So what do you do? Do you respond to their bizarre, inane and frequently offensive attention seeking bombast, or do you deny them the oxygen of publicity? In Britain last week, as the motor mouth wife of the Speaker of the Houses of Parliament, Sally Bercow warbled on about “life between the sheets”, and disported herself clad only in a sheet in front of Parliament; the reaction of many editors was to ignore her. Over a short period she has so cheapened the office of her husband that even the tabloid newspapers have pressed the ‘off’ button.

I thought of this when I saw some of the latest outbursts from Glenn Beck, ostensibly employed by Rupert Murdoch as some sort of hired Gauleiter on Fox TV. I say ostensibly, because Beck long ago crossed any professional line, by standing in for Sarah Palin and the other nut-cases of the gloriously miss named ‘Tea Party’. Beck, according to an en excellent BBC documentary on the Tea Party by Andrew Neil (a real journalist, by the way) manages to trouser some $30 million a year through largely shouting his mouth off and rejoicing in his own ignorance. Even Murdoch can’t be paying him that much for services rendered to stupidity, so where does the rest come from? Well, there are his ranting warm up acts for Palin, his wretched website, which doubtless he will try to flog to AoL, his lachrymose fumblings with onion in one hand, handkerchief in the other and the sort of lunacy demonstrated here, as he somehow conflates American labor unions with the Muslim Brotherhood;

“And I want you to listen to some of these demands and see if you have heard any similarities to the community here in America. Listen.

This is the revolutionary socialists [sic] in Egypt, "Glory to the martyrs, victory to the revolution. Mubarak's departure is the first step, not the last step. The country's wealth belongs to the people and must return to it."

"Glory to the martyrs. System -- down with the system. All power to the people. Victory to the revolution." Blah, blah, blah. I mean, does any of this sound like a pro-democracy, pro-freedom declaration? Not to me.

But these groups, and so many more, have organized what is called a shadow parliament. Look it up. Do your own research. We'll be talking about that in detail tomorrow and the next day, and the cobbling of these groups together.

The activists, the labor unions, the radicals -- they all came together because they can agree on one thing. The western way of life is over and each of them thinks they have the answer.”

Yeah, right, so Beck’s bastardised pidgin English probably constitutes more a of a threat to the Western way of life than the United Auto Workers, I hear you say. Sure, but the trouble is that there are lot of other crazy, not so bright, gun-toters out there, who buy into the Beck madness.

So let’s not tune in and let’s switch off? Well, that’s an option – and fortunately since I live in England and we haven’t - yet – been gifted our own version of Fox trash News, I don’t have to worry.

But just the other day a friend of mine got in touch. “Remember Professor Frances Fox Piven?” She asked. “Well Beck has been trailing her name for weeks as someone responsible for the collapse of American values, and now she is receiving death threats!” You can get a flavour of the Beck madness by watching this report on MSNBC and see Fox Piven’s measured response.

As it happens Fox Piven is a highly distinguished academic at CUNY. She is now 78 years old, and still firing on all scholarly cylinders on behalf of the poor and dispossessed of America. That is what she and her late husband are, and always have been about. As an academic she has been able to marshall serious theory and fact throughout her illustrious career in order to advance her argument. For me, it has been a great privilege to share the occasional platform with her in New York City over the years.

Beck’s monstering of Fox Piven could be dismissed as the rantings of a mad man. Even his Fox TV colleague Bill O’ Reilly thinks he is cracked. But this hasn’t just been a one off – Beck has repeatedly turned on Fox Piven, and here is where it really gets interesting; eight out of nine of his targets, including George Soros, are Jewish. “These people” raves Beck are responsible for the “Era of the big lie”. The gormless Beck asks “Just who is the intelligent minority?” (Well not you Glenn Beck, of that we can be sure.)

I asked Frances Fox Piven what her reaction was to the death threats that have followed in the wake of the Beck ravings. Typically, and in calm, almost reflective mode, she had this to say;

“It's tempting I think to be amused by the strange stories that Glen Beck creates on his chalkboard.  But the stories gain traction with people who are made anxious by the large changes that have overtaken the United States, including the election of a black president and the increasing racial diversity of the population, deindustrialization and the decline of American power abroad, and cultural changes in sexual and family norms.  By telling simple and paranoid fairy tales that trace these big and complex changes to the machinations of particular people, Beck makes the changes comprehensible in a way, and also makes the people who are presumably responsible the targets of his listeners' frustration and outrage. 

This is dangerous for democratic politics, partly because it is utterly irrational, and partly because it is an effort to extort silence from leading voices on the Left.”

That last line says it all. It is in essence what the Murdoch Empire is all about; monopoly, control, dumbing down and a complete collapsing of all voices and forces that refuse to surrender to the small minded, market driven view of the Murdoch Empire. Rupert and son James know exactly what they are doing, because dear reader, they once called themselves “Socialists”.

But Glenn Beck is in a league of his own. When people like him are able to whip up the lumpen white dispossessed, and drive at least some of them to potentially reach for their guns – as happened recently in Arizona with deadly effect - they pose a very real threat to public safety. In Britain Beck would probably be prosecuted successfully for inciting violence and have been sent to serve his time at Her Majesty’s Pleasure. That would have given him something to cry about.

In truth, Beck follows from a long line of Jew and red baiting bullies, from Julius Streicher to Joseph Goebbels. Lacking the oratorical skills, Beck isn’t as bright as Goebbels, although his views wouldn’t have been out of place in Streicher’s ‘Der Sturmer’, the Nazi street rag that whipped up hatred and death threats against Jews and reds – and prepared the ground for the death camps.

Many Americans, including many Republican Americans of my acquaintance, scratch their heads and ask; what is becoming of public discourse in our country? Why is it so full of hate? The answer lies with people like Glenn Beck, a ghastly, fascistic fool of a propagandist whom Rupert Murdoch is happy to employ on his news channel.

Wake up America! Wake up, before these people have you by the throat.