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Dangerous Academics at Duke By: David Horowitz
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, April 27, 2006

[Author's note: On March 7, 2006, I spoke to more than six hundred students at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. My speech was interrupted throughout by about thirty students (all women) led by three faculty members (also women) including the Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Anthropology Department, a tenured professor named Diane Nelson. The next day the Duke Chronicle published an email that Professor Nelson had sent through the university email system urging student demonstrators to strip to the waste as part of their protest, a suggestion that had no takers. Anti-Horowitz T-shirts were distributed from the Director of Undergraduate Studies office].

Good evening. This is my third visit to Duke, where it has been my experience for students to be generally civil and faculty generally hostile. I had a good meeting with your president this morning, who treated me to what I would call Southern hospitality except, as you know, President Brodhead is from Yale. I’m going to apologize in advance for harsh words I say about Duke tonight. Like every major research university, Duke is not one school but a collection of schools. There are many wonderful opportunities at Duke to study medicine, and engineering, and there many other fine professional programs at Duke as well. My words tonight solely are directed to the state of affairs at Trinity College, which is the liberal arts school at Duke, for reasons that will become abundantly clear.

Many departments and programs at this institution – Anthopology, Women’s Studies, African and African American Studies, Literature, Philosophy, English, the Multicultural Center, the Major Speakers program, the Institute of U.S. Critical Studies, and the John Hope Franklin Center – were not happy about the prospect of my appearance and rejected the requests of the students who arranged this evening to co-sponsor my event. In fact, only one academic department, Political Science, thought it might be a good idea to have an intellectual dialogue at Duke by extending a rare invitation to a conservative like myself to appear at an institution of higher learning.[1] 

Things would be quite different, of course, if I were a convicted terrorist, like Laura Whitehorn, a former member of the Weather Underground who was invited to speak at Duke in 2002 by the African American Studies Department. The professors who invited Ms. Whitehorn presented her to unsuspecting students as a “human rights activist,” until the conservatives on campus placed an ad in the Duke Chronicle informing the Duke community of her criminal record. 

Or, I would be welcomed by several liberal arts faculties at Duke if I were a Jew-hating Palestinian terrorist like Professor Sami al-Arian -- the North American head of an organization responsible for over 100 suicide bombings of innocent civilians in the Middle East. If this were my credential, I would have been invited by a collection of Duke departments who put together a symposium on “National Security and Civil Liberties” and invited Professor al-Arian as the keynote speaker for their event, speaking as a civil libertarian of course. This event took place in 2002. Too bad Professor Al-Arian can’t come back this year, because he’s in jail.[2]

Or perhaps if I were a self-declared enemy of Israel whose main claim to fame was writing a book describing the Holocaust as an industry which money-grubbing Jews exploit to enrich themselves further, like Professor Norman Finkelstein, I would also be welcomed by academic departments here, as he was recently. 

Or perhaps if I were a washed-up calypso singer who thought that the Bush administration was the Third Reich and that Colin Powell a “house slave,” like Harry Belafonte, I might be invited to celebrate Martin Luther King Day, a $45,000 event which featured Mr. Belafonte just weeks ago. Then the president of the University would be in attendance and the provost would be describing me as an Old Testament prophet, as he did Belafonte on Martin Luther King Day this year.

The annual Martin Luther King Day celebration at Duke, firmly in the hands of the faculty left, has seen a parade of exclusively left-wing, not to say extreme speakers since I first began paying attention some years ago. It has featured Angela Davis, a lifelong communist and dedicated servant of totalitarian regimes and Aaron Magruder a radical cartoonist with a foul pen. Like Magruder, Belafonte has disparaged Condoleeza Rice – the most accomplished African American woman in our history -- in vulgar and contemptuous terms. Belafonte, in particular, has compared her to the Jews the Third Reich placed high up in its hierarchy, showing that his both ignorant of the history of the Third Reich and also filled with boundless contempt for the citizens of his own country, more than 60 million of whom voted for the American Hitler twice.

Aaron Magruder honored Dr. King after 9/11 by noting that only ten percent of Americans opposed their country’s response to the atrocity that had been inflicted them. Magruder hoped that all the opposers were black.

Another King Day speaker was law professor Lani Guinier, distinguished by her advocacy of quotas for minority representation because she doesn’t trust white people enough not to be racist.

The common theme sounded by every one of these speakers was the denigration of the legacy and memory of Martin Luther King. Martin Luther King was the author of what is perhaps the swiftest, most peaceful revolution in social relations in the history of nations. Yet, the common perspective represented by all the speakers at Duke’s Martin Luther King Day featured the claim that nothing has really changed in the condition of black people in this country, that America is still a racist society, just the way it was when King began. In other words the common meaning of Martin Luther King Day at Duke University is the denial of what King stood for, which was faith in the American dream, and everything he accomplished to achieve that dream. A more accurate description of Duke’s celebration would be “Wipe Out Martin Luther King’s Legacy Day.” For the leftists who orchestrate this event, the purpose of King Day is evidently to exploit King’s name and use the occasion as a platform for its own radical and racially divisive condemnation of the country he loved.

Another disturbing aspect of the Martin Luther King Day festivities is their not so subtle racist subtext. Why are all the speakers black at an event to celebrate a man whose dream was a color blind society? And why aren’t there any Jews on the dias? Does anyone believe that the civil rights movement would have succeeded without the support of white Americans in general and Jews in particular? More than fifty percent of the freedom riders who volunteered to come from the North to desegregate the south at not inconsiderable risk to their safety were Jews. A Jew created the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and was the legal strategist behind the court actions that ended segregation. A Jew, Stanley Levison, was Martin Luther King’s chief strategist and fund-raiser. Yet Jews are not a featured – or even visible -- part of Duke’s Martin Luther King Day celebrations and there are probably no departments more hostile to Jews on this campus than those who control them, including the African and African Studies Department who invited a terrorist to speak. 

I have in my hand here a book, to parse a famous phrase you will no doubt recognize. But this obviously is a book, not a “list” as its enemies have claimed. Its title is The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics and it is 112,000 words and 450 pages long. The text includes a 15,000 argument about the nature and condition of the contemporary university based on 20 years of visits to campuses like Duke, where I interviewed thousands of students, talked to professors, and reflected on these issues.

The Professors has been condemned from one end of the country to the other by academics who denounce it as a “list.” In fact, an entire organization called the Coalition for the Free Exchange of Ideas on Campus has been created to condemn (suppress?) the book as a “blacklist.” This coalition is funded by the teacher unions and George Soros and includes the ACLU, the American Association of University Professors, the American Federation of Teachers, George Soros’s children’s crusade, Campus Progress, and People for the American Way. 

Other condemners of the book as a McCarthy blacklist include the al-Jazeera website and eurok.net, which is a pro-Saddam Hussein, Ba’athist site, and every left-wing venue which thinks the terrorists are freedom fighters and the United States is the Great Satan.

So why do you suppose there is all this commentary about a “list” when there is no list, when the only actual lists you will find are on left-wing websites?  Well, as we all know, the left traditionally deploys an arsenal of verbal bullets to silence and discredit and thus destroy people who get in its way. “Racist” “sexist,” “homophobe,” “reactionary,” … “McCarthyite” -- are all epithets the ideological left applies to opponents on college campuses to shut them up. If you trip on the wrong word or laugh at the wrong joke, you’re labeled a racist. If you make a politically incorrect remark, say that women might have different aptitudes than men for math, you could be accused of being a sexist undermining the self-esteem of little girls, and if you’re a university president this might get you a vote of censure and the termination of your administrative career.

Unlike the author of this book, it those who complain that this is a blacklist represent the people who actually control the search and hiring committees of university faculties. It is they who have instituted the most successful, largest blacklist in the history of this country, the one that has made conservatives at universities like Duke Republicans as rare as unicorns.  Maybe there are a handful of conservatives on the entire liberal arts faculty here. How do you think that happened? 

Many people object to – fear? -- the subtitle of my book, which is The 101 Most Dangerous Academics. How can a professor, my professor be dangerous? is what they seem to be asking. Moreover, to suggest that they might be dangerous is in itself an incitement to persecute them – McCarthyism – and thus is an unthinkable thought, which should be suppressed.

Individuals who react this way obviously don’t think that ideas have consequences. Such people are inclined to forget (or deny) that we are in a war with terrorists, with religious fanatics who want to kill every one of us because we will not submit to their will or their religious faith. 

Take a look at the front page of today’s Raleigh-Durham News and Observer whose lead story is about a Muslim student at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, not too far from this school, who rented a Jeep and deliberately ran it onto campus and into a crowd of students, sending six to the hospital. An idea drove this man to try murder innocent strangers who went to school with him. His lawyer, as he says, is Allah, and his idea was to serve Allah by murdering infidels in the country he holds responsible for the deaths of Muslims on the other side of the globe. His idea is that American is the Great Satan, responsible for the evil that oppresses the world.

This is an idea not really dissimilar from the those heard on Martin Luther King Day in this university -- the idea that America is the greatest terrorist state and a global “Third Reich,” a Great Satan that has committed evil against Muslims (when, in fact, it has saved millions of Muslims in Somalia and Bosnia and liberated 40 to 50 million believers in Allah in Afghanistan and Iraq).

I arrived on campus yesterday and spent some time seeing what goes on at this university. I’m amazed at the number of courses and events on this campus whose sole purpose is to persuade, if you like -- indoctrinate, as I prefer – Dukes students to believe that America is a racist, sexist, oppressive, imperialist empire that deserves to be attacked, that deserves to be attacked. Harry Belafonte, who spoke here a few weeks go on Martin Luther King Day told 1600 students and the president of this university that he couldn’t tell the difference between the terrorist Mohammed Atta and the American president, George Bush. Well, if you believe that, you will also believe that America deserves to be attacked by its “victims.” Ideas have consequences.

The Professors is an argument about the intellectual corruption of the American university, a indelible expression of which is the invitation to an anti-American extremist like Harry Belafonte to be the speaker who honors Martin Luther King.  Large parts of Duke and similar institutions across the country have been converted -- really subverted – by tenured radicals with non-academic agendas. Entire departments and academic programs at these institutions have been subverted and transformed into political parties.  The Women’s Studies Department at Duke, as at many other campuses, is not an academic department devoted to scholarship about women.  Instead the Women’s Studies Department is the party of feminism. Even more narrowly, it is the party of a Marxist form of feminism that sees America as a capitalist patriarchy, an oppressive, imperial system that is the root cause of the attacks on it. 

Let me give you an example of the intellectual corruption of universities that can lead to dangerous results. It is taken from my book. At Ball State University in Indiana, there is a Peace Studies program – typical of such programs -- which is not really about peace and is not academic, that is an inquiry into the causes of war and peace.  In the university catalogue the course pretends to such an enterprise lures students with promises of professional expertise. Peace Studies will teach about the social, economic, political, and cultural causes of war and peace over the history of mankind. 

The first striking aspect of the Peace Studies program at Ball State, and so far as I can tell this holds true for most of the 250 Peace Studies programs in the nation (I haven’t checked them all), there is no professor of military science on the faculty. Why is this important?

In a democracy, the military exists to preserve the peace. You can look at this as one half of a dialogue that divides mankind.  On the one hand there are people who incline towards pacifism, who think that human beings are naturally peaceful and that it is social institutions like the military and the nation state (and for the left, private property) that are the root causes of war.  On the other there those, I like to think of them as realists, who understand that the normal state of mankind is war and that peace is an aberration.  What keeps the peace is when you have a concert of powers or a strong enough power to intimidate those who would break the peace. 

There can be honest disagreement over these issues, but not if only one side of the argument is present and that is the case in Ball State peace studies. George Wolf, who is the head of the Ball State Peace Studies program, George Wolfe, is a self-described pacifist whose academic qualification for teaching Peace Studies is that he is Professor of the Saxophone – a performance artist in the Music Department. The sole required text is by an animal biologist and a psychologist who tell students you at the outset of their 570 page text: “We wish to be up front about our own values, which are frankly anti-war, anti-violence, anti-nuclear, anti-authoritarian, anti-establishment, pro-environment, pro-human rights, pro-social justice, pro-peace and politically progressive.”[3] And this, they tell you, is true of Peace Studies in general: “The field [of Peace Studies] differs from most other human sciences in that it is value-oriented, and unabashedly so.”

In other words peace studies programs are not about the study of peace any more than women’s studies programs are about the study of women or black studies and African American studies are studies of African Americans and blacks.  It is the party of -- anti-military thought, of anti-American grievance and of sympathy for the terrorists. Because after all, to quote the authors, “one person’s ‘terrorist’ is another’s ‘freedom fighter.’”[4]

Professor Ball may be a good saxophonist and Professor Barash, one of the authors of this atrocious text may be a credible animal biologist.  But their collaboration – which is described in my book The Professors -- is a form of consumer fraud committed on the students at Ball State and the taxpayers of Indiana. Neither of these gentlemen is academically qualified to teach this subject and the course itself is not academic; it is an indoctrination in leftwing ideas.

Among these ideas are that only one kind of violence is justified, and that is revolutionary violence. Cuba, a totalitarian terrorist state that is presently inviting the Iranian Nazis into the Western hemisphere, is offered as an example of the good that revolutionary violence can do. “Terrorism,” according to the authors, is “a contemporary variant of what has been described as guerrilla warfare, dating back at least to the anti-colonialist and anti-imperialist struggles for national liberation conducted in North America … during the late 18th and early 19th centuries against the British and French Empires.”[5] In other words, the American Founders were terrorists, and the terrorists in Iraq can be viewed as patriots, which is precisely how Michael Moore and other leftwing radicals have actually described them.

We have now in this country a large community of people who are rooting for the enemy in the America’s war against terror. And many of them got the idea to root for them sitting in indoctrination courses in American universities like Ball State. We just had a terrorist incident by a student at the University of North Carolina.  It is beyond reason to expect that we will not have another 9/11, and then the leftists in this audience who have been ridiculing my comments this evening, will not be laughing, I assure you. Ideas have consequences.

Duke has its own version of this kind of academic corruption and fraud.  I am referring to the Marxism & Society program, which is described in the catalog as a course in the theories of Marxism. Marxism is complex subject for study. After all, Marxist theories have been directly responsible for the murder of 120 million people since 1917.  In China alone, an estimated fifty million people starved to death because China’s progressives tried to apply the crackpot economic theories of Karl Marx. 

But the Marxism & Society program at Duke is not a program located in the Economics or Sociology or History Department at Duke, where it would be guided by experts knowledgeable in such fields. It is under the jurisdiction of the Literature Department. In other words it is a program run by individuals who lack professional expertise in the fields of economics, sociology, political science, and history, the fields relevant to evaluating a theory of social and historical developments like Marxism. The director of the Marxism & Society program at Duke is a Professor of Literature, named Jane Gaines. In fact, Professor Gaines is not even a professor of literature in any meaningful sense. She is a film critic or a student of film -- literature having been dumbed down in the progressive academy to include popular – and non-literary – arts like film. Professor Gaines’ entire academic output consists of writings on the movies.

How can someone whose expertise -- we’ll give her that -- is cinema be academically qualified to direct a program which is devoted to a theory that purports to explain the most complex developments of human societies? How can it evaluate a theory whose practical consequences include the creation of the most murderous and oppressive regimes in human history? There are no real answers to those questions. And, of course, this is not an academic program seeking to conduct a dispassionate examination of the nature and consequences of Marxism in the first place. The course was founded by Duke Professor Michael Hardt, a Professor of Comparative Literature who has attempted to resurrect Marxism as a theory for explaining contemporary history in a book called Empire.

Let me back up and cite Hardt’s resume on the official Duke Website so the abuse of academic standards at Duke – ranked fifth academic quality in the nation by the US News & World Reports rankings – will be crystal clear: “Michael Hardt’s recent writings deal primarily with the legal, economic and social aspects of globalization. In his books with Antonio Negri he has analyzed the functioning of the current global power structure (Empire, 2001)…” -- presuming of course that there is such a structure.

Hardt is professor of comparative literature. His professional training is language and works of fiction. In other words, professionally speaking Hardt is an academic imposter and his most famous “scholarly” work is the work of an amateur – which doesn’t prevent the current academic administration at Duke from boasting of his achievements as though they were actually scholarly and academic. His co-author Antonio Negri is a Communist who has attempted to put Marxism into practice and was tried, convicted and sentenced to thirty years in jail by an Italian court for promoting terrorism in his native land.

These are the intellectual origins and bona fides of the Marxism and Society curriculum at Duke, which is in fact an ideological indoctrination program and an academic disgrace.

It needs to be said that there are few American castes more privileged than academics, and this is the case with professors at Duke in particular. These are individuals who, when they attain the rank of full professor, make $150,000 a year in return for five to six hours a week in class. Every year they get four months’ paid vacation, and they have lifetime jobs. Supreme Court justices are the only other Americans are privileged to have lifetime jobs.

Why are professors so privileged? The premise of this privilege is that they are required to conduct long years of specialized research and then to teach their expertise in the classroom. The minimal hours required for work in the classroom is to allow them time for their specialized research in the field of their expertise. The protection of tenure – lifetime jobs – is protection not for their individual rights of expression (these are already guaranteed in public institutions by the First Amendment) but because they may draw conclusions from their specialized knowledge that laymen are not qualified to judge. Thus in private institutions, like Duke, they must be insulated from the displeasure of ignorant trustees and donors. But literature professors are not given tenure to protect their inexpert, uninformed opinions, on Marxism in the classroom.

Ideas have consequences. We have now generations of American students who have been taught to despise their own country, who are filled with paranoid delusions about America being the Third Reich, about the existence of “oppression” in this democratic country, about its “institutional racism.” If America is a racist country that oppresses black people, why do so many Haitians want to come here? Why would black people all over the world -- and not just black people but brown people and yellow people as well – struggle so hard to get into America? That is the fact. Millions of “minorities” want to come here, but none of them want to leave. That is because they are freer in this country, more privileged, and with more opportunities and rights as Americans than they have in the countries of their origin, where they are a majority. That’s the reality.  Outside the university this is understood quite clearly, but in our classrooms the myth of America the oppressor is being taught.

We are in a war on terror. It is important for you to appreciate your country when it is under attack; and particularly when it is under attack from religious fanatics who may soon have access to nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and will have no compunction about visiting them on you and your loved ones. It is true that America inherited a slave system, but that is a very minor truth in the scale of humanity since slavery has existed in every human society so that everyone in this audience, if you go far back enough, regardless of race, is descended from slaves. What is remarkable about America is not that it inherited a slavery system but that it was founded on the idea that slavery is wrong, that everyone is endowed by their Creator with an inalienable right to liberty and life. This revolutionary idea spelled the end of slavery within two generations and not just in America but throughout the Western hemisphere and in most of the world. It is idea that still inspires the struggle for freedom across the globe. That is what is remarkable. 

What is notable about America is not where we began but where we have come. The war in Iraq whatever else you may think about it is a war for freedom. It is a disgraceful episode in the history of the left that with few exceptions, Christopher Hitchens and Paul Berman are two that notable, the left has turn its back a struggle for freedom, because that is our nation’s goal in Iraq. Even if we are ultimately defeated, we have made effort -- with half the country defecting from the war in the middle of the war -- to bring freedom to the Iraqi people, to the Muslim peoples of Iraq and the Middle East. 

If you look at the war in Iraq, you will see America. The general in charge of Central Command during the Iraq war was John Abizaid, an Arab American. The general in charge of our troops inside Iraq during the overthrow of the Saddam tyranny was Ricardo Sanchez, a Hispanic American. The chief presidential advisor on the war in Iraq, first as head of the National Security Council, now as Secretary of State representing America to the entire world, is an African American woman who grew up in the segregated South and saw her childhood friend blown up by racists in Birmingham in 1963. Condoleeza Rice is now the most powerful woman in the world.  It is not where we started but where we have come to that is remarkable.

There’s never been, in the history of the world, a country like America. Unlike the America that is presented to students at Duke University, it is a country you can be proud of. And it is important to be proud of your country, in this hour of war. Because if you are not proud of your country, you cannot defend yourself. 


[1] Among those did agree to sponsor the event which was principally underwritten by the Young Americas Foundation, a conservative institution, were the Office of the Provost, the Terry Sanford Institute,Duke Student Government and Student Affairs.
[2] Subsequent to this speech, al-Arian pled guilty to conspiracy to provide material support to a terrorist organization and was deported.
[3] David Barash and Charles Webel, Peace and Conflict Studies, op. cit., p. x.
[4] Ibid., p. 81
[5] Ibid.

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David Horowitz is the founder of The David Horowitz Freedom Center and author of the new book, One Party Classroom.

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