A feisty David Horowitz inveighed against leftist professors and programs Tuesday, facing down a chorus of giggling hecklers at Duke University's Page Auditorium.
The conservative writer defended his new book, in a speech to a mostly student audience of about 500 people. His appearance was sponsored by a Duke chapter of a national organization Horowitz founded to promote an "Academic Bill of Rights" against tendentious teaching and was televised live on C-SPAN.
Pseudo-intellectual radicals are entrenched on the faculties of Duke and other university campuses and wield the real power on campus, he said.
His new book, "The Professors: 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America," includes two Duke professors among those he criticizes.
"Many people have objected to the subtitle, saying 'How could my professor be dangerous?' " Horowitz said. "People who say that forget that ideas have consequences," like Marxism and the 120 million people who died because of its "crackpot" economic policies, he said. Or the antiwar movement during the Vietnam War, which he said led to America's military withdrawal, which in turn consigned 2½ million people in Indochina to death. Today's agitation against war in Iraq could have similar consequences, he warned.
Earlier Tuesday, Horowitz met briefly with Duke President Richard Brodhead, who in an e-mail said a prescription such as the Academic Bill of Rights might open the door to governmental regulation of universities' intellectual life and "freeze people in rigidly fixed attitudes."
Students who feel discriminated against by a professor for their political sympathies should tell the professor or a department chairman, he said.
At the speech, about 20 students and faculty members wore T-shirts saying "Why didn't I make the list?" and on the back, "Intimidation, blacklisting, litmus testing, narcing on professors = academic freedom?"
Jocelyn Olcott, a professor of Latin American history at Duke, said the group was protesting Horowitz's ad hominem tactics, and members were concerned about how his vision of political neutrality would be policed.
"The idea of balance depends on where you put the fulcrum, and his is pretty far to the right," Olcott said. "I think what people most object to is character assassination and lies. He portrays a university like Duke as a place that stifles debate, and that's not true."
Horowitz at first seemed thrown off his stride by the laughter for his assertions coming from the T-shirted group and elsewhere. But he drew louder applause from the majority of the audience when he took on the hecklers.
"We have some people here on mushrooms, I think," he said.
Horowitz said if he had been an anti-American radical, he would have been welcomed to Duke's campus.
"Perhaps if I were a washed-up calypso singer who thought that the Bush administration is the Third Reich, like Harry Belafonte, and that Colin Powell was a house slave, I might be invited to celebrate Martin Luther King Day," he said.
In fact, Duke has "seen a parade of left-wing, quite extreme people like Angela Davis," he said, with some in the audience applauding the mention of Davis, last year's King day speaker.
He was a leftist himself in the 1960s, but, unlike the targets of his invective, learned from his mistakes, he said.
He reserved plenty of vitriol for faculty members at campuses like Harvard University, where the recent resignation of Lawrence Summers as president represented a coup by a leftist faculty, he said.
He also criticized a peace studies program at Ball State University as "intellectually corrupt," as well as women's students and black studies programs generally as unacademic "political parties."
Horowitz also highlighted last week's attack at UNC by a former student who drove through a crowd of students, injuring nine of them, in protest of killings of Muslims around the world.
Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar's motivation was "not that dissimilar" from Belafonte's sentiments, Horowitz said.
"We have in this country a large number of people who are rooting for the enemy in the war on terror," he said. "We have terrorism at UNC, and we'll have another 9/11, and you people will not be laughing," he said.
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