I jumped into the comments section on a post by Jeff Hess , a local liberal blogger with whom I have had an ongoing dialogue, because in the course of his summary dismissal of Front Page Magazine and David Horowitz, and specifically the new book by Horowitz and Richard Poe, he suggested that Poe was the "real author" of the book, with DH presumably just along for the name recognition...or something.
Poe is an excellent writer in his own right, and he may in fact have written the bulk of the book. But I took umbrage at the suggestion that the prolific and accomplished author/biographer, social and political commentator and noted conservative intellectual David Horowitz would be requiring a ghostwriter of any stripe. Especially a suggestion by someone so obviously unfamiliar with his body of work. So sue me.
To make a long story somewhat longer, something Jeff said in his reply to my comment made it clear to me that he had a fundamental misunderstanding of Horowitz' Students for Academic Freedom organization, and I set about here to try to persuade him to take another look. And since nobody deserves to have a blog comment this long clogging up their own comments section, (although I could handle it) I decided to post it here instead.
I see that your response to my suggestion that you engage Horowitz intellectually, is to simply say "no", with the added insult that he is "a clown". One would think that you ought to support this sentiment, perhaps by quoting some of Mr. Horowitz' more "clownish" statements, or some of his more buffoonish positions, but alas, argument by assertion is what we get. So be it. I get what you're saying. The man is beneath you.
But you go a bit too far when you attribute ideas to Horowitz that he has never hinted at, much less actually said or written. And you even have the nerve to use quotation marks! If you don't feel up to an intellectual joust with the man's ideas, I can understand, but you can't just make shit up. I quote from your comment:
"I donâ€™t engage intellectually with people whose starting point is 'only speech that I approve is protected'.'"
Source please? Anything close? A reasonable facsimile? A related thought? A musing? An aside? Anywhere? Ever? In his dozens of books and pamphlets and hundreds of articles? WTF?
Let's start where you started:
You say that what turned you off to Horowitz was the movement he has worked at to champion greater academic freedom on American college campuses, the Students for Academic Freedom, and the accompanying Academic Bill of Rights. (Not something in and of itself that gets a man listed in the Axis of Evil, right?) It would be my goal in this response to you to get you to take another look at the movement without the presumptions of bad faith that have seemingly clouded your outlook to this point. (Are conservatives ever accorded the presumption of good faith, Jeff? George Bush aside, of course.)
I did visit the post you cite, (scroll to "Why Do We Go To College?" 2/26/05) and with all due respect, I'm afraid you either have really misunderstood the SAF movement, didn't read anything beyond whatever your father sent to you, or, as you have done repeatedly in your post, simply set up strawmen to knock down based on your own assumptions about Horowitz and what you somehow divine as his dark motives.
To your post: After citing a statement from Horowitz decrying the multiculturalist, knee-jerk anti-American biases that pervade many of our university Social Science faculties and course curricula, you make the rather bizarre and completely unsupported statement that "what Horowitz and his supporters really fear is dissent". (Horowitz "fears" a lot of things, according to your take. How you discern this is unclear to me.)
First, I would ask if you deny that our university social science faculties are decidedly leftist in their politics? If you do, you are all alone among sentient beings, liberal or conservative. Although the Horowitz effort to encourage and support academic freedom is non-partisan to its core, the sad but undeniable fact on many of our elite college campuses is that it is conservative views and conservative expressions that are being stifled. It is conservative speakers who are being physically attacked and shouted down (as happened the other day at Columbia University). It is leftists who are censoring speech. It is dissent from the right that is not being tolerated.
It is leftists who are mandating the speech codes on campus, which are now being rightly overturned by courts as illegal. The "Free Speech Zones" you refer to are creations of leftists, not the "Bush administration" as you imply in your post, ( in a truly Orwellian inversion.) Free speech is such a scary concept to these PC administrators and faculty that they feel the need to set up special zones where they can "allow" students to say what they please.
In America! In 2006!
Please, cite ONE example of an American citizen being denied the right to express a dissenting or anti-government opinion by the Bush administration that even comes close to what happened the other day at Columbia University, and that happens regularly on American college campuses.
One paragraph down from your assertion about fear of dissent, you quote from the Academic Bill of Rights:
"curricula and reading lists in the humanities and social studies shall respect all human knowledge in these areas and provide students with dissenting sources and viewpoints...."
Doesn't sound like a man who "fears dissent" to me. Nothing partisan about that. Nor about this, from the Student Bill of Rights:
"The Concept. Academic freedom and intellectual diversity are values indispensable to the American university. From its first formulation in the General Report of the Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure of the American Association of University Professors, the concept of academic freedom has been premised on the idea that human knowledge is a never-ending pursuit of the truth, that there is no humanly accessible truth that is not in principle open to challenge, and that no party or intellectual faction has a monopoly on wisdom. Therefore, academic freedom is most likely to thrive in an environment of intellectual diversity that protects and fosters independence of thought and speech. In the words of the General Report, it is vital to protect â€œas the first condition of progress, [a] complete and unlimited freedom to pursue inquiry and publish its results.â€
"Students shall be graded solely on the basis of their reasoned answers and appropriate knowledge of the subjects and disciplines they study and shall not be discriminated against on the basis of their political, ideological, or religious beliefs."
This is in fact necessary today because agenda-driven leftist professors are using grading to punish students who are open about their conservative views. Perhaps you think this is all well and good, and that conservative students deserve to be punished with bad grades based solely on their opinions on social and political issues. I'll side with David Horowitz and other free thinkers on this one.
Liberal critics of the movement see a sinister motive behind this effort, because it challenges a status quo that they like just fine, thank you. Socialists have always been censors, without apology or pretense. And yes, a movement toward greater academic freedom on our campuses will, for the moment, tend to increase the expression of conservative ideas and thoughts, precisely because they are actively being suppressed today. It will obviously not be able to, nor does it aim to limit any expression of liberal ideas.
Even if you think that the huge imbalance of liberal-thinking faculty members is perfectly alright in a nation which is divided about 50-50 politically in the general population, I'm sure you would agree that there is something very wrong with the kind of thuggish behavior that suppresses the expression of conservative views, and which is often winked at and goes unpunished by college administrators.
And while he recognizes the huge faculty imbalance favoring liberals, Horowitz has never advocated quotas or other requirements by schools to hire more conservative faculty members, as many of his uninformed detractors assume he has. To the contrary, again excerpting from the SBOR:
"Academic freedom consists in protecting the intellectual independence of professors, researchers and students in the pursuit of knowledge and the expression of ideas from interference by legislators or authorities within the institution itself. This means that no political, ideological or religious orthodoxy will be imposed on professors, researchers and students through the hiring or tenure or termination process, or through the grading system or through the control of the classroom or any other administrative means. Nor shall legislatures impose any such orthodoxy through their control of the university budget."
He goes on to say:
"In other words, it is designed to make quotas unacceptable.
Nor does it mean that faculty ratios need to be â€œbalancedâ€ to reflect a balance in the population at large. â€œDiversityâ€ means just that â€“ the availability of different viewpoints and respect for intellectual differences. The words â€œbalanceâ€ and â€œquotaâ€ do not appear in the Academic Bill of Rights or in any of the literature of Students for Academic Freedom, the organization I have sponsored on 70 college campuses to support these reforms.
As to indoctrination, Horowitz uses the words of the professors themselves, the ethical tenets presumably ascribed to by the American Association of University Professors:
"Professors are hired to teach all students, not just students who share their political, religious and philosophical beliefs. It is essential therefore, that professors and lecturers not force their opinions about philosophy, politics and other contestable issues on students in the classroom and in all academic environments. This is a cardinal principle of academic freedom laid down by the American Association of University Professors."
He is simply suggesting that they live up to their own code of behavior. On that same topic, more:
Political propagandizing in the classroom â€“ a behavior all too common in our universities today â€“ is unprofessional behavior. It is abusive and offensive, and it should be unacceptable to people all along the political spectrum. In its attacks on the Academic Bill of Rights, the American Association has made these seem like controversial statements. This is the height of intellectual dishonesty. These are not controversial statements. They are already accepted by university administrations; the problem is they are not enforced.
Horowitz was outspoken in his opposition to the idea that Ward Churchill should be fired because of his anti-American views and statements in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. This alone convincingly refutes the ridiculous made-up sentiment with which you smeared him:
"It will probably come as a surprise to many people, both friend and foe alike, that I am opposed to any attempt to fire Ward Churchill for the essay (now part of a book) that has become notorious in which he denounces his own country as a genocidal empire, supports America's terrorist enemies, and says that 9/11 was a case of the "chickens coming home to roost."
We live in country whose cornerstone document is a Bill of Rights that guarantees Americans a right to make fools of themselves if they so desire. State institutions like the University of Colorado are forbidden by our Constitution from firing people for expressing opinions, however offensive, idiotic or evil (and Churchill's comments on 9/11 qualify as all three)
(DH did allow that if the University was able to prove that Churchill's representation of his academic credentials was false, he could and should be fired for fraud.)
The SAF website doesn't do permalinks to individual articles either, but at that site you can find all of the organization's mission statements, Bills of Rights, etc, as well as citations by Horowitz' critics and his thoughtful and reasoned responses to those critics.
The only reason I take the time to make all these points is that I think that you truly believe in the principles that are articulated in the movement. Your problem is that you question the man behind the message, for whatever reason. You have to be reading some sinister motive into the text, which is nonpartisan by design. In fact, Horowitz discloses in this detailed response to the criticisms of the Academic Bill of Rights by the American Association of University Professors, that he sent the first draft of the text to four widely respected liberal academics (Stanley Fish, Michael Berube, Todd Gitlin and Philip Klinkner) among others, for their suggestions and editions, which he incorporated into the final text of the document. This response is well worth reading in full to get a grasp of what the ABOR is, and what it isn't. (I trust you will be able to discern that the writing, and the approach, and the tone, is hardly Colteresque.)
David has never responded in kind to the dishonest campaign to smear and discredit him. He has addressed his critics in detail, in public, and with intellectual rigor, as always. As evidenced here, where he relates the problem as he identified it and describes the way he has approached its solution, as he relates having been on the other side of the ideological divide, and how, in a time of greater academic freedom, he was encouraged to question and dissent, and speak out openly...
"The fact is that I planned this campaign to repair a broken academic process as a non-partisan effort, and specifically to be viewpoint neutral. The very first principle of the Academic Bill of Rights, for example, forbids the firing of professors on the basis of their political views. In launching the campaign I hoped to restore the educational guidelines that had been in place when I was an undergraduate at Columbia University in the 1950s.
These guidelines had protected me as a student with leftwing views in the McCarthy era. My parents were both Communists, teachers who had lost their jobs during the loyalty investigations of that time. I was then a budding â€œNew Leftist,â€ and my views reflected my Marxist upbringing. Yet in all the years I was at Columbia, my professors never singled me out for my political leanings, but treated me instead like any other student. The papers I wrote were examined for the way I handled the evidence and constructed my arguments, never for the political conclusions or judgments I made.
Today, I am grateful to my Columbia professors for their professionalism, for the fairness with which they treated me as a student and for their faithfulness to the educational concept. They did not regard the classroom as a place for airing their political prejudices or where students were expected to adopt opinions their teachers regarded as politically correct. As I set out on my campaign of academic reform in the year 2003, the educational environment I experienced at Columbia in the 1950s was the gold standard of what I wanted to achieve.
It is my view based on thirty years of experience around college campuses, that American universities are less intellectually free today than they were in the McCarthy era. The difference is that then the commissars of political correctness were political figures who were outside the university community and whom the university community regarded with hostility as well as fear. Today, the commissars of political correctness are an integral part of the university itself. They are professors and administrators who think it is the universityâ€™s place to train students in â€œprogressiveâ€ attitudes and ideas, and enlist them in the armies of â€œsocial change.â€ But the university is not â€“ and should not be â€“ a political party. As the liberal scholar Stanley Fish put it in a well-known article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, â€œSave The World On Your Own Time.â€
I respond to your post in the spirit of that free inquiry and freedom of expression that you welcomed in your post, saying..."I would hope that others will read it closely and feel free to challenge me on any point it contains. After all, that's what a free healthy exchange of idea is all about."
David Horowitz' point exactly.
...and Jeff, please do read "Radical Son". I'd even lend you one of my copies of it. You would never again question David Horowitz' liberal bona fides.