Brownshirts on Campus with Deep Connections to Bush
David Horowitz and the Halls of Power
Revolution #044, April 23, 2006, posted at revcom.us
I reviewed David Horowitz's “The Professors—The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America” in Revolution #42. In reading that book, it was striking, and ominous, to put together a picture of the kinds of discussion, research, dialog, and debate that would be banned—not just from classrooms, but campuses—should Horowitz's agenda be adopted. Among the kinds of statements that Horowitz attacks in his book as unacceptable are basic truths about the genocidal impact of Columbus and the European settlers on the Americas, and the actual history and impact of the enslavement of Black people (Horowitz claims “Black people owe (a debt) to America” for slavery!). If the criteria in “The Professors...” for defining (and outlawing) “dangerous” thought were applied, any substantial discussion of the causes and effects of the war on Iraq, of the nature and impact of capitalist globalization, or of the rampant use of torture and denial of basic rights by the Bush regime would also be out of order in academia. (See “ ‘The Professors…’ David Horowitz and the New Brownshirts,” Revolution #42, available at revcom.us.)
Revolution received many thoughtful responses to this review, including accounts of being harassed, hounded, and fired. For instance, a comment on the review by a history professor attacked in the book included the following:
“Being named as one of the 101 Most Dangerous Professors came as little surprise. I was suspended for an antiwar email in 2002 due to public pressure to punish me for my pacifist beliefs even though American Association of University Professor guidelines were egregiously violated by an administration pandering to public right-wing opinion. So these are the times where the academy is under assault by several but not all right-wing groups, who wish to impose a nationalistic, prowar ideological monopoly on higher education through the marginalisation of progressive faculty. Academic freedom must be defended by those who are committed to academic excellence and the thunder of the right needs to be challenged on every front. Otherwise, America will have no voices left to challenge its imperialistic, racist and monstrous disregard for international peace and security. Resistance is essential; radicalism is imperative; critical thinking is mandatory if we are going to reverse course and create a nation based upon democracy, human rights and respect for the needs of the international community.”1
Revolution received a number of substantial responses to Alan Goodman's review of “The Professors—The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America” from professors who are attacked in the book, and obtained permission to post several of these responses at our web site. These comments are available at revcom.us.
At the same time, these responses divided sharply, and several quite influential and respected professors who are are attacked in “The Professors...” felt that by taking on Horowitz, we were only giving him publicity—and that the best thing is to ignore him. Or, that Horowitz's book, filled as it is with distortions and lies, should not be dignified with a response.
Ignoring Horowitz won't work, to say the least! The experience of the professor, quoted above, being suspended for an anti-war email is far from an isolated incident. While Horowitz poses as an advocate of “academic freedom” and “free speech,” Horowitz's web site, writings, and student groups threaten and harass professors. In my review, I described a major incident at Santa Rosa Jr. College in California where a Horowitz-“inspired” student group called for prosecution of professors based on a California law against “communist indoctrination.”
These Horowitz-“inspired” campus brownshirts are hounding professors in and out of class. Pending legislation would give his censorship demands the force of law. And lunatic Christian fascist Pat Robertson is inciting his audience with wild lies that the professors attacked in Horowitz's book are “murderers.” Robertson (echoing the book's jacket) called the attacked professors “sexual deviants” who “beat people up.” Imagine the potential impact of such inflammatory rants on an audience being programmed to believe that Robertson is channeling the word of god.
And finally on this thread, history is full of tragic examples of people hoping reactionary bullies would go away if ignored—Joe McCarthy comes to mind as an obvious analogy. When has such an approach ever worked?
HOROWITZ'S TIES TO THE BUSH AGENDA
Beyond all the empirical evidence that Horowitz presents a real, urgent threat to critical thinking in academia, there is a deeper story. Horowitz has long-time, deep connections with George Bush and Karl Rove, the strategist who connected Bush with the Christian right and forged the electoral strategy that got expressed in the mobilization of voters in “red states” behind rumors that John Kerry would legalize gay marriage and ban the Bible.2
The book Banana Republicans: How the Right Wing is Turning America Into a One-Party State by Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber documents the strategic alliance between Horowitz and Rove in Bush's “re-election” in 2004. They write:
“During the 2000 presidential and congressional elections, every Republican member of the U.S. Congress received a free pamphlet, compliments of Congressman Tom DeLay, the party's majority whip. Written by conservative activist David Horowitz, the pamphlet was called The Art of Political War: How Republicans Can Fight to Win. It came with an endorsement on the cover by Karl Rove, the senior advisor to then-candidate George W. Bush. According to Rove, The Art of Political War was 'a perfect pocket guide to winning on the political battlefield from an experienced warrior.' In addition to DeLay's gift to members of Congress, the Heritage Foundation, one of the leading conservative think tanks in Washington, found Horowitz's advice so impressive that it sent another 2,300 copies to conservative activists around the country.
“True to its title, The Art of Political War argues that 'Politics is war conducted by other means. In political warfare you do not fight just to prevail in an argument, but to destroy the enemy's fighting ability. ... In political wars, the aggressor usually prevails.' Moreover, 'Politics is a war of position. In war there are two sides: friends and enemies. Your task is to define yourself as the friend of as large a constituency as possible compatible with your principles, while defining your opponent as the enemy whenever you can. The act of defining combatants is analogous to the military concept of choosing the terrain of battle. Choose the terrain that makes the fight as easy for you as possible.’ ”
Horowitz's pamphlet, which was adopted by Rove as assigned reading for top levels of Republican operatives, took its name from Sun Tzu's “The Art of War.” The pamphlet argued for adapting the laws of warfare to political discourse and exchange of ideas.3
FEAR OF CRITICAL THINKING ON CAMPUS
Many within the Bush camp have identified the campuses as a dangerous remaining outpost of critical thinking. The story Li Onesto recounted in her correspondence in last week's issue of Revolution, about the life- and thinking-changing impact that discourse with a liberal professor had on a First Gulf War vet, is symbolic of a wider phenomenon in society.
Writing in CounterPunch magazine, Jeff Birkenstein—an English professor— noted that one day “After class, a student told me that many of his high school friends had been very conservative. But since coming to the university, he has begun to hold his former beliefs up to scrutiny, re-embracing some while rejecting others. This process is but one of the many purposes of higher education. It is also the exact process of which [Andrew] Jones, Horowitz, and others are so afraid.” (“Black is White; White is Black—Bush and Freedom of Speech”)4
In times of great questioning, and with campuses as a relatively open space for exploring ideas, deploying Horowitz as a battering ram on campuses represents real fear on the part of those in power of the impact of critical thinking. And, for those who see the critical need for such critical thinking, Horowitz represents not just sloppy scholarship, lies, and hypocrisy. He is an instrument of a whole fascist agenda.
HOROWITZ AND THE CHRISTIAN FASCISTS
Christian fascists are at the core of Bush's inner circle (a recent indicator of their influence in the White House was their role in torpedoing Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, and their insistence on an appointee who was a known and approved quantity to the leading Biblical-literalist, theocratic forces). But even within the ideological rigidity of Bush's inner circle, there is a version of “unite all who can be united.”
Enter Horowitz—whose message was recognized by “Bush's Brain”—Karl Rove—as an essential criteria in “reaching out” and broadening the base of the Bush regime. If someone like Jerry Falwell, or Pat Roberton, whose Liberty and Regent universities have no pretense of free speech, went onto campuses and campaigned to ban critical thinking, their nakedly fascist agenda would be relatively obvious and overt.5
A review of The Art of Political War in Publisher's Weekly noted that the pamphlet “urges Republicans to go on the offensive, to take back issues that Clinton Democrats have co-opted, to reach out to working people and minorities, and to master images, symbols and sound bites.” (emphasis added)
That is what Horowitz is doing when he sells censorship and repression on campuses as “free speech” and “academic freedom.” His publicized examples of the supposed violation of free speech take examples of conservative or reactionary students who were disturbed by viewpoints, facts, exposure, and discussion in classes that challenged their thinking.
What point or meaning is there to demanding “free speech” that is restricted to parroting the views of the Bush regime, as Horowitz does? In a revolutionary society, there would be tremendous importance to not only tolerating, but promoting, dissent, including on campus, and guaranteeing various forms of free speech for critics of the revolution. But in a society where the president systematically lies about the cause of war and the scope and nature of repression, defining “free speech” as the “right” to believe everything the administration tells you, without having that questioned, is bizarre and obscene.
The point of the First Amendment and freedom of speech is supposed to be protecting people's right to criticize the government. For Horowitz, and the powerful forces behind him in the White House, “free speech” means protecting the government from criticism.
Horowitz's assault on critical thinking is labeled a “free speech” campaign. His censorship laws are called the “Academic Bill of Rights.” All in service of, and tightly connected with, the Bush regime—which itself is an extreme concentration of a system of open-ended violent global plunder and accompanying repression at home.
1. The full text of this comment by Peter N. Kirstein, Professor of History at St Xavier University, Chicago, and other responses to the review are available at revcom.us.
2. The documentary Bush's Brain has interesting exposure of how Rove put Bush together with Christian fascist forces.
3. In exploring the roots of Horowitz's strategic thinking, the authors of Banana Republicans...associate Horowitz's leftist early years with his current agenda, methods, and tactics in a way that involves some fundamental distortions, including their comment that “in a strange way [Horowitz] remains a Leninist.” For an assessment of the tremendous accomplishments of previous socialist revolutions and societies, and how the next wave of communist revolutions must and can do better, including in promoting dissent, see Dictatorship and Democracy, and the Socialist Transition to Communism by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, at revcom.us.
4. Andrew Jones is another Horowitz-“inspired” campus brownshirt, infamous for offering UCLA students $100 to record and turn in teachers who “can't stop talking about President Bush, about the war in Iraq, about the Republican Party, or any other ideological issue that has nothing to do with the class subject matter.” Most of the attacks on professors at Jones's web site are for their activities outside of class. This week, Jones features an attack on one professor's “personal history and theoretical background”—see www.uclaprofs.com.
5. As an example of the stifling atmosphere at Roberton's Regent University, campus authorities had gay-rights activists arrested when they stepped onto campus—[see report in the Roanoke Times, VA—Mar 15, 2006.] In my review of “The Professors...” I noted the extensive (and inflammatory) promotion of the book by Pat Robertson, and Horowitz's comment that “What you are doing on The 700 Club is very important in this process. If we start fighting back, a lot can change fairly quickly because, while it will take a long time to affect the actual faculties, we can at least make them behave.”