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Beck Doubles Down On His Debunked “Cash For Clunkers” Conspiracy Theory

Reported by Ellen - August 4, 2009 -

After his “the government will take over your computer if you go to the ‘Cash for Clunkers’ website” conspiracy theory was soundly debunked by liberal bloggers, Glenn Beck and his guests concluded that he was right, after all. The proof? That the government decided to change the possibly misleading language that led him to the erroneous conclusion in the first place. With video.

As Chris Thomas, of Trueslant.com, noted, the boiler plate disclaimer that Beck cited on Friday (7/31/09) as “proof” that the government would take over anyone’s computer who visited the “Cash for Clunkers” website, cars.gov, was hardly the alarming scenario Beck made it out to be. Thomas wrote, “The disclaimer does not give the government permission to look at the files on the user’s system but rather warns the user that the government will be looking at the files on the application’s system (my emphasis), specifically those files submitted by the user. Such text is boilerplate on many government web applications.”

Furthermore, while Beck gave the impression in his original segment that any casual user going to cars.gov would have his computer commandeered by the feds, the fact is that the federal disclaimer, which basically states that all information used in its application becomes the property of the federal government and is not subject to any privacy laws, applies only to dealers approved for the program and only to information used in that application.

But rather than admit that he erred, Beck put on an even bigger tin foil hat. “The Obama administration is filled with a bunch of crazy, rightwing, paranoid nut jobs,” Beck began as he opened his daily editorial, “The One Thing,” “Because that’s what I was called all weekend long,” the suddenly sensitive hate monger said.

Beck exclaimed that he was filling with hope over his readers’ leads provided to him, just like the one he got on Friday. Forgetting that he had originally suggested that all viewers’ computers were at risk, Beck now acknowledged the issue pertained to dealers, only. “When the dealers log on to their ‘cash for clunkers’ program, the website cars.gov/dealers prompted them with this warning: This application provides access to the DoT CARS system. When logged on to the CARS system, your computer is considered a Federal computer system and is the property of the U.S. Government. Any or all uses of the system and all files on the system may be intercepted, monitored, recorded, copied, audited, inspected and disclosed to authorize CARS, DoT and law enforcement personnel as well as authorized officials of other agencies, both domestic and foreign. By using this system, the user consents to such interception, monitoring, recording, copying, auditing, inspection and disclosure at the discretion of CARS or the DOT personnel.”

What Beck didn’t mention is that when you read the disclaimer in full, as True/Slant's Thomas did, the word “system” pretty clearly refers to the computer application, not a dealer’s entire computer. Unless you're a shock jock on the lookout for new conspiracies.

“Here’s the good news,” Beck said. He had received a statement from the administration saying, “The security warning on the CARS.gov dealer support page that stated computers logged into the system were considered property of the Federal Government has been removed. We are working to revise the language. The language was posted on the portion of the website accessible by car dealers and not the general public.”

“What a bunch of – “ Beck concluded, without bothering to investigate a thing.

According to Beck, this proved not that the government wanted to make it perfectly clear that it was not taking over anyone’s entire computer system but that he was right all along. “Apparently, we must have a decent point, otherwise why would the government remove the old statement? Liberal bloggers spent another dateless weekend defending this crap and then the government agreed with us and changed the wording.”

I hate to burst Glenn’s self-inflated balloon but the government never said it agreed with him. It said the language needed revising.

But that wasn’t enough self-importance for Beck. He went on to crow that “White House policy was changed — not by me — but by one single person.” Yeah, one single person who forwarded an erroneous tidbit of information that was similarly misinterpreted by Beck. And then, after the White House realized that the use of the word “system” might possibly be misleading, it decided to change its language. News flash for Beck: Changing the language on a disclaimer is not the same as changing a policy.

But after declaring that the White House had changed its policy, Beck and Judge Andrew Napolitano decided that maybe what was REALLY going on is that the Obama administration is “still entering computers even though they don’t have the warning up there.”

“Remember the law lets them do it,” Napolitano speculated, referring to The Patriot Act.

“How do we know that they’re not doing it? All we know is, they took the disclaimer, they took the warning down.” Napolitano continued speculating. At no point in the segment did he seem to feel the need to verify any of his hypotheses. Nor did he ever emphasize that he was conjecturing without any hard facts about the matter, at least none that he offered.

“How can we find that out?” Beck asked.

Rather than ask anyone in the administration, Beck brought on a forensics expert, John Lucich. .

“I don’t want to go down the paranoid express here,” Beck claimed, laughably. I mean, not only does he have a history of doing just that, but he was obviously in the midst of doing just that right then and there. “I don’t want to get into this,” he began. And then got exactly into what he claimed he didn’t want to get into. “Do either of you guys believe that the government is right now getting into computers and monitoring computers?”

“I absolutely believe that they are,” Napolitano said. Once again, no evidence was offered to back up that belief.

“I believe it’s their intention,” Lucich said.

And don’t tell me it wasn’t Beck’s intention to go down this road, that his guests were not pre-screened on the issue and that he didn’t know what their opinions were.

“They’re trying to get you to waive your rights,” Lucich continued, though he never offered what rights were being waived by whom and under which circumstances and whether any of them applied to the Cash for Clunkers program.

Beck became a vision of naïve surprise, “That’s a fishing expedition!”

“They are hacking into our computers!” Napolitano added, also without bothering to specify how this bore on Cash for Clunkers.

Suddenly, Beck forgot that he didn’t want to “go down the paranoid express” and turned directly onto it. “I’m convinced that this government, this administration, through these czars especially, they’re building something, piece by piece… And I can’t for the life of me understand what they were trying to get at here that makes any kind of sense.”

Beck asked, “Would this warning… allow it to be… some sort of a worm? …Does this warning allow them to come out from that dealer’s computer and say, ‘Oh, well you’re networked, you’re part of this one, too?’” It was a point he’d come back to later.

But first, he went back to the self-congratulations. After noting that no other media outlet had carried the story (maybe because there wasn’t any story! Because, as Beck himself pointed out, most bloggers thought his outlandishness was the story) “Obviously,” Beck continued, the administration “got their hand caught in the cookie jar or just based on this one tip.” (suggesting, of course, that he who had had the prescience to follow that tip had snagged the administration.)

“Here’s the question for the White House, most respectfully,” Napolitano added. “You’ve taken the warning down. Have you stopped getting into the dealer’s computers?”

For a group that was so concerned about this issue, it’s astounding that nobody had, apparently, made any attempt to contact the White House to find out what kinds of information it was actually gathering from the CARS program. But of course, that didn’t stop the gang from speculating (without any additional facts) further.

“I read a lot of liberal blogs this weekend because I was looking for this story,” Beck said. Yeah, and I’m sure the fact that you were roundly ridiculed had nothing to do with your interest. “Why is this the only show that talks about a lot of these issues?” he asked his voice rising with melodramatic “wonder.”

Claiming again that he didn’t want to be “conspiratorial,” Beck began orating, “I think that hurts us as a nation. We must be rooted in the truth! But when nobody is asking the questions that seem logical, of course you’re gonna get conspiracy theories. “

So, Mr. “I Love My Country So Much I’d Cry For It,” why did you settle for rank speculation from guests without any real information about what’s going on instead of asking those “logical” questions of people who might be in a position to provide some real answers, answers that might be rooted in the truth?

But lack of hard facts didn’t seem to bother Beck much. He was busy spinning his next conspiracy theory and with no reluctance: That anyone who gets into a dealer’s computer would be offering up his information to the government.

Lucich further suggested (also without any evidence) that the administration might be “testing the waters” to see how far they can go with this invasion of computers/privacy.

Beck looked lost in thought. “These are questions that I have never asked myself before because I’ve always been in a position of trust, but when you see our next segment with the czars – America, when you see the next segment… it’s not crazy to ask questions… So is it crazy to say, ‘Well, what are they doing with our privacy act?’ I don’t think so.”

Then, getting wound up for a dramatic end to the segment, Beck leaned his face into the camera and yelled, “Damn it! We’re Americans! We’re not Democrats, we’re not Republicans, we’re not independents. We’re Americans!” Sure we are. We just learn every day, through suggestion and innuendo, in nearly every segment on Fox – Glenn Beck's included - to hate and fear Democrats.