Inciting Violence – Glenn Beck and Fox News’s specialty

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.


I'm a college professor and, well, a professional X-Mormon. Thus, ProfXM. I love my Mormon family, but have issues with LDS Inc. And I'm not afraid to tell LDS Inc. what I really think... anonymously, of course!

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17 Responses

  1. David Faria says:

    So many holes in this blog post, where to begin? Beck wasn’t inciting violence against her – just the opposite, he quoted her own words where she was specifically inciting violence.
    Unbelievable that you actually try to compare Piven’s radical marxist/socialist ideology to Christ. There’s a huge difference between charitable giving and redistribution of wealth.
    Then you say that he should attack her on ideas? Please explain how Beck attacked Piven other than her ideas? Did you even watch the show? He used her own words. If using her own words is akin to an attack on her, then there must be something wrong with the words, right?

  2. David Faria says:

    Watch this video and then tell me who is inciting the violence

  3. profxm says:


    I watched the video. It’s brilliant! And I’m shocked that this is the best that Glenn Beck can do. I listened to all 10:23 of it. The extent of her “inciting violence” is calling for a “Massive Defiant Movement”. She advocates: strikes, blockades, shutting down schools, and “powerful, disruptive, unruly movements from the bottom”. Her most extreme position is: “Unless you have good reason for breaking the window, then probably you shouldn’t do that… unless it is part of your strategy.” And what she means is – non-violence should generally be the rule, but if there are occasional, strategic acts of violence, that may be acceptable. And, more importantly, she notes that blacks used the violence of whites against them during the Civil Rights Movement – they knew they were going to be attacked physically, so they made sure the media was there to film it, thus making it backfire on the whites.

    At no point does Francis Fox Piven say: “Riot and kill whitey and the rich guys!” The closest she comes to that is by saying, basically, “I understand why rich white guys have started the tea party movement – they are bigots and conservatives and they feel like they are losing control.”

    So, David, if that’s the best you can do, I’m thoroughly disappointed. What’s more, Piven’s most inflammatory work on this is over 45 years old. You do realize that, right?

    Now, all of that said, let’s consider what’s happening. Has Glenn Beck received death threats? Has, well, anyone on the right received death threats? And have any right-wing politicians been shot recently by a left-wing progressive? The answer to all of the above is, of course, no!

    But Francis Fox Piven is receiving death threats. Why? Here’s why: Because Glenn Beck is making this about her, not about her ideas. Beck could just as easily attack her ideas without mentioning her specifically. And, frankly, I would have no problem with that. But why is he attacking her? My guess: (1) It puts a face with the idea, which is more compelling to people, and (2) it gets people even more emotionally engaged, leading them to threaten violence.

    Finally, “how dare I compare Piven to Christ”? Are you f*cking kidding me? Have you not read the New Testament? I used the mellower verse that popped into my mind when I quoted the New Testament. I’ll give you the “radical marxist/socialist” verse now: “Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”” (Mathew 19:21). How is that not the redistribution of wealth a la socialism?

    David, you’re going to have to do a lot better than that to convince me Piven is calling for a bloody revolution. And you conveniently left out the major point: Piven is an advocate for the poor. She is working for the disenfranchised. And what is Glenn Beck, the multi-multi millionaire working for the billionaire Rupert Murdoch doing? He’s attacking her for it. Way to go rich white guys, attacking advocates of the poor. Pathetic, bloviating a**holes!

  4. david faria says:

    now I remember why I didn’t revisit this site after the last time I commented – its full of hypocrisy, hatred, and evil.

  5. profxm says:

    Ahh… Nice move. I rebut your arguments thoroughly and dismantle your best weapon, a 10 minute video of Piven saying, “Um, yeah, non-violence is good”, so you pull the ad hominem card, tuck your tail between your legs, and run. Way to put up a fight and defend Fox News and Glenn Beck.

    Oh, and for the record: I don’t think advocating for the poor is: hypocrisy, hatred, or evil. Neither did Jesus and neither does Piven. Per your logic, Jesus is a hypocrite full of hatred and evil. Nice.

  6. ff42 says:

    Are you really equating “Jesus answered, If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Mathew 19:21).” with socialism?

    The action that Jesus suggested is voluntary. Last time I check socialism is enforced by violence or the threat of violence; has that changed?

  7. profxm says:

    Last time you checked where? If you understood socialism, you’d know that it is not the same as communism and that it is typically chosen by a population, making it voluntary. Ergo, yes it is about the same. There are differences, but not in the way you are suggesting. Seriously, take five minutes and check out Wikipedia’s summary of socialism; you may realize that the thing you have been told to hate isn’t what you’ve been told it is.

  8. Carla says:

    @profxm – I wouldn’t go so far as to say “Glenn Beck isn’t receiving death threats.” I think most celebrities, especially people who express strong political opinions, get at least some. Big-time publicized ones, I’m not sure, but I would be surprised if he weren’t getting any at all.

    Other than that, excellent post and rebuttal. It’s too bad we couldn’t see an honest dialogue on the topic instead of rude personal attacks.

  9. kuri says:

    Ananias and Sapphira might have disagreed with David on the lack of coercion in Christian giving. All donations were voluntary for the early saints. Unless you held something back. Because then you would be personally struck dead by an Apostle. Nothing coercive about that.
    Acts 5:1-11

    1 Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property.
    2 With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.
    3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?
    4 Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.”
    5 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened.
    6 Then the young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.
    7 About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.
    8 Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?” “Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”
    9 Peter said to her, “How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”
    10 At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband.
    11 Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.

  10. Carla says:

    @ kuri – I’ve read the book of Acts before. It’s funny how when you’re reading from a perspective of total faith, you miss the horror of such stories. I don’t remember reading anything that bothered me when I read Acts, but this story is seriously troubling. I thought I was a rational person, and now I see how much I deliberately blinded myself when it came to religion.

  11. kuri says:

    I always noticed this kind of story, but I always rationalized them away. It’s good not to have to do that anymore.

  12. profxm says:

    carla, you are, of course, right. Beck probably has received threats, but he is a very public figure with international syndication. They probably just expect them and he probably has bodyguards and security because of it.

  13. ff42 says:


    So “National Socialism” (of WWII Germany) is not violent?
    So Marxist theory socialism is non-violent?
    So socialism practiced in modern nations is not violent?

    So what then is it called when my life, livelihood, and/or property is threatened by force if I don’t ‘voluntarily’ contribute about 40% of my income to be redistributed by .gov?

    I’m all for any human interaction that doesn’t solve problems with the initiation of force (or threat thereof), but I don’t see this method in any socialistic societies.

  14. chanson says:

    So socialism practiced in modern nations is not violent?

    Which nations are you talking about? Western Europe?

  15. profxm says:


    Your understanding of socialism is, well, you don’t understand socialism. Nazi Germany was fascist, not socialist. Marx advocated revolutions, but also argued that there could be bloodless transitions to socialism. And, well, as chanson rightly points out, socialism practiced in modern nations – all of Western Europe – is very much non-violent, much less so than the US. So, you’re wrong on every account.

    What is it called when “my life, livelihood, and/or property is threatened by force if I don’t ‘voluntarily’ contribute about 40% of my income to be redistributed by .gov?” That’s called taxation. And it’s true in pretty much every country around the world, especially the US. The highest tax bracket in the US for income is 35%. For capital gains, it’s higher. Go ahead and don’t pay it. You really think the US government will, what, send you flowers and chocolates and wish you on your merry way? As I said above, you’re understanding of taxes and socialism is non-existent.

    I’m all for any human interaction that doesn’t solve problems with the initiation of force, too, but I’ve never heard of such a SOCIETY. Maybe solitary individuals living by themselves can achieve this. But get a group together and there will be rules, and those rules are inevitably supported by the threat of force. That’s just the way it is. The US is no exception. I don’t know why you are under the delusion that there are no threats of force in capitalism. The government is the “threat of force” for capitalists; that’s what it is and that’s what it does. Socialism just spreads the wealth around more than does capitalism.

  16. Alan says:

    Ff42, I hope you realize that when you pay taxes for infrastructure and public schools, this is “socialism.” You might hold to an ideal of 0% of your income being redistributed, but I hope you’re prepared for there being no roads, agricultural subsidies, Medicare or social security when you retire.

  17. Chino Blanco says:

    January 30, 1891: After some little discussion it was decided that it will be best for Z.C.M.I. and other corporations to cease paying tithing on their earnings but leave the stockholders to pay from their dividends. The custom, however, of deducting the tithing from the wages of employees was not discontinued.

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