As I have proceeded with the tedious and unrewarding project of replying to the critical reviews of professors profiled in the pages of my book, I find myself wondering whether there has ever been a cohort of intellectuals so socially privileged and occupationally secure and so utterly dishonest. Why not respond, for example, to a portrait you don’t like by showing in the conduct of your critique that the image in the book does not reflect you at all? Why not manifest the disposition of a scholar, for example, when you are accused of being a political shill? Why not show regard for the evidence when you are called to task for making it up? Why not display respect for the intellectual and philosophical differences of others when you are demanding the same for yourself?
Columbia professor Manning Marable’s dishonesty begins with the self-aggrandizing title of his response to my book: "The Most Dangerous Black Professor in America."
Who said he was? Not I. Certainly not in my book, which profiles several black professors more prominent than Marable, whose name in any case would be a cypher to most. This is something Marable himself acknowledges further on in his text, where he prefers to associate himself with the group I have profiled rather than standing out from it. But just as the attempt to crown himself "the most dangerous black professor in America" is a bid for unwarranted distinction, so this is a gambit to share in the glory of more famous (or notorious) others.
My university (Columbia), boasts the star-struck Marable, has nine of the most dangerous professors included in Horowitz’s book. Better yet: "Several of the ‘dangerous’ intellectuals are editorial board members of a journal I edit at Columbia." I wish I’d known that when I wrote my book.
Someone less self-enamored might hesitate before embracing (as Marable immediately does) the company of:
- a convicted kidnapper and torturer of women, Professor Maulana Karenga;
- an embittered faculty racist, Derrick Bell (whom he describes as a "legendary legal theorist");
- an unrepentant Sixties gangster now on the staff of Emory Law, Kathleen Cleaver;
- a world class bloviator Michael Eric Dyson, whose upper division seminar in "Great Religious Thinkers" reserves an entire semester to the religious prose of gansta rapper, gang rapist, and ill-fated street thug Tupac Shakur;
- Marxist political hack and "University Professor" Angela Davis, who is a member of the same Central Committee of the same Communist Party as Marable himself; and
- last but not least, the Jew-hating sometime poet laureate of New Jersey, Professor Amiri Baraka – all profiled in my book.
To Manning Marable, these academic knaves are a veritable "Who’s Who of America’s most prominent public intellectuals and university scholars." Unfortunately, he’s a little more right than wrong about that, which is the central point of my book.
The Professors is a collective portrait of intellectual corruption on a scale bigger than the Enron scandal. But Marable is too self-absorbed, too busy comparing himself to an authentic legend, civil rights hero A. Philip Randolph, to notice the cognitive dissonance: "Randolph immediately came to mind when I learned recently that I was listed among ‘The 101 Most Dangerous Professors [sic]’ in America’s colleges and universities." And why would that be? Because A. Philip Randolph was once described by President Wilson in a less decent age as "The Most Dangerous Negro in America." But it is only Marable who calls himself that now.
In any case, Randolph was called dangerous because he was a civil rights activist, not because he was an academic charlatan. A fine distinction no doubt for someone like Marable, but a distinction nonetheless. The academics profiled in my book are dangerous not because they are "subversives," a word Marable encases in quotes as though it were actually mine. The word "subversive" is never used even once by me in my 112,000 word text. On the other hand, why should this stop Marable when the word is available to create useful associations with anti-Communist "witch-hunts"? And what better way to win an argument, than to stage a debate with oneself?
The fact that Manning Marable is a political hack does not make him dangerous in my book. The fact that there are 60,000 political hacks just like him busily turning our academic classrooms into ideological recruitment programs does.
The novelist Mary McCarthy once said of Lillian Hellman that everything she wrote was a lie, "including the ‘ands’ and the ‘the’s’." Marable is at least as proficient. He writes about me: "Horowitz crashed the headlines several years ago when he circulated the provocative advertisement denouncing black American reparations for slavery and Jim Crow segregation as ‘racist.’" An accurate statement of what I wrote would read: Horowitz published an argument describing slavery reparations 137 years after the fact paid to individuals who were never slaves by individuals who were never slave owners as racist. My argument was about reparations for slavery, not segregation.
Marable writes: "[Horowitz’s] latest political maneuver is the demand for an ‘Academic Bill of Rights,’ calling for state legislatures to restrict academic freedom on campuses." An accurate version would read: "Horowitz has called on state legislatures to pass resolutions supporting long-established academic freedom principles (established by the American Association of University Professors, among others) that universities no longer have the will to enforce." Just so we are straight on these matters.
Getting things straight is not so easy when you are a tenured professor. "Horowitz’s objective is to discredit, isolate and stigmatize prominent scholars of the left by eliminating them from universities entirely." But how do you eliminate scholars of the Left by writing an Academic Bill of Rights that says (in its very first principle no less): "No faculty shall be hired or fired or denied promotion or tenure on the basis of his or her political or religious beliefs"? I am ready to wager that not even a Columbia professor can explain that one.
Having misrepresented everything I have written, Marable now complains that I have misrepresented him – specifically his radical indictment of American society. "Nowhere in my own writing," he responds "can one find the claim that I ‘[maintain] that the American criminal justice system is irredeemably racist.’" Really? Marable's claim that American society is "organized around structural racism" certainly suggests that removing the racism would require more than reform. This becomes an inevitable conclusion when Marable explains that a racial solution "must involve…the deconstruction of the legitimacy of white racial identity, and the uncovering and examination of massive crimes against humanity that have been routinely sanctioned and carried out by corporate and state power." Massive crimes against humanity are routine in America? And "carried out by state power"? That certainly sounds like an indictment of the criminal justice system. The legitimacy of the white race must be deconstructed to achieve racial equality. Try substituting black for white in that sentence and see what you come up with. Perhaps Marable is working with a different dictionary definition of "racist" than the rest of us.
I gave fair warning at the outset that this was a tedious exercise, and I’m not going to bore readers by continuing this deconstruction of Marable’s inept attempt to provide a coherent response to what I have written about him any longer.
People ask me why Columbia University is a school with more professors than any other university in my book. As I’ve observed many times, my book is not comprehensive; it is indicative. The 101 professors profiled in it are the tip of an iceberg I estimate to be 500 times that number. So a few extra professors from the Columbia faculty means nothing at all. But it does mean something to me, since Columbia is my alma mater, and I attended it in what looks now like the golden age of the modern research university.
In those halcyon days, Columbia’s halls were graced by Moses Hadas and Mark Van Doren, F.W. Dupee and Meyer Schapiro, and their like. In one generation, Manning Marable, Eric Foner, the late Edward Said, Hamid Dabashi, and their comrades have turned this paragon of academic virtues and civilized conversations into an intellectual pigsty. I’m mad about that. And that’s why Professor Marable is accompanied by so many Columbia colleagues in this book. Not because he has especially earned it.
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