When I was in graduate school (2001-2007), my department regularly held symposia. Most of the symposia were members of our department or faculty at our university presenting their research. But occasionally we would bring in outside scholars to talk about their research. One of those scholars was Frances Fox Piven, Professor of Political Science and Sociology at the Graduate Center, CUNY. She came and gave an hour-long presentation about how to help the poor and address issues of inequality, which is her area of expertise. Piven was born in 1932, making her 78 (or 79) years old. When she visited my university around 2005, she would have been in her early seventies. She’s a relatively small, thin, but spunky woman with a clear vision and determination. I didn’t have much of a chance to speak with her at length, but from the little interaction I had with her, I was impressed by her commitment to social justice and helping the poor.
Now imagine my surprise as I was reading through my news headlines this morning when I found this one from the NYTimes: Frances Fox Piven, Glenn Beck Target, Has Been Threatened. Yep, that’s right. Despite the recent shooting of a Congressional Representative and others in Tucson, AZ, right-wing conservatives continue to attack individuals, leading to physical threats against them (Piven has received multiple physical threats). And, according to the NYTimes article, when pressed about this, Fox News shrugged it off, dismissed it, and claimed that Beck isn’t going to change tactics. He will continue to attack Piven.
Here’s the part that gets me… Remember what Piven is advocating: helping the poor. Yep, just like the guy who said this:Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3). And these people:
- Poverty is the worst form of violence. – Ghandi
- It is poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish. – Mother Teresa
- It is a tragic mix-up when the United States spends $500,000 for every enemy soldier killed, and only $53 annually on the victims of poverty. – Martin Luther King Jr.
- The mother of revolution and crime is poverty. – Aristotle
Why isn’t Glenn Beck attacking Ghandi, Mother Teresa, MLK, Aristotle, and Jesus for their advocacy for the poor?
And, let’s be honest for a second, isn’t the dismissal of the actual threats to people by Fox News an admission of inciting violence? In our previous discussion of the Arizona shooting, the question of whether Fox News should be regulated came up. Of course they are free to say what they want, but freedom of speech does have its limits. If that speech is being used to foment violence or advocate harm, it’s generally recognized that the speech has crossed a line (per here). Frankly, I think Piven should sue Glenn Beck and Fox News and then use the proceeds of the lawsuits to set up a center at CUNY to advocate for the poor. I can’t think of a better use of Rupert Murdoch and Glenn Beck’s millions.
Oh, and one last thought: If Beck has an issue with Piven’s ideas, why not attack the ideas and leave her out of it? Attacking ideas doesn’t lead to death threats; attacking people does.