The Horowitz 101 speak out
“What is really dangerous in this country?”
February 24, 2006 | Page 9
“Socialist Worker talked to some of the professors on David Horowitz’s witch-hunt list about their reaction–and how the left should respond.”
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City University of New York
I’M HONORED. Imagine how badly I would feel if I hadn’t been named, after all the trouble that I’ve tried to make throughout my life.
I think David Horowitz is despicable in his attempt to name names and become some kind of new McCarthy. But this isn’t 1950. We’ve gone through that already, and in my view, it’s not going to be as effective as it was then.
This might have an effect on somebody who was in Arkansas or Florida. There have been some very, very bad cases. But he’s naming people who have had a fairly open and a very extensive record. For example, he’s named my colleague Eve Sedgwick, who’s a very distinguished literary and feminist theorist. It’s not as if he’s outing anybody. People are going to say, “What’s the point of attacking these people?”
And to use the word dangerous is amazing. I wish I was all that dangerous. Dangerous to what? To conservatism and right-wing lunaticism? I think, yes, most of us who he’s named are dangerous to the lunatics. We’re dangerous to people who want to abrogate civil liberties.
I think there is a chance for people on the left to react with something other than fright. I think we have to point out to people who don’t know what this is all about, and who this guy was. In the 1960s, together with his friend Peter Collier, he was a political activist himself. That he is now going out against people who he once at least putatively associated with is interesting.
I think people have to point out what this is all about. And then, I think we have to have a conversation about what academic freedom really is, and what freedom in general really is.
He’s raised the issue: What is dangerous to democracy in this country and in this world? Who are the dangerous people? I think that will be a very interesting conversation. To run away from it would be a terrible mistake.
Peter N. Kirstein
St. Xavier University
David Horowitz’s book The Professors is an example of war’s impact on our democratic freedoms.
War may be rhetorically intended to spread democracy abroad, but it usually eviscerates it at home during the conflict. We saw the effort to suppress dissent during World War I, with the violent suppression of the Industrial Workers of the World and the deportation of Emma Goldman.
During the 1950s witch-hunts of the McCarthy era, over 100 professors were fired for not cooperating with congressional committees and for alleged past association with the Communist Party. Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer lost his security clearance, even though he developed the genocidal atomic bomb. The reason was his rather casual prior interest in the party, and his opposition to the hydrogen bomb.
Mr. Horowitz is trying to vilify and marginalize academicians who do not subscribe to his worldview. I think his war against the academy is ideologically inspired and motivated by a deep animus toward progressive faculty that he thinks are too independent and free in articulating their positions.
While he has recently stated that he did not support my suspension and reprimand for an antiwar email to an Air Force Academy cadet, which became a major academic freedom case, I believe the strength of his convictions and his commitment to a conservative, militantly expansionist America sometimes manifests itself in overly personal and excessively provocative calls for cleansing and purifying the academy.
Dissent is good for America, and without it, the nation would have even fewer restraints on its imperial overstretch than it does now.
I only heard about Horowitz’s list and his book through the academic grapevine, from colleagues who received word about it from list-serves and the like–usually ones linked to progressive causes. My main concern is that the targets of Horowitz’s campaign and their sympathizers are creating a lot of free publicity for his book, whereas the more sensible response might be simply to ignore him.
The book reflects his usual blend of innuendo and distortion, and I would hope that most readers would recognize that. In my case, a quick comparison of his summaries of my views and my actual writings or talks would suffice to reveal his techniques (he also totally invented one citation).
I noticed that a reviewer on Amazon.com remarked that there was no need to buy his book because much of the same material was available for free on Horowitz’s Web site, discoverthenetwork.org. Within days, I noticed that the entries for me and many of the other 101 had been removed from the Web site, suggesting that Horowitz’s motives are, after all, more pecuniary than political. What a surprise.
University of Texas
My first reaction to being on the list was amusement, and a bit of pride at being associated with prominent antiwar and activist scholars like Howard Zinn. My friends, students and colleagues have been sending me notes of congratulations about making the list.
However, it is sobering to remember that what Horowitz is up to amounts to nothing less than the new McCarthyism, and that his calls for faculty to be fired or disciplined by their universities are pernicious and serious. On his appearances on Fox News’ Hannity and Colmes show, he throws around the charge of communism as if a scholar’s sympathy with socialism (or Islam or Arabs) is grounds enough for punishment or discharge.
His efforts to peddle the misnamed “academic bill of rights” in state legislatures has prompted university administrations (like mine) to adopt faculty codes of conduct that warrant surveillance and restriction on faculty speech.
Horowitz is trying to whip up fears of brainwashing and conspiracy, and his lists, however entertaining some may find them, are basically directories for Homeland Security to come calling, should the political climate allow such a crackdown.
It brings back images of Joseph McCarthy, standing with a list in his hand of alleged communists, poised to ruin lives and careers in his anticommunist crusade. In politics, the labor movement and the culture industry, a whole layer of radicals was silenced by his efforts.
Members of Students for Academic Freedom (Horowitz’s offshoot group) sit in on my classes and those of radical colleagues’ around the country, which can have a terrible chilling effect on academic speech and the teaching of critical thinking.
We should definitely respond politically to Horowitz’s stepped-up efforts in a national and visible way. I disagree with those on the left who say that Horowitz should be ignored. Horowitz may be regarded by many as a right-wing nut or crackpot, but he is doing the groundwork for more serious forces. His book is part and parcel of the assault on civil liberties in the U.S. since 9/11, and we should respond to him in that context.
Though certainly not to the same extent as other, more vulnerable faculty around the country, I’ve been on the receiving end of threats and hate mail from Horowitz’s supporters for being an outspoken antiwar activist and for criticizing the war and the collapse of civil liberties in the U.S. in my academic research.
Like all of the scholars on Horowitz’s hit list, I am a careful, responsible and successful teacher. It seems clear that Horowitz is only concerned on the surface with the potential “indoctrination” of students. (He is not too concerned that our business students are inundated with pro-capitalist propaganda, or that our petroleum engineering faculty has not one environmentalist on it.)
What the professors on his list share in common is a sustained effort to build the left and movements against war and occupation on our campuses.
Mark LeVine has already published a refutation and correction in his History News Network blog in response to the original article by Alyssa Lappen on which this material is based.
I wonder whether, in your review of The Professors, you will comment on the charges made on the book’s dust jacket that the “101 academics…happen to be alleged ex-terrorists, racists, murderers, sexual deviants, anti-Semites, and al-Qaeda supporters.”
Of course, I am none of these. Perhaps you should ask Horowitz to explain whether these statements represent his views, and whether these are supposed to be facts or merely slurs he feels free to throw around.
San Francisco State University
I was surprised. As one blogger said of me: I am “about as dangerous as Ovaltine.” I didn’t feel worthy. The list lumped me together with such accomplished scholars and public intellectuals as Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Angela Davis, Cornel West and so on and on.
From Horowitz’s complaint against me, I honestly couldn’t see that I did or said anything that was not well within my rights. I am especially proud of having helped call attention to E.L. Doctorow’s critique of President Bush as a man who does not mourn and a man that should cause us to mourn for ourselves.
Horowitz’s book is at the intellectual level of a tabloid. He should be ashamed of himself. Even waiving the matter of the sloppiness and inaccuracy of his allegations, the list was highly selective. It did not include anyone from Harvard or Yale. It did not mention many prominent dissenters in the natural sciences, and it seemed to involve a desire by Horowitz to settle old scores as with his inclusion of Todd Gitlin.
I haven’t done any research on Horowitz or his group, but my fear is that this may be an opening salvo of a war against dissent on the campuses.
Since the far right is trying to overcome the Vietnam syndrome, and since so much criticism of the war in Vietnam came from the campuses, I can’t help but fear that this may become part of an effort to silence campus dissent against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Furthermore, it represents an attack on attempts at curriculum reform in the direction of interdisciplinarity and university/community partnerships.
David Horowitz obviously is trying to get attention, so I think to the extent that we can, we should not give him attention. He really doesn’t deserve any. He has little that is substantive to say.
But should this become a real battle, I think it will be important to remind the universities of their liberal commitments to academic freedom and their own vulnerability to attack. It is important that outspoken radicals get support from their liberal friends and colleagues in the university.
Secondly, if–but only if–this becomes a big thing, then I think we should organize teach-ins around the country featuring groups of people on the list speaking critically about the policies and actions of the Bush administration.
If the teach-ins drew large numbers of students and got publicity in the press, it would show that students really want to hear what people on the list have to say and that they affirm our right to say it. They will even take time out of their busy schedules to go listen to us talk about subjects that Horowitz believes are taboo.