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ASA Officers Respond to Glenn Beck’s Attacks on Frances Fox Piven

WASHINGTON, DC, January 25, 2011 — American Sociological Association (ASA) officers expressed outrage Monday at Glenn Beck’s attacks on Frances Fox Piven on his Fox News show and called on the cable news station to “control the encouragement of violence that has run rampant in recent months.”

Piven, a renowned professor of political science and sociology at the City University of New York Graduate Center, is considered one of the foremost commentators on America’s social welfare system. She has also held a number of leadership positions including President of the ASA, Vice President of the American Political Science Association and President of the Society for the Study of Social Problems.

“Scholars of her caliber, intellectuals of her stature, and especially those who tackle social conflicts and contradictions, mass movements and political action, should stimulate equal levels of serious challenge and creative dialogue,” said a Jan. 24 statement from ASA officers Randall Collins, Erik Olin Wright, Evelyn Nakano Glenn and Sally T. Hillsman. “Being called by Glenn Beck one of the ‘nine most dangerous people in the world,’ and an ‘enemy of the Constitution’ is not a credible challenge; it is plain demagoguery.”

The baseless attacks have resulted in a flood of hate mail and menacing Internet postings, which include 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,’” said the statement, which ASA posted on its website. “It is a zone in which deranged individuals can be motivated to real violence against those targeted by demagoguery.”

In their statement, Collins, a sociology professor at the University of Pennsylvania and ASA’s current President; Wright, a sociology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and ASA’s President Elect; Glenn, an ethnic studies professor at the University of California-Berkeley and ASA’s Immediate Past President; and Hillsman, ASA’s Executive Officer, called on Fox News to take steps to control the violent rhetoric, but also emphasized the importance of First Amendment rights.

“Serious and honest, undistorted disagreement and public debate on unemployment, economic crisis, the rights and tactics of welfare recipients, government intervention and the erosion of the American way of life should be supported,” the statement said. “We in no way advocate restricting the freedom of speech of political commentators. They in turn should recognize the right of social science researchers to gather and analyze evidence related to controversial topics and to reach conclusions based on evidence, even if such conclusions disagree with widely held beliefs. Where we all should draw the line is at name-calling and invective rising to the level of inciting others to violence.”

Read Full Text of Jan. 24, 2011 Statement

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About the American Sociological Association
The American Sociological Association (www.asanet.org), founded in 1905, is a non-profit membership association dedicated to serving sociologists in their work, advancing sociology as a science and profession, and promoting the contributions to and use of sociology by society.