Fox News host Glenn Beck was targeted by New York Times media reporter Brian Stelter in a Saturday piece in defense of leftist academic Frances Fox Piven, columnist for The Nation magazine and common focus of Beck’s show.
But three prominent conservatives accuse Stelter of downplaying Piven’s inflammatory rhetoric and unfairly blaming Beck for hostile and offensive emails received by Piven, in his Saturday article "Glenn Beck’s Focus Gives a Professor Notoriety." (By quoting her accurately?)
On his daily radio and television shows, Glenn Beck has elevated once-obscure conservative thinkers onto best-seller lists. Recently, he has elevated a 78-year-old liberal academic to celebrity of a different sort, in a way that some say is endangering her life.
Frances Fox Piven, a City University of New York professor, has been a primary character in Mr. Beck’s warnings about a progressive take-down of America. Ms. Piven, Mr. Beck says, is responsible for a plan to “intentionally collapse our economic system.”
Her name has become a kind of shorthand for “enemy” on Mr. Beck’s Fox News Channel program, which is watched by more than 2 million people, and on one of his Web sites, The Blaze. This week, Mr. Beck suggested on television that she was an enemy of the Constitution.
Never mind that Ms. Piven’s radical plan to help poor people was published 45 years ago, when Mr. Beck was a toddler. Anonymous visitors to his Web site have called for her death, and some, she said, have contacted her directly via e-mail.
In response, 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.
The interest in Ms. Piven is rooted in an article she wrote with her husband, Richard Cloward, in 1966. The article, “The Weight of the Poor: A Strategy to End Poverty,” proposed that if people overwhelmed the welfare rolls, fiscal and political stress on the system could force reform and give rise to changes like a guaranteed income. By drawing attention to the topic, the proposal “had a big impact” even though it was not enacted, Ms. Piven said. “A lot of people got the money that they desperately needed to survive,” she said.
Stelter muted Piven’s incendiary recent column, downgrading her call for riots to "mass protests" and downgrading the leftist Nation magazine to "liberal."
Ms. Piven came under additional scrutiny when she wrote in the liberal magazine The Nation this month that unemployed people should be staging mass protests.
Her assertions that “an effective movement of the unemployed will have to look something like the strikes and riots that have spread across Greece,” and that “protesters need targets, preferably local and accessible ones,” led Mr. Beck to ask on Fox this week, “Is that not inciting violence? Is that not asking for violence?” Videos of fires in Greece played behind him.
“That is not a call for violence,” Ms. Piven said Friday of the references to riots. “There is a kind of rhetorical trick that is always used to denounce movements of ordinary people, and that is to imply that the massing of people itself is violent.”
But two prominent academics and a journalist have taken issue with Stelter’s characterization of both Piven and her defenders at the Center for Constitutional Rights (Times Watch has also noticed the paper’s aversion to putting an accurate ideological label on the Communist-inspired CCR.)
Hudson Institute scholar Ron Radosh faulted Stelter for blaming Beck, and laid out the inconvenient history of CCR (hint: it's not "liberal" in any sense).
Although Stelter’s NYT’s article purports to be even handed, Stelter puts the onus not on Fox Piven for calling for violence which she denies, but on Beck for pointing out her statements on his Fox News program. And Beck has as far as I have seen not only consistently argued for non-violence in all protest, but has been a strong advocate of First Amendment freedoms and has quoted Piven’s own words accurately and without distortion.
To add evidence of Beck’s culpability, Stelter cites a demand made by a group called the Center for Constitutional Rights to stop Beck’s “false accusations” against her. While they respect the right of free speech, a letter they wrote to Fox head Roger Ailes says, “Mr. Beck is putting Professor Piven in actual physical danger of a violent response.”
One must also note the identification of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) as a “liberal nonprofit group,” which comes after Stelter identifies Fox Piven as “a liberal academic.” Fox Piven is an academic, but she is part of the radical far Left, and she is not a liberal. And anyone who knows anything about the CCR is laughing heartily....The organization was founded in 1966 by four Communist affiliated lawyers, and throughout its years has been consistently identified with defending not only dissenters, but Castro supporters, terrorists, and avowed enemies of our democratic system.
Stanley Kurtz at National Review Online on Monday decried the Nation magazine’s efforts to silence Piven’s critics. Kurtz, who had recently gone on Beck’s show to discuss the Piven controversy, described Stelter’s article as
...a thinly disguised gesture of support for The Nation’s campaign. The piece downplays Piven’s radicalism, noting that her widely criticized call for intentionally creating a political and economic crisis in America’s welfare system was made 45 long years ago. Although Piven has freely described her own strategy as an effort to set off “fiscal and political crises in the cities,” Stelter delicately avoids the word “crises,” writing instead of “fiscal and political stress.”
James Taranto at the Wall Street Journal led off his “Best of the Web” column Monday claiming Stelter got things exactly backwards -- that it's Piven, not Beck's followers, promoting violence.
In the past few weeks we've heard a lot, especially from the Times, about the dangers of violent rhetoric. Most examples of such "rhetoric" consist of innocuous metaphors: a political action committee's map of districts whose congressmen are targeted for defeat, or a representative's urging her constituents to be "armed" with information. Piven's statement that "protesters need targets," taken on its own, would fall into this category. But her endorsement of European-style riots constitutes actual violent rhetoric.
The Times, however, inverts the story. In the paper's telling, Piven, the advocate of violence, is the victim; Beck, her critic, is the villain. The headline reads: "Spotlight From Glenn Beck Brings a CUNY Professor Threats."
But the idea that Beck is to blame for these alleged threats is baseless. That is why the Times makes this accusation only indirectly, through insinuation and innuendo, consistent with its recent journalistic modus operandi. Indeed, what exactly is Beck supposed to have done wrong here? There is no allegation that anything he has said about Piven or her ideas is untrue, save for her denial in the Times that she has advocated violence, which is contradicted by her own quote in the previous paragraph.