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Symposium: Leaving the Political Faith: Part III By: Jamie Glazov
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, October 21, 2005


FP: Dr. Chesler, your dark night of the soul? 

Chesler: With the 2000 Intifada against Israel I could no longer minimize the Palestinianization of so many leftists, including feminists and lesbians or their irrational and bottomless hatred of America and Israel.  I have now come to depend upon independent thinkers, not ideologues; I read the Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard, Commentary, The Washington Times, The National Review, Frontpage of course--in addition to the New York Times and much of the Jewish media.

 

I value people who are kind and thoughtful, who can listen civilly to views with which they do not agree. I have grown allergic to righteously raging ideologues who claim to speak for the wretched of the earth, who, as many of us have noted here, (John, Michael) have no practical solutions, are elitists, poseurs, who talk only to each other, remain quite out of harm's way, and whose identification with victims may be a form of "malignant narcissism"--Tammy's most interesting phrase. 

 

But, in truth, I had often adopted the minority position among feminists and that always costs one dearly. For years, I held majority views (I pioneered many of these views) in the areas of a woman's right to reproductive freedom, equal pay for equal work, freedom from violence (rape, incest, sexual harassment on the job, domestic battering).

 

However, my views on pornography, prostitution, surrogacy, motherhood/parenthood, custody, and on religious freedom for women were not majoritarian views, nor was my penchant for activism. When I was trying to help mothers and their incestuously raped children, most established feminists did not want to risk getting into trouble for the sake of their ideas/ideals; an honorable, often grassroots minority also did what I was doing.

 

And, to be fair, when I got in trouble with the authorities, the leftist Center for Constitutional Rights was there to defend me. When I joined a landmark struggle on behalf of Jewish women's religious rights in Jerusalem (we are known as the Women of the Wall), I had to absorb a great deal of contempt from American and Israeli feminists who were strongly and adamantly secular and who believed that religion and faith-based communities were the main contributor to women's oppression. This hurt since my group was composed of religious and religiously learned feminists and we were dealing with an even more vulgar misogyny on the part of our opponents.

 

When I published my book about "Woman's Inhumanity to Woman" (which Tammy refers to--much thanks!) some feminists tried to stop its publication, chose not to review it, refused to endorse it, and stopped talking to me. When I exposed the anti-Israel, anti-American, and anti-Jewish biases among western intellectuals, including feminists, in my book about "The New Anti-Semitism,"  I was viewed with even more suspicion and disapproval. When I suggested that leftists show as much compassion for the Jewish Israelis who were being blown up as they did for the Palestinian killers some Israeli feminists leftists accused me of being a "traitor."

 

When this same book was warmly received by Christians, conservatives, and religious Orthodox Jews in America and Europe, and when I wrote that I was considering voting Republican, I was seen as having gone over to the dark side. Some feminists railed at me. Like Tammy, some stopped inviting me, some denounced me in their emails and "purged" me from on their listserv groups, some wrote scathing reviews of my work. And some made it a point to remain connected to me and to tell me how much they admired my bravery, balance, wisdom, and depth-level feminist thinking. 

 

Like many others here, I have lost and gained friends. In the course of the Dreyfus affair in France, Proust, a Dreyfusard, broke with Degas. When he did so he said "All friendships are political." While I wish this was not always so, he may be right. Thus, I am now more comfortable with religious people than I once was; patriots have my admiration far more than those who cleverly and scornfully mock America, demonize Israel, view Islamic terrorists as freedom fighters and Palestine as the measure of all things noble.

 

In my new book, "The Death of Feminism" I write about the feminist failure to truly understand Islamic gender apartheid and jihad. I do not expect strong feminist establishment support for this work but will be delighted if I am wrong. I am now interested in influencing American foreign policy in terms of women's rights, especially in Islamic countries. I was recently interviewed by a reporter from Womens E-News about David Horowitz's legislative work on behalf of academic freedom. I said many important things--none of which made it into the article. They posted David's photo, my photo, and simply described me as a "conservative"--clearly, they did not want their readers to know what I was saying but they wanted to anoint me a conservative in order to prove that Womens' Studies is really diverse. All I can say is that I hope they consider interviewing me about academic freedom, the new McCarthyism on campuses, Islamic gender apartheid and patriotism in the near future.  

 

FP: Thank you Dr. Chelser. Let’s move on to our next segment: Mea Culpa.

 

Mea Culpa

 

FP: Ladies and gentlemen, one transparent and conspicuous characteristic of the Left that always stares you in the face is the refusal to ever look back, to ever admit an error, to ever say sorry. If I am not transgressing too much here, could each of you make a brief statement, looking back now at your past delusions within the political faith, about something, perhaps, that you would like to apologize for? If you don’t feel like you owe an apology or have to say sorry for anything, no problem. But if you do, it would be very interesting. For instance, some anti-war protestors from the Vietnam era have come forward and apologized for the role they played in facilitating the victory of the communists and the bloodbath that followed.

 

John Bradley? A Mea Culpa?

 

Bradley: Well, in regards to an "apology", I think actions speak louder than words. And ironically, the one action I would have done my best to undertake -- namely, the deletion of a small number of my articles containing shallow anti-American/anti-Israeli comments from the website of the Jeddah-based Arab News, where I worked as managing editor -- was actually done by Saudi officials off their own back. They deleted my entire archive as part of the "eternal punishment" I have to suffer for deciding to write my exposé on the kingdom.

Yet more irony: one of the Arab News columns I would most like to have kept in the public domain, "Oxford's Anti-Semite", which argued the poet Tom Paulin should be put on trial for inciting the murder of Jewish settlers, was picked up at the time by FrontPageMag
and is still available here.

So, by participating in this debate today, things have kind of come full circle!

 

I would just like to add, with respect to Dr. Chesler's comment, that "I have now come to depend upon independent thinkers, not ideologues," the publications she subsequently lists are in fact highly ideological, with the exception of the New York Times. Personally, I wish there were many more publications that had no ideological agenda, or at least presented a much wider variety of viewpoints.

 

FP: Mr. Lopez-Calderon?
 
Lopez-Calderon: My greatest sin on the Left was my having adopted the rhetoric of the anti-Israeli movement.  I did so while teaching at a private Jewish Day School in Miami Beach, Florida.  Though I never embraced the destructive anti-Semitic politics of the rabidly anti-Israel left, I wrote a number of inflammatory, hurtful, and deeply insensitive comments that haunt me to this very day.  Those words make me cringe but they also serve as a reminder of how one can fall off the deep end.  I’ll keep that in mind to make sure that my conservative politics do not send me careening into extreme right-wing oblivion.

 

Thompson: On the one hand, there’s simply no doubt that throughout the twentieth century much of the Left worked to explain away, rationalize, justify the horrors of Marxist authoritarian and totalitarian states. At the same time, I’m firmly convinced this capacity for self-delusion is an existential factor of human nature per se, rather than a specifically a characteristic of the Left or even a defining quality of ideology as such. To borrow (First Name) Kamolnick’s excellent phrase, I believe this tendency to bad faith “grounds huge parts of human value.” Thoughts become actions and actions develop into habits. Habits shape character, and character defines destiny. “Mistakes were made,” the simpering excuse offered by both Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, is the mantra of a sociopath. Contrast this with Robert E. Lee’s remark after the calamity of Pickett’s Charge, which sealed the Confederate army’s defeat. “All this has been my fault,” Lee said. “I asked more of men than should have been asked of them.”

I originally became a liberal because I favored the changes associated with the early civil rights, women’s, and ecology movements. In my adolescent psyche, those who opposed those movements, conservatives, stood for the “status quo,” which of course was a bad thing. Even as I became increasingly disenchanted with the Left’s embrace of identity politics, victimology, campus speech codes, and other indicators of authoritarianism, I held to the idea that conservatives were worse. Rather than stepping up to the plate and clarifying my core beliefs, I more or less declared a pox on both houses, Left and Right, and focused my journalistic work on non-political themes. I’m still reflecting on how I made that choice and what it was all about. What’s clear is that writing my essay Leaving the Left felt as if I had returned from a mythic banishment or recovered from a spell in a Grimm brothers fairy tale. Regrets? Frankly, I’m of two minds. Part of me wishes I had “awakened” much earlier and acted politically in accord with my growing awareness. Another part of me knows that “would have, could have, should have” is not a skilful cognitive place to hang out. There are thresholds in life, and we know them only when we cross them.

 

FP: Thank you Mr. Thompson. I am not asking about regrets; I am asking if you have any kind of apology you think you need or want to make. If you don’t, that is fine. John Bradley has made it clear he is sorry for the anti-American and anti-Israeli articles he wrote. Lopez-Calderon apologizes that he adopted the rhetoric of the anti-Israeli movement. Anything you want to say?

 

Thompson: No

 

FP: Ok. Prof. Kamolnick?

 

Kamolnick: If I could somehow provide a balm that could repair the extremeness of my ideological Left convictions, it would be offered to the many unnamed souls who either were intimidated into silence by what appeared to be mercurial convictions and a tenacious debating style, or the many students whose horizons were manipulated in and outside the classroom by Leftist dogma. Like Lopez-Calderon I wish to be known as a radical moderate who disavows the ideologue and betrays a humility steeped in awareness of the tangles of human nature and its bearing on ethics, and public policy. And Like Mr. Thompson, I do not really feel the need to apologize for any specific act, but for betraying the Enlightenment demand that one always reject self-imposed tutelage.

 

I spend far more time thinking about the feelings of my children, and living a decent life among friends and neighbors, and reckon my earlier "revolutionary" persona as a phase of immaturity whose consequences and errors are both good, and evil. And though I did embrace a revolutionary imaginary that at least implicitly justified any means by the ends I felt were mandated, I have never really been fit to play the actual role of a toughened revolutionary capable of spilling blood or taking up arms. So, for the arrogance of my political tirades and sharpness of my desire to expose fully my debating foes, I do have regrets. And for my students, I hope the authority they invested in me can be sustained, but it is a greater gift that they could see me for who I was, and perhaps even generously, who I might become. 


FP:
Ms. Bruce?

 

Bruce: I have few regrets about my work as a feminist. I am actually quite proud of that work. The fact that I was always at odds with so-called feminist establishment ‘leadership’ indicates to me how I was at least on an authentic feminist track and not the leftist they had hoped I’d be.

Yet, as a public person affecting public policy, I do owe an apology to those who looked to me for guidance for the things I did not do, and did not say. My willingness to compromise my politics and ignore the hypocrisy in the modern feminist establishment for as long as I did is something I regret tremendously.

My work has been and always will be based in making the world better for people. It is that profound commitment that attracted me to the Left, or I should say, to the rhetoric of the left. The difference is who we become in the process. This panel is an example of those who acted when we saw the lie of leftist theory and how it contradicts our own classically liberal philosophies. These days our commitment to personal liberty and freedom, and a love of our country, now happens to be termed ‘conservatism.’

 

While I will apologize for my personal failing at not acting sooner to extricate myself from the left, I will no more apologize for my politics or beliefs when they were labeled “liberal” anymore than I will apologize for them now that they’re labeled “conservative.”

 

At the same time, all of us on this panel now use that experience to continue to make a difference. Saying ‘sorry’ is one thing. Doing something to reverse the damage of action or inaction it is quite another, and frankly, even more important.

 

FP: Dr. Chesler?

Chesler: Permit me to ask Mr. Bradley whether he is serious about the NY Times NOT being ideological? At the very least, they have been dispiritingly anti-Israel and pro-PLO and whether that represents liberal ideology or failed liberal ideology is another question. I appreciate what Mr. Lopez-Calderon is saying about regretting former alliances with anti-Semitic leftists; Mr. Thompson’s philosophic view that things evolve, as do thinkers. Like Mr. Kamolnick, I regret some of my own youthful arrogance. However, like Mr. Kamolnick and Ms. Bruce, I never hewed, precisely, to either the left or feminist party line(s) and I DID try to expose feminist hypocrisy, cruelty, cowardice early on. I did not break with certain feminist ideals or truths because feminist leaders or followers turned out to be human: flawed, immoral, damaged—and also sexist or racist, or because they failed their own ideals over and over again in the service of careerism or because of a dreadful, all-too-human conformity.  

Recently, I revised and updated my first book, “Women and Madness.” As I say in the new Introduction, back when, I underestimated the psychological importance of motherhood to women. I do not regret my early stance. I evolved intellectually.  I subsequently wrote three books which focused on motherhood and the theme remains an important one for me. (I do not idealize mothers or motherhood; on the contrary, but neither do I denigrate or dismiss these themes.)  I regret the extent to which my first book, in small ways, still reflected reflexive leftist positions e.g. I valorized Third World liberation movements and I supported Angela Davis for supporting George Jackson.  

 

I am embarrassed today by this folly. I am also sorry that I marched against “the war” in Vietnam without having arrived at a single conclusion on my own and with utterly simplistic views of good and evil, right and wrong. At the time it seemed so right. Now, it seems more like a rite of adolescence, a self-righteous battle with adult (capitalist) authority. It was May of '68 every day and we were all full of ourselves, and we adored rough beasts with guns whom we vicariously identified with as those who would bring capitalism down (for us) and usher in a Brave New World although we didn't see it that way at the time, we really believed that Paradise Now was attainable for everyone.

 

It was completely "primary process" thinking in psycho-analytic terms. Today, I have a different view of the importance of fighting just wars and wars of self-defense,  in America and in Israel, and a different understanding of how tragically complex matters such as human rights, women’s rights, democracy, and modernity really are in non-western countries. Even in western countries.

 

I regret that I stopped working with men for so many years, intellectually and politically. The choice was not entirely mine; few men were radical feminists at that time and those who were not always well accepted in many feminist circles.  But, I have raised a feminist son and I am very proud of that. I regret that I did not begin to study Torah sooner in my life—but, in a small way, I am doing so now. In other words, I have come to appreciate the importance of religion both intellectually and spiritually, and in terms of community-creation. And yes, I still understand that flawed human beings can use religion to do evil—just as some secularists can. 

 

In 1959, I founded a Fair Play for Cuba Committee on my campus. Knowing what I now know about Castro's totalitarian regime and his systematic imprisonment and torture of intellectuals, poets, homosexuals, and political dissidents I regret my willingness to romanticize male demagogues. 

 

But, as the great Edith Piaf sings: "Non, je ne regrette, non, je ne regrette rien," I do not regret my feminist views or stands nor do I regret my passion for justice and fairness.

 

FP: Thank you ladies and gentlemen. I have always been intrigued by the Left’s inability to “look back” in general and how leftists never see themselves as culpable in the earthly incarnations that their own ideals spawn. For instance, anyone who promoted the ideologies that gave life to, let’s say, the former apartheid regime in South Africa, the Nazi regime, the KKK or the former institution of slavery in America, then that person is demonized in our culture and is seen as a guilty person with blood on his hands. And fair enough, that is a legitimate perspective, for that person does have blood on his hands.

 

But if you shared and promoted socialist ideals, and still do, for some reason it is considered inappropriate to suggest that you are complicit in the crimes that were, and are, carried out in their name. Why?

 

Try to imagine, for instance, a group of anti-Semites in the 1930s, holding Nazi convictions, who stood by and promoted the road toward Auschwitz, Dachau and Treblinka. We would agree that they were complicit in the spilling of human blood, yes?

 

And yet, to have promoted socialist ideals and to have promoted class hatred throughout the 20th century, for some reason, excuses one from complicity in the monstrosity that such ideals spawned in their experiments on the human race.

 

So, for the record, I guess I will just say something that is completely taboo in our culture where the Left controls the boundaries of permitted discourse: if you were a leftist during the Cold War, and you promoted and espoused socialist ideals, which means you championed class hatred, and you made excuses for Soviet barbarity and you argued or implied a moral equivalency between the U.S. and the Soviet Empire, then your hands are soaked, to one degree or another, in the human blood of the millions of victims that communism butchered throughout the 20th century.

 

You cannot protest the Vietnam War and then, after the communists win and a bloodbath ensues, and the North Vietnamese concede that the anti-war movement helped their victory, just pretend that you are not culpable and complicit in the crimes you helped perpetrate. 

 

In any case, we now move to our final round, which we title Unholy Alliance.

 

To continue reading this article, click here.


Jamie Glazov is Frontpage Magazine's editor. He holds a Ph.D. in History with a specialty in Russian, U.S. and Canadian foreign policy. He is the author of Canadian Policy Toward Khrushchev’s Soviet Union and is the co-editor (with David Horowitz) of The Hate America Left. He edited and wrote the introduction to David Horowitz’s Left Illusions. His new book is United in Hate: The Left's Romance with Tyranny and Terror. To see his previous symposiums, interviews and articles Click Here. Email him at jglazov@rogers.com.


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