One of my first contributions to Deliberately Considered was an essay on Glenn Beck (“Beck and Call”), a commentator who at that moment (February 2, 2011) was riding high. But who hears Glenn Beck today? He has a website that requires a subscription. In the past year, Mr. Beck has become marginal to the public debate, and perhaps in becoming marginal, the sharp fringe of the Tea Party has become so as well. He was the tribune for the aggrieved during the Tea Party Summer.
Last winter – back in the day – Glenn Beck was a roaring tiger. His claws were thought so bloody that when he attacked Frances Fox Piven, one of the leading activist scholars of social movements, a string of professional organizations rose to the lady’s defense, including the American Sociological Association and the Society for the Study of Social Problems. After the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords, many progressives concluded that Professor Piven was next in line for assassination from the rightists roiled and boiled by Beck.
Today we frame Glenn Beck’s symmetry as less fearful. Those who worried that Professor Piven was walking on a knife’s edge might be surprised that her latest book, published in August, is entitled Who’s Afraid of Frances Fox Piven: The Essential Writings of the Professor Glenn Beck Loves to Hate. Glenn Beck has become Professor Piven’s marketing tool. Without Glenn Beck’s opposition, Piven’s writings might seem less essential. (As a fellow former president of the Society for the Study of Social Problems, I am pleased that her deservedly influential writings have become essential. I am attempting to find someone of equal stature to hate me. The placid readers of this flying seminar know that I try my best.)