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Francis Fox Piven: Stoic as Hell or Who’s Actually Violent?

I actually just became aware of Glenn Beck’s targeting of Francis Fox Piven, a 78 year old CUNY Grad Center professor. Beck sees Piven as part of a grand anarcho-syndicalist conspiracy which began with Woodrow Wilson.  As stupid as this may seem, a lot of people believe that a 78 year old Democrat is advocating violent class war.

This morning, in an interview with Piven, Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzales read off some of the comments posted on Beck’s page for an article called “Frances Fox Piven Rings in the New Year by Calling for Violent Revolution.”

Somebody tell Frances I have 5000 roundas [sic] ready and I’ll give My life to take Our freedom back. Taking Her life and any who would enslave My children and grandchildren and call for violence should meet their demise as They wish. George Washington didn’t use His freedom of speech to defeat the British, He shot them[.]

Another salvo, from a user calling himself JST1425:

[Be] very careful what you ask for honey. As I mentioned in previous posts…ONE SHOT…ONE KILL! ‘We The People’ will need to stand up for what is right…a few well placed marksmen with high powered rifles…then there would not be any violence[.]

Piven’s response was brilliant, and hits the core of the problem: “it is Murdoch, not Beck, who is the more important target.” And let’s be clear here, when she says “target,” unlike the right, she’s not thinking in terms of cross-hairs!  While there’s this absurd idea that violent rhetoric is pervasive throughout the political spectrum, evidence proves otherwise. It’s really a right wing phenomenon. Seriously, how many people have the left killed in the past 25 years?

In activist circles, even those who fetishize the 1960s-70s armed radical groups like the Weather Underground, (who only killed themselves in a bomb accident) don’t arm themselves to the teeth, and don’t actually throw bombs. Jon Stewart was right the other night to call out the idea that “18 year olds running around with lawyers’ phone numbers written on their arms” are a comparable threat to armed militias.

Perhaps what this really shows us is that this false conflagration, the flat out baseless idea that there is comparable violence on the left and right, has become a dangerous problem in its own right. During the “Green Scare,” environmental activists, mostly on the West Coast were targeted by FBI agents who infiltrated small groups and  proceeded to provide bombs and detailed plans to damage property. The activists, of course were arrested under anti-terrorism statutes.These were, for the most part wealthy college kids who became interested in radical ecology movements in school. They don’t pose a comparable threat, if any at all. If the FBI hadn’t come in, armed with bomb making materials – this wouldn’t have happened at all. This is really the only major instance of “left wing violence” I can think of in the past decade. The only actual “violence” perpetrated by the left is the occasional damage to property (i.e. a broken Starbucks window or., in an extreme case the burning of SUVs). Whether or not Starbucks having to replace a window pane is violence is still being debated.

This conflagration actually enables the right wing extremists, who according to the Southern Poverty Law Center have grown in ranks over the past few years.

Hate groups stayed at record levels — almost 1,000 — despite the total collapse of the second largest neo-Nazi group in America. Furious anti-immigrant vigilante groups soared by nearly 80%, adding some 136 new groups during 2009. And, most remarkably of all, so-called “Patriot” groups — militias and other organizations that see the federal government as part of a plot to impose “one-world government” on liberty-loving Americans — came roaring back after years out of the limelight.

The anger seething across the American political landscape — over racial changes in the population, soaring public debt and the terrible economy, the bailouts of bankers and other elites, and an array of initiatives by the relatively liberal Obama Administration that are seen as “socialist” or even “fascist” — goes beyond the radical right. The “tea parties” and similar groups that have sprung up in recent months cannot fairly be considered extremist groups, but they are shot through with rich veins of radical ideas, conspiracy theories and racism.

This report was released in the Spring of 2010, we can’t expect that there has been a drop in this sentiment.

The other issue this raises is that these reactionaries view the Democratic Party – equally corporatist and militaristic to the GOP – as the radical left. It’s an insane idea – and as a member of the left, find it offensive. As a 21st century socialist, there’s nothing I hate more than hearing that Obama is a socialist or communist or anything like that.

Socialists don’t hire Rubenites.

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Jon Spiegler

Jon Spiegler

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