Long before Senator McCarthy enjoyed his hour of disreputable fame, another Joseph had discovered how to deal effectively with political rivals. Not only the inquisitive senator, but every political inquisitor since, has owed a primary debt to comrade Stalin. It was Stalin’s sinister genius to realize that arguing a case was not the best way to prevail in a dispute. Engaging his opponents on the merits of their critique was not his choice. Instead, he arranged show trials to conflate them with Adolf Hitler and purge them from his party’s ranks. So why should it surprise me when the left-wing opponents of academic freedom avoid engaging the argument on its merits and instead focus their efforts on conflating me with Senator McCarthy?
“He’s Got A Little List,” is the not-so-subtle title of an attack on my book The Professors, which appeared in The Nation, written by one of its longtime editors, Richard Lingeman. Why should it concern Lingeman that, in fact, I don't have a little list, or any list for that matter? My book is an argument about the state of American universities, backed up by data that consists of profiles of more than 100 professors, from which four important patterns of faculty conduct and university governance appear.
The "lists" that have been compiled from my book have been compiled by leftists and are to be found on websites like The Nation’s. The reason I do not have a list is that unlike the senator with whom Lingeman wants to link me, I am not seeking anyone’s head, nor have I made a single demand that would give an honest observer the slightest impression I was. The attempt to associate me with Joseph McCarthy is motivated by reasons of pure malice, not unlike those inspiring his vendetta and Stalin’s: Lingeman and The Nation would like to purge me from the academic debate, which would save them the trouble of actually having to confront my argument.
Of course, The Nation is not a congressional committee or a state with a firing squad (and even less so am I). The Nation is only a long-surviving left-wing propaganda mill whose efforts to promote socialism in America and abroad have everywhere failed. Consequently my fate will be a lot better than that of the poor souls, victims of Stalin, The Nation’s editors cheered to their graves during the Stalinist purges of the 1930s.
Not to mention the 1940s. In a 1946 article about Stalin’s postwar purges (“The Soviets Clean House”) Walter Duranty explained to The Nation’s progressive readers that “purge” meant “to cleanse” in Russian, and that a house cleaning was all Stalin intended. In Duranty’s memorable words, Stalin had launched “a general cleaning out of the cobwebs and mess which accumulate in any house when its occupants are so deeply preoccupied with something else that they have no time to keep it in order.” At the height of this house cleaning, Stalin was killing 20,000 Russian citizens a month. But according to The Nation (in 1946 as today) the main danger facing humanity was the incipient fascism of the West.
From his opening sentence, Lingeman’s indictment is under way: “David Horowitz, the right-wing Savonarola, takes an unholy interest in higher education.”
Savanarola: an Italian Dominican priest, and briefly ruler of Florence, who was known for…anti-Renaissance preaching, book burning, and destruction of art.
Book burner is the guilty association Lingeman is attempting to pin on me. In other words, in advocating that professors adhere to traditional standards of professional conduct enshrined in the faculty handbooks of their own universities and the guidelines of their national organizations, I am guilty not only of McCarthyism, but am worthy of comparison to a forerunner of the Inquisition.
Anyone even casually acquainted with my academic freedom campaign or the Academic Bill of Rights would know that my agenda is exactly – and explicitly – the very opposite of what is charged in this crude Nation attack. From the Academic Bill of Rights: “Curricula and reading lists in the humanities and social sciences should reflect the uncertainty and unsettled character of all human knowledge in these areas by providing students with dissenting sources and viewpoints where appropriate.”
The only statements that I have ever made about books in relation to the academic curriculum are that there should be more of them. Students should not be exposed to only one viewpoint – whether Left or Right – but more than one. Lingeman may wish to burn me at the stake for not subscribing to the leftist faith. Fair enough. But then who is the Savonarola here, punishing for heresy?
It is true I have not lacked temptation. The text about America most widely assigned by radical professors is the well-known Stalinist cartoon called A People’s History of the United States, written by Howard Zinn. It is certainly disgraceful that a political hack like Zinn – who still thinks America started the Korean War and who has rallied to the cause of every Communist enemy of the United States from Stalin to Castro to Hugo Chavez (not unlike The Nation itself) – should be an icon of the American Historical Association. Or that he should be a classroom authority throughout the university system and have his discredited Marxist trash shoved down unsuspecting student throats. But the fact remains that I have never asked – let alone demanded – that a single book by Zinn (or his many equally pathetic academic clones) be removed from a single curriculum or from any classroom in which a text on American history was appropriate.
I have objected to the use of the Zinn book in one case, which has nothing to do with his bankrupt ideas, but does underscore my agendas. This was a course in the Social Work Program at Kansas State University, where Zinn’s book was the lone assigned text in a class in “Social Welfare.” In fact, according to the syllabus, every class session was organized as a reading of one of the chapters in Zinn’s book. I objected because Zinn’s text was irrelevant to the academic subject of “Social Welfare” in a Social Work program. One of the class assignments, for example, was Zinn’s chapter “Vietnam – the Impossible Victory,” which celebrates these imposition of a totalitarian state on that benighted country. However dear to the hearts of leftists the Communist triumph was, it has no pertinence to a course on “Social Welfare” in a Social Work program. Moreover, it was being taught by faculty members not trained in history, nor any subject that would provide them professional expertise on Communism or the war in Vietnam.
Using Zinn’s book as the sole text in this academic course violated the existing academic freedom policies of the Kansas Board of Regents, first because its subject matter is not the subject matter announced for the course, and second because it represents the unwarranted imposition of an ideological viewpoint on students.
In other words, even in this case, as in all my proposals to reform American universities, I made a point of respecting the prerogative of faculty to assign the texts to be used in their classrooms, regardless of what I might think of their merit. I have only asked that students be made aware of sources representing more than one point of view, that faculty be trained in the subjects they are teaching, and that their teaching conform to the rules established by the profession. On the other hand, one would never know this from reading my Leninist critics, like Lingeman, for whom crushing a political opponent counts for everything and the facts nothing.
“One of [Horowitz’s] pet projects is a so-called Academic Bill of Rights...Colleges that fail to sign on to the bill of rights would be monitored by state officials and politicians.”
Not according to anything I have said or written, or that is in any legislation I am associated with – pending or otherwise. This is another flagrant invention by Lingeman, who seems unconstrained by any need to anchor his statements in reality. There is no provision in any legislation that I am associated with that stipulates that state officials and politicians will monitor “colleges that fail to sign on to the bill of rights.” My agenda as I have made clear in testimonies to the legislatures of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Kansas – all easily accessed on my website – is to get universities themselves to enforce the academic freedom policies they already have in place.
Yet Lingeman follows this salvo of falsehoods with yet another: “His avowed aim is to muzzle lefty professors….” Choice of words is important. “Avowed” has an unambiguous meaning – sworn; declared; stated. I have made no such statement that lefty professors should be muzzled – sworn or otherwise. Quite the opposite in fact. My Academic Bill of Rights – in its very first tenet – explicitly protects the right of leftist professors – like Nation publisher and Columbia professor Victor Navasky – to hold their extreme points of view: “No faculty shall be hired or fired or denied promotion or tenure on the basis of his or her political or religious beliefs.”
My book, The Professors, asserts the principle equally clearly: “This book is not intended as a text about left-wing bias in the university and does not propose that a left-wing perspective on academic faculties is a problem in itself. Every individual, whether conservative or liberal, has a perspective and therefore a bias. Professors have every right to interpret the subjects they teach according to their individual points of view. That is the essence of academic freedom.” (Emphasis added.)
The only “muzzling” faculty leftists really fear is my insistence on professional conduct in the classroom – an end to the use of their classes for focused political indoctrination, for irrelevant political speech-making and for recruitment for radical organizations and causes. Such conduct is unprofessional and intellectually corrupt. Because it is widespread it is a threat to the integrity of the educational system itself, hence the reason these professors are described as dangerous.
But facts are these are no obstacle to Lingeman, who is busily stalking a heretic: “In February Horowitz tossed another log on the auto-da-fé, publishing a book called The Professors….”
Auto-da-fe – n. 1. Public announcement of the sentences imposed by the Inquisition; 2. The public execution of those sentences by secular authorities, especially by burning at the stake.
So, not only am I a Savonarola – a burner of the books of others – but my own book is a log on the fire that burns people as well. I guess this makes me a really bad person, and worthy (Lingeman’s evident hope) of being immolated myself.
To be sure, in constructing their profiles I have necessarily put the ideas of the professors profiled in my book on display. (And why would they want to hide them in any case, especially since they are tireless in proclaiming them even in venues where such expressions are inappropriate?) Readers may draw their own conclusions. But the book itself is not about unacceptable ideas – it is about the corruption of the university by faculty members who are singled out because their agendas are political rather than academic.
The Professors is written as a collective portrait that is designed to reveal a set of patterns that I find troubling. Here is how I describe the result in the introduction to the book: “When viewed as a whole, the hundred or more portraits in this volume reveal several disturbing patterns of university life, which are reflected careers like Ward Churchill’s, but are neither limited to him or his specific university or his particular academic discipline. These include (1) promotion far beyond academic achievement (Professors Anderson, Aptheker, Berry, Churchill, Davis, Kirstein, Navarro, West, Williams, and others in this volume); (2) teaching subjects outside one’s professional qualifications and expertise for the purpose of political propaganda (Professors Barash, Becker, Churchill, Ensalaco, Furr, Holstun, Wolfe, and many others); (3) making racist and ethnically disparaging remarks in public without eliciting reaction by university administrations, as long as those remarks are directed at unprotected groups, e.g., Armenians, whites, Christians, and Jews (Professors Algar, Armitage, Baraka, Dabashi, hooks, Massad, and others); (4) the overt introduction of political agendas into the classroom and the abandonment of any pretense of academic discipline or scholarly inquiry (Professors Aptheker, Dunkley, Eckstein, Gilbert, Higgins, Marable, Richards, Williams, and many others).”
The reader will note that the one pattern that is not mentioned in this list is: expresses unpopular ideas.
Having misled his readers with a series of false statements about me and my book, Lingeman revisits the McCarthy list he conjured at the outset, this time to have some fun. It does not seem to occur to him, that McCarthy’s witch-hunt was not fun for its victims, among whom were my parents: “A couple of our contributors reported (rather boastfully, we thought) they’d made the list. That caused us to wonder who else among our regulars made the cut. So we put intern Dean Powers on the case, and after combing the data bank he came up with twenty-seven Nation names in the Horowitz book…We were initially pleased that so many of our writers made the grade.”
Lingeman does not bother to ask how I missed these Nation connections if I were really intent on making guilty associations. The answer is, I was not interested in making such guilty associations. I also missed the fact that several of Marable’s equally discreditable colleagues shared an editorial board with him, a fact he himself happily announced in a commentary on my book. The idea that I was looking for guilty associations is thus simply Lingeman's projection of his own paranoia, shared with innumerable leftists who apparently have guilty consciences.
Continuing his faux pleasure in contemplating The Nation writers unwittingly profiled in my book, Lingeman exclaims: “But what a star-studded roster of names we could boast of, from Aptheker (Bettina) to Zinn (Howard).”
Well, that depends on one’s conception of stardom. My book is about the intellectual corruption of the university, the replacement of academic standards with political agendas. Perhaps Lingeman would like to rethink this bravado. Here, for example, is what I wrote about Nation writer and University of California, Santa Cruz, full professor Bettina Aptheker:
Although a fulltime professor of feminist studies and history at the University of California, Santa Cruz, Aptheker does not have a single work of reputable scholarship to her name. Most of her books, including Intimate Politics: Autobiography As Witness and The Morning Breaks: The Trial of Angela Davis, and If They Come in the Morning: Voices of Resistance" (co-authored with Angela Davis) are frankly political. As for Aptheker’s ostensibly scholarly effort, Woman’s Legacy: Essays on Race, Sex, and Class in American History (1982), this amounts to little more than a review of Aptheker’s politics.
At the end of the introduction to The Professors, I sum up my agenda:
In twenty years of schooling up through the graduate level, I never heard one teacher or professor, on one occasion in one classroom ever express a political opinion. Not one. It is my hope that the integrity exhibited by my teachers in that politically troubled era will be restored one day to American institutions of learning so that future generations of students can receive as full a benefit from their educational experience as I did.
Note, please, that I say here that all politics should be removed from the classroom, not just left-wing politics.
I could easily go through Lingeman’s Nation list – Stanley Aronowitz, Mary Frances Berry, Michael Eric Dyson, Manning Marable, Tom Hayden are demonstrable academic charlatans; Michael Berube, Eric Foner and Todd Gitlin are enablers of the intellectual corruption of their peers. And so on. But why bother? Lingeman’s defamation campaign is so unself-reflecting: “This is the kind of list a muckraking, status quo shaking magazine like The Nation should be on.” (What status-quo could he be referring to? Certainly not the academic status quo.) “We thought about suggesting to our advertising people that they take out a series of ads bragging, ‘The Nation—America’s Most Dangerous Magazine, says David Horowitz.’ But we had second thoughts. First, he never actually said that. [Finally, a concession to reality. – DH] And second, we would be basing the claim on the word of a writer we’ve always regarded as a man of questionable accuracy.”
Coming from a man whose regard for accuracy has been so recklessly displayed in this article, the accusation is rich. Coming from a magazine that described Stalin’s victims as guilty, declared there were no secret police in postwar Communist Vietnam, and published an editorial a week after 9/11 saying, “The [American] flag stands for jingoism and vengeance and war,” what else could be expected?
The Nation has indeed targeted my alleged inaccuracy in the past, but with the same regard for truth as it shows in making the present accusation. Six years ago, Nation writer Scott Sherman took aim at my book Hating Whitey and Other Progressive Causes. His comments were made in the course of a 6,000-word cover profile, “David Horowitz’s Long March,” which was devoted to my life and the corpus of my work. These were the only comments about the veracity of any of the many texts I have written that he made:
The book is littered with inaccuracies large and small. Writing about the annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, Horowitz says he saw Nation columnist Christopher Hitchens, who was “showing his parents around the event.” (Hitchens’s parents are deceased.) More troubling is the way Horowitz wields statistics. “In 1994,” he writes, “there were twenty thousand rapes of white women by black men, but only one hundred rapes of black women by white men” – a statistic he lifted from Dinesh D’Souza’s book The End of Racism. D’Souza's assertion, however, is based on a gross misreading of Justice Department figures.
So the first example of the inaccuracies with which my text is said to be “littered” my inaccuracy is that I misidentified a couple I encountered with Christopher Hitchens when we met at an event. In preparation for this article I emailed Christopher about this, and received this reply:
March 30, 2006
i can't believe that this has come up again. i thought i had nailed it ages ago, and that [Nation writer scott] sherman understood.
it's been my custom for years to call [my wife] carol’s parents by paternal and maternal names, since that is the way i feel about them, and since i have no living parents of my own, and since that is also how they (especially my father-in-law) refer to me. i can distinctly remember introducing you to them in that manner at the LA Times event.
please feel free to show this to anyone.
So much for the mole hill. The second – presumably “large” inaccuracy -- refers to an error not actually made by me, but by Dinesh D’Souza. My error, in other words, is in trusting the statistic in D’Souza’s book (as Sherman knows) not playing with statistics in a troubling manner. Some indictment by not one but two Nation journalists. In future, they should probably check their facts before making claims like this against those who disagree with them. But then, why do I think they won’t?
Of course, leftists misreading this article are going to accuse me of using the same tactics I criticize in Lingeman – guiltily associating him with Stalin and other purveryors of false accusations. The difference is this: the views I attribute to Lingeman and The Nation are not made up.