Know Your Right Wingers
SOURCE: August Pollak
[Editor’s note: David Horowitz has challenged some of the assertions made in this piece. Campus Progress is in the process of fact-checking his claims, but in the meantime he has written a rebuttal that you can read here.]
David Horowitz seems to relish his role as a former campus leftist who now gleefully spews angry criticism of academia and the left.
Horowitz spent his college years, in the late 1950s, at Columbia University, where he was involved in American Maoist Communist political organizations. He went on to receive his Master’s degree at another hotbed of liberalism, the University of California, Berkeley.
His about-face occurred in 1985 when he launched an assault against his erstwhile leftward compatriots, whom he now calls "violently, fervently committed to their unholy war to tear down American democracy and replace it with their version – an Americanized version – of communism." In his reformed state, Horowitz still describes himself as “a civil rights activist” on his website. His blood, sweat, and tears go into defending that downtrodden demographic, white males.
Horowitz’s “civil rights” activism has manifested itself in a twisted series of seemingly bigoted and clearly controversial attacks. Included in this list are his August 16, 1999, column in Salon entitled, “Guns don’t kill black people, other blacks do” and his 1999 book, Hating Whitey and Other Progressive Causes. In 2001, Horowitz stirred national controversy when he ran nasty advertisements in college newspapers across the country entitled “Ten Reasons Why Reparations for Slavery is a Bad Idea—and Racist Too.” The full-page ads ran in several college papers, causing some to issue retractions and apologies, and others to receive protest from outraged students and accusations of racism. Horowitz capitalized on the latter by declaring an “assault on free speech” by left-leaning students.
Campus Progress doesn’t join those who say Horowitz doesn’t have the right to speak. We just think his speech is ill-mannered, ill-considered, and ill-informed. It should be met with rational, firm, strong arguments and real facts.
Horowitz came under fire again for a January 26, 2005, posting on the History News Network website about "Why I Am Not Celebrating" the 90th birthday of the esteemed African-American historian John Hope Franklin. Franklin is the James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of History at Duke University and chairman of President Clinton’s Commission on Race. Horowitz launched an attack on Franklin for his response to Horowitz’s anti-reparations ad, denouncing him as "a racial ideologue rather than a historian" and "almost pathological." In the piece, Horowitz tried to defend his claim that "free blacks and the free descendants of blacks … benefited from slavery.”
Through it all, Horowitz has found a smarmy, backhanded way of misrepresenting himself as a defender of civil rights – he baselessly brands his ideological opponents as "racist" to deflect criticism of his own racially inflammatory remarks.
A contributor to numerous right-wing publications, Horowitz is the president of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, a think tank financed by conservative funders that serves as an incubator for right-wing radicals. The group’s online journal, Front Page Magazine, began running Ann Coulter’s column after her post-9/11 radical anti-Muslim comments got her fired from The National Review. Horowitz is a regular on TV and radio shows, where he mindlessly attacks the supposedly liberal media and denounces it for its “falsehoods.”
Horowitz continues his campaign against supposed “liberal bias” on college campuses through his organization Students for Academic Freedom. According to Horowitz, America’s schools are moving towards a “one party academic state” that is governed by a ruthless liberal dictatorship. He regales campuses with tales of liberal outrages, some of which cannot be documented despite diligent efforts by researchers and may never have occurred at all. Horowitz also authored the “Academic Bill of Rights,” a misleading manifesto already introduced in eight state legislatures – and in the U.S. House of Representatives – touting the need for “academic diversity” in university faculty.
The Academic Bill of Rights would prohibit professors at both public and private colleges from introducing “controversial matter” into the classroom. The bill would shift oversight of college course content away from trained professors and administrators and into the hands of state governments and courts. While it has not been formally adopted anywhere yet, it has inspired legislative policies toward “intellectual diversity” in Ohio and Pennsylvania. The Inter-University Council of Ohio has reached an agreement with Senate sponsors of the Ohio Academic Bill of Rights to implement key principles of “academic freedom” in Ohio public and private universities.
Despite fierce objections from the American Association of University Professors, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a resolution that required a Select Committee to “examine, study and inform the legislature about the condition of academic freedom in the state’s universities” on July 5th, 2005. Horowitz smugly declared that if the liberal school boards had not refused to adopt his non-legislative Academic Bill, government intervention would be unnecessary. Horowitz and his overwhelmingly right-wing supporters insist that the grievance procedures in the Ohio Academic Bill of Rights and the Pennsylvania resolution protect all students from discrimination based on political/ideological affiliation. After nearly a year and countless hours of testimony, the committee concluded that there were few if any academic freedom violations in Pennsylvania, and that no legislation was necessary. Horowitz has continuously mischaracterized the hearings.
The Academic Bill of Rights is both redundant and misleading. Most colleges already have rules ensuring free expression (political and otherwise), and Horowitz and his supporters have been able to offer scant evidence of campus political bullying.
The Bill of Rights serves as a perfect guise for his true aim: to pressure state-funded colleges and universities to pack their faculties with conservative professors. According to Students for Academic Freedom, the group seeks “to get more than 500,000 signatures—10,000 per state—to present to lawmakers, alumni, regents and administrations across the nation” in support of the bill. Leading the “victimize us no more!” call to arms that has become a trademark of conservative pundits, Horowitz laments the “blacklisting” of conservative students and professors and calls on his followers to keep a close eye on their professors. He urges them to help him keep a record of the supposed political bullying that he says occurs regularly in college classrooms in his Academic Freedom Abuse Center.
The Academic Freedom Abuse Center, housed on the Students for Academic Freedom website, invites students to report having their "rights abused" in class. But it only looks impressive until you start reading the actual claims. Some highlights: One student complains because her professor suggested men and women might see colors differently. Another is offended she was asked to watch an " immoral Seinfeld episode." A recent entry in the database was from an Ohio State student who claims he got a bad grade on an essay because his English professor " hates families and thinks it’s okay to be gay." (Another complaint comes from an Augustana College senior who is upset her school used "funds from Student activity fees to bring in the one-sided speaker David Horowitz.")
Campus Progress hopes that students, faculty, campus administrators, and legislators of all ideological and political stripes will stand up against these efforts by Horowitz to turn state governments into Campus Thought Police. Censorship is wrong, whether from the left or the right. Faculty members ought to be judged on whether their scholarship is strong under the standards of their academic discipline and whether they are good teachers – not on whether the views they express meet specific guidelines established by state legislatures.
In addition to the widely criticized Hating Whitey and Other Progressive Causes, Horowitz has authored such books as Destructive Generation: Second Thoughts About the Sixties, The Politics of Bad Faith, and The Art of Political War, which Bush chief campaign strategist Karl Rove called a "must read.”
In a recent “lesson“ on his new website, Discoverthenetwork.org, Horowitz makes the outlandish claim that most of America’s progressive leaders, Hollywood entertainers and civil rights advocates are closely aligned with radical Islamist terrorists known for killing Americans. He’s not kidding around. Though at first glance (not to mention upon further inspection) it seems like a simple-minded ploy to earn chortles among the right at the expense of the left, he warns, “This database reflects links that are not merely caricatures by political enemies but are legitimate indices of a political reality.” In Horowitz’s political reality, Sen. Barack Obama appears on the same row as terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and John Walker Lindh, the American Taliban, appears next to the Center for American Progress’s very own John Podesta.
Lately it seems that Horowitz will peddle crazy to just about anyone who will buy it. In March, he admitted that one of his favorite examples of the extreme liberal bias among college and university professors, a story which he had never been able to substantiate, was, as it turned out, possibly untrue. For months Horowitz and his ilk had been chirping on and on about a University of Northern Colorado professor who, they said, asked his criminology class to explain on a midterm “why President Bush was a war criminal” and then failed a student who explained instead why Saddam Hussein was a war criminal. Anti-conservative bias at its best! Unfortunately, in a March 15th report on InsideHigherEd.com, a spokesperson for the school deflated Horowitz’s claims, saying that its information “was inconsistent with the story Horowitz has told about this incident,” including the question asked, the grade given, and the reasons for the grade the student received.
Meanwhile, the day before InsideHigherEd published its report, Horowitz had attacked Media Matters for slander on his website and had stood up for the validity of the story. Horowitz, always interested in the limelight, continued to beat this horse further to death, arguing that Media Matters was “creating a mountain out of the molehill of this particular case (our campaign is based on hundreds of cases).” Sound familiar? Remind anyone of a very posthumously abused horse named Ward Churchill – one crazy in a hundred non-crazies that folks like Horowitz talked about till they were blue in the face? Seems that Horowitz was just getting a taste of his own medicine.
Speaking of tasting, Horowitz was one of several conservative speakers who got pelted with food by students during speaking events in April 2005. On April 6, while delivering a speech to Butler University students, someone hurled a cream pie that hit Horowitz smack in the face. Campus Progress in no way endorses such attempts to curb free speech. Horowitz has as much of a right to speak his mind as the rest of us, no matter how weak his arguments or hazy his facts. And we don’t like wasting pie, which is (often) delicious. We do think it’s particularly lame that instead of chuckling it off and trying to save face, Horowitz is pressing criminal charges and is on a mission to get the perp suspended.
On April 29, 2005, while speaking at Columbia University, Horowitz caused quite a stir when he passed out a pamphlet that bore a picture of Noam Chomsky with a turban and beard, under the heading, “The Ayatollah of Anti-American Hate.” At least Horowitz has a sense of irony: He was there to lecture students about the importance of “ideological diversity.” Apparently, this diversity doesn’t apply to lefty American scholars.
Students are starting to push back against Horowitz’s famous untruths and hate speech (and we don’t mean with pies). Recently, when speaking to students at the University of Hawaii, Horowitz was interrupted by a student each time he told a lie. Instead of shouting him down, however, the students simply corrected Horowitz’s misstatements. Needless to say, the students were then told to “shut up” by Horowitz supporters.
Also recently, our friends at ThinkProgress had the pleasure of being featured in a FrontPage magazine article by Horowitz titled, “The Multiple Lies of John Podesta and Friends“ for filing his precious Academic Bill of Rights under “Radical Right-wing Agenda.” Apparently Horowitz doesn’t see how equating a progressive and inspiring young leader like Senator Obama with a murderous terrorist would be considered radical.
These days, Horowitz is continuing his unapologetic, unquestioning defense of the Bush White House while accusing liberals who question the war of being anti-American. He recently attempted to convince the public that Bush was “exonerated” by the bipartisan membership of the Senate Intelligence Committee for his false statements during the 2003 State of the Union about Saddam Hussein seeking African uranium. Actually, what Horowitz referenced was not part of the Senate report, but rather a sentence from a British government inquiry that wasn’t published until a week after the Senate report came out. Meanwhile, he slams liberals who question the war – calling them anti-American in his columns in FrontPage Magazine – but never speaks of his fellow conservatives who likewise are outraged about the mess in Iraq.
Horowitz, envisioning right-wing extremism beyond college campuses, has now launched Parents and Students for Academic Freedom, an organization promoting his agenda in primary and secondary schools. They have partnered with ProtestWarrior, one of the far-right’s primary high school organizing groups that specializes in outrageous pro-war propaganda. The site for his new underage crusade prominently features stories from an anonymous 11-year-old who complains of such events as when a teacher asked the class, “What would a Taoist think of Bush?” After researchers have failed to confirm many of the stories from university campuses Horowitz has claimed to collect, are we really supposed to trust his nameless grammar school insider?
Despite Horowitz’s continuing inability to prove any systematic anti-conservative bias, he continues to spew forth accusations. In 2006, Horowitz published The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America, attempting to create a McCarthyish blacklist of liberal professors. Once again, Horowitz’s undoing came by way of fact-check. As Media Matters documented, Horowitz’s condemnations are based on in-classroom statements by professors in only six of the cases, and, in 52 cases, was entirely dependent on outside-classroom activities. Furthermore, an in-depth report by Free Exchange on Campus, entitled “Facts Count,” further eviscerated Horowitz’s claims, documenting an absence of student corroboration (only 13 cases, none of which have withstood further scrutiny), manipulation and distortion of quotes, and in some cases, outright fabrication. Many of the accused professors have responded to Horowitz, often finding the accusations so unsubstantiated as to be comical.
However blatantly ideological and indefensible, Horowitz appears determined to continue preaching “Academic Freedom” to his dwindling choir. In 2007, an increasingly grumpy Horowitz (see grumpy photo) published Indoctrination U: The Left’s War Against Academic Freedom. Despite Professors having been roundly denounced, Horowitz recycles already-debunked misrepresentations, half-truths, and creative exaggerations to rehash his agenda. Horowitz blames those intolerant leftists and indoctrinated drones for dismissing his campaign, brushing past any substantive critiques of his ideological bias and dishonesty. Horowitz appears to have been drowned out by his own petulance, with his book already in the discount bin. As even the conservative faithful lose their taste for pundits high on provocation and weak on proof, perhaps Horowitz should reassess just why nobody is listening to him. (And, no, we’re not just saying all this because Horowitz recently referred to Campus Progress as “the gutter left.” But thanks for the mention!)
So read up on Horowitz and get ready – he may just be bringing his cries of liberal bias to a campus near you! You can track legislation in state legislatures and find out more at Free Exchange on Campus, a coalition organized by Campus Progress, the American Federation of Teachers, the Center for Campus Free Speech, the ACLU, and others.
Some of our Favorite Horowitz Quotes:
“Leftism itself is an infantile disorder. In the view of this puerile left, the American government is an omnipotent father who is to be blamed for everything – and is so blamed in order to exculpate the children, leftists like Brown and Sheehan, from their responsibility for anything.” (9/1/05)
“Do I think some members of the anti-war movement are in actual formal contact with the radical Islamists and advancing their agendas. Yes I do. Do I think you and Cindy Sheehan are? Only peripherally in that the radical Islamists are integrated into the anti-war coalition generally.” (to David Swanson, creator of MeetWithCindy.org, 8/19/05)
“You see, the left isn’t forgiving or civil. Instead they are violently, fervently committed to their unholy war to tear down American democracy and replace it with their version – an Americanized version – of communism.” (3/8/2000)
“The so-called "peace movement" today is led by the same hate-America radicals who supported America’s totalitarian enemies during the Cold War. They marched in support of the Vietcong, the Sandinista Marxists and the Communist guerrillas in El Salvador. Before that they marched in behalf of Stalin and Mao. They still support Castro and the nuclear lunatic in North Korea, Kim Jong-Il. They are the friends in deed of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.” (4/7/2003)
“If Rodney King had obeyed the orders clearly given and had laid down in a ‘prone position’ on the night of his famous encounter with Los Angeles police, 58 people would be alive today, $16 billion would be circulating in the economy and four dedicated LAPD officers who were working to the book that night would not have been forced to endure two trials (the first had acquitted them) and had their careers destroyed to appease the liberal conscience. But liberals had to make their point.” (9/9/2003)
“Now it is virtually impossible for a vocal conservative to be hired for a tenure-track position on a faculty anywhere, or to receive tenure if so hired.” (4/18/2003)
“Paradoxically, at the same time, the destructive Left sees in American democracy and the Constitution that created it, a powerful weapon it can use to destroy the system. Consequently – and again somewhat paradoxically – the anti-American Left has directed a significant part of its political energy towards attacks on the American court system and on the Constitution itself.” (“Out of Many, One,” 11/24/2003)
“What I’ve set out to do is to try to restore the educational principles that were in place before the generation of sixties leftists infiltrated the university and corrupted it by transforming it into an ideological platform.” Horowitz, (2005).
Illustration: August J. Pollak