Frances Fox Piven Has a Posse

I’m enough of an Internet Personality that I’ve had some hate-tweeters and hate-bloggers in my time. Not a lot, but a few.

But I’ve never gotten as many straight-up nasty responses as when I tossed off a tweet Friday night that “Frances Fox Piven is tougher than you. Fact.”

See, Glenn Beck has it in for Frances Fox Piven.

And I was at the Left Forum for an opening plenary featuring my boss, the fabulous Laura Flanders, Barbara Ehrenreich, Cornel West and Paul Mason (of the BBC). And as a bonus, we got Frances Fox Piven.

The story of how a 78-year-old sociology professor and (brilliant) author became the number one enemy of The USA’s Weepiest TV Host has been told elsewhere. Nancy Goldstein wrote:

Glenn Beck must have thought he had an easy mark when he targeted Frances Fox Piven. Let’s face it. On paper she’s a female widowed lefty academic now approaching eighty. Most of her life’s work has been focused on enfranchising the poor through welfare reform and voter registration. Surely Beck thought that nearly fifty broadcasts worth of inflammatory disinformation and hate-mongering about Piven and their inevitable result—hate mail, comments and phone calls that range from brutally nasty and paranoid to those that cross the line into the genuine death threat category—would shut her up.

So what’s Frances Fox Piven up to that has Beck and his crew so terrified?

She, along with Cornel West, is organizing a massive teach-in on April 5, designed to help boost the movement, begun in Wisconsin (as Meredith Clark wrote right here) to push back on so-called “austerity” cuts.

In other words, she’s organizing. Frances Fox Piven has a posse.

I mean, maybe Beck & Co. should be scared. I hear his audience share is down, and those protests in Madison look like an awful lot of fun–free pizza donated from around the world sounds far better than tea to me.

Nonviolent mass activism is scary, I suppose, when your main interest in life is protecting the interests of those who are already doing just fine. And when you’d done a fairly good job of convincing people who have been struggling that you’re on their side already, you might as well spend a bit of time demonizing your opponents and consolidating your own power.

But that can backfire on you.

Eventually, when you make a huge deal out of a woman that the majority of the US had never heard of, night after night, some people might actually go read her books. And figure out that some of her ideas are pretty appealing. You know, that poor people should work together to leverage what power they have. That maybe while we still have mass unemployment, it’s time for the unemployed to organize instead of waiting around nicely for our corporate overlords to throw us a few jobs.

That a gutted social welfare system is leaving people, often women and children, unprotected when those jobs disappear.

That working-class people have rights, maybe, and are just as valuable as those with FOX News microphones.

Glenn Beck hasn’t been able to shut up Frances Fox Piven. Death threats haven’t shut her up. In between the nasty comments at my Twitter feed the other night, I got responses from her students, present and former. One of them said:

first thing she did in a class was slam her fist on the table and say “you don’t think you have power? you HAVE power.”

That’s what the Glenn Becks of the world are really afraid we’ll find out.

I got a button at that event that says “I Am Frances Fox Piven.” But I’m not. I’m nowhere near that fierce. I hope to be someday.

For now, count me as just part of the posse.

7 comments for “Frances Fox Piven Has a Posse

  1. Kaija
    March 22, 2011 at 4:55 am

    This is wonderful to hear! The Wisconsin protests have given me hope that populism and democratic (small D) organization by citizens is not dead and that people eventually WILL get up off the couch and DO what needs to be done to restore some sense of balance to American governance. Thank goodness for people like Frances Fox Piven!

  2. March 22, 2011 at 6:37 am

    I got power. I do. And I am a Latina voter! Amen.

  3. PrettyAmiable
    March 22, 2011 at 7:25 am

    You know, my brother was a Fox watcher. He was super conservative until it clicked that the people at Fox HATE him. It’s really the union bashing that’s been building there over the last year or so. I frankly hope they keep it up.

    So yeah, GB ought to be terrified.

    Plus, hate-tweets can be funny. I hope yours are!

  4. Jessica
    March 22, 2011 at 8:40 am

    Bravo! I’ll be happily participating in the 4/5 teach-in in my sociology course: Class and Power. Great post, Sarah.

  5. Calioak
    March 22, 2011 at 10:44 pm

    Do. Not. Mess. With. the Greatest Generation.
    The baby boomers did a lot of things, and the younger generation certainly owes them, but nobody can put a baby boomer chicken hawk in it’s place like the WWII generation.

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