Balance Bull: The Threats Are Real

Last May, the Academic Freedom Committee (I am a member) of my union at the City University of New York (CUNY), drafted a resolution of support for Frances Fox Piven.  The resolution reads, in part:
Whereas, Frances Fox Piven, Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Sociology at the Graduate Center, has been the object of unrelenting scurrilous attacks by Glenn Beck, David Horowitz, and others on the political extreme right; and…

Whereas Professor Piven’s work, including The War at Home: The Domestic Causes and Consequences of Bush’s Militarism (2004); Why Americans Still Don’t Vote (2000); Breaking of the American Social Compact (1997); Regulating the Poor: The Functions of Public Welfare (1993); and Poor People’s Movements: Why They Succeed, How They Fail (1977) has indeed influenced social policy and generations of students, scholars, and the public towards a more robust exercise of their democratic rights; and… therefore be it

Resolved, that… her courageous life as a scholar/teacher… represents the best qualities of a public intellectual.

I agree completely. And am reminded of it by a New York Times story today with the headline, “Spotlight From Glen Beck Brings a CUNY Professor Threats.”

The Times story comes two days after The Nation presented an editorial online (for its February 7 print edition) beginning:

On the afternoon of January 6, Frances Fox Piven, a distinguished professor, legendary activist, writer and longtime contributor to this magazine, received an e-mail from an unknown correspondent. There was no text, just a subject line that read: DIE YOU CUNT. It was not the first piece of hateful e-mail Piven had gotten, nor would it be the last. One writer told her to “go back to Canada you dumb bitch”; another ended with this wish: “may cancer find you soon.”

Now, we’ve all been told by the pundits, ever since Obama’s Tucson speech, that more civility is needed–and that the nastiness comes from both sides.  Perhaps some of it does, but the weight of insanity and violence tilts right, as Digby points out.  What we are being given is ‘Balance Bull,’ an attempt to pretend to a central, steady fulcrum of sanity observing wild gyrations on both ends of the political spectrum.

Until we recognize that something is dangerously wrong here, and that it is wrong on the right, the threats and violence are going to continue.  Until we have someone with the gravitas of Joseph Welch saying “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?” (he was the attorney for the U.S. Army who, with this line, effectively destroyed the career of Joe McCarthy), threats and acts of violence will continue, and will continue to be primarily from the right.  This isn’t a time for saying, ‘Can’t we all just get along?’  This is a time for honesty and clarity.  It’s time for responsibility–which includes addressing the wrong we see as well as those we unintentionally abet.

The nonsense violent-tinged hate has to stop.  The Piven attacks, nothing new, were highlighted in a story published in the PSC Clarion in May of last year:

The attacks on Professor Piven are in the tradition of the long and distressing history of anti-intellectualism in America and the “paranoid style” in American politics, which often surfaces in response to rapid social and economic change and struggles for social justice.

Though that does not excuse them.

The Times reports that, in response to the threats:

a liberal nonprofit group, the Center for Constitutional Rights, wrote to the chairman of Fox News, Roger Ailes, on Thursday to ask him to put a stop to Mr. Beck’s “false accusations” about Ms. Piven.

“Mr. Beck is putting Professor Piven in actual physical danger of a violent response,” the group wrote.

Fox News disagrees. Joel Cheatwood, a senior vice president, said Friday that Mr. Beck would not be ordered to stop talking about Ms. Piven on television. He said Mr. Beck had quoted her accurately and had never threatened her.

“ ‘The Glenn Beck Program,’ probably above and beyond any on television, has denounced violence repeatedly,” Mr. Cheatwood said.

Uh huh.  And there’s a bridge in downtown Brooklyn you might want to buy:

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