Saturday, March 24, 2012

Republican Racism Example #45: Glenn Beck - The Mendacity Of A Dope

In the previous post (see http://republicanracism.blogspot.com/2012/03/republican-racism-example-44-glenn-beck.html), I discussed how former Fox News and CNN Headline News host Glenn Beck falsely smeared slain teenager Trayvon Martin as a criminal on his “news” wesbite The Blaze.

Such a cowardly attack on a recently murdered African American youth, shot while walking peacefully in his father’s neighborhood carrying nothing more dangerous than a bag of Skittles and a glass of ice tea, is a run-of-the-mill smear for Beck.  This carnival barker – a former “shock jock” who once made a harassing on-air phone call to the wife of a radio rival to make fun of her recent miscarriage  (see http://mediamatters.org/blog/200909220037) – has built his shabby career by playing on the paranoid, apocalyptic fears of black and brown people of his frightened white audience.   He is a racist demagogue of the type not seen in the American mainstream since the days of segregation.  



 Glenn Beck: A shabby career built on playing to the paranoid, apocalyptic fears of his racist audience. (Photo from http://hastingsnonviolence.blogspot.com/2011/07/glenn-beck-needs-shu.html).

While most of the world watched in horror as federal and state government incompetence allowed thousands of mostly black victims die following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Beck spat on the graves of the dead in his TV and radio broadcasts, deriding the victims as “scumbags.”  On his radio show September 9, 2005 (in a diatribe in which he also said he hated the survivors of those slain in the 9-11 terrorist attacks) Beck delved into wildly inaccurate stereotypes of the black Katrina survivors housed in Houston’s Astrodome (where they were relocated because the Superdome in New Orleans had become unsafe.) 


“Let me be real honest with you. I don't think anybody on talk radio -- I don't think anybody in their right mind is going to say this out loud -- but I wonder if I'm the only one that feels this way. Yesterday, when I saw the ATM cards being handed out, the $2,000 ATM cards, and they were being handed out at the Astrodome. And they actually had to close the Astrodome and seal it off for a while because there was a near-riot trying to get to these ATM cards . . .  When you are rioting for these tickets, or these ATM cards . . . and this is horrible to say, and I wonder if I'm alone in this -- you know it took me about a year to start hating the 9-11 victims' families? . . . But the second thought I had when I saw these people and they had to shut down the Astrodome and lock it down, I thought: I didn't think I could hate victims faster than the 9-11 victims.
These guys -- you know it's really sad. We're not hearing anything about Mississippi. We're not hearing anything about Alabama. We're hearing about the victims in New Orleans. This is a 90,000-square-mile disaster site, New Orleans is 181 square miles. A hundred and -- 0.2 percent of the disaster area is New Orleans! And that's all we're hearing about, are the people in New Orleans. Those are the only ones we're seeing on television are the scumbags -- and again, it's not all the people in New Orleans. Most of the people in New Orleans got out! It's just a small percentage of those who were left in New Orleans, or who decided to stay in New Orleans, and they're getting all the attention. It's exactly like the 9-11 victims' families. There's about 10 of them that are spoiling it for everybody.”  (Listen at http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/200509090003).










Hurricane Katrina survivors: Glenn Beck called them "scumbags."  His fans kept listening to him.  (Photos from http://junctionhill.k12.mo.us/denisknight/Severe%20Weather/Katrina%20Pictures.html).

Needless to see, Beck’s  depictionof Katrina survivors “rioting” for ATM cards is utterly false, as fabricated as his website’s accusation that Trayvon Martin may have been suspended from school for sexual assault.  An honest account of what happened in the Astrodome can be found in Lemuel A. Moyé’s moving 2006 account Face to Face With Katrina Survivors; A First Responders Tribute. 

On his April 27, 2006 radio broadcast, Beck characterized undocumented workers as terrorists or too criminal, lazy or stupid to make a living in their “dirtbag” country Mexico.  As Beck ranted to his audience:

“How is it that I can be painted as somebody who is intolerant of people that are different than me? How is it that I can be painted as somebody who just hates Mexicans when the cornerstone of what my problem on illegal immigration is they're breaking the law and they're not alone in doing it. The people who are really breaking the law are the companies that are trying to get rich on the -- you know, let me ask you something. Somebody comes across the border in the middle of the night, why are they doing that? Really, three reasons: One, they're terrorists; two, they're escaping the law; or three, they're hungry. They can't make a living in their own dirtbag country. Well, how could I possibly want to hurt the people who are hungry, who want a better life? How can I possibly demonize those people? I can't. So, now I say, "Hey, we need these laborers over here. It helps them." No, it doesn't. What are the jobs Americans won't take? I'll tell you what those jobs are. Those are the jobs where you're picking tomatoes for below minimum wage, and you're working in conditions that are illegal for everybody else to work in. That's the jobs that Americans won't take, and we shouldn't give them to Mexicans. We shouldn't give those jobs to people who are coming here just because they're trying to put food on the table. That's obscene. Just so you can have a cheaper meal, just so I can have a cheaper box of strawberries? It's obscene. You wanna solve the immigration [problem]? You know it and I know it. You put up a giant fence. You stop the people who are coming here because they're criminals or they want to do us harm.” (See http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/200604280003)

Mexico has a population of more than 113 million and Beck dismisses that sea of humanity as a “dirtbag country.”  And he wonders why he “can be painted as somebody who is intolerant of people that are different” than him?   Like any scoundrel, Beck loves wrapping himself in the flag and hiding behind the Bible as he spews his hate speech.  Perhaps he ought to reflect on this verse, 1 John 3:10:

“By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.”

Or try Matthew 12:37:

“For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.”

That Beck does not love his darker brothers is more than evident from his words.  Beck not only spewed contempt for Mexicans, but Nigerians.  In 2006, the always cash-strapped Nigerian government struggled with ways to prevent a threatened deadly outbreak of Avian flu.    The government recorded radio jingles as one way to provide potentially life-saving information for the audience.  This provoked nothing but derision from Beck on his Premiere Radio Network show.  The host mocked the intelligence of Africa’s most populous nation.  Beck said:

“By the way, there's another related bird-death story, this one coming out of Nigeria.
Nigeria is actually thinking that, you know, they need to come up with a way to educate people on how not get the bird flu. Well the only way you get the bird flu is if you're raising birds, and you're, like, touching, you know, chicken crap. You touch chicken crap, and you get the bird flu. Hello. I mean, how hard is that? They've actually resorted to radio jingles. And they are trying to teach -- I mean, are we this stupid? Are we as dumb as Nigeria? If it comes over here, do we have to have a stupid radio jingle to teach you how not to get the bird flu?”  (See http://irvingblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2011/12/glenn-becks-new-show-will-air.html).

Beck hates more than other nations with dark-skinned people.  Ironically for a man who habitually compares his political opponents to Nazis and Hitler, he actually repeatedly promoted the writings of 1930s Hitler-sympathizing, anti-Semitic author Elizabeth Dilling in  radio and television broadcasts.  As Media Matters for America revealed, “Dilling visited Germany in the late 1930s, and attended Nazi party meetings and praised Adolf Hitler's leadership. She also spoke at rallies hosted by U.S. Nazi organizations after the outbreak of World War II. Following the war, she leveled anti-Semitic attacks against several U.S. presidents, calling Dwight Eisenhower ‘Ike the Kike,’ attacking Richard Nixon for his ‘service to the synagogue,’ and calling John F. Kennedy's New Frontier program the ‘Jew frontier.’”   When Dilling’s extensive record of anti-Semitism became public knowledge, Beck refused to apologize for praising her books. (See http://mediamatters.org/research/201008260006 and http://mediamatters.org/blog/201006070018).


Elizabeth Dilling was a Jew hater, Hitler admirer and her conspiracy-minded books are some of Glenn Beck's favorites.  (Photo from http://www.google.com/imgres?q=Elizabeth+Dilling+photo&hl=en&client=safari&sa=X&rls=en&biw=1368&bih=631&tbm=isch&prmd=imvnso&tbnid=nGmm1ugY5e02SM:&imgrefurl=http://www.life.com/celebrity-pictures/50566351/elizabeth-dilling&docid=UzYv7ZoBZveBLM&imgurl=http://cache2.asset-cache.net/xc/50566351.jpg%253Fv%253D1%2526c%253DIWSAsset%2526k%253D2%2526d%253DE41C9FE5C4AA0A14ED8B68A5136BB21CEEA60CCED857CDAD77AB7D87CBDE2433B01E70F2B3269972&w=409&h=594&ei=_otuT6bVL6q42wXEi4jyAQ&zoom=1)


During his pervious incarnation as a Top-40 disc jockey in the 1990s, he specialized in crude ethnic impersonations, portraying Chinese Americans as being unable to pronounce “Rs,” once playing a gong when an Asian listener phoned in.  As a shock jock, he laughed  and joked when police fatally shot unarmed African American men.  After the death of one black man shot by police in East Haven, Connecticut --  Malik Jones -- Beck went after the dead man’s family, ridiculing Jones’ mother as being on crack.  (For more on the controversial Jones shooting, see http://www.nhregister.com/articles/2010/10/22/news/doc4cc106b10815f199528882.txt). 

As Alexander Zaitchik writes on the Southern Poverty Law Center website:

“During his first talk radio stint in Tampa, he often referred to the Rev. Jesse Jackson as ‘the stinking king of the race lords.’ Most recently, Beck has worked to resuscitate the names of famously anti-civil rights figures from the history of his adopted Mormon faith. He has respectfully played tapes of Ezra Taft Benson, who thought Martin Luther King was a communist agent out to destroy the Mormon Church (and who once wrote the foreward to a book of race hate whose cover illustration featured the severed, bloody head of an African American). Beck has also implored his viewers to read the ‘divinely inspired’  books of W. Cleon Skousen, another John Birch Society fantasist who believed that the civil rights movement was part of a worldwide Communist (and, later, ‘New World Order’) conspiracy.”  (See http://www.splcenter.org/blog/2010/08/24/the-sick-farce-of-glenn-becks-restoring-honor-rally/). 

Beck’s book 2009 Arguing With Idiots: How To Stop Small Minds And Big Government, meanwhile is filled with racist cartoons of Mexicans wearing sombreros and thick moustaches.  At one point, Chinese immigrants are represented visually by a drawing of a takeout food carton. 



Illustrations from Glenn Beck's book Arguing With Idiots depict Mexicans as Frito Bandito archetypes and represent Chinese immigrants as a carton of takeout food.  (Photos from http://mediamatters.org/research/201008260006).

Sigmund Freud famously described the pathology of “projection” – the process by which a guilt-wracked person attributes to others a trait they despise in themselves.  For instance, a person with a large collection of “adult” magazines might become a stalwart anti-pornography crusader, a closeted gay man might become a stridently anti-homosexual politician, and so on.  Like Rush Limbaugh and other right wing Republican racists in the media, Beck has obsessively accused Obama of being a reverse racist, once famously charging the president (who had a white mother and was raised for part of his childhood by white grandparents) with bearing animus towards white people.  On the July 28, 2009 edition of Fox and Friends, Beck claimed:

"This president . . . has exposed himself as a guy, over and over and over again, who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture." Beck added: "I'm not saying that he doesn't like white people, I'm saying he has a problem. He has a -- this guy is, I believe, a racist."  (See http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/200907290012). 




Beck always has plenty of tears for himself, but none for the families of black men shot by police.  (Photo fromhttp://www.therightperspective.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Glenn_Beck_Crying.jpg).

Beck even attacked Obama for his name, suggesting that he was “un-American” for going by “Barack.”  On the February 4, 2010 edition of his radio program, he said, “He chose to use his name, Barack, for a reason. To identify, not with America -- you don't take the name Barack to identify with America. You take the name Barack to identify with what? Your heritage? The heritage, maybe, of your father in Kenya, who is a radical? Really? Searching for something to give him any kind of meaning, just as he was searching later in life for religion.”  (See http://mediamatters.org/blog/201002040028).

Yes, Glenn, Obama was evil enough to go by the name his parents gave him, the name of his father.  And George W. Bush shares the same name as King George II, the man who reigned over England in the late 18th Century and waged war with the Founding Fathers during the American Revolution.  Guess Bush is anti-American too. What, exactly, is an “American” name anyway?

Like many right-wing racists, Beck trivializes the African American historical experience of slavery by comparing that institution to every policy he disagrees with: the accumulation of the government debt (see http://mediamatters.org/research/201008260006); government spending (see http://mediamatters.org/research/201008260006); government planning of the economy (see http://mediamatters.org/research/201008260006); government “welfare, affirmative action, regulation, [and] control” (see http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/200910270041); Obama’s 2009 economic stimulus package (see http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/200902100007);  and even tax deduction rule changes (http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/200903020035).   In a moment despicable even by his standards, Beck compared the first African American president to a “slavemaster.”   Beck said on his January 11, 2010 Fox News broadcast:

"The most effective way to become the slavemaster and make them come to you is to make them come to you for employment. How could you ever, if you're the president, lose your job if the voter understands that 'if I vote for the competitor who wants to reduce the size of government, that means my job goes away. I'll lose my job.' The real power grab is getting them into your employ."  (To see this, watch the clip at http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/201001110037).

Trivializing the hideous suffering of other groups is a favorite right-wing tactic, as is ludicrously exaggerating the hardships of the comfortable and affluent.  Comparing taxes, or a health care plan, to slavery – especially if the hated policies come at the behest of an African American politician – relieves whites of the responsibility and the guilt of the real horrors of black slavery in this country’s past.  Under this formulation, all Americans have suffered a form of slavery, therefore the continued historical consequences of bondage and white racism – black poverty, lower life-spans, higher disease rates, lack of access to high education, and higher levels of incarceration – deserve no special redress from Americans today.  This tactic indirectly suggests that slavery wasn’t that bad and contemporary hardships suffered by the black community aren’t significant either.   (Right-wingers also love trivializing the evils of Adolf Hitler by comparing Obama to the genocidal Nazi dictator and of comparing the nightmare of the Holocaust to health care reform.)


 A typically callous and brainless Tea Party poster comparing President Obama's health care reform plan to the Holocaust.  The picture shows a stack of bodies from a death camp.  The caption reads: "National Socialist Health Care Dachau, Germany -- 1945."  (Photo from http://www.themodernleft.com/2009/11/anti-health-care-protesters-sink-to-new.html). 



If you're going to trivialize the evils of American slavery and the Nazi death camps, why not similarly trivialize the evil of Adolf Hitler by comparing him to a president with whom you don't agree?  Hitler killed 10 million in concentration camps and started a war that slaughtered 30 million.  Obama advocated health care reform.  I can see the comparison.  Beck compares his political enemies to Hitler constantly and so does this North Iowa Tea Party billboard that also sees parallels between the American president and the leader of the 1918 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, Vladimir Lenin.  (Photo from http://articles.nydailynews.com/2010-07-14/news/27069949_1_tea-party-controversial-billboard-bad-decision).  



Let’s have a reality check regarding slavery.  Beck is too lazy and dishonest to do this, but he doesn’t have to go that far to find out how bad slavery was as compared to, say, dealing with government red tape or paying high taxes to the IRS.

To discover what slavery was really about, all he would have to do is consult the stories surviving slaves told to interviewers from the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s.  Under slavery, the master class had the absolute power of life and death over their chattel. Ben Simpson told a horror story about his childhood in slavery  to a WPA interviewer not uncommon in antebellum Texas.

“Massa Earl Stielszen . . . got killed and my sister and I went to his son,” Simpson said. “His son was a killer.  He got in trouble in Georgia and got him two good –stepping horses and the covered wagon.  Then he chained all his slaves around the neck and fastened the chains to the horses and made them walk all the way to Texas. My mother and my sister had to walk. Emma was my sister.  Somewhere on the road it went to snowing, and massa wouldn’t let us wrap anything round our feet.  We had to sleep on the ground, too, in all that snow.

“Massa had a great long whip platted out of rawhide, and when one of the niggers fell behind or gave out, he hit them with that whip.  It took the hide everytime he hit a nigger.  Mother, she gave out on the way, about the line of Texas.  Her feet got raw and bleeding, and her legs swelled plumb out of shape.  Then massa, he just took out his gun and shot her, and whilst she lay dying he kicked her two, three times, and said, ‘Damn nigger that can’t stand nothing.’  Boss, you know that man, he wouldn’t bury mother, he just left her lying where he shot her at.  You know, there wasn’t any law against killing nigger slaves.” (See Ben Simpson interview, Rawick, ed., The American Slave: A Composite Autobiography:  Supplement, Series 2; Volume 9, Texas Narratives Part 8 , 3,549-3,555.)


A slave wearing a heavy neck brace as a punishment.  Physical and emotional cruelty was a regular part of the slave experience in America.  (Photo from http://www.history.com/topics/slavery/photos#).

Afro-Texans suffered violence short of murder far more often. Nellie Hill, a former slave at the McNeese plantation at Gay Hill near the Central Texas town of La Grange, 100 miles northwest of Houston, recalled to interviewers in 1937 when her brother ran away after one beating. 

“[Y]oung Marster John McNeese what I told you was de stepson, do de bossin’.  He sure would get mean sometimes, an’ whip us mostly with peach tree switches.  Mose, dat was my oldest brother, use to run away if Marster John whip too hard, an’ I  ’members one time he run off and hid in the woods for three weeks. ’Course he slip up to the place at night an’ get somethin’ to eat, ‘cause mamma would put a big tin of food outside our quarters on a bench soon it get dark an’ in de mornin’ jes de tin plate was left.” (See Nellie Hill interview, Slave Narratives Collection (Collection number MSS 0154, Houston Metropolitan Resource Center).

Mose received a typical reception when he finally returned to the plantation.  “He comes back ’bout three weeks after he runs off, an’ young Marster John come to our place an’ see him, an’ grabs him an’ ties his hands nan’ feet an’ den drags him to a tree an’ ties him up,” Hill remembered. “Den’ he comes back and makes me light a candle an’ makes my brother James get a tub to hold in front of de candle so de wind don’t blow it out, an’ he gets a buggy whip an’ we goes back to de tree whar Mose is tied up.  I holds de candle so Marster John can see, an he takes de shirt offen Mose, an’ starts in to lashin’s him.  Law me, he cuts his back to pieces, but we don’ dare say nothin’, cause he’d lashed us he was so mad.  Um- Um -- when I ’members dat night, I gets de shivers yet.” (See the Nellie Hill interview.)

African American slaves in Texas sometimes suffered dismemberment for even learning how to read and write. “Squire Garner bought a man dat had his right fore finger tore off,” Mollie Watson told a WPA interviewer.  “He say he learned to write an’ when his master found out he had his finger cut off.” (Mollie Watson interview, Rawick, ed., The American Slave:  Supplement, Series 2;Volume 12, Oklahoma Narratives, 371.) 








Like Glenn Beck, the radio host's privileged white fans like to imagine that they somehow are the modern-day equivalent of real slaves from the 19th century who suffering crippling beatings, poor nutrition and were often sold apart from loved ones.  In this perverse reckoning, middle class whites are the "slaves" and the nation's first African American president is a "slavemaster."  (Photos from http://likeawhisper.wordpress.com/anti-obama-protest-signs/  ). 

I could devote hundreds of thousands of words to describe the atrocities African American slaves experienced, but that would wander from the main point of this post. Glenn Beck is an amoral sociopath to even dare comparing slavery to health care reform or excessive regulation. 

Related to this perverse obsession with slavery, Beck (as well as Rush Limbaugh) also likes to describe every Obama policy initiative from health care to the 2009 stimulus package as “reparations.”  The term comes from the dream some African Americans have that the U.S. government one day might financially compensate the black community for 200-plus years of unpaid labor as slaves (just as the government compensated the Japanese victims of internment camps in the U.S. during World War II.  

Beck and Limbaugh didn’t mention reparations when a white president, George W. Bush, created a prescription drug benefit for seniors.  As opposed as he was to Bill Clinton’s health reform efforts in 1993, Limbaugh never characterized this policy as “reparations” either.  This is specifically a racist attack aimed at discrediting any domestic policy proposed by a black president not on the merits of the president’s plan, but on his racial identity.

On his July 23, 2009 radio broadcast, Beck said, “Everything that is getting pushed through Congress, including this health care bill, are transforming America. And they are all driven by President Obama's thinking on one idea: reparations. ... These massive programs are Obama brand reparations -- or in presidential speak, leveling out the playing field. But, just in case the universalness of the program doesn't somehow or another quench his reparation appetite, he is making sure to do his part to pay the debt in the other areas."   Beck, ignoring that most of the beneficiaries of programs like the health care reform bill would be non-white, went on to accuse the president of wanting to “settle old racial scores.” (See http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/200907230040).

The score settling, and the deep-seated racism, has mostly been right-wingers and ruthless liars like Beck.  And, as with Rush Limbaugh, major media outlets like CNN Fox News gave Beck a major coast-to-coast megaphone for spewing his hatred.  And pathetically few dare to label this man's work for what it truly is: not "harmless" entertainment, but unmitigated hate speech.

I write this blog as a resource for progressives, to provide them one-stop shopping for information when their conservative friends deny the depth and width of racism within the modern Republican Party.  The mendacity of dopes like Beck must be documented and confronted.   I realize, however, that the right has become too dishonest to confront its sins.

However,  I defy even the most hard-core right-wingers to deny the sheer naked, atavistic intolerance of Beck’s comments about Obama on August 5, 2010, when he compared Barack Obama’s America to Planet of the Apes.  “What planet have I landed on? Did I slip through a wormhole in the middle of the night and this looks like America? It's like the damn Planet of the Apes. Nothing makes sense!” Beck said.


Glenn Beck actually said that America under Barack Obama is like "the Planet of the Apes."  Do I really need to explain why that's racist?  (Photo from http://www.beyondhollywood.com/category/conquest-of-the-planet-of-the-apes-remake-movie/page/2/).

Actually, Glenn, sadly it all makes sense.  Millions of Americans are broke, out of work, and looking for simple answers.  Haters like Beck tell their gullible listeners to blame blacks, Latinos, Jews, gays and progressives rather than the rich and the powerful.  Attacking the marginal takes no courage.  A revolution against entrenched elites like the Koch Brothers, on the other hand, takes both guts and brains, commodities Beck and his legion of dolts have in pathetically short supply. 




Michael Phillips has authored the following:

White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, Texas, 1841-2001 (Austin:  University of Texas Press, 2006)

(with Patrick L. Cox) The House Will Come to Order: How the Texas Speaker Became a Power in State and National Politics. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010)

“Why Is Big Tex Still a White Cowboy? Race, Gender, and the ‘Other Texans’” in Walter Buenger and Arnoldo de León, eds., Beyond Texas Through Time: Breaking Away From Past Interpretations (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2011)

“The Current is Stronger’: Images of Racial Oppression and Resistance in North Texas Black Art During the 1920s and 1930s ”  in Bruce A. Glasrud and Cary D. Wintz, eds., The Harlem Renaissance in the West: The New Negroes’ Western Experience (New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2011)

“Dallas, 1989-2011,” in Richardson Dilworth, ed. Cities in American Political History (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2011)

(With John Anthony Moretta, Keith J. Volonto, Austin Allen, Doug Cantrell and Norwood Andrews), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips. eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume I.   (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Keith J. Volanto), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips, eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume II. (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Carl J. Luna), Imperial Presidents: The Rise of Executive Power from Roosevelt to Obama  (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2013). 

“Texan by Color: The Racialization of the Lone Star State,” in David Cullen and Kyle Wilkison, eds., The Radical Origins of the Texas Right (College Station: University of Texas Press, 2013).

He is currently collaborating, with longtime journalist Betsy Friauf, on a history of African American culture, politics and black intellectuals in the Lone Star State called God Carved in Night: Black Intellectuals in Texas and the World They Made.

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