January 24, 2011
Dear members of the Collective Behavior and Social Movement Section of ASA
We write to express our outrage at the way in which our esteemed colleague, Frances Fox Piven, has been pilloried, even terrorized, by both the right wing media (most especially Glenn Beck of FOX News) and character-assassinating, vicious, right wing extremist blogs associated with (but not limited to) him. One of us first heard about these assaults during a roundtable on voting rights at the recent SPSA meeting in New Orleans. At the time, they seemed difficult to credit. Unfortunately, if anything these reports understated the degree to which Frances has been abused.
Just recently “The Nation” detailed the horror to which she has been subjected. We include a link to the story:
On January 21, the New York Times published a similar, if less comprehensive, account:
Other, corroborating stories have also appeared in both print media and electronic blogs.
As the late distinguished historian Richard Hofstadter documented, assaults on academics, intellectuals, pointy-heads, indeed learning/erudition itself are nothing new in this country. They were a powerful force during the McCarthy era, as well as at other times. Seldom if ever, however, have the attacks reached the depths of vituperation of those from Beck and his acolytes. Indeed, even a cursory look at the articles reveals that the assaults go well beyond ad hominem or ad feminem jeremiahs but literally constitute threats on her life, so far only verbally but in view of recent events in Tucson, one can only wonder.
It would be intolerable to sit idly by and watch this witch-hunt continue without loud protestation from her colleagues in academia. We would like to urge the members of the section, to add your voices to the outrage we feel at how Piven has been treated y the rightwing media. As we write, the ASA is considering how best to respond (so is the APSA, our other home professional organization. It is our hope that both organizations will lead a broad-based outcry against this kind of behavior. At the same time, individual voices can be raised – to members of Congress, the local press, other professional associations. We urge you to join us in speaking clearly and calmly against this outrage against not only our friend and colleague but against academic freedom itself.
Sidney G. Tarrow Richard K. Scher
Maxwell M. Upson Professor Professor, Department of
Of Government Political Science
Professor of Sociology University of Florida