Bloody Monday: Glenn Beck, FOX News, Gov. Jan Brewer and the Louisville Massacre Anniversary

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Bloody Monday: Glenn Beck, FOX News, Gov. Jan Brewer and the Louisville Massacre Anniversary

FOX News host Glenn Beck's reportedly German (Catholic) immigrant ancestors would be ashamed.

As we learn more about Beck's inciting rhetoric against the Tides Foundation--his latest liberal obsession--and a troubled man's foiled armed assault on the liberal foundation in Oakland, and as the fear-mongering in Arizona against Mexican immigrants by Gov. Jan Brewer reaches absurd levels of "terrorist attacks" and "drug mule" accusations and Neo Nazi border patrols, I can't help but be reminded of the Bloody Monday riots that took the lives of at least two dozen immigrants and Americans in Louisville on August 6, 1855.

Beck's German ancestors would have reminded the TV host what happened this week in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1855, when a nationally prominent newspaper editor repeatedly let loose the hounds of hatred and fomented what would become the worst anti-immigrant massacre in US history--of German and Irish Catholics.

A Connecticut Yankee turned Louisville Journal newspaper editor, George Prentice was considered the best known commentator in the nation, according to the New York Times, who described him as a "bitter, unrelenting political foe, and several times had street fights." And, as the great editorial voice of the anti-immigrant Know Nothing party, Prentice relished attacking the "foreign hordes" of Germans and Irish that poured into the Midwest. Fearful of an election upset, he penned a series of editorials that would unleash the wrath of hired thugs on Louisville's darkest and bloodiest day.

On the eve of the riots, Prentice declared: "Let the foreigners keep their elbows to themselves to-day at the polls. Americans are you all ready? We think we hear you shout 'ready,' 'well fire!' and may heaven have mercy on the foe."

Fueled by rumors and booze, drunken mobs roamed the German and Irish wards the next day with rifles and muskets and pitchforks and torches, leading to street fights, leaving behind the smoldering remains of destruction, strewn and burned bodies, and at least 22 dead--most historians place the deathtoll much higher. In the process, hundreds, if not thousands of immigrants and sympathizers fled Louisville.

Now, as Eric Boehlert of Media Matters writes: Glenn Beck's Incendiary Angst Is Dangerously Close to Having a Body Count.

As Dana Milbank wrote in the Washington Post on Sunday:

Beck has at times spoken against violence, but he more often forecasts it, warning that "it is only a matter of time before an actual crazy person really does something stupid." Most every broadcast has some violent imagery: "The clock is ticking. . . . The war is just beginning. . . . Shoot me in the head if you try to change our government. . . . You have to be prepared to take rocks to the head. . . . The other side is attacking. . . . There is a coup going on. . . . Grab a torch! . . . Drive a stake through the heart of the bloodsuckers. . . . They are taking you to a place to be slaughtered. . . . They are putting a gun to America's head. . . . Hold these people responsible."

Beck has prophesied darkly to his millions of followers that we are reaching "a point where the people will have exhausted all their options. When that happens, look out."

Back in Louisville, one of my favorite cities in the nation, the opposing Courier newspaper called out Prentice's violence-inciting words that disgraced the great city: "We fully agree with the Journal that there is a terrible responsibility somewhere, and that no language is too strong for its condemnation. And the Journal knows full well where this responsibility belongs. To its incendiary articles continued day after day before the election, and its violent appeals on the morning of the election, articles and appeals calculated to bring into active exercise all bad passions of the human heart."

Toward the end of his life, the famed Prentice spoke publicly about his regret in stirring anti-immigrant violence. Within a decade of the riot, Louisville elected a German-American mayor.

Will Glenn Beck, FOX News and Gov. Brewer have the same regrets--and terrible responsibility--in the future?

Jeff Biggers

Jeff Biggers is the author of The United States of Appalachia, and more recently, Reckoning at Eagle Creek: The Secret Legacy of Coal in the Heartland (The Nation/Basic Books). Follow him on twitter: @JeffRBiggers

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