David Horowitz was introduced to a packed Swarthmore Friends Meeting House Tuesday night by Randy Goldstein ’05 as “the son of card-carrying members of the Communist party,” a man formerly affiliated with the Black Panther Party and the New Left, but now owner and head writer of the far-right Web site Front Page Magazine.
The College Republicans’ decision to bring a conservative known for his incendiary comments and views to Swarthmore caused heated debate weeks before he arrived.
In response to a pro-war speaker using the Friends Meeting House, Sarah Wood ’04 handed out literature on the Quaker tradition of pacifism.
Horowitz began his speech by questioning the education received at liberal arts colleges like Swarthmore. He described the college as “part of the academic culture in this country which is intellectually repressive and retrograde,” saying that it teaches only the left’s perspective.
“You can’t get a good education if they’re only telling you half the story,” he said. He questioned the value of any education that does not provide the opportunity to test one’s ideals against an opposing viewpoints and arguments.
Horowitz said he “spent 25 years on the left” and “knows the feeling of self-righteousness” that many leftists feel.
During the question-and-answer period, Emiliano Rodriguez ’05 pointed out that the school might not be as closed-minded as Horowitz suggested, using Horowitz’s invitation to speak here as an example.
Kent Qian ’03 sympathized with Horowitz’s evaluation that the college fails to present conservative perspectives. He said a lot of people here “fall into the trap” of ignoring other perspective. “I read a lot of conservative magazines so that supplements my education here,” he said.
After his preface on the leftist bias in higher education, Horowitz went on to cover issues ranging from inner-city schools and welfare to the conflict in the Middle East and American foreign policy.
Addressing America’s domestic situation, Horowitz said, “There is no reason to be poor in America. There are no bars to opportunity here.” He expressed his frustration that the Democrats control and protect policies which he believes keep inner city schools and welfare from succeeding.
Horowitz was disgusted by the idea that students “are systematically being exposed to the idea that your country is something to be ashamed of,” calling America “God’s country.”
He supported his view of America’s moral superiority by citing instances where American troops have “saved” people in other countries, particularly Islamic nations such as Afghanistan and Somalia. He added that the world “votes with its feet,” pointing to the large number of immigrants who have come to the United States rather than staying in countries where they risk having their “head sliced off with a machete.”
Jessica Colman ’05 was disturbed by Horowitz’s views on patriotism. “His whole argument is we should be proud of our country,” she said, “but it was more the necessity of being proud than what you are proud of. It didn’t seem like there was something to be proud of.”
Horowitz criticized the pacifist movement and those in America who are questioning the possibility of war in Iraq, asserting the view that “the natural state of human beings is war.”
He characterized pacifists as “people who tell you the world is going to be different than it has been for 5,000 years,” adding that “those people are dangerous. If you can make heaven on earth, what crime would you not commit to get that?”
He challenged pacifists to go to Israel or Iraq, where he said people are killed regularly, and charged that their views would be indefensible in such a situation. Colman considered this reasoning misguided, because “he seemed to be arguing that there were only pacifists in this country, that it’s a privilege. But there are pacifists in Israel. There are pacifists everywhere.”
Horowitz portrayed the United States’ decisions to war with Iraq and support Israel against Palestine as motivated by a greater good. He cited the United States’ interventions in Somalia, Kosovo and Afghanistan as examples of how “the United States has risked the lives of its own citizens to save Muslims.”
Horowitz claimed that “the Middle East conflict is not about land, state or self-determination. [Palestinians] were given this in 1948 and their response was to blow up babies in their baby carriages.” He added that Palestinian society “is a sick culture. This is worse than the Nazis because the Nazis hid their crimes.” In Horowitz’s opinion, America is justified in its intervention.
While Horowitz emphasized that US intervention in the Middle East is not inspired by oil interests, he also said “if it wasn’t for the oil, people wouldn’t look at the Middle East.”
Saed Atshan ’06 felt this view was indicative of the flawed reasoning behind the United States’ role in the Middle East. “This is what I feel is the crucial mistake of the U.S.,” Atshan said. “The U.S. hasn’t looked at the people and so it hasn’t promoted democracies, yet instead chose to support oppressive dictators for oil concerns.”
Horowitz concluded his talk by advising the audience that “you have to get into the world to see how it works. It’s not what they say, it’s what they do.”
Karl Heideck ’05 responded to the lecture by saying that “colleges compete for students, and students choose the college they wish to pay for their education. If he’s unhappy with the intellectual monopoly the university system seems to grant to leftists, why go on the lecture circuit and rant about it? Why not do something proactive, like founding his own institution of higher learning? Obviously he’s just not trying hard enough. He’d rather make the buck off the speech than actually change things.”
While some who attended were excited to have the chance to hear a conservative viewpoint on campus, whether they agreed with all of Horowitz’s opinions or not, others were disappointed with his demeanor. Lindsay Brin ’05 said it was not easy to be receptive to the other half of the story, as Horowitz asked of the students, when it was presented in what she felt was an antagonistic manner.