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Francis Fox Piven, Glenn Beck, and the Language of Violence

It is probably safe to say that Glenn Beck will never be a big champion of many of the books we publish here at Beacon Press. But his recent attacks on sociologist Frances Fox Piven, author of, among many other books, Why Americans Still Don't Vote: And Why Politicians Want It That Way, have contained a vitriol that is beyond the pale, and inspired death threats in the comment threads on his website, the Blaze.

The Nation wrote recently about Beck's targeting of Piven as a "threat":

This fusillade was evidently set off by Piven's recent Nation editorial calling for a mass movement of the unemployed ["Mobilizing the Jobless," January 10/17]. 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.

In response, twenty-three academic groups have condemned Beck's attacks on Piven, and the 78-year-old Piven has done a fantastic job of speaking up for herself. We received this email from Frances Goldin, Piven's agent and friend of many years:

I've known Frances Fox Piven for over 50 years and have been her literary agent for her last nine books. We are the closest of friends. I was upset and anxious by the recent death threats to her, all choreographed by Glenn Beck to his gun-crazy followers. Instead of Frances making herself scarce and hiring body guards, she, typically went into "organizing" mode. She spread the word, lined up supporters, wrote op-ed pieces and many others came to her defense She went about her business of being a radical sociologist who puts for the truth in writing and speeches to the world. My friend has courage! And fierce convictions. Glenn Beck can't stop her, but WE can stop Glenn Beck and his calls to deadly violence. That's OUR job. Let's do it!