Eighteen months after he sparked a campus-wide controversy over the bounds of free speech, David Horowitz returned to Emory Thursday to deliver his trademark brand of unabashed conservatism to an audience of about 500 people in Glenn Memorial Auditorium.
Though some audience members said they found his speech offensive — for the second year in a row, he called the student body “half-educated” in response to a question from an African-American student — most said they knew what they were going to get when they came.
“The conservatives got to hear what they wanted,” said College junior Ezra Greenberg, a member of the College Republicans, who cosponsored the event with the Young America’s Foundation. “Liberals were challenged, and at the same time, they got to see that he was human.”
In his speech, Horowitz alternated between charging the University with liberal bias and defending the Bush administration’s decision to wage war on Iraq. Echoing his message from last year’s speech, Horowitz said Emory stonewalls conservative speakers, including himself.
Horowitz said even students who pay $35,000 a year cannot receive a well-rounded education if they are being exposed to only one side of a story.
“You have many of your professors who are teaching you the glass is half empty when it is more than half full,” he said.
Horowitz is currently trying to push an “Academic Bill of Rights” through the Georgia state legislature. The bill would prohibit professors from grading students based on their political perspectives.
He said college students should demand the same level of neutrality from professors that they do of doctors and lawyers.
“When we go into our doctors’ offices, we do not expect to see anti-Bush and anti-Kerry cartoons in their offices,” he said.
In “the more partisan part of [the] talk,” Horowitz bashed Democrats for opposing a war that he said led to the “easy” liberation of millions of oppressed Iraqis.
“How can any self-respecting progressive not jump up and down about what happened in Iraq?” he asked.
Horowitz drew a “seamless” link between the Sept. 11 attacks and Saddam Hussein. He said the Iraq War was justified because Muslims throughout the Middle East “hated” the United States.
“Muslims are going to have to come out of the seventh century — at least to the 15th century,” he said. “You need to be proud of your country, because if you are not proud of your country, you cannot defend yourself.”
After his last public speech on campus in October 2002, Horowitz drew a storm of complaints for his opposition to slave reparations and for calling Emory students “half-educated” because of the University’s alleged liberal slant. Following the speech, Horowitz personally attacked then-president of the Black Student Alliance Candace Bacchus on the Internet and in the Wheel.
College Council voted in February against funding Horowitz’s speech because members felt he had a divisive effect on the University. But the College Republicans self-generated the funds for Thursday’s speech.
Before the speech, members of the College Republicans distributed flyers with a picture of Horowitz behind a chain-link fence with the heading “David Horowitz unleashed at Emory.” Greenberg said the flyers were intentionally provocative and that the group had not anticipated any retaliation against Horowitz.
During the question-and-answer portion, Horowitz admitted that he often resorts to hyperbole in order to hammer home some of his points. He apologized for occasionally exaggerating or “showing [his] devilish side.”
“It’s necessary to exaggerate to draw out some things,” he said. “You all came out on a spring day, and I want to be entertaining and informative.”
College sophomore Eric Brodie, who has repeatedly opposed Horowitz in the editorial pages of the Wheel, said the event was “10 times better than last year’s.”
“He seemed to take responsibility for his comments,” he said. “I still think he tries to pass himself off as a scholar when he’s really not. But it was not so bad this year.”
Horowitz said this year’s audience was “good” and blamed last year’s backlash on Bacchus.
“I think the cause of the trouble has left the University,” Horowitz said. “[Current BSA President Samuel Wakefield] sounds like a much more sensible and respectable human being. That’s the only thing that’s changed.”
Horowitz said he has no scheduled plans to return to Emory. College Republicans Chair Edward Thayer said the group intends to bring a more “diverse” field of conservatives in the future.
“I highly doubt Horowitz will come back for a third year,” Thayer said. “...maybe in the longterm future.”
Jim Wooten, an editorialist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution who attended the speech and had never heard Horowitz before, said he was taken with Horowitz’s seeming schizophrenia on stage.
“He has a side where he is very thorough — as the professor would say, well rounded — and analytical,” Wooten said. “And then, tacked on to that is the provocateur. In one speech, both sides came up.”