Revolution #108, November 11, 2007

Against “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week”—


During the week of October 22-26, the so-called “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week” (IFAW) sponsored by David Horowitz and various Republican student organizations descended on campuses throughout the country. Horowitz put together a constellation of speakers and events with right-wing ideologues like Ann Coulter, former Senator Rick Santorum, Daniel Pipes, and Horowitz himself, along with former progressives like the feminist author Phyllis Chesler to provide cover.

Horowitz originally put out a vision that promised not only speeches and demonstrations at over 100 campuses, but sit-ins at women’s studies departments and big public events designed to coerce Muslim students to sign what amounted to loyalty oaths to the U.S. “war on terror.”

The idea was to intimidate those on campus who oppose this, accusing them of aiding and abetting “terrorism.” It was a plan to put a “with us or against us” chill much more firmly into place on the campuses all the while masquerading as victims of “fascist left-wing” suppression.

Among progressives, two questions immediately arose. First, should this be contested—or would contesting it only draw attention to Horowitz? Second, if it should be opposed, how and on what terms should this be done? This newspaper, among others, argued that this offensive had to be opposed—that it was in essence a very dangerous initiative in the larger ruling class agenda of closing off dissent and debate on campus and, at the same time, was designed to confuse people about the essence of the U.S. “war on terror.” In particular, coming as it did right when the U.S. is ratcheting up war threats against Iran, Horowitz hoped to build up pro-war sentiment and silence the antiwar left. Horowitz also hoped to puff up his right-wing student followers and give them the run of the campuses.

We also argued that this had to be opposed by taking on and exposing Horowitz’s arguments, and Horowitz himself, from many different angles. Materials were developed to expose the real history and current aims and objectives of the U.S. in the Middle East and around the world; to analyze why Islamic fundamentalism had arisen as a response to U.S. imperial oppression, why it was in essence “no worse” than Christian fundamentalism, and why and how it was a dead-end trap for those who truly wanted to oppose imperialism; to show that those who were concerned about the liberation of women—or the liberation of nations oppressed by imperialism—could not fall into the trap of siding with either the U.S. or the Islamic fundamentalist movement; to get into the actual history and views of David Horowitz, and show how this “week” was part of a broader vicious agenda; etc. We aimed to pry open the debate on these questions and get the ferment on campus around them onto a different level.

What Happened?

In the event, IFAW seems to have actually reached fewer than the 100 plus campuses originally listed. Nor does it seem as if Horowitz was able to pull off his intimidation tactics of sit-ins and public loyalty oath signings. But Horowitz did get his speakers onto a number of campuses and projected this whole “Islamo-fascism” discourse into things in a bigger way. In addition, “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week” was an issue in the major media, being especially promoted on FOX News—but not only there. And while there were important articles exposing and digging into the purpose of IFAW in Revolution, Counterpunch, Huffington Post, The Nation and a number of campus papers and some voices of opposition were featured on radio programs, the opposition to Horowitz did not achieve the same reach into the mainstream media that he did—in large part due to the fact powerful sections of the ruling class backed his agenda, but also due to weaknesses in the effort mounted against Horowitz.

At the same time, there was opposition. On some of the major university campuses speakers came, rallies were held—for and against—and controversy swirled. At Columbia University, where Horowitz had his own opinion piece published in the Columbia Spectator newspaper,  there were a number of substantive articles arguing over the use of the term “Islamo-fascism” and the objectives of this week of “awareness.” The controversy filled the pages of the UCLA Daily Bruin and the Tufts University paper as well. In most places, Horowitz and/or his speakers were met with opposition, of one kind or another. While some significant organized sections of the movement held back from confronting Horowitz, many students from antiwar groups and many Muslim and women students joined the fray. This was a step forward in mounting opposition to the clampdown on campus that Horowitz has been pushing and an important step in sparking open-throated debate, in a mass way, around the kinds of questions outlined above, as well as serious resistance to the agenda being pushed for by Horowitz.

Let’s remember: Horowitz and his people were not coming to debate. From the beginning, their vision was one of one-way indoctrination and intimidation and during the week itself they generally refused challenges to debate and attempted to tightly control questioning and attendance at their events. So the fact that this was actually met with questioning and debate in a number of places was itself a victory.

The Aggressor Poses As the Victim

Horowitz now wants to turn this reality on its head, and claims to be the victim of left-wing suppression—a theme that he ran out from the very beginning, and which he hammered at with fabricated slanders of a number of different groups and organizations, including the RCP,USA (see “Statement in Response to Lies and Slander ‘from the Desk of David Horowitz,” Revolution #106, online at He has seized in particular on his appearance at Emory University in Atlanta, where he claims to have been “shut down.” A report posted on the website of the National Project to Defend Dissent & Critical Thinking in the Academia ( recounted that:

“When Horowitz came onto the stage, he was met with a combination of applause and loud booing. As he started his speech, several people sequentially stood up and turned their backs to the speaker. Signs pinned on their backs had the international ‘no’ symbol over the words IFAW. As he continued his speech, different people in the audience interjected questions and corrections. More people stood up and turned their backs, and this emboldened others in the audience to continue to challenge Horowitz as he spoke. Horowitz was visibly taken aback by the opposition and stopped his speech several times, having difficulty getting back on track. His retorts to the audience consisted of childish name calling, disparaging the IQ of the audience. Some people in the crowd vocally opposed the disruptions and called for silence.

“This went on for about 20 minutes, at which point there were about 25 people standing with their backs turned. The campus security then stopped the program and announced that if people didn’t sit down or move to the back of the auditorium, they would be escorted out. At that point, one person shouted ‘Everyone stand up—they can’t haul us all out!’ Others echoed the same sentiment, and several people said, ‘Don’t Taser Me, Bro.’ About 20 or 30 more people stood up and turned their backs. This created a lot of turmoil and heated discussion throughout the room. During this period, Horowitz walked off the stage. A chant broke out, ‘Racist, Sexist, Anti-Gay, David Horowitz Go Away.’ After a few minutes, a College Republican came on stage and announced that David Horowitz decided that he would not continue his speech, and they ended the event.”

This kind of raucous and hurly-burly opposition comes with prying open the debate—a debate which, again, it was never the intent of Horowitz to allow. People were going to call out questions and they were going to refute, from the floor, the propagation of lies and pro-war propaganda, racist characterizations of whole peoples and allegations of treason against anyone who opposes the U.S. This shit was not going to be spewed out from the podiums with no challenge. Once Horowitz left, yes, people began chanting—what of it? He was not in fact “shut down”—he was challenged from the floor—and when he stalked out in anger, after insulting people, the audience made clear their feelings. At the same time, given that Horowitz posted his speech on-line, people should go there and find out what he is putting out, and debate and expose the substance of it.

In any event, Emory was not the whole of the political and ideological counter-offensive, or the main kind of thing that happened—and it’s not even the main focus of Horowitz’s complaints. Writing on his website, Horowitz first talks of Emory but then goes on to say that:

“Shutting down peaceful campus lectures [sic] is a fascist tactic, but in a country as committed to the principles of fairness and free speech as this one it is not the most insidious. This distinction must be reserved for the massive witch-hunt which attended our events—the pursuit of alleged ‘racists,’ ‘bigots’ and ‘Islamo-phobes’ who, once labeled, can then be discredited and even silenced if university administrators are willing.”

Horowitz centers his ire on people who wrote editorials, leaflets, and so on that exposed his pogromist, bigoted assault against Muslims and against those who dared to bring up his attack on the movement to get reparations for slavery. This anti-reparations campaign featured Horowitz’s demand for “gratitude” from African-Americans for the “blessings” of having been kidnaped (and, in the process, murdered in large numbers), enslaved in North America for nearly 250 years, and then finally emancipated when slavery began to run up against the expansion of capital—after decades of revolt and after dying in heavily disproportionate numbers in the Civil War. Now, apparently, it is fascism of the most “sinister” and “insidious” variety to dare to write an editorial in a campus paper that drags this into the light of day and exposes Horowitz—Horowitz, mind you, who has the megaphone of FOX News at his disposal and who was given 3 hours on Book TV going into this IFAW.

This is a case of a stuck pig squealing very loudly. It should tell us that the most important thing to do is to intensify the efforts to drag Horowitz’s real agenda out into the open and to expose his actual lies, with facts and substance. (Here we have to say that in this same post Horowitz has the effrontery to claim that “the main agenda of the Week was to defend Muslim women”—no, the main agenda was to cynically use the oppression of women in Islamic countries to justify war against those countries and to do so while uniting with people like Rick Santorum who has an unparalleled record of enforcing and supporting oppression of women in this country and around the world, with his continual campaigns in the Senate against the rights to abortion and birth control—another example of how Horowitz unites with and promotes the Christian fascists in this country who mirror their Islamic fundamentalist counterparts on this question. For more on this, see “The Hypocrisy of ‘Newly Minded Feminists”…And David Horowitz’ Dangerous Agenda,” by T. Redtree in Revolution #105, online at

But even though he fell short of his stated objectives, and even though he encountered more opposition than he perhaps expected, Horowitz did achieve real gains through all this. The spurious term “Islamo-fascism” has gained more currency, on campus and beyond—and this conditions people to associate the U.S. wars in the Middle East, including what seems to be a looming war against Iran, with the struggle against Hitler. He projected himself even more into the media and coalesced forces around his program on the campus and, to some extent, beyond. He succeeded, to a certain extent, in limiting the opposition to his effort; there were people in academia who held back from confronting Horowitz, in part out of a mistaken view that minimized his significance and at least in part out of concern about how they might be gone after should they confront him. A similar dynamic was at work with some student organizations and academic departments. If persisted in, that kind of dynamic will be deadly. Horowitz is not going to go away: he is not going to rest with the firings of professors like Ward Churchill and Norman Finkelstein and other, lesser-known, dissident faculty members; he is not going to rest on having expanded his operation, influence and organization with IFAW; he will be back, sooner rather than later, especially if the U.S. intensifies its war preparations against Iran and certainly if they should attack that country. This is underscored by the fact that the terms of this whole effort by Horowitz are being deliberately “mainstreamed,” not only by Bush and Cheney but by leading presidential candidate Rudolf Giuliani.  As one article in the Columbia Spectator put it, “Horowitz might be an extremist crank, but his crackpot ideas are percolating out into the mainstream, where their hypocrisy and blindness must be fought with a brio equal to his own.”

Where to From Here?

Which leads to the question of how the progressive side did overall. As noted, there was opposition mounted to this, and that’s important. On some campuses, there was a spirit of debate, ferment, and resistance that was quite positive (see article in last week’s issue of Revolution, “Confronting Horowitzian Fascists at Berkeley,” online at Different forces came together, and important exposure was gotten out. But here we would like to pose the question to you, our readers, and ask for your response on this. We’re going to raise some questions here and ask for your correspondence in order to better learn what was accomplished, where things fell short, and where they need to go. Think about your conversations during that week and go talk to people you know—and people you don’t. Then write us, in depth and detail or just a brief note. Specifically, we’d like to hear from you on:

• How much did people actually get into debate about whether the U.S. should be gearing up to launch an attack on Iran?  Did people get the connection with the objectives of the IFAW and creating public opinion in favor of such a aggression? Conversely, how much ground was Horowitz able to gain for the imperial agenda?

• Horowitz attempted to frame the only choice that people had as being between Islamic fundamentalism or support for U.S. imperialism. How well did progressives and revolutionaries do in bringing forward something different—in showing that while the U.S. is the more dangerous of these two forces, they are both reactionary and mutually reinforcing, and the people have to, through their resistance, show that these are not the only alternatives? How much and in what ways did people come to change their views on the reasons behind the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, and the ways in which U.S. Christian fascism carries out even more reactionary violence—though that violence is masked by virtue of (mainly) being carried out by the state?

• Did the idea get challenged that the U.S., even though it “makes mistakes,” in the final analysis represents “the good guys” in the world? How much was the counter-offensive to IFAW seized as an opportunity to get out the facts and the truth about the real history–and present reality—of this country? Did people get a sense of the crimes of this country—and, just as important, that there is a system behind those crimes?

• How much did people see through the attempts to raise up the mistreatment of women in Islam as a banner for war, while challenging the way that women are treated in all societies and not apologizing for any of it? Did people get a clear sense that there are people in those countries who are trying to oppose these regimes, but who do not welcome the U.S. as occupiers and that people in this country should side with them and against the U.S.?

• How much did the view get focused up that what is needed in academia right now is a real search for the truth and a flourishing of critical thinking—as opposed to the spurious calls for “balance” by David Horowitz? Is there greater awareness of the assault on the universities, purging them of critical thinking and trying to make them centers of indoctrination for the people in power?

• Did the goal of revolution and communism—and that this kind of contestation is part of preparing the ground for that—get brought into sharper relief through all this?

Let’s get a firm grip on what is at stake here and in that light evaluate what we accomplished, where we fell short…and how to do more and do it better.

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