NPR FOR THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When You Can’t

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In the Oct. 18 issue of The New Yorker, historian Sean Wilentz examines “how extremist ideas held at bay for decades inside the Republican Party have exploded anew — and why, this time, party leaders have done virtually nothing to challenge those ideas, and a great deal to abet them.” Fox News host Glenn Beck addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 20. Historian Sean Wilentz says “there are polls that Tea Party members respect Beck more so than anyone else, even Sarah Palin, and that they consider [Beck] not as an entertainer — as they describe Rush Limbaugh — but as an educator. … People are believing that he is really trustworthy.” Wilentz, who teaches at Princeton University, argues that the rhetoric expressed by both conservative broadcaster Glenn Beck and the Tea Party is nothing new — and is rooted in an extremist ideology that has been around since the Cold War, a view that the Republican Party is now embracing. “I think what’s happening is the Republican Party is willing to chase after whatever it can to get the party back — to get power back,” he tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross. “This is what’s happening in the Republican Party, so instead of drawing lines, they’re jumping over fences to look like they’re in the good graces of these Tea Party types.” Wilentz says Beck, who has emerged as a unifying figure and intellectual guide for the Tea Party movement, finds fodder for his Fox News Channel and syndicated radio shows in the ideas espoused by the John Birch Society, an ultraconservative political group founded in 1958 that, Wilentz writes, “became synonymous with right-wing extremism.” MORE

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