Glenn Beck, anti-communist art critic?

Rockefeller Center in New York City. Last night conservative commentator Glenn Beck told viewers of his Fox News program that the art in the plaza was 'fascist' and 'communist.'

Let no one call Glenn Beck a one-trick pony.

Over the past few years, Beck has worn many hats, only a few of them constructed from tin foil: Ardent opponent of President Barack Obama. Pal of Palin. High-pitched radio host nonpareil. Notoriously emotional prognosticator. Best-selling author. Self-described Libertarian. Leader of the crusade against ACORN.

Now, Glenn Beck is an art critic. Last night on Fox News, Beck launched a lengthy and rambling investigation of the "communist" art splayed across the face of Rockefeller Center in New York City. (Video below.) In short order, he went on to accuse John D. Rockefeller, whose family developed the plaza, of supporting communism and fascism. (Apparently one can believe in both at once.)

In case you don't watch a lot of television, let us sketch this out a little for you. Rockefeller Center is home to MSNBC, which airs "The Rachel Maddow Show" and "Countdown with Keith Olbermann." Olbermann and Maddow are progressives. Beck is not. By questioning the decoration of the plaza -- a major New York City landmark, beloved by tourists of all political stripes -- he is also questioning the mores of the men and women who work nearby.

Fair enough. That's cable television for you. On to a bigger question: Does Beck know what he's talking about?

Absolutely not, says Christopher Knight, an art critic (a real one) for the Los Angeles Times. Beck was as "nutty as usual," Knight wrote:

He pointed to a portrait of Lenin in Mexican master Diego Rivera's destroyed Rockefeller lobby mural, "Man at the Crossroads," but forgot to mention that old John D. had the mural removed because of it. (Facts are stubborn things -- even more stubborn than demagoguery.) With comedy stylings like that, Beck is turning out to be the Harold Harby of our day.

Who was Harold Harby? A Los Angeles city councilman in the early 1950s, Harby took up propaganda-arms with a paranoid group of right-wing loonies called the Society for Sanity in Art. They made it their patriotic duty to search out Communist symbols they just knew were hidden in that weird, postwar abstract art.

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