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Ten Questions for David Horowitz By: Asher Smith
The Emory Wheel | Wednesday, February 25, 2009

1) You spoke at Emory several years ago; two years ago, you ran an ad in the Wheel; your attempt to speak at Emory last year was interrupted by outside protestors. Now you’ve returned. Why the continued interest in Emory?

Well, the College Republicans invited me, which was a surprise. I’m a little bit engaged with Emory as a result of what happened last year. My first speech at Emory was about academic freedom, and it came after I had done a campaign about reparations for slavery. Because it came shortly after that controversy, there were about 500 or 600 students present at Glenn Memorial, but there were no incidents and practically no security to speak of.

My appearance was important because I was the first conservative speaker invited to Emory in four years. (Four years previously Ward Connerly had come and he had been hooted off the stage and couldn’t even finish his speech, and that was student-organized.) I had said at the outset of the evening that you couldn’t get a good education if they were only telling you half the story. After that first speech the College Republicans invited me again, and five administrators descended on the Student Council meeting when College Republicans were asking for funds for the event telling them not to invite me. (They even had someone from the admissions office who claimed that if I spoke minority enrollment would drop at the University). And that’s the level of animosity from the staff, who I believe gins up the students.

The problem is that there are groups at Emory who can’t deal with conservative ideas. And the students who suffer the most from this situation are liberal students, because they don’t get their assumptions challenged. If you’re a conservative student and you open your mouth in class and reveal that, you better be prepared to defend yourself. But if you’re a liberal student, you don’t really have that challenge.

2) You said the ad published in the May 7, 2007, edition of the Wheel — titled “What Americans Need to Know About Jihad” and quoting Osama bin Laden — attempted “to call attention to the threat of radical Islam.” Do you believe this is the most productive method to get your message across?

An ad is a fairly blunt instrument. You have 350 words, 400 words maybe, to get a lot of points across. The accusation that the ad was directed at Muslims was just slanderous; it was not directed at Muslims. I would stand behind the ad and I don’t see anything wrong with it — and I didn’t read anything in the criticisms of the ad that were criticisms of the substance. We quoted Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, we quoted Osama bin Laden, we said that radical Islam was a war against Christians, gays, Jews — and it was true.

I think it’s mainly that there’s a vacuum around conservative ideas. If you had more conservatives on campus, people wouldn’t be as prone to mistaking these ideas for ideas that they’re not.

3) In 2001, you published ads in a number of college newspapers criticizing reparations for slavery, referring to the idea as “racist” and calling attention to black involvement in slavery and the slave trade. Do you see any tension at all between your calls for civil discourse and deliberately provocative rhetoric?

I always get asked this question. I don’t really think that the ad was uncivil in any way. You know, everyone walks on eggshells around the race issue. I’m a former leftist, and I have the same positions on civil rights that I had in the 1960s. So, I just didn’t want to do the genuflections and say in the ad things like, “Oh, slavery was just a terrible thing,” which should be obvious to even the most dense among us.

I don’t think it was uncivil. If you show me a phrase that was uncivil, I’ll reconsider it. But I think I was pretty careful. You know, when I get on a platform and I’m doing a speech, I sometimes get riled up. But when I’m debating against someone from the Left such as Ward Churchill, who blames the U.S. for the attacks of 9/11, or the head of the reparations movement (which is rare, since the Left won’t debate me), it’s always very civil from my side.

4) How do you feel about being paired in debate with individuals such as Ward Churchill, who you termed “an idiot”? Is it demeaning to be paired with them in debate, as if they’re your equivalent?

Yeah, totally. Believe me, the internet is wonderful and horrible. I know everything that’s said about me thanks to Google. A lot of it is deliberately disrespectful and hateful and is meant to destroy me.

The attacks have been so unprincipled that I have had to create my Center [the David Horowitz Freedom Center] in order to have a platform. But I don’t feel unique in being smeared by the Left — Dinesh D’Souza, who’s a very cerebral and a very, very smart guy, gets treated the same way I do. There’s just very little respect for conservatives among liberals.

5) Since you last spoke at Emory, the University has hosted a number of controversial speakers, including Jonah Goldberg, who wrote a book discussing the parallels between liberalism and fascism. None of them encountered similar opposition. Why do you think it is that you inspire such an intense reaction?

There are two things. The first is that I have taken on some very volatile issues, such as reparations. If you read the ad you could see that it was a reasonable argument, but I got no public support even from conservatives. They made a concerted effort to distance themselves from me, and members of my board begged me not to do it. The Left is effective this way; they rallied around Ward Churchill. How could you rally around Ward Chuchill? But they did! But when conservatives see you go out and see you committing hara-kiri, they watch to see if you’re going to survive it.

You have to understand, I spent 25 years on the Left. So, I feel a personal betrayal by the Left. The Left betrayed the progressive ideal. They defended murderers. They barely can see even now that the Rosenberg spies were guilty. And of course the black issue was a really important one to me. I marched for civil rights back in 1948. I demonstrated as a very young man for blacks who were imprisoned or executed or lynched. And then to discover that the Black Panthers, who were the heroes of the Left, were murderers — they murdered my friend Betty [van Patter] — that’s a very great betrayal, especially because the Left defended the murderers — and became a very hot issue for me. If I were to remain silent, it would be like the people who remained silent about Communism, which was all of the progressives at the time.

And now, with Islamo-Fascism — I think that the situation with the Jews is worse than in the 1930s. I mean, Hitler hid his Final Solution from the Germans. Now it’s shouted from the rooftops. So, I’m not going to be silent on this issue, either, which is an emotionally charged issue obviously. Add to that the fact that I inflame the Left because I’m a defector. I inflame the Left because I know the issues that really matter to them and am ready to confront them. With someone like Jonah Goldberg, because he’s never been a leftist, it’s just a little different. One conservative who comes near is Ann Coulter. She’s a satirist, and I think she’s quite funny. But she goes over the top sometimes, and she incites liberals the way I incite leftists.

6) During the 2008 election, much was made in certain circles about whether Barack Obama was secretly a Muslim. Do you see any link between your campaigns to raise awareness about what you term “Islamo-Fascism” and the paranoia concerning Obama’s religion?

Not at all. I thought this attack on Obama was ridiculous, and it was not the only one. There was a movement challenging Obama’s birth certificate, and I attacked that — and got a lot of attacks back from conservatives for doing so.

Obama has been, in part, a victim of the failure of the press to really vet him. My son was a big Obama supporter, and my daughter, as well. So, I have not leaped to conclusions about him as some other conservatives have. I think he should be given a chance to show who he is.

7) You published a book in 2006 alleging that the Democratic Party had been taken over by George Soros and 1960s-era liberals. Does the election of Obama in any way run counter to that claim?

I wrote a fairly positive piece about Obama, following the inaugural celebrations, in which I said that there were a lot of pluses to Obama. Though my view of him now is getting a little bit more jaundiced, I liked his first appointments, especially at Defense and with the National Security Council, and I liked the appointment of Hillary Clinton, whom he seems to have been undermined by having Joe Biden and Richard Holbrooke and George Mitchell dealing with Afghanistan and the Middle East. I liked his appointment of Rahm Emanuel, even though he’s a notorious p---k. He’s a smart guy and he supported the Iraq War, which I think is good.

But what I wrote in the book, about the Democrats and Soros, I think is right. The Left controls the apparatus of the party now. The apparatus of the party is just so far to the Left institutionally — just remember all the Democrats who voted against the Iraq War — as to be very troubling when it comes to questions of national security.

8) What do you make of the Obama administration thus far?

I said from the start that the jury is out, and he has to be given a chance. I haven’t criticized Rush Limbaugh for doing what he’s doing now, going after Obama, but I didn’t think it was a good idea to come out swinging so early. Sorry not to be the lunatic right-winger that I’m portrayed to be, but I think [Obama is] a very smart man. I liked his victory speech, and I liked the inclusiveness of the Inaugural Celebration. He’s very careful in his speeches to talk about protecting the private sector, and about bipartisanship, but not so good about following through on the latter.

But I think this so-called stimulus package is a disaster. I don’t like his support of the UN, an organization that is run by supporters of terrorism, by the Arab states, by racists, by Kleptocrats and slaveowners. But I haven’t attacked Obama on this, because he wants to see if he can pull it back from the brink and try a more conciliatory approach. And I haven’t attacked his openings with Iran: I think he needs to be given a chance.

9) What would you suggest the Republican Party needs to do to regain control of Congress or the presidency in the future?

Well, losing Bush was a good start. He had become an albatross. Now that Republicans don’t have to defend the Bush administration and its spending habits they can take principled stands, like they did on the stimulus package. They have a bright young leadership in the House: Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan, Mike Pence, Thaddeus McCotter. Cantor in particular is impressive to me. Republicans usually have bad candidates. They don’t like government, and therefore they don’t like politics, whereas liberals love politics. That’s what they live for; that’s the job. But Cantor is a really attractive political personality.

10) Is there anyone that you see as the future leader of the Republican Party?

I have no idea. That’s going to make for an interesting question over the next few years.

I will tell you though that the unjustly despised Sarah Palin really ignited the party. What she has to do now is gain gravitas. Dan Quayle had this problem. He was a bright guy, could give good speeches and probably was a good administrator. But after all those attacks he needed to run for governor and run a state, and he didn’t. Now Sarah Palin is already running a state. But she needs to get up to speed on everything. She was given a really unfair task, catapulted from a small state into an incredible spotlight. I think that she was mishandled when she was put in front of the media, because the media is always gunning for conservatives. She could be formidable, but she has an avalanche of negative attacks from the late-night talk shows and other liberal venues to overcome.

Asher Smith is the editorial page editor for The Emory Wheel, Emory University's student-run newspaper.

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