The Nation Responds To Beck's Attacks On Frances Fox Piven


The most recent issue of The Nation has an editorial on Glenn Beck's "relentless campaign to demonize" Frances Fox Piven:

But Beck has had Piven in his cross-hairs for some time. In the past few years he's featured Piven, along with her late husband, Richard Cloward, in at least twenty-eight broadcasts, all of which paint them as masterminds of an overarching left-wing plot called "the Cloward-Piven strategy," which supposedly engineered the financial crisis of 2008, healthcare reform, Obama's election and massive voter fraud, among other world-historical events (see Richard Kim, "The Mad Tea Party," April 12, 2010). Cloward and Piven, Beck once argued, are "fundamentally responsible for the unsustainability and possible collapse of our economic system." In his most recent diatribe against Piven (January 17) he repeatedly called her "the enemy of the Constitution." In Beck's telling, because Piven and her comrades on the left support civil disobedience in some circumstances, it is they--not the heavily armed militias of the radical right--who threaten Americans' safety.

It's tempting not to dignify such ludicrous distortions with a response. But in brief: Piven, throughout her career as an activist and academic, has embodied the best of American democracy. It has been her life's work to amplify the voices of the disenfranchised through voter registration drives, grassroots organization and, when necessary, street protest. The way economic injustice warps and erodes our democracy has been a central preoccupation. But passive lament has never been her game. Recognizing the leverage that oppressed groups have--and working with them to use it--is her special genius.

It's perhaps not surprising, then, that the pseudo-populist right finds her so threatening. The highly personalized and concerted campaign against Piven, already unsettling, takes on added gravity in the context of the recent shootings of Representative Gabrielle Giffords, federal judge John Roll and eighteen other people in Arizona. But while commentators debate whether the killer in that case--the mentally disturbed Jared Loughner--was inspired by the ravings of right-wing demagogues, the forgotten story of Byron Williams provides a straightforward example of the way hateful rhetoric fuels violence.

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Glenn Beck
Glenn Beck show, The Nation
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