How a 77-Year-Old Visionary Author Became the Target of a Far-Ranging Right-Wing Conspiracy Theory
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Beck first mentioned the so-called "Cloward-Piven Strategy" in March 2009, three months after he began his nightly Fox News show, and 32 times since. On September 18, he used his trademark chalkboard to connect Cloward and Piven to Woodrow Wilson, Che Guevara, Bill Ayers, ACORN, the SEIU, the Apollo Alliance, the Tides Foundation, George Soros, Van Jones, Valerie Jarrett, and Obama -- some of the right's favorite villains.
Beck, like his right-wing colleagues, view Cloward and Piven as dangerous radicals masquerading as reformers. Earlier this month, Beck claimed that SDS, the 1960s radical student group, believed the road to change was "Let's blow things up," but Cloward and Piven counseled, "No, no, no, let's try to just collapse the system."
Last Thursday, Beck said that Obama's health care proposal followed the Cloward-Piven strategy to "melt the system down and have it collapse into a new system."
At February's Tea Party convention, WorldNetDaily editor Joseph Farah devoted eight minutes of his 38-minute keynote speech to fulminating about what he called Cloward and Piven's "manifesto."
The duo's work with NWRO led to increasing welfare costs that "brought New York City to its knees" in the 1970s," Farah said. He correctly linked Cloward and Piven's ideas to various efforts to get more poor people to vote . Then he drew a direct line between the couple and one such effort, Project Vote in Chicago, which once hired a young law school graduate named Obama. Farah also repeated the inaccurate canard that ACORN was involved in widespread voter fraud. He told the Tea Party crowd that Cloward and Piven's ideas have influenced Democratic Party prescriptions since George McGovern's 1972 presidential candidacy.
Obama's purpose, Farah said, is to "increase misery and create crises." That, according to Farah, is an "old trick" that was "codified by a Marxist Columbia professor and his research assistant" [sic] -- a strategy of "orchestrated crises."
"Obama is still employing the Cloward-Piven strategy, not as a community organizer but today as the community organizer in chief," Farah explained. "He's still creating crises as a means of empowerment" -- right out of the Cloward-Piven playbook.
"Nothing's changed" since Cloward and Piven first penned their article, Farah said. "With Obama, everything is a crisis. Carbon dioxide levels. The banking industry. The automobile industry. The health care system. And especially the economy. He's going to fix all of them, he promises. How? By turning make-believe crises into real crises."
"The goal remains the same as when it was first outlined in 1966," Farah said. "It is, as the Marxists of the 1960s and early 1970s explained, to heighten the contradictions of capitalism. Bring the system to its knees, and ultimately to collapse."
It isn't clear whether these conservative rabble-rousers actually believe what they preach about the Cloward-Piven strategy, or simply use it to whip up their followers' anger and resentments. What's obvious is that this tactic is intended to discredit Obama's liberal policy agenda and to destroy the progressive movement that pushes the president and the Democratic Party to be bolder, as they did in the recent health-care battle.
This maneuver is hardly new. As far back as Joseph McCarthy and Richard Nixon, Republican politicians and hired strategists -- like Murray Chotiner, Ed Meese, Michael Deaver, Karl Rove, Pat Buchanan and Frank Luntz -- have perfected the art of linking liberal Democrats to communists, socialists, radicals, subversives, "welfare queens," and terrorists. These ideas might seem crazy, but they are, like Roger Ailes, the communications guru for Nixon, Reagan, and George H. W. Bush, and now Glenn Beck's boss, crazy like Fox News.