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Targeting Nonprofits: The Tides Foundation this time — with real bullets

First on Fox. One of the impacts of last week’s media firestorm over Andrew Breitbart’s most recent smear involving doctored videos (the ACORN deception was the first) was to overshadow another important story with a Fox connection.   The shocking tale of an “anti-government” gunman determined to launch an assault on Bay Area nonprofit organizations was almost totally buried.

The Shirley Sherrod story was beginning its week-long domination of several news cycles — starting with the Breitbart smear trumpeted on Fox, followed by her cowardly firing by the Administration, and finally her total vindication by mid-week when the full video of her previously edited speech was released. Meanwhile, a political assault of another, more ominous kind, was thwarted outside Oakland, California.

San Francisco Examiner:

Byron Williams, 45, of Groveland, was apparently headed to kill people at two nonprofits in San Francisco when CHP officers made an enforcement stop of his Toyota Tundra at 11:57 p.m. Saturday on westbound Highway 580 near Harrison Street.

When the officers tried to contact Williams, a 12-minute-long gun battle ensued. Williams, armed with three guns, including a .308-caliber rifle that can penetrate ballistic body armor and vehicles, eventually surrendered and exited the vehicle…

Williams was pulled over on his way to San Francisco to shoot members the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and Tides, an organization that advocates progressive social change through philanthropy, police said Tuesday…

It’s not clear why those two organizations were targeted except that conservative media commentators often accuse them of having left-wing agendas.

San Francisco Chronicle:

A 45-year-old parolee, described by his mother as angry at left-wing politicians, opened fire on California Highway Patrol officers on an Oakland freeway early Sunday and was hit by return fire while wearing body armor, authorities said…

Williams watched the news on television and was upset by “the way Congress was railroading through all these left-wing agenda items,” his mother said…

For those unfamiliar with the Tides Foundation, it’s a philanthropic organization that has provided funding to nonprofits engaged in economic and social justice work since 1976. The ACLU, of course, has for the last 90 years carried out its mission “to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.”

Some obvious questions  arise: What “news” program was Williams watching that led him to conclude that the Tides Foundation had to be taken out in a hail of bullets? Why target the Tides Foundation? Where would he get such an idea to hit an organization little known outside the nonprofit sector?

The answer?  The odds are overwhelming that Williams had been watching the Fox News Channel.

According to research from Media Matters, since the premier of Glenn Beck’s show on January 2009, “Tides has been mentioned on 31 editions of Fox News programs, 29 of which were editions of  Beck’s show (the other two were on Sean Hannity’s program). In most of those references, Beck attacked Tides, often weaving the organization into his conspiracy theories. Two of those Beck mentions occurred during the week before Williams’ shootout.”

Only on Fox

“By contrast, since January 19, 2009, according to our Nexis search, Tides was not mentioned on ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, or PBS. Not once. This search is not perfect — Nexis does not include, for example, MSNBC’s daytime coverage. But the contrast with Beck’s coverage is stark.

If only the late historian Richard Hofstader could see the latest, and easily one of the vilest, manifestations of what he called “the paranoid style in American politics.” It’s easy to see how a paranoid personality like Williams’, when exposed to Beck’s all-encompassing world-historical narrative, might feel that his world was being turned upside down, that he had no other choice than to kill the people he been identified to him on Fox as the ones responsible for his feelings of oppression.

Indeed, Beck, the televangelist of the Tea Party movement, has aired plenty of content that could incite extremists to resort to violent means.

Last week, Beck announced that “our republic is over.”

Repeatedly over the last few months, Beck has claimed that the “progressive” policies are a form of “enslavement.”

And just who is being enslaved?  According to Beck, the problem starts with his claim that President Obama “hates white people.”

“His (Obama’s) goal is creating a new America, a new model, a model that will settle old racial scores through new social justice.”

(Obama’s) not for reparations because they don’t go far enough. We need health care. We need everybody to go to college, et cetera, et cetera. So, we have no reparations. We also have no capitalism, which leads him, in his mind, to justice — to justice. That is what we’re changing to.” (Media Matters)

If all that were not enough, Beck even labeled Brian Urlacher, the University of New Mexico football alum and Chicago Bears All-Pro linebacker, a“neo–Nazi.”

So to recap, when Byron Williams was watching Glenn Beck on Fox, he got a conspiratorial world view, complete with a long list “progressive” scapegoats to target.

So Williams got his guns and ammo. Fortunately he was stopped before he hurt anyone. How many more are out there?

For those of us in the nonprofit sector, the obvious question is, “who’s next?”

A teachable moment

Back to the Shirley Sherrod.  We learned some things this week. We were reminded that Andrew Breitbart and Glenn Beck are extremely skilled propagandists with a big megaphone at Fox We learned that their central fantasy of an all-powerful federal government is bunk.  Rather, it was craven Administration officials of that government who folded like a cheap suit in a matter of hours, panicked by a fraudulent video.

We also learned about Sherrod, an extraordinary African-American, a woman whose father was murdered by the Ku Klux Klan. Yet she overcame that personal and family trauma, an act of terrorism in America. She transcended that tragedy, didn’t run away, but instead stayed and worked for change in her community. She went on to build an distinguished career as a public servant, building on her record working for poor people, rural farmers, regardless of their color or race.  Hers is a story of reconciliation and overcoming.

Talk about a teachable moment.

Stephen Jones at DFNM has a lot more to say on the subject of Shirley Sherrod.  You ought to read it.

2 thoughts on “Targeting Nonprofits: The Tides Foundation this time — with real bullets

  1. Uh, did you forgot to mention that the KKK who murdered her father were all southern democrats?