David Horowitz and the Hypocritical Attack on the US Academy
What do Jimmy Carter, Rashid Khalidi, Bruce Springsteen, Barack Obama and Dennis Kucinich all have in common? According to David Horowitz, they’re ingeniously connected through a lethal leftwing conspiracy as delineated on his notorious website www.discoverthenetwork.org, which features unflattering mug shots of America’s most progressive pundits accompanied by scathing critiques of their political views. In short, Horowitz’s website seeks to mount preemptive character assassinations against any individual with whom the reactionary political commentator disagrees.
David Horowitz spoke at Columbia University last Friday, April 29th to lecture students on—of all things—the worth of “ideological diversity.” As the leader of the movement to strangle independent thought at US Universities, Horowitz adoption of the language of “Academic Freedom” is Orwellian doublethink at its worst. Doublethink is a kind of manipulation of the mind, which makes people accept contradictions. One such contradiction is Horowitz’s penchant for blacklisting liberal intellectuals while haranguing his entourage about expanding political diversity. We, Columbia students, must question such an artificial brand of “Academic Freedom” that entails a defamation of those whose views differ from our own.
Horowitz is not only hypocritical but also offensive. In a propaganda pamphlet distributed at Friday’s lecture, Horowitz depicted Noam Chomsky as a stereotypical terrorist, with a turban and beard, under the heading, “The Ayatollah of Anti-American Hate.” The gesture of “Arabizing” those with whom Horowitz disagrees is both infantile and prejudiced because it implies that one can essentialize a specific ethnic group by saying all its members are Anti-American. More importantly, Noam Chomsky defies the juvenile caricature that Horowitz sketches; as the New York Times noted, Chomsky is “arguably the most important intellectual alive.”
The extent of Horowitz’s intolerance was best captured in another pamphlet purporting “the Arabs are the Indefensible Aggressors,” which failed to make any distinctions within the monolithic category. What if a Christian student published and circulated propaganda stating, “the Jews are the Indefensible Aggressors”? I most certainly hope we would be completely outraged and unequivocally demand an immediate end to such hate speech. Let us not have double standards.
Horowitz’s wrath knows no boundaries. At Friday’s lecture, Horowitz attempted to defend Larry Summers by suggesting men and women have inherently different intellectual aptitudes and polled the audience to see who agreed with him. As if this were not repulsive in itself, Horowitz, retained the syntax of his original question and then asked, “How many of you think Blacks are inherently better at sports than Whites?” Pretending such an analogy formed a natural segue, Horowitz exposed his belief that both gender and race afford individuals inherent capacities. It is no surprise that Horowitz’s deceptively innocuously named “Center for the Study of Popular Culture” has received around $4 million in grants from the Bradley Foundation, which is known to subsidize pseudoscientific studies such as Charles Murray's racially incendiary book, The Bell Curve, that implied that African-Americans were genetically inferior. Just as repulsive as Summer’s recent comments about gender-specific intellectual disparity is Horowitz’s dichotomizing of African Americans and Whites.
Utilizing the fine political art of "self-victimology," Horowitz consistently plays the “I’m a silenced conservative” trump card; however, he never reveals that streams of tax-exempt money created and keep his center in business. In 1997 alone Popular Culture received over $1.2 million from the Scaife, Olin and Bradley Foundations, the core of the far right's funding apparatus for its propaganda in the US. He also enjoyed a healthy audience on Friday and received a standing ovation. Not exactly, the reception one would expect for someone who believes his free speech is stifled by the villainous “lefties.”
Nothing better reveals the implicit racism embedded in the scaffolding of Horowitz’s arguments than his own infamous Ad against slave reparations, which he sent to 73 college campuses across the nation during the year 2001. It is no surprise that both Columbia and Harvard rejected the Ad, as did dozens of other Universities: The Ad suggested African Americans actually benefited from slavery, “The claim for reparations is premised on the false assumption that only whites have benefited from slavery” and, more disturbingly, suggested they were already compensated through welfare, “ . . . trillions of dollars in transfer payments have been made to African-Americans in the form of welfare benefits . . . If trillion dollar restitutions . . . for African-Americans is not enough to achieve a ‘healing,’ what will?” Basically, Horowitz supports the patently false and deeply repulsive claim that all African Americans are on welfare. Horowitz fondness for inflammatory statements was on display at Friday’s lecture when he used the ridiculous argument that the success of Oprah Winfrey (who he called “a fat, Black woman”) to “prove” his theory that there is no racism in the US.
Horowitz’s current activities are just as reprehensible and odious. In a recent book, "Hating Whitey," Horowitz attacks African American civil rights activists as
being anti-white racists. Putting aside the absurdity of such an inversion of reality, Horowitz’s book completely ignores the fact that there are more interracial friendships and relationships now than ever. There’s no better place to start such research than the same progressive US college campuses that Horowitz enjoys lambasting. I, for one, am fortunate to have a group of friends as heterogeneous as the United Nations’ General Assembly.
Part of Horowitz’s activism is a mass effort to pass his so-called "Academic Bill of Rights," which is part of a conservative backlash that aims to control what is written and taught at our academic institutions. It would establish outside oversight of curricula and teaching and stifle discussion of "controversial" topics. And his confederacy of student organizations under the banner of "Students for Academic Freedom” encourages students to report on their professors.
While I am uncompromisingly committed to any individual's right to express himself freely and the right of student groups to bring speakers of any ideological stripe, I am disturbed by the presence of a speaker who attracts audience members wearing shirts advising, “Bomb them All!” and a moderator that grabs the microphone out of students’ hands before their two minutes have expired. Perhaps Horowitz and his ilk believe “Academic Freedom” is an exhaustible commodity that must be rationed selectively.
While pontificating, Horowitz would do well to remember the words of George Orwell in Notes on Nationalism: “The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.”