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Why Is Glenn Beck Obsessively Targeting Progressive Visionary Frances Fox Piven?

Piven explains bizarre attacks Fox News' Beck has leveled at her for over a year.

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FRANCES FOX PIVEN: Pardon me?

AMY GOODMAN: Who had been in your home.

FRANCES FOX PIVEN: Yes. And after that, I got maybe five or six requests by students for interviews, students I didn’t know. And then I googled each one, and they were none of them students. So it was just an idea that was going around in right-wing networks. And then, all of a sudden, I became aware of both the Glenn Beck shows and the other right-wing blogs and all the postings that were coming in from people who—you know, confused, angry, whatever, and thought that I was the source of all the problems that had overtaken the United States in the last 30 or 40 years.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Frances, this is really amazing, because here you have been involved in writing and analyzing the American society now for more than 40 years, and you’ve never gotten as much attention on television as suddenly you’ve gotten in the last few years by Glenn Beck. And do you have any sense of what triggered this sudden decision of him, who actually, being only been 46 years old, was just a baby when you and Richard Cloward first began writing about the welfare rights movement?

FRANCES FOX PIVEN: That’s true.

JUAN GONZALEZ: What would trigger him to suddenly zero in on you?

FRANCES FOX PIVEN: Well, I think that there’s a certain amount of just accident that he picked me or picked Richard and me, partly accident, partly not so accidental, because there were at the time, in the late 1960s, early 1970s, there were a number of people who had moved from being on the left, further to the left than me, who were moving to the right, where the pay is better. And in making that move, they sort of took with them their familiarity with the work that we had done and then exaggerated, demonized it. You know, I think that—

JUAN GONZALEZ: And who were some of those people?

FRANCES FOX PIVEN: Well, it includes David Horowitz, Fred Siegel, Jim Sleeper, Ron Radosh, who recently headlined his blog "The Second Time is Farce: Piven Calls for Violent and Bloody Revolution." That was just a few days ago, because I had written a little article in The Nation talking about the problems in organizing the unemployed, so the unemployed can have an impact, a voice, in American politics. But most of the article was about how hard it is to do.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Piven, Glenn Beck has also put forward a theory that you directly inspired the politics of President Obama. On his show, Beck recently aired an extended interview with Stanley Kurtz, author of the book Radical-in-Chief, that claims Obama’s a secret socialist.

STANLEY KURTZ: We know that Obama, for example, attended a very important socialist scholars conference at the Cooper Union in New York in 1983. That conference was addressed by Frances Fox Piven in its opening plenary. He would have heard her again in 1984. If he had attended the conference in 1985, which he quite possibly did, Piven would have been there. So, Obama would have had many, many opportunities to learn about Cloward and Piven and their theories. On the one hand, we know that Obama has immensely increased the American welfare state, immensely increased American entitlements through, of course, the healthcare legislation.

Now, I don’t believe that the Obama administration is aiming to create a financial and economic crisis right now. Obama doesn’t want to create an economic crisis on his own watch, because he would be held responsible. He would be politically punished. But I do think that Obama is flirting with a fiscal crisis in order to stampede the country toward a larger welfare state, in order to expand taxation, perhaps through a value-added tax, as we see in Europe. He’s walking a fine line.

 
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