American Sociological Association Calls On Fox News To Stop Beck's Demagogic Attacks On Piven

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The American Sociological Association "express[ed] outrage at the attacks made on Professor Frances Fox Piven by Glenn Beck," and called for Fox News to stop Beck's demagoguery. From a January 24 press release:

Scholars of her caliber, intellectuals of her stature, and especially those who tackle social conflicts and contradictions, mass movements and political action, should stimulate equal levels of serious challenge and creative dialogue. Being called by Glenn Beck one of the "nine most dangerous people in the world," and an "enemy of the Constitution" is not a credible challenge; it is plain demagoguery.

Despite its lack of substance, Beck's attacks have resulted in a flood of hate mail and internet postings attacking Professor Piven, including a series of death threats. While it is true that death threats are generally only a form of extremist rhetoric, they indicate an overheated emotional atmosphere that researchers on collective violence call "the hysteria zone." It is a zone in which deranged individuals can be motivated to real violence against those targeted by demagoguery. History tells us that such things as the attempted assassination of Representative Giffords that resulted in six deaths in Tucson, Arizona can be examples of how abundant, polarizing rhetoric by political leaders and commentators can spur mass murder.

We call on Fox News to take steps to control the encouragement of violence that has run rampant in recent months. Serious and honest, undistorted disagreement and public debate on unemployment, economic crisis, the rights and tactics of welfare recipients, government intervention and the erosion of the American way of life should be supported. We in no way advocate restricting the freedom of speech of political commentators. They in turn should recognize the right of social science researchers to gather and analyze evidence related to controversial topics and to reach conclusions based on evidence, even if such conclusions disagree with widely held beliefs. Where we all should draw the line is at name-calling and invective rising to the level of inciting others to violence.

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