Glenn Beck, Frances Fox Piven, and How the New York Times Falsely Depicts the Controversy

Death threats are no small matter, and are to be taken very seriously. I know how upsetting they can be because in the 1980s, I was subject to them myself. After The Rosenberg File was published and received a favorable front-page review by Alan Dershowitz in The New York Times Book Review, I began to get phone calls threatening my family and me, many of them around 3 am in the morning. One caller told me: “I know where your children live and their school schedule, and you and they better watch out, because we will get you.” I phoned the police who came to my apartment the next day, and we discussed if there was any way to identify the callers and put a stop to them.

Nothing happened, the calls stopped, and I’m still here. But the threats were quite unnerving, I assure you. The threats I received came from the pro-Communist Left, who considered me a traitor for proclaiming the Rosenbergs to be Soviet spies. So I am more than sympathetic to the plight of Frances Fox Piven, who, evidently, has received scores of threatening e-mails from people who do not agree with her politics. The editors of the leftist magazine The Nation, where Piven’s writings have appeared consistently since the 1960s, call her “distinguished professor, legendary activist, writer and longtime contributor to this magazine.” The last characterization is the only correct one, although, I’m sure she is “legendary” in their circles.

According to a report by Brian Stelter in Saturday’s New York Times, titled “Spotlight From Glenn Beck Brings a CUNY Professor Threats,”  threatening posts aimed at Fox Piven have appeared  on Glenn Beck’s website,, although the proprietors of the site have since removed the most offending ones. One of them that Stelter reprints says: "Somebody tell Frances I have 5000 roundas ready and I’ll give My life to take Our freedom back." (The spelling and capitalizing have not been changed.)

According to The Nation, where Fox Piven’s December 22nd article “Mobilizing the Jobless” apparently set off this controversy, there were scores of postings calling for Piven’s murder, some “even volunteering to do the job with their own hands.” If true, the postings they present are indeed ugly and vicious, and Glenn Beck should command his staff for to remove them all, and to carefully monitor such comments in the future and delete them before they appear. Those responsible for allowing them to be posted should, in my opinion, be fired.

The Nation defends Fox Piven, maintaining that she only supports “voter registration drives, grassroots organization, and when necessary, street protest” and “recognizing the leverage that oppressed groups have -- and working with them to use it,” which is “her special genius.” But the good professor has gone way beyond this.  I had discussed Fox Piven’s article in my PJM blog post pointing out her call for unemployed Americans, and those otherwise hurt by the recession, to "become more disruptive” and  emulate “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."