LISTSERV mailing list manager LISTSERV 16.0

Help for PORTSIDE Archives


PORTSIDE Archives

PORTSIDE Archives


PORTSIDE@LISTS.PORTSIDE.ORG


View:

Message:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Topic:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Author:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

Font:

Proportional Font

LISTSERV Archives

LISTSERV Archives

PORTSIDE Home

PORTSIDE Home

PORTSIDE  February 2011, Week 2

PORTSIDE February 2011, Week 2

Subject:

The Real Threat of Glenn Beck's Fantasies -- Frances Fox Piven

From:

Portside Moderator <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Wed, 9 Feb 2011 22:00:17 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (163 lines)

The Real Threat of Glenn Beck's Fantasies

    It's harm not to myself, but to American
    democracy that I fear from the Fox News host's
    paranoid theories of social collapse

By Frances Fox Piven 
Guardian (UK) 
February 8, 2011

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/feb/08/glenn-beck-fox-news

Glenn Beck campaigning in Alaska, September 2010 Glenn
Beck, campaigning with his chalkboard, in Sarah Palin's
home state of Alaska in September 2010. Photograph: AP
Photo/Michael Dinneen

About two years ago, Glenn Beck, the Fox News
personality, began a series of tirades against what he
called the Cloward-Piven plan for orchestrated crisis
to collapse the system. The plan, he explained to his
audience, had been laid out in an article written by
Richard Cloward and me, and published in the Nation
magazine in May 1966. In the article, we proposed a
mobilisation of poor people and their advocates to
claim the welfare benefits to which poor families were
legally entitled, but that they often did not receive.
We thought that the ensuing problems of rising rolls
and costs would create pressures for federal reform of
the archaic welfare system.

Whatever you think of that article, and I still like
it, it was written some 45 years ago in a magazine with
a rather small readership. But, astonishingly, in Glenn
Beck's world, it had led to most of America's ensuing
troubles, including the rise of SDS, Acorn, George
Soros and the Open Society Institute, the election of
Barack Obama and the financial crisis. Beck depicts
this on his chalkboard as the "tree of revolution", and
he continued to feature this theory of American history
on some 50 subsequent shows, as well as on the Blaze,
his blog.

Other rightwing blogs were quick to pick up the
orchestrated crisis theory. Together with the Blaze,
the news stories elicited many hundreds, if not
thousands of rude and insulting postings directed at
me, and many lurid death threats, as well. (My husband
Richard Cloward, who would have enjoyed this more than
I, has been dead for a decade.)

In January of 2010, I wrote another article in the
Nation, about the difficulties that had to be overcome
if the rising numbers of unemployed were to be
organised to have voice and influence in American
politics. In response, the outrage of Beck and his
fellow rightwing bloggers escalated, as did the
insults, the curses and, especially, the death threats.
I am not writing now to complain about the personal
threats and what appears to be the aim of extorting
silence from the speakers on the left. Rather, I want
to offer an explanation of why this sort of rabid and
crazy talk is gaining traction in our country.

When I first became aware of my location at the base of
the trunk of Beck's tree of revolution, I thought it
was funny, just because it was so fantastical. It is
funny, I suppose, but it is also a reflection of a deep
problem. I have come to think that paranoid theories
are flourishing because of serious troubles in our
democracy. After all, electoral-representative
democracy is a set of arrangements that enable ordinary
citizens to have influence on government. But for these
arrangements to work, citizens have to be able to
understand what government does.

The common people who participated in the American
revolution were gripped by the democratic hope that
once the shackles of British rule were broken, the
people would have decisive influence over their
government because they would be able to watch what
their legislators did, and refuse to re-elect them if
they did not abide by the people's will.

This elemental democratic idea assumes that people can
assess the bearing of government action on their own
circumstances and the larger society, and vote for or
against a candidate or party in reflection of that
assessment. But when people protest against a
healthcare proposal because they don't want government
to get its hands on their Medicare, this elemental
assumption is put in grave doubt.

Partly, the problem is that our social and economic
institutions are dense and complicated, and intricately
entwined with other institutions with a global reach.
In reflection, contemporary government policy is also
extraordinarily complicated and difficult to decipher.
Healthcare legislative proposals run to many hundreds
of pages, and the texts of the regulations to implement
them are even longer. And none of this can be
understood without a great deal of information about
existing healthcare arrangements

Add to this the fact that legislation and regulation is
often deliberately obscure to shield politicians and
bureaucrats from their publics. Even without deliberate
concealment, complex and difficult to decipher policies
may well be inevitable in a large, technologically
advanced and complicated society.

When the process of governing is incomprehensible,
manipulation and propaganda thrives. The strange
stories that Glenn Beck creates with his chalkboard
gain traction with Americans, who are made anxious by
the large changes that have overtaken the United
States, including the election of a black president and
the increasing racial diversity of the population,
deindustrialisation and the decline of American power
abroad, as well as cultural changes in sexual and
family norms.

By telling simple fairy tales that trace these big and
complex changes to the machinations of particular
people, Beck makes the changes comprehensible in a way,
and also makes the people who are presumably
responsible the targets of his listeners' frustration
and outrage. Partly because it is utterly irrational,
and partly because it is an effort to bully and
intimidate his political opponents, this is dangerous
for democratic politics.
____________________

Frances Fox Piven is professor of political science and
 sociology at the Graduate Centre of the City University
 of New York, where she has taught since 1982. She is
the author and co-author of numerous books, including 
The War at Home: The Domestic Costs of Bush's 
Militarism (2004) and Challenging Authority: How Ordinary 
People Change America (2006), and has received career
 and lifetime achievement awards from the American
 Sociological Association and the American Political
Science 
Association. Frances has been featured on Democracy Now!, 
and regular contributor to the Nation

___________________________________________

Portside aims to provide material of interest to people
on the left that will help them to interpret the world
and to change it.

Submit via email: [log in to unmask]

Submit via the Web: http://portside.org/submittous3

Frequently asked questions: http://portside.org/faq

Sub/Unsub: http://portside.org/subscribe-and-unsubscribe

Search Portside archives: http://portside.org/archive

Contribute to Portside: https://portside.org/donate

Top of Message | Previous Page | Permalink

Advanced Options


Options

Log In

Log In

Get Password

Get Password


Search Archives

Search Archives


Subscribe or Unsubscribe

Subscribe or Unsubscribe


Archives

December 2014, Week 3
December 2014, Week 2
December 2014, Week 1
November 2014, Week 5
November 2014, Week 4
November 2014, Week 3
November 2014, Week 2
November 2014, Week 1
October 2014, Week 5
October 2014, Week 4
October 2014, Week 3
October 2014, Week 2
October 2014, Week 1
September 2014, Week 5
September 2014, Week 4
September 2014, Week 3
September 2014, Week 2
September 2014, Week 1
August 2014, Week 5
August 2014, Week 4
August 2014, Week 3
August 2014, Week 2
August 2014, Week 1
July 2014, Week 5
July 2014, Week 4
July 2014, Week 3
July 2014, Week 2
July 2014, Week 1
June 2014, Week 5
June 2014, Week 4
June 2014, Week 3
June 2014, Week 2
June 2014, Week 1
May 2014, Week 5
May 2014, Week 4
May 2014, Week 3
May 2014, Week 2
May 2014, Week 1
April 2014, Week 5
April 2014, Week 4
April 2014, Week 3
April 2014, Week 2
April 2014, Week 1
March 2014, Week 5
March 2014, Week 4
March 2014, Week 3
March 2014, Week 2
March 2014, Week 1
February 2014, Week 4
February 2014, Week 3
February 2014, Week 2
February 2014, Week 1
January 2014, Week 5
January 2014, Week 4
January 2014, Week 3
January 2014, Week 2
January 2014, Week 1
December 2013, Week 5
December 2013, Week 4
December 2013, Week 3
December 2013, Week 2
December 2013, Week 1
November 2013, Week 5
November 2013, Week 4
November 2013, Week 3
November 2013, Week 2
November 2013, Week 1
October 2013, Week 5
October 2013, Week 4
October 2013, Week 3
October 2013, Week 2
October 2013, Week 1
September 2013, Week 5
September 2013, Week 4
September 2013, Week 3
September 2013, Week 2
September 2013, Week 1
August 2013, Week 5
August 2013, Week 4
August 2013, Week 3
August 2013, Week 2
August 2013, Week 1
July 2013, Week 5
July 2013, Week 4
July 2013, Week 3
July 2013, Week 2
July 2013, Week 1
June 2013, Week 5
June 2013, Week 4
June 2013, Week 3
June 2013, Week 2
June 2013, Week 1
May 2013, Week 5
May 2013, Week 4
May 2013, Week 3
May 2013, Week 2
May 2013, Week 1
April 2013, Week 5
April 2013, Week 4
April 2013, Week 3
April 2013, Week 2
April 2013, Week 1
March 2013, Week 5
March 2013, Week 4
March 2013, Week 3
March 2013, Week 2
March 2013, Week 1
February 2013, Week 4
February 2013, Week 3
February 2013, Week 2
February 2013, Week 1
January 2013, Week 5
January 2013, Week 4
January 2013, Week 3
January 2013, Week 2
January 2013, Week 1
December 2012, Week 5
December 2012, Week 4
December 2012, Week 3
December 2012, Week 2
December 2012, Week 1
November 2012, Week 5
November 2012, Week 4
November 2012, Week 3
November 2012, Week 2
November 2012, Week 1
October 2012, Week 5
October 2012, Week 4
October 2012, Week 3
October 2012, Week 2
October 2012, Week 1
September 2012, Week 5
September 2012, Week 4
September 2012, Week 3
September 2012, Week 2
September 2012, Week 1
August 2012, Week 5
August 2012, Week 4
August 2012, Week 3
August 2012, Week 2
August 2012, Week 1
July 2012, Week 5
July 2012, Week 4
July 2012, Week 3
July 2012, Week 2
July 2012, Week 1
June 2012, Week 5
June 2012, Week 4
June 2012, Week 3
June 2012, Week 2
June 2012, Week 1
May 2012, Week 5
May 2012, Week 4
May 2012, Week 3
May 2012, Week 2
May 2012, Week 1
April 2012, Week 5
April 2012, Week 4
April 2012, Week 3
April 2012, Week 2
April 2012, Week 1
March 2012, Week 5
March 2012, Week 4
March 2012, Week 3
March 2012, Week 2
March 2012, Week 1
February 2012, Week 5
February 2012, Week 4
February 2012, Week 3
February 2012, Week 2
February 2012, Week 1
January 2012, Week 5
January 2012, Week 4
January 2012, Week 3
January 2012, Week 2
January 2012, Week 1
December 2011, Week 5
December 2011, Week 4
December 2011, Week 3
December 2011, Week 2
December 2011, Week 1
November 2011, Week 5
November 2011, Week 4
November 2011, Week 3
November 2011, Week 2
November 2011, Week 1
October 2011, Week 5
October 2011, Week 4
October 2011, Week 3
October 2011, Week 2
October 2011, Week 1
September 2011, Week 5
September 2011, Week 4
September 2011, Week 3
September 2011, Week 2
September 2011, Week 1
August 2011, Week 5
August 2011, Week 4
August 2011, Week 3
August 2011, Week 2
August 2011, Week 1
July 2011, Week 5
July 2011, Week 4
July 2011, Week 3
July 2011, Week 2
July 2011, Week 1
June 2011, Week 5
June 2011, Week 4
June 2011, Week 3
June 2011, Week 2
June 2011, Week 1
May 2011, Week 5
May 2011, Week 4
May 2011, Week 3
May 2011, Week 2
May 2011, Week 1
April 2011, Week 5
April 2011, Week 4
April 2011, Week 3
April 2011, Week 2
April 2011, Week 1
March 2011, Week 5
March 2011, Week 4
March 2011, Week 3
March 2011, Week 2
March 2011, Week 1
February 2011, Week 4
February 2011, Week 3
February 2011, Week 2
February 2011, Week 1
January 2011, Week 5
January 2011, Week 4
January 2011, Week 3
January 2011, Week 2
January 2011, Week 1
December 2010, Week 5
December 2010, Week 4
December 2010, Week 3
December 2010, Week 2
December 2010, Week 1
November 2010, Week 5
November 2010, Week 4
November 2010, Week 3
November 2010, Week 2
November 2010, Week 1
October 2010, Week 5
October 2010, Week 4
October 2010, Week 3
October 2010, Week 2
October 2010, Week 1
September 2010, Week 5
September 2010, Week 4
September 2010, Week 3
September 2010, Week 2
September 2010, Week 1
August 2010, Week 5
August 2010, Week 4
August 2010, Week 3
August 2010, Week 2
August 2010, Week 1
July 2010, Week 5
July 2010, Week 4
July 2010, Week 3
July 2010, Week 2
July 2010, Week 1

ATOM RSS1 RSS2



LISTS.PORTSIDE.ORG

CataList Email List Search Powered by the LISTSERV Email List Manager