Raleigh News & Observer | September 7, 1998
FEW PEOPLE HAVE MADE THE DIZZYING ideological journey of David Horowitz—from Huey Newton to Newt Gingrich, from Ramparts magazine to the John Locke Foundation.
Horowitz, rumpled with longish graying hair and a goatee, still looks like a refugee from the '60s. But instead of raising money for the Black Panthers, Horowitz is now a top draw for the conservative, white, wing-tipped business crowd that lunches at Raleigh's Brownestone Hotel.
Horowitz, 58, probably is best known for his popular biographies of such American dynasties as the Rockefellers, the Kennedys, the Roosevelts and the Fords, which he co-authored with Peter Collier.
But in conservative circles, Horowitz, a former editor of the left-wing Ramparts magazine, is revered for renouncing his former fellow travelers.
Horowitz was in town last week to talk to the John Locke Foundation, a conservative think tank, and to plug his new book, The Politics of Bad Faith: The Radical Assault on America's Future, which is due out next month.
Among his villains is President Clinton. He sees the Bill and Monica follies as a logical product of the '60s.
"The scandals can be seen through the prism of the '60s," Horowitz said in an interview. "What they are really about is Clinton's disrespect for traditional morality, for family, and above all for American institutions. Ronald Reagan had a respect for the office. He never took his jacket off in the Oval Office, let alone dropped his pants."
Horowitz came by his left-wing roots honestly. He grew up in Queens, N.Y., "a red diaper baby." His parents, both teachers, were committed Communists who sent him to Camp Wo-Chi-Ca, short for Workers Children's Camp, where the camp director would hold ritual bonfires to burn comic books considered imperialistic or anti-Communist. (Not quite Camp Seagull, is it?)
By 1968, Horowitz was in Berkeley, Calif., where he was the editor of Ramparts and hanging out with Newton, helping the Black Panthers raise money to start a school in Oakland.
Horowitz says his ideological conversion came when he helped his bookkeeper at Ramparts get a job at the Black Panther-run school. Her body later turned up in San Francisco Bay with her head smashed. Although no one was ever charged with the murder, Horowitz is convinced that she was killed by the Panthers.
The Black Panthers, Horowitz says, were little more than street thugs who were running drugs and other rackets.
By the 1980s, Horowitz had discarded his radical chic and was supporting Reagan and the Contra rebels fighting in Nicaragua.
Despite the fall of Communism, it is Horowitz's thesis that the left wing is still a powerful force in American life—promoting racial and gender quotas, attacking wealth, promoting class divisions, and tearing down American values.
The 1960s radicalism particularly lingers on American campuses, according to Horowitz. The colleges are heavily influenced by what Horowitz calls "kitsch Marxism" of left-wing faculty members.
"We have a very sad state of affairs on American campuses," Horowitz says. "There is political hiring so that conservatives or nonleftists are driven out of many fields like English literature, sociology, women's studies, and black studies. They are all ideological in ways that universities never have been in the past."
"Our next generation of leadership is being taught that America is a racist, imperialist, sexist, classist, oppressive society instead of what it really is—a beacon for people who want freedom all over the world," Horowitz says in his typical overstatement.
That is also one of the messages of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, which he founded in Los Angeles. He and his staff churn out newsletters and op-ed pieces pushing conservative causes.
Among his projects is to introduce some conservative ideas into Hollywood. He holds a monthly Wednesday Morning Club where he brings in conservatives such as Gingrich, William Bennett, Sen. Orrin Hatch and Rep. Henry Hyde to meet writers, producers, and actors.
He also has been active in opposing affirmative action in California and elsewhere, saying efforts to level the playing field are basically Marxist and run counter to individual liberty.
"America is not a racist country," he said. "If it were a racist country, someone needs to tell me why all those Haitians want to come here. To be oppressed? Obviously the Haitians are willing to risk their lives in shark-infested waters to come here because America has more opportunity, more rights, and more privileges for black people than does black-run Haiti."
That message is a long way from his Black Panther days.