Frances Fox Piven Quotes (UPD: Glenn Beck is an overweight, neurotic idiot)
Frances Fox Piven is a Professor of Political Science and Sociology at The Graduate Center, City University of New York. In 1983 she co-founded Human SERVE (Service Employees Registration and Voter Education), an organization whose stated goal was increasing voter registration under the linking of social services or Department of Motor Vehicles usage with voter registration offerings. She was married to her long-time collaborator Richard Cloward until his death in 2001. Together with Cloward, she wrote an article in the May 1966 issue of The Nation titled “The Weight of the Poor: A Strategy to End Poverty”. Her critics have called this the “Cloward–Piven strategy.” (Wikipedia)
It’s a lunatic story, but it’s a story that nevertheless is clear. You can get your hands around it. This woman is somehow responsible for the upsetting changes in your small town where the factory closed down. I don’t blame them for being upset. It is upsetting. But I blame Glenn Beck for telling them a factually untrue, crazy story about why those changes occurred. – February 27, 2011 interview with NPR discussing Glenn Beck’s portrayal of Piven and her husband, which she claims has now led to death threats from Beck’s listeners
What is new, I think, is the potential power of propaganda in American life. And that’s in part because of the media, and the role of big money, and who owns the media. After all, it’s not Glenn Beck, it’s Rupert Murdoch — let’s face it. Glenn Beck is an idiot: an overweight, neurotic, character who hit on this way of building an audience and making a lot of money. But FOX News gave him his platform. – February 18, 2011 interview with Michael Busch of the CUNY Graduate Center “Advocate”
Thomas Sowell said we were for the responsible for the demand for affirmative action — “black people didn’t want that!” – February 18, 2011 interview with Michael Busch of the CUNY Graduate Center “Advocate”
“…the Sixties movements have a kind of special edge to them because they did play a role in the election of Barack Obama, who is easily vilified and demonized because he is African-American. – February 18, 2011 interview with Michael Busch of the CUNY Graduate Center “Advocate”
American politics is hard to understand. The fact that it is so dense, so complicated, so opaque and turgid opens the way for lunatic propaganda. And sometimes not so lunatic! The right-wing propaganda campaign that has now been going on for forty years — a campaign that is sometimes referred to as the politics of distraction — to try to wean the American working class away from New Deal policies and the Democratic Party by raising cultural issues that largely have to do with race and sex. This larger campaign is perhaps not lunatic, but neither is it a contribution to democratic discourse. – February 18, 2011 interview with Michael Busch of the CUNY Graduate Center “Advocate”
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. – February 8, 2011 article in UK’s Guardian entitled “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. – subtitle on February 8, 2011 article in UK’s Guardian entitled “The real threat of Glenn Beck’s fantasies”
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. – February 8, 2011 article in UK’s Guardian entitled “The real threat of Glenn Beck’s fantasies”
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. – February 8, 2011 article in UK’s Guardian entitled “The real threat of Glenn Beck’s fantasies”
I thought it was funny at the beginning. [And] Gradually over time I’ve come to see it as something really important…really insidious and very scary. – January 24, 2011 interview with Cenk Uygur, discussing Glenn Beck and his coverage of her.
(see video below)
So where are the angry crowds, the demonstrations, sit-ins and unruly mobs? After all, the injustice is apparent. Working people are losing their homes and their pensions while robber-baron CEOs report renewed profits and windfall bonuses. Shouldn’t the unemployed be on the march? Why aren’t they demanding enhanced safety net protections and big initiatives to generate jobs? – January 10/17, 2011 The Nation column titled “Mobilizing the Jobless”
Mass protests might change the president’s posture if they succeeded in pressing him hard from his base, something that hasn’t happened so far in this administration. But there are obstructions to mobilizing the unemployed that would have to be overcome. – January 10/17, 2011 The Nation column titled “Mobilizing the Jobless”
Read the full article at the bottom of this page
Tea Party are tied to voters who are “Older…they are not whiter, they are white, they are all white and they are also more comfortable economically.” – at 0:29 in clip below: December 5, 2010 at a lecture discussing the 2010 midterm elections and the Tea Party movement.
For them change is for the worst…after all there is an African American in the White House, that is sort of beyond their cultural experience. The American population is darkening. That’s also beyond their experience. – at 0:58 in clip below: December 5, 2010 at a lecture discussing the 2010 midterm elections and the Tea Party movement.
“…and you know, I don’t have data on this, but I am absolutely sure sex is very important in what is happening to older people. They are voting against social security in a certain sense. [Be]In part because they are so upset at the fact sexual and gender and family norms that they grew up with…you know when there was steeple in every little town…a man was a man and a woman was a woman. All of this stuff is very unnerving. It makes you churn, it makes them churn…nevermind – at 1:27 in clip below: December 5, 2010 at a lecture discussing the 2010 midterm elections and the Tea Party movement
They are reacting against the fact that the America they grew up in is different. That’s why they stay at their crazy rallies where they after “I’m angry”, they have no follow up line…” – December 5, 2010 at a lecture discussing the 2010 midterm elections and the Tea Party movement.
Problems with the stimulus, wasn’t big enough, too much in tax cuts, but nevertheless there was a lot of spending that was redistrubution in the stimulus bill. – December 5, 2010 at a lecture discussing the 2010 midterm elections and the Tea Party movement.
I have considerable respect for non-violence, but I don’t treat it as inevitably a necessary rule. The reason I have respect for non-violence, is I think it helps to protect the protesters. – C-SPAN, University of Wisconsin, November 11, 2004
Unless you have good reason for breaking the window, probably you shouldn’t do that. Unless it’s you know, a big part of your strategy. – C-SPAN, University of Wisconsin, November 11, 2004
The article proposed a campaign to enroll eligible people in the welfare program. We knew from our work with Mobilization for Youth on the Lower East Side in New York City that the welfare department was turning many eligible people away, sometimes giving them bus tickets to go back south. We also knew from our research that this was a widespread practice, with the consequence that less than half of those who were eligible for welfare benefits were receiving them. So we tried to think through the consequences of a campaign for full coverage, including the fiscal and political troubles it would cause in the cities, and the policy responses of a Democratic federal government that depended on its big city base, including the increasingly militant poor minorities in its urban base. We thought there was a good chance that such a welfare “crisis” would prompt a Democratic administration to federalize the program, and improve it. In fact some of the categorical assistance programs were federalized with the creation of the Supplemental Security Income program in 1974. Moreover, there was no downside to the strategy because along the way desperately poor people got welfare, food stamp and Medicaid benefits. But this was a considerably more modest strategy for reform than Glenn Beck and his ilk perceive. – discussing the article Piven and Richard Cloward wrote for The Nation in 1966 titled “A Strategy to End Poverty” in an interview with Joseph G. Peschek, September 2010
“…readers should know that the attack on ACORN succeeded. The organization as we knew it no longer exists. The loss is immense because ACORN was the largest and most effective representative of poor and minority people in this country, which is why it attracted the full fuselage of the organized right. – in an interview with Joseph G. Peschek, September 2010 discussing the charges and accusations against ACORN
It (Tea Party) is a media concoction, an expression of white nationalism, a cry of resentment, and so on. But it also reflects a well-funded campaign by the right that singles out groups like ACORN, the SEIU (Service Employees International Union), the teachers’ unions, and environmental projects, to disable not only the left, which after all is not at this point strong enough to be much of a threat, but the Democratic Party. – discussing Tea Parties in an interview with Joseph G. Peschek, September 2010
The Obama administration in turn has done some things to restore a measure of intelligence and balance to American government, most of it under the radar screen. – interview with Joseph G. Peschek, September 2010
Obama’s stimulus bill was remarkable for its tilt toward working and poor people. However, his approach to economic recovery and job creation since then has been far more timid, as was his role in health care reform. – interview with Joseph G. Peschek, September 2010
On Glenn Beck’s coverage of “Cloward-Piven Strategy”: “So, it’s an old technique of right-wing ideologues – finding a scapegoat, somebody preferably who is not a farmer, right, an intellectual, and attributing things that go wrong in American society to somebody who’s foreign or dark skinned or an intellectual. – February 2010
Glenn Beck: insidious and scary
“Mobilizing the Jobless”
As 2011 begins, nearly 15 million people are officially unemployed in the United States and another 11.5 million have either settled for part-time work or simply given up the search for a job. To regain the 5 percent unemployment level of December 2007, about 300,000 jobs would have to be created each month for several years. There are no signs that this is likely to happen soon. And joblessness now hits people harder because it follows in the wake of decades of stagnating worker earnings, high consumer indebtedness, eviscerated retirement funds and rollbacks of the social safety net.
So where are the angry crowds, the demonstrations, sit-ins and unruly mobs? After all, the injustice is apparent. Working people are losing their homes and their pensions while robber-baron CEOs report renewed profits and windfall bonuses. Shouldn’t the unemployed be on the march? Why aren’t they demanding enhanced safety net protections and big initiatives to generate jobs?
It is not that there are no policy solutions. Left academics may be pondering the end of the American empire and even the end of neoliberal capitalism, and — who knows — in the long run they may be right. But surely there is time before the darkness settles to try to relieve the misery created by the Great Recession with massive investments in public-service programs, and also to use the authority and resources of government to spur big new initiatives in infrastructure and green energy that might, in fact, ward off the darkness.
Nothing like this seems to be on the agenda. Instead the next Congress is going to be fixated on an Alice in Wonderland policy of deficit reduction by means of tax and spending cuts. As for the jobless, right-wing commentators and Congressional Republicans are reviving the old shibboleth that unemployment is caused by generous unemployment benefits that indulge poor work habits and irresponsibility. Meanwhile, in a gesture eerily reminiscent of the blatherings of a panicked Herbert Hoover, President Obama invites corporate executives to a meeting at Blair House to urge them to invest some of their growing cash reserves in economic growth and job creation, in the United States, one hopes, instead of China.
Mass protests might change the president’s posture if they succeeded in pressing him hard from his base, something that hasn’t happened so far in this administration. But there are obstructions to mobilizing the unemployed that would have to be overcome.
First, when people lose their jobs they are dispersed, no longer much connected to their fellow workers or their unions and not easily connected to the unemployed from other workplaces and occupations. By contrast workers and students have the advantage of a common institutional setting, shared grievances and a boss or administrator who personifies those grievances. In fact, despite some modest initiatives — the AFL-CIO’s Working America, which includes the unemployed among their ranks, or the International Association of Machinists’ Ur Union of Unemployed, known as Ucubed — most unions do little for their unemployed, who after all no longer pay dues and are likely to be malcontents.
Because layoffs are occurring in all sectors and job grades, the unemployed are also very diverse. This problem of bringing people of different ethnicities or educational levels or races together is the classic organizing problem, and it can sometimes be solved by good organizers and smart tactics, as it repeatedly was in efforts to unionize the mass production industries. Note also that only recently the prisoners in at least seven different facilities in the Georgia state penitentiary system managed to stage coordinated protests using only the cellphones they’d bought from guards. So it remains to be seen whether websites such as 99ers.net or layofflist.org that have recently been initiated among the unemployed can also become the basis for collective action, as the Internet has in the global justice movement.
The problem of how to bring people together is sometimes made easier by government service centers, as when in the 1960s poor mothers gathered in crowded welfare centers or when the jobless congregated in unemployment centers. But administrators also understand that services create sites for collective action; if they sense trouble brewing, they exert themselves to avoid the long lines and crowded waiting areas that can facilitate organizing, or they simply shift the service nexus to the Internet. Organizers can try to compensate by offering help and advocacy off-site, and at least some small groups of the unemployed have been formed on this basis.
Second, before people can mobilize for collective action, they have to develop a proud and angry identity and a set of claims that go with that identity. They have to go from being hurt and ashamed to being angry and indignant. (Welfare moms in the 1960s did this by naming themselves “mothers” instead of “recipients,” although they were unlucky in doing so at a time when motherhood was losing prestige.) Losing a job is bruising; even when many other people are out of work, most people are still working. So, a kind of psychological transformation has to take place; the out-of-work have to stop blaming themselves for their hard times and turn their anger on the bosses, the bureaucrats or the politicians who are in fact responsible.
Third, protesters need targets, preferably local and accessible ones capable of making some kind of response to angry demands. This is, I think, the most difficult of the strategy problems that have to be resolved if a movement of the unemployed is to arise. Protests among the unemployed will inevitably be local, just because that’s where people are and where they construct solidarities. But local and state governments are strapped for funds and are laying off workers. The initiatives that would be responsive to the needs of the unemployed will require federal action. Local protests have to accumulate and spread — and become more disruptive — to create serious pressures on national politicians. An effective movement of the unemployed will have to look something like the strikes and riots that have spread across Greece in response to the austerity measures forced on the Greek government by the European Union, or like the student protests that recently spread with lightning speed across England in response to the prospect of greatly increased school fees.
A loose and spontaneous movement of this sort could emerge. It is made more likely because unemployment rates are especially high among younger workers. Protests by the unemployed led by young workers and by students, who face a future of joblessness, just might become large enough and disruptive enough to have an impact in Washington. There is no science that predicts eruption of protest movements. Who expected the angry street mobs in Athens or the protests by British students? Who indeed predicted the strike movement that began in the United States in 1934, or the civil rights demonstrations that spread across the South in the early 1960s? We should hope for another American social movement from the bottom — and then join it.
Frances Fox Piven is on the faculty of the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. She is the author, most recently, of Challenging Authority: How Ordinary People Change America.