're taught that capitalism is evil. (2/5/10). During another broadcast (2/20/09), Beck demanded of his viewers, "How could you possibly sit on the sidelines when we keep seeing the indoctrination attempts on our children? The anti-Capitalist "Story of Stuff" that we showed you this video
[sic]. Its made by Tides. This audience knows who Tides is." (N.B. "The Story of Stuff" is a delightful series hosted by Allegheny College that teaches and sensitizes children about things like recycling, clean air, clean water and . . . peace. Its videos are currently available in 11 languages ranging from English, French and German to Arabic, Hebrew, Mandarin and Thai.) Moreover, Beck has described Tides as "A major source of revenue for some of the the most extreme groups on the left." [5/21/09; 5/13/09]
(Media Matters for America has the full listing of all 31 times that Beck has discussed the Tides Foundation on his television program.
Should it then come as a total surprise when a fellow like Bryon Williams -- disturbed though he may be -- decides that he must personally do something about Tides and its leadership? After all, hasn't he been told time and again that it/they are largely responsible for much of what ails America? That they are a malevolent cancer infecting our very society? What do chatterboxes like Beck expect devotees like Williams to do? To sit back and say, "Boy, that was entertaining!" Or, "Gee, that fellow Pike's another Joe Stalin; I hope to G-d that the Lord will take care of him while I go get a beer!"
Beck and his colleagues will tell you that they bear virtually no responsibility for the actions of their devotees; that their words and "news stories" should not be viewed as provocations. They are nothing more, nothing less than the exercise of their First Amendment right to free speech. Indeed, on his July 29 program, Beck stated in mock disbelief, "So I expose the Tides Foundation and show you what it is, and I am now responsible for terrorist attacks." At the same time, Beck has been finding it increasingly necessary to balance his violent rhetoric with warnings against violence. The question then becomes, if, as he claims, he bears no responsibility for the possible violent actions of his viewers/listeners, why then does he feel the need to tell them not to engage in violence?
There are an awful lot of chatterboxes walking the same path as Glenn Beck; men and women who attach disclaimers to all the violent rhetoric they spew. Perhaps they should consider the following:
If you have to disclaim, perhaps you shouldn't declaim.
©2010 Kurt F. Stone