A 78-year-old CUNY professor, Frances Fox Piven, has found herself not only the target of criticism from conservative radio and TV talk show host Glenn Beck, but also the recipient of what amount to death threats.
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On his News Channel program, which more than 2 million people watch, and on one of his Web sites, The Blaze, Beck has turned Piven into the ‘primary character’ of his ‘warnings about a progressive take-down of America,’ according to the January 21st New York Times. Piven, says Beck, is the author of a plan that will ‘“intentionally collapse our economic system.”‘
Piven has received threats via e-mail and anonymous comments on The Blaze have called for her death: ‘“Somebody tell Frances I have 5000 roundas ready and I’ll give My life to take Our freedom back”‘ and “ONE SHOT…ONE KILL” (spelling and grammar have not been edited).
The article, “The Weight of the Poor: A Strategy to End Poverty,” that Beck has seized upon was published in 1966 and written by Piven and her late husband, Richard Cloward. According to the New York Times, the article
proposed that if people overwhelmed the welfare rolls, fiscal and political stress on the system could force reform and give rise to changes like a guaranteed income. By drawing attention to the topic, the proposal “had a big impact” even though it was not enacted, Ms. Piven said. “A lot of people got the money that they desperately needed to survive,” she said.
In Mr. Beck’s telling on a Fox broadcast on Jan. 5, 2010, Ms. Piven and Mr. Cloward (who died in 2001) planned “to overwhelm the system and bring about the fall of capitalism by overloading the government bureaucracy with impossible demands and bring on economic collapse.” Mr. Beck observed that the number of welfare recipients soared in the years after the article, and said the article was like “economic sabotage.”
He linked what he termed the Cloward-Piven Strategy to President Obama’s statement late in the 2008 presidential campaign that “we are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.”
Piven is a long-time columnist for The Nation, which published an editorial about the threats to her:
For a responsible journalist and a responsible media outlet, such an incident would have spurred a process of intense self-scrutiny. But this is Glenn Beck and Fox, and as is evident from the campaign against Piven, nothing of the sort occurred. In the hundreds of posts about Piven on The Blaze, there is not one admonition to tone down the violent rhetoric, not one clear instance in which an editor intervened to moderate the thread. In fact, commenters seem at liberty to egg one another on: one poster pointedly noted that Piven lives in New York City and teaches at CUNY; another then linked to a website that listed Piven’s home address and phone number. “Why is this woman still alive?” asked capnjack.
Beck’s fixation on Piven’s 1966 article also leads me to wonder if he’ll be digging up other academic articles by professors whose scholarship—loook out for those Marxist literary critics—-might (in Beck’s view) somehow contribute to the ‘”progressive take-down of America.”‘ I guess it might be a way for him to get more fodder for his shows and site.
Saying that Beck quoted Piven ‘accurately and had never threatened her,’ Fox News has indicated that it will not order him to stop discussing the professor and her work.
It is extremely unfortunate that Fox News has taken such an irresponsible stance. Even though the above comments were made on The Blaze, Beck’s targeting of Piven began on his show on Fox News. By not requiring Beck to cease his attack on Piven, Fox News is tacitly condoning the threats of violence against her.
And there’s nothing academic, or ethical, about that.
Sign the petition letting Fox News know that it’s not okay to incite this kind of violence through spreading falsehoods.
Photo by david_shankbone.