It’s true that Fox can break legitimate stories, as it did with ACORN. Yet, for every such story, it seems to push many that are not legitimate—that in fact seem lunatic. During last year’s presidential campaign last year, for instance, Sean Hannity ran an hour-long special, “Obama & Friends: History of Radicalism,” that offered a series of allegations and half-truths about Obama’s supposed ties to Louis Farrakhan, Muslim fundamentalists, black-power advocates, and Bill Ayers. In one especially egregious segment, a writer with a history of making anti-Semitic sentiments claimed that Obama, in deciding to work as a community organizer in Chicago after college, had probably been recruited for the job by Ayers, who was seeking to test his suitability for joining his radical political movement to bring about a “socialist revolution” in America. Since Obama has taken office, Hannity (having dispensed with the services of Alan Colmes, his long-time fig-leaf liberal sidekick) devotes virtually every minute of every show to bitter criticism of Obama and the Democrats. Glenn Beck has been even more unhinged, claiming that:

* Obama “has a deep-seated hatred for white people”;
* the White House’s support for “net neutrality” is an effort by Obama to control the Internet;
* the president’s back-to-school speech to students in September urging them to succeed and persist in their studies was an exercise in Mao-like indoctrination;
* Harvard Law professor Cass Sunstein, Obama’s nominee to head the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs—widely regarded as a centrist—is an anti-gun, anti-hunting, pro-animal-rights extremist;
* Obama’s use of “czars” is part of a determined effort to trample the American system of government;
* “Socialism is being shoved down our throats”;
* “We are really truly stepping beyond socialism and we’re starting to look at fascism.”

Not just fascism, but Nazism. Beck’s reasoning is so ludicrous that you have to read it to believe it:

Let me just explain what happened in Nazi Germany. Remember it was National Socialism. We’re talking about nationalizing the banks. We’re also putting in socialized programs. National. Socialism. At first in Nazi Germany, everybody was so panicked, they were so freaked, remember, Don’t take any time to think about it, we just have to do, do, do. First all the big companies and big capitalists in Germany said, Oh goodness, there’s a savior — we’ll do that, yes! It didn’t take too long before — like, here in America, Goldman Sachs — they started to see the writing on the wall and went, Whoa, whoa, whoa, you guys are getting out of control here — what are you doing? They couldn’t get out of it fast enough. Unfortunately for those in Germany, you could never go back. I don’t know if this is the system we’re headed towards or not, where they’re not gonna let you out. But let me tell you something, you don’t want to play this game — this is becoming extraordinarily dangerous.

For an appreciation of Beck’s sheer nuttiness, though, I urge people to watch this clip of Beck interviewing David Horowitz, the former left-wing-conspiracy-theorist turned right-wing-conspiracy-theorist. On it, Horowitz, with Beck’s prodding, describes the existence of a vast shadow party organized by George Soros and made up of billionaires, street radicals, radical unions with a Leninist perspective, John Podesta and the Center for American Progress, pro-Cuba activitists, former communists, and a host of other subversives and insurrectionists, all “seeking to overthrow this system and to create a socialist future.”

Beck: “Do you think the President of the United States Barack Obama has that agenda—”

Horowitz: “Absolutely. I have no doubt about it.”

These examples could be multiplied many times over. And let’s not forget Fox’s tireless promotion of the virulently anti-Obama tea parties last April.

Michael Massing is a contributing editor to CJR and the author of Now They Tell Us: The American Press and Iraq.