[Editors' note: Frontpagemag.com is proud to announce the release of David Horowitz's latest book Indoctrination U: The Left's War Against Academic Freedom, published last week by Encounter Books. Below is Bernard Chapin's interview with the author.]
Bernard Chapin: Let me ask you first about your new book, Indoctrination U: The Left’s War Against Academic Freedom. For those of us already familiar with your oeuvre, what do these pages offer which we have not heard before? What’s new here?
David Horowitz: First, this book describes the campaign we are waging on 160 campuses and our success in transforming the academic freedom policies of two major universities. It also describes our efforts in K-12 schools. Second, it is the first time I have described the indoctrination that regularly takes place in liberal arts colleges across the nation. Third, it describes the vicious campaign radicals have waged against the campaign and myself and, as I point in the introduction, is really a case study in the underhanded methods of the political left.
BC: In terms of your efforts with The Academic Bill of Rights, how successful has the campaign for its passage been? In Indoctrination U you indicate that having it passed by a legislative body was not your real goal. Can you explain how else it can have an impact on the academy?
DH: My legislative efforts were only to get attention for the issue itself. I never sponsored actual laws, only “resolutions” that would send a signal to administrators that they better put their houses in order. My agenda was always to get universities to 1) put good academic freedom policies in place; 2) make them student-specific; and 3) enforce them. In the book I describe how we got two major universities, Penn State and Temple to do just that.
BC: You include the full text of The Academic Bill of Rights in an appendix in the back of the book. I found it a surprisingly innocuous document. A portion states, “No faculty shall be hired or fired or denied promotion or tenure on the basis of their political or religious beliefs.” Given the diplomatic nature of such a statement, how has the left been able to brand you [once again] as a McCarthyist? Might it have something to do with the The Professors subtitle of “The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America?”
DH: Not really. This is the way the left fights. They are not liberals, they are totalitarians and their political heritage, large aspects of which they still embrace, whose tactics they replicate, is Stalinism. I have written a book, Unholy Alliance, which explains this phenomenon which I term “neo-Communism,” but whose continuity is perhaps better expressed in the label both leftist generations have adopted: progressivism. Howard Zinn and Eric Hobsbawm, the left’s favorite historians, for example, are Stalinists. The left’s view of its own history is unbroken. At Penn State, the multi-million dollar student center is called the Paul Robeson Center after a famous a Stalinist (who graduated from Rutgers). One of the most revered academics in America today, Angela Davis, was party-line Communist throughout the Cold War. Even anti-Stalinist academics like Todd Gitlin, have views of America which are almost as vitriolic in their negative views of its democratic order (as I demonstrated in Unholy Alliance). And the political tactics of the Stalinists, distortion, name-calling and character assassination, as this book documents, are the standard operating procedures of the academic left.
The leader of the anti-academic freedom campaign is Joan Wallach Scott, who is a professor at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study, where Einstein once held court. She was the head of the American Association of University Professors’ academic freedom committee from 1999-2005 and has compared the innocuous Academic Bill of Rights to the educational policies of Hitler,Tojo, Mao and Stalin (communist progressives like Wallach are completely shameless). Joan Wallach Scott has called the Academic Bill of Rights the work of the “pro-Sharon” lobby (i.e., a Zionist plot) and claimed as her inspiration her father, who was a member of the Communist Party and a worshipper of Stalin. According to Wallach he was fired from his high school job for being a Jeffersonian democrat. Lying, distortion, character assassination – these are standard means Communist progressives like Wallach employ in their political battles, justified by their revolutionary ends. So is indoctrination of unwitting students.
BC: There have been some promising—albeit limited—signs that the Bill has had an impact on the university climate. What are your hopes for the future? Do you expect to see steady improvement in the years to come?
DH: It all depends on how many people we can enlist in the cause. Conservatives have enormous leverage over these institutions as legislators and donors. But they currently use that leverage for tickets on the fifty yard line and a name on the building. If I can persuade even a modest percentage of them to pay attention to what goes on inside the classroom, I think we have a good chance of making changes that are dramatic.
BC: In your estimation, has all the conservative media attention regarding political correctness and the politicization of our universities worked to mitigate its toxic affects upon students?
DH: Yes. FoxNewsChannel is responsible for blowing Ward Churchill out of the water, for example. But the main consequence of the media exposure of the left has been to rouse up our students. They are the real force that can change this situation.
BC: You’ve been most pragmatic in your friendships and your alliances. I notice that you’ve had quite a bit of interaction with Dr. Stanley Fish as of late and there is a passage concerning him in Indoctrination U. Is Dr. Fish an example of an academic who’s “coming around?”
DH: I think Stanley is who he is – a liberal who is not a Stalinist, in the sense I’ve been using that term – and who is committed to traditional academic values. As for myself, I am a liberal in the old and non-deceptive meaning of the term. I am ecumenical. I will work with anyone who will work with me. There are many Stanley Fishes out there who do not have his courage in stepping forward.
BC: I remember there was a lively discussion among conservatives a few years back concerning whether or not the culture war could still be won. What’s your opinion on this subject? Has not the country been changed irrevocably since the sixties? Is there anything left to be done? It seems to me that what we once called “the counterculture” is now the culture.
DH: There is nothing irrevocable in human affairs (except death). Yes the Sixties radicals won the culture war – but like all such victories their gains are limited and the battle is never over. They are still a minority force even on faculties, though probably a majority in the humanities. Larry Summers was censured and forced out by a vote of 10% of the Harvard faculty. That’s about their size. Ten percent of a faculty. But they’re unprincipled and vicious, which causes more moderate people to get out of their way and/or attempt to appease them. It’s the same battle we’re fighting with the Islamo-fascists (whom they regard as the victims of American imperialism). If conservatives will have the courage to fight them, and will get into the battle in the first place, we can reverse a lot of the damage they have done.
BC: We live in times that make libertarians shudder, and, in turn, have caused many Republicans to abandon the Grand Old Spending Party. Given these circumstances, what is your opinion about a flight to quality? Do you regard the Libertarian Party as being a viable alternative for conservatives?
DH: Some of my best friends are libertarians and the greatest intellectual influence on me was Hayek. However, in practical political matters, libertarians tend to live in alternate universe, without regard for the real world consequences of their actions. Ron Paul – the only Libertarian in Congress – is a disgrace. He has waged a war against America’s war on terror, in lockstep with the left, and against the state of Israel, the frontline democracy in this war.
BC: Lastly, and I’ve been asking everybody this, how likely is it that in 2009 we will be inaugurating President Hillary Rodham Clinton?
DH: I’m not so sure Obama won’t beat her.