Revolution #48, May 28, 2006
Close Encounters of the Horowitz Kind Part 2
Editor's Note: Last week, Revolution ran the article Close Encounters of the Horowitz Kind Part 1. In that article, Alan Goodman describes how, in speaking to students at the University of Chicago, David Horowitz played on anti-communist myths and racist stereotypes to warn students against following any enlightened or progressive impulses. And Horowitz presented himself as an advocate of free speech and dissent on campus. In Part 2 of the article, Goodman recounts an impromptu debate with Horowitz after the program.
Horowitz got over to a great degree with both the anti-communist lies and the racist stereotypes, distortions, and outright lies about Black people. There was a tense and sharp divide in the audience between how the small number of Black and Latino students reacted to his racist rants, and the way most of the other students reacted.
Very few in the audience seemed to agree with him on the war in Iraq, his sexist attacks on feminism, or his claims that he is under siege and denied the right to express himself. But the racism and anti-communism that he ran was and is poisonous in its effect and besides, people don’t have to agree with everything Horowitz runs in order for him to set the terms of debate.
The Shtick... and THE STICK
Beyond the way he played on and whipped up anti-communist mythology and racist stereotypes, most students I spoke with after the event were not aware that Horowitz is not just full of shit—his agenda is about silencing critical thinking and dissent. Nor was there much, if any, awareness of his connections to Bush, Karl Rove, and the top officials of the Republican Party. Students I talked to had no idea that Horowitz's tract “The Art of Political Warfare,” was assigned reading for 2,000 key players in the last Bush election campaign and to top Republican congressmen. They didn't know that he and his followers are demanding dissenting professors get fired and prosecuted. And Horowitz didn't bring any of that up in his talk.
As dozens of students milled around after the Q & A ended, I was able to share some of the things I learned reviewing his book [see Revolution #42, April 9, 2006]. No student I talked to, including several of the campus Republicans, had read his latest book, The Professors (and I called out for anyone who had to speak up). They didn't know that he wants people who disagree with him fired, and that his followers have called for prosecuting professors under California's law against “communist indoctrination.”
As discussion developed in the lobby after the event, many students—including some of the campus Republicans—were quite disturbed by what they learned from what has appeared in Revolution about the essential repressive edge of Horowitz's campaign. He's not trying, mainly, to argue with his opponents; he wants them fired and jailed. As I pointed to things in Horowitz's book that prove this, one of the campus Republicans asked me to “raise what you are saying to David.” So off we went.
Horowitz was chatting with a group of students, accompanied by a couple of bodyguards. I introduced myself and explained I was very familiar with his book, and I told him that his own followers didn't know that he calls for firing teachers who disagree with him.
“Why don't you and your followers,” I asked, “debate and argue with people you don't agree with instead of demanding they get fired? If there is anything to what you are saying about how Black people owe a debt for being enslaved, which there is not, then why won't you argue that out. Why do you demand that people who disagree with you be fired and prosecuted?”
“You didn't read my book!” Horowitz cut me off. I said yes, I read the introductory “disclaimer” that you don't care about a professor's politics. And I read what you wrote about how you just want professors to keep politics outside of the classroom. But those are lies. I said: “You attack most of the professors in the book for things they say outside of class, and you have overtly called for firing Ward Churchill and the Colorado high school teacher who was taped by a snitch inspired by your so-called Students for Academic Freedom.”
I pointed out that Horowitz called for firing this high school teacher, among other places, during an appearance with Pat Robertson on the 700 Club. I told the students there that Horowitz had said that Robertson was doing important work for the same cause as him.
“If Robertson is doing important work for your cause,” I said to him, “what does it tell us about your cause? Robertson's Christian fascist university does not allow gay students, gay visitors, or any discussion of homosexuality (in any kind of rational way) on campus, and when a group of gay rights activists symbolically stepped onto school property, the school had them arrested. Is this your model,” I asked, “of free speech and academic freedom? And then you call for the firing of a Colorado high school teacher who engaged his class in discussion of capitalism, the causes of the Iraq war, and comparisons of Bush and Hitler.”
This teacher—according to the tape provided by a snitch student and played on a Colorado radio station—repeatedly provides an opportunity for a student with Horowitz's views to argue his case in class. And this teacher tells his students, “I'm not in any way implying that you should agree with me...but what I'm trying to get you to do is to think about these issues more in depth.” What does it tell you when Horowitz says that Pat Robertson is doing “important work” for academic freedom (!), and then demands this teacher be fired? People listening had never heard any of this. “Horowitz wants professors fired? Isn't he for free speech?”
Horowitz defended calling for the firing of the Colorado high school teacher (on Robertson's 700 Club show, Horowitz called the teacher's classroom discussion “child abuse”). Horowitz lied about what the teacher said in class. One of the UC students commented that it would seem hard to believe this teacher was a tyrant when 150 students walked out of school in protest when he was suspended.
Horowitz sensed that the association with Robertson was not playing well here at all, and that even his own people were somewhat freaked out that he called for firing this Colorado high school teacher. Horowitz said he doesn't agree with Pat Robertson on gays. I said, “That may be true, but so what? Did you go on his show and call for the firing of this Colorado teacher or not? And did you applaud Robertson's work as contributing to your cause? How is that anything but upholding a model of draconian repressive censorship, and opposing free speech that questions authority and encourages student discussion? Did you join Robertson in inciting his audience saying things like the professors attacked in your book are killers, beat children, are ‘sexual deviants’ and terrorists?”
Horowitz claimed that one professor in his book advocated sex with children. I said, “You know as well as I do that what Robertson means is that these teachers are openly gay, or they explore homosexuality in a way that does not start from Christian fundamentalism, and that is what Robertson was inciting his audience about. And that is just one example of what you would ban in classrooms.” This is a very uncomfortable area for Horowitz, and before we could explore other examples of his alignment with the Christian fascist agenda, his “bodyguards” placed themselves about six inches in front of my face, while Horowitz wheeled around and stormed out of the room.
After this exchange, the level of turmoil went to a whole other level. Even before my encounter with Horowitz, the campus Republicans had placed the issue of Revolution with the review of Horowitz's The Professors on their table, and it stayed there until they packed up. One guy, who described himself as a math geek, an evangelical Christian, and a conservative campus activist, wouldn't let go of me. He kept insisting he didn't agree with what he had learned Horowitz stood for. He thought students should be exposed to different ideas, and didn't feel threatened by political arguments in class. He was upset that by being an evangelical Christian Republican, he would be perceived as agreeing with Robertson. I told him that if he is concerned about that, he should draw a sharp line of demarcation between what he believed in, and Horowitz, Robertson, and Bush. He was in a great deal of angst when I finally said goodbye, and told me he would think about what we talked about and read Revolution.
There is much to try to process from this live encounter with Horowitz, but a few things stand out in my mind. One is that if anyone thinks Horowitz is a marginalized liar, they're only half right. Three hundred students turned out to hear him at University of Chicago, and they weren't, overwhelmingly, there to expose and refute him.
Second, Horowitz's full repressive agenda, which is serious and dangerous, is something he feels he needs to keep in the closet in front of audiences like the one at University of Chicago. This is an Achilles heel for him when it is exposed.
Third, we have to take on Horowitz with substantial, hard-hitting arguments that expose what he is all about. We have to go after him with facts, using his own words to damn him, and drag out and expose his real agenda to his followers. Anything less than that won’t cut it and will even play into his hands.
I was impressed by the openness on this campus to engaging in big questions. This was evidenced by the students who challenged Horowitz, and by the interest in a communist newspaper, and exposure of Horowitz that does not just refute what he says, but exposes what he serves. It struck me how important it is that we do the work to get a positive dynamic going, where on the one hand the right to critical thinking on campus is fought for, and Horowitz is exposed and refuted and his campaign to suppress critical thinking is beaten back; and on the other hand, there needs to be—in concert with this—much more engagement in academia with what communist revolution and socialism are really about.
And finally, very central to Horowitz's mission are his racist attacks on Black people. A substantial part of his speech involved upholding the enslavement of Black people by this system, and denying and reversing the present-day reality of racism, white supremacy, and the oppression of Black people. I'll return to this, and its dangerous implications, in future articles and meanwhile I encourage reader correspondence on this component of the Horowitz agenda.
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