Sunday, February 06, 2011

Questions For Those Who Fear The Truth

The other day, a student admitted to me that she's been a "Republican and a Catholic all her life" and that, everyday now, she goes home and talks about what she's learning in my class and her parents are getting upset. They ask her if they're "going to have to come down there" (to the school, I presume) to protest what their impressionable young daughter (who is at least of age) is being exposed to.

I told her, laughing, that they're welcome any time. And they are.

But today I received an email informing me that one of the professional organizations I belong to as a sociologist has recently signed a statement being circulated by the American Sociological Association. The statement was written in support of Frances Fox Piven, a well known Ph.D., social scientist, author and professor whose work related to poverty and inequality has been some of the most highly regarded in the world for decades now. No one -- and let me underscore this statement -- no one who is committed to rigorous research in the interest of understanding how our society works (rather than just accepting whatever those in power want believed) doubts the truthfulness of her writings.

But Glen Beck (the racist media mogul whose idea of rigorous research is apparently whatever hairbrained analysis he can suck out of his thumb and sell to those who drink his kool-aid) has decided Piven is "one of the most dangerous people in the world". Beck is so malicious toward this "dangerous" 78-year-old woman, he has whipped up a froth of panic sufficient to bring out the crazies he knows perfectly well he can direct to attack her.

The ASA statement reads in part:

"Over the past several months, Professor Piven has received a flood of hate mail and menacing internet postings, including death threats. The Center for Constitutional Rights has identified many of the violent posts by commentators in Mr. Beck’s website, including the following: 'I am all for violence and change Frances: Where do your loved ones live?' The rhetoric has become sufficiently overheated that the potential for physical violence is real."

And why has this happened? Because (according to the New York Times) Glen Beck told his listeners that, in 1966, Piven "created a plan to intentionally collapse our economic system." I'd bet a month's pay that the folks who think Glen Beck is a "smart cookie" don't read non-fiction reports on academic research, even and maybe especially when it's about their own country -- something I'm sure he counts on. But I've read Piven's work and never saw anything approaching Beck's accusation.

So I'm confused.

Who is this Glen Beck character that so many people in the United States get their marching orders from? And who are these lemmings who will jump off whichever cliff he points them toward? Do my student's parents listen to Beck, swallowing hook, line and sinker anything he pukes over the airwaves? And do they genuinely want their daughter to go to college, but not to learn anything?

The very first day of each new course I teach I make it a point to say that I am unconcerned with whether or not my students agree with what I say. It doesn't bother me if they don't feel warm and fuzzy. And I'm not in the business of creating robots. I'm in the business of creating thinkers.

I realize this makes me "dangerous," from Glen Beck's perspective, if I don't miss my guess by much. I suspect strongly that Beck worries about people who think. And for good reason. He's built a $32 million per year kingdom on the backs of folks who don't question those who have the power to define. And just now, that group includes him. Which ought to give the rest of us pause. I mean, what possible type of Power Structure would want Glen Beck for a front man? How in the world has he been allowed to become so widely received while demonstrating every characteristic of a rampant megalomaniac? And what kind of society would foist such a man into the limelight daily, giving him free reign to wreck havoc using troops that would scare witless any ordinary citizen?

Do I have to fear my student's parents? And if so, why? Have we lost our communal minds? Is there no one left to speak a quiet word of caution? Are we to escalate this torture machine until it spins out of control and jumps the track, taking us all with it?

I'm sure my student's parents believe whatever it is they believe. And they have taught her to believe it as well, since she claims to have been "a Republican and a Catholic all her life," long before, it would seem, she could possibly have come to any conclusions of her own. I assume also that my student's parents cannot imagine that they could be wrong. I mean, what kind of parents would teach their child things they know are wrong or things they're so afraid might be wrong that they absolutely freak out in the face of her examining them?

But I don't teach my opinions. I teach facts.

For example, the United States government is in hock to Korea, Taiwan, China and Japan to the tune of about half of the U.S. treasury. It's not my opinion. It's a matter of public record, for goodness' sake. But who in their right mind would put a society anybody expected to survive in such a predicament? Who would mortgage the future of all the citizens of a country for generations to come and then give the money to Halliburton, Lockheed Martin, Boeing and BlackWater Worldwide to kill people who hadn't attacked them? And what possible good conclusion could come from such a scenario?

The question is: if my student's parents don't know this and don't want to know this, why is that? And even if they don't know it or want to know it, why is it that they don't want their daughter to know it? And even if they don't want their daughter to know it, what if she wants to know it anyway? What if she wants to participate in policy decision-making as a knowledgeable citizen of her country? Is that something they would forbid? And if so, how far would they be willing to push that?

What if my student's parents think Glen Beck is right, that people like Frances Fox Piven -- and me -- are "dangerous"? And what if their daughter learned that Beck et al are wrong? Would they listen to Beck telling them she had become "dangerous," too? Would they be unaffected if some crazy loner type shot her in the face while she -- as an elected official or a professor or any other position she had achieved -- was going about the business of being useful to her fellow citizens?

Or is that why they're so afraid of her learning something they didn't teach her and may not know? Are they afraid of the Glen Becks of the world and trying to fly under the radar to keep themselves -- and their loved ones -- safe? Don't they know there's no safety for anyone once the dogs of war have been unleashed? And make no mistake about it, Glen Beck is the Godfather holding the leashes of the dogs of war that threaten the American citizenry. He has been charged with the responsibility to help destroy -- one way or the other -- what's left of this country's potential as a stable functioning entity. And the trillion dollar deficit question is: is he -- or somebody just like him -- going to be allowed to do it?


Cletis L. Stump said...

Beck, thankfully is on the wane. His viewership is down dramatically and his radio show has been dropped in major markets. He's crazy like a FOX, as you point out. His audience is a reflection of our schools to create a discerning electorate. It sounds like you run up against that a lot in your college classes. We write a good deal about educational issues at our place. Come by when you have time or inclination and read around for awhile. The educational posts are somewhere in the archives. I like your blog.

Cletis L. Stump said...

...a reflection of our schools inability to...

Please excuse the error.

Changeseeker said...

Welcome to my house, Cletis. I only have a minute, so I jumped over to your blog for a taste. I can hardly wait to return. I couldn't immediately ascertain where you're coming from, but you have some excellent writers over there and I'll be back. Shortly.

Ulysses said...

The poor deluded inhabitants of Glenn Beckistan are constantly trying to make sense of his deranged rantings. They're asked to hate George Soros because he's rich, and hate liberals because they coddle the poor. Not only is much of what he says counterfactual, it's also logically inconsistent.
Awesome blog, btw.

Changeseeker said...

Thanks, Ulysses. Drop back by any time. And -- just for the record -- I think GlenBeckistan is one word. :^)

fwoan said...

I was a Christian conservative for most of my formative years. In fact, before Glenn Beck was big, he was a talk radio host for the Tampa, Florida area and I was a huge fan! I listened to him every day on my commute home.

It was only after I moved across the country and out of the family support system that reinforced my belief/political system, that I questioned myself.

I remember finding out that evolution did in fact occur and that the world wasn't 6,000 years old. It began a period where I found out that almost everything I thought was wrong.

And here I am 5 years later, a socialist atheist.

It's not that I moved into a community of socialist atheists either, so I can't blame the reinforcement of others on my transition - but I do believe that removing myself from the reinforcement I had been experiencing at home allowed for more understanding with the world around me.

Changeseeker said...

So what do we do, fwoan, about people who stay in the cocoon of where they grew up more or less permanently? Write 'em off? Risk our lives? Or what?

fwoan said...

Be really passive aggressive to them.

fwoan said...

No one changes their mind about things on the level of politics, religion, social issues, etc because they are presented with facts or even have their entire point of view destroyed in debate. That's something I've had to come to terms with because I love to argue things like this and always wondered why I never convinced anyone they are wrong.

People don't understand these issues like they understand mathematics. You can't show a white supremacist DNA print-outs of white and Blacks and show them definitively that inferiorities do not exist.

I'm not sure what does create the opportunity for change in a person's world view, but I think it's something that can only be initiated by themselves. Sometimes it never happens.

We get our original world view programmed into us (mostly from parents) and then we have to alter it ourselves.

This is my hypothesis.

Blaque Ink said...

I have no words to say to those who listen to a Beck. To me he's just another bully, a bully with access to media outlets.

It seems irrational why anyone no matter who they are would listen (and obey) Beck without so much as a thought to even question his tirades and rantings. I can only conclude that some people want someone to tell them what to think and do.

Sage said...

I think part of the following of Beck is that he creates a common enemy and easy scapegoats for the people to rally around. He makes arguments that seem clear - mainly because they're loud and presented in soundbites (like homilies) that can be repeated to make followers feel like they're in the know.

Re: fwoan's comments on change - I think sometimes being presented with facts helps. Sometimes if you see the facts over and over from different sources, a lightbulb goes on and there's no turning back. Often it's not enough though. I'm still trying to convince students that slavery still happens - I have pictures of kids in the Ivory Coast beaten for not working fast enough. Students think the pictures are doctored or from a century ago. We're bred skeptics, but they're skeptical of the wrong sources!

Maybe it would help if Beck watchers were made to tune into the Daily Show and Colbert Report immediately after.

Changeseeker said...

Wow! Great comments! I agree with everybody and love seeing such a lively process of consideration and participation. Makes me think Glen Beck did one thing right today. He made us all write about what's going on in America.

Anonymous said...

I don't really get how you leap from admiring FFPiven, to Glenn Beck being "wrong."

I'm sure there are flaws in Piven's outlook, given that sociology is a bogus field of "science" and is loaded with arch assumptions about human nature, social order, governmental role, and the role of private assistance.

There's nothing crooked, artificial or hollow about working on social problems. But assuming that a "sociologist" is unassailable, and from there launching into a tirade against an OBVIOUS PAID LIAR like Glenn Beck...

...well that's just a non-sequitur.

Piven's work would be used by governments in a way that would expand government's role and thereby its bloated bureaucracy. To that extent, the OBVIOUS PAID LIAR has a good point.

Whether Glenn Beck is riling up emotional hot-button feelings and thereby obscuring his fans' true powerlessness against the state they're encouraged to protect and shrink, that's a totally different issue from whether Piven is a heroine or whether her work is misused by people seeking to expand bloated bureaucracies.

And in case you were wondering: I am not a fan of Beck, but I'm well aware of what he does, and a big part of what he does (and others like him do) is to inflame people such as yourself, to get them to operate irrationally.

You know, like comparing Glenn Beck to Frances Fox Piven.

Soma said...

Working formula for angry radio make-believe or bought and paid for multimedia propaganda machine for the corporate plutocracy? For many, it's what's called the truth.

Did you know, that for just pennies a day, you can inform an ignorant natural-born U.S. citizen? Hundreds of thousands the country over are information starved-- and you can help!

...though excuse my cynicism in not even thinking that disclosing reality will change it.

Dark Daughta said...

thanks for posting this. i had heard about him targeting her. it's atrocious.

Changeseeker said...

Oxtrot: In your fervor to club sociology as a "bogus" science, you missed my whole point (and since you feel that way, why in the world would you bother to read a blog post written by a sociologist anyway?). I don't care about Glen Beck's opinion of Francis Fox Piven or anything else. He is, as you point out, not only a paid liar, he's a jerk and I have better things to which to give my attention than whatever it is he's up to. My concern throughout the post is that the man is dangerous because he has the ear of people who clearly want an excuse to kill other people for contradicting their particular brand of ideology. And the fact that Beck is paid to get these folks in a lather and sic them on anybody worries me. You're mixing apples and oranges by talking about political perspectives, which isn't even the topic of my blog. He doesn't "inflame" me. I've never once watched anything Beck does as his railing against reality couldn't interest me less. But crazy people who kill because the truth makes them twitch concern me greatly.

Changeseeker said...

Soma: I know disclosing reality is not guaranteed to change it, but truth telling is our only hope. Obi-wan Kenobi told me so. ;^)

Daughta: You're welcome. Atrocious, indeed.

Theresa said...

Well, I am a Christian but I am also a liberal and consider myself somewhat of a humanist. I have an incredible thirst for knowledge and surround myself with many types of people. I believe to have some answers to your questions about the student based on my own home life experience. I grow up in an extremely Republican and Catholic family, where God is used to strike fear into our hearts and free thinking is shunned as "work of the devil." My family are DEVOUT followers of people like Glen Beck, and the Fox news channel never changes. If you try to have a conversation with my brother, he can literally quote every psychotic rant/banter from Glen Beck. I believe that people like the members of my family see you and others as "dangerous," because you are teaching their children to "think." One someone goes off into college they open their eyes to the real world. They get to experience the good and the bad. For people like my family, this means thinking on their own and possibly turning away from the beliefs that they WANT their children to have. My family truly believes that Glen Beck does not have a problem with psychosis, but is actually right about everything, which leads them to trying to make my believe in everything he and those other crazy conservaties say. I'm sure that many other families simply are just as blind as mine but I also agree that many people could just be trying to stay "under the radar." I think that this post is fantastic and I always love to hear another person point out the Glen Beck truly is an irrational and causes multiple problems for innocent people (which is why he should be taken off of the air, he puts peoples' lives at risk for goodness sake).

Changeseeker said...

I'm sure you speak for millions, Theresa. Which is why Glen Beck falling out of popularity doesn't console me much. Even if one whacko goes down or turns out to be a drug addict or a closet sexual pervert, your family -- and all the other families just like them -- will seamlessly attach to the next maniac with a meteoric rise into the public light. Because they have no conscious awareness of reality, any Pied Piper can lead them into the inferno of a facsist agenda. Hitler did it. A number of others less immediately well known did it. And every President of the U.S. for at least the last fifty years has played some role in setting the stage for what we're watching unfold now. The wild card, of course, is how many people in this country secretly "get it," but are presently lying low because they don't want to risk everything until it becomes obvious that even they have nothing left to lose. Thanks for your comment.