Phi Beta Cons

Help Me Follow the Logic

I know I’m coming late to this story, but since the Chronicle of Higher Ed keeps publishing material decrying the “hounding” of Frances Fox Piven following Glenn Beck’s comments about her, I’m going to comment anyway.

I must admit that I’m confused. As I understand the undisputed facts of this little controversy, Frances Fox Piven wrote an article that called for — among other things — Greek-style riots in American streets. Of course, the Greek riots caused deaths and widespread property damage. Glenn Beck took Fox Piven seriously and denounced her call for violence. Yet according to the academic establishment, Glenn Beck is the dangerous person?  

Then there’s the hilarity of the American Sociological Association. They weighed in with this gem of a statement:

Beck’s attacks have resulted in a flood of hate mail and internet postings attacking Professor Piven, including a series of death threats. While it is true that death threats are generally only a form of extremist rhetoric, they indicate an overheated emotional atmosphere that researchers on collective violence call “the hysteria zone.” It is a zone in which deranged individuals can be motivated to real violence against those targeted by demagoguery. History tells us that such things as the attempted assassination of Representative Giffords that resulted in six deaths in Tucson, Arizona can be examples of how abundant, polarizing rhetoric by political leaders and commentators can spur mass murder.

They conclude with the following:

 We call on Fox News and other responsible media to set the appropriate standards of accurate and honest debate.

Oh, the irony. The ASA calls for “accurate and honest debate” in part by spreading an ahistorical lie. “History tells us” that there is no evidence that Jared Loughner was motivated or spurred by “polarizing rhetoric” when he attacked Representative Giffords. In fact, Loughner’s hatred for Representative Giffords predates the Tea Parties.   

Lying in the name of honesty. How positively postmodern.


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