I was surfing the blogosphere the other day and came across an eye-catching sentence on a blog called “Folkbum’s Rambles and Rants,” which describes itself as being “A Small Squeaky Cog in the Vast Leftwing Conspiracy.” Actually it was two sentences that caught my eye and they went like this: “Do we also have to start rounding up the college professors and putting them in camps? David Horowitz is this close to being that explicit.”
In the course of my campaign for academic freedom on college campuses, I’ve grown used to malicious, mendacious and unprincipled attacks from leftists in general and Democrats in particular, people who generally like to preen themselves as “liberals” but haven’t had a tolerant impulse in years.
For proposing an Academic Bill of Rights that would defend “intellectual diversity” and codify students’ academic freedoms (while still supporting the academic freedom of professors) I have been called a Maoist, a Stalinist, a McCarthyite, an Orwellian, a thought-controller, a witch-hunter and a fascist. Members of a socialist organization at the University of Hawaii actually held up signs saying “No academic freedom for fascists.”) All these attacks originate with a left that can’t put together a coherent thought before launching into a witch-hunt of its opponents (cherchez la raciste, la sexiste, l’homophobe.)
If students are being graded politically and forced to parrot leftwing clichés to satisfy their professors, the left’s first defense is to deny the reality. There’s no evidence, except Horowitz’s word. He made it up. Large memory bases of the Internet are already stocked, for example, with the Brock-inspired lie that I made up the case of a final exam in a criminology course, which required Colorado students to either make the case for gay marriage or that the U.S. war in Iraq was a criminal action. On the other hand, if I or some legislator sponsoring my Bill puts out a call for student testimonies of professorial abuses to establish our claims, the left jumps into the op-ed pages of the principal metropolitan newspaper in the area (always wide open to them) to cry “witch-hunt!” All across the country we’ve been attacked by irate professors claiming we’re turning students into informers! I don’t these people decrying the Enron employees who came forward to describe the abuses of their superiors as informers.
But Folkbum’s suggestion that I am out to put professors into camps certainly raises the bar a bit. This is the first time I believe that my modest proposal to hold academics to their own academic freedom guidelines while extending them to students has been called “Nazi.” Where could Folkbum have come up with this idea?
As it happens, the link from my name leads to a site created by John Podesta, Bill Clinton’s former chief of staff, and George Soros’ current point man at the Center for American Progress. Podesta’s site, called Think Progress is one of many that Podesta has launched from his 501©3 cum Political Action Committee. The link from my name on Folkbum takes the reader to a page on the Podesta site which is part of its regular feature “Radical Right-wing Agenda.”
You might think about that little piece of information for a moment. An Academic Bill of Rights, whose principles are drawn entirely from the academic freedom principles articulated by John Dewey and Arthur O. Lovejoy for the American Association of University Professors, is characterized by Podesta and his hirelings as a “Radical Right-wing Agenda.” How far we have slid in the intervening years.
Under Podesta’s “Radical Right-wing Agenda” you will find: “Conservatives in the Ohio State Senate are considering a bill that would prohibit public and private college professors from introducing ‘controversial matter’ into the classroom and shift oversight of college course content to state governments and courts. Two more blatant lies. In fact the Ohio Bill would not prohibit teachers from introducing controversial matter into the classroom, nor would it shift oversight of curriculum to legislatures. The Podesta team’s source for this misinformation is the Ohio ACLU website. The Ohio ACLU is a chief opponent of the Bill along with the American Association of University Professors, which has simply turned its back on its own academic freedom tradition, and with the Ohio office of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) an organization with multiple links to terrorists, who I suppose are opposing the Bill in the hopes of protect Middle Eastern Professors like Columbia’s Joseph Mossad from scrutiny for their anti-Semitic behavior.
In fact the Ohio Bill says this: “Faculty and instructors shall not infringe the academic freedom and quality of education of their students by persistently introducing controversial matter into the classroom or coursework that has no relation to their subject of study and that serves no legitimate pedagogical purpose.” (emphasis added) Among the professors the Bill has in mind are a biology teacher at Penn State and a Civil Engineering professor at Columbia who each showed Michael Moore’s anti-Bush diatribe Farenheit911 in their science courses on the eve of the presidential election last fall. Or the Spanish language professor at Bowling Green University who takes out ten minutes of every class for what he calls “a political parenthesis,” which he uses for rants against George Bush, the war in Iraq, Republicans in particular and conservatives in general. Many other insistences of such political and unprofessional abuses of academic time could be and have been documented; they are in fact pervasive throughout the current university system.
But the Ohio Senate Bill is not even original in making this distinction between indoctrination and education. It is a distinction that the universities themselves have made for nearly a hundred years. In the paragraph in question, the Ohio Senate Bill is merely repeating, practically word for word, a tenet from the AAUP’s own 1940 Statement on the Principles of Tenure and Academic Freedom. It also word for word one of the principles of academic freedom stressed by the Faculty Handbooks of Ohio State University, Bowling Green University and other Ohio public schools. The point of the Ohio Senate Bill is to hold university administrations to principles they already claim to embrace, and also to take what are now listed merely as “faculty responsibilities” for academic freedom and make them student rights.
That is what has the professors and leftists aroused: That someone wants to take existing academic freedom rights that would protect students (and not just professors) seriously. There is absolutely no language in the Ohio Bill or any of the academic freedom bills that would give the legislature “oversight” of course content as the Podesta site claims. Moreover, every university is free right now to enforce the existing academic freedom provisions already laid out by the American Association of University professors and obviate the need for legislation. In Colorado when universities agreed to put the protections of the Academic Bill of Rights in place, the legislation was withdrawn.
The lies continue: “The language of the bill comes from right-wing activist David Horowitz’s ‘Academic Bill of Rights’, which recommends states adopt rules to “restrict what university professors could say in their classrooms" and halt liberal ‘pollution’ on campus.” The words in quotation marks --“restrict what university professors could say in their classrooms” and halt liberal “pollution” on campus come from a Democratic Party website. They cannot be found anywhere in the Ohio Bill or the Academic Bill of Rights or in the tens of thousands of words written by myself or by other leaders of the academic freedom movement. They are inventions of the left along with the idea that the academic freedom movement is targeting liberals and hopes to “halt liberal” ideas. The Academic Bill of Rights specifically protects liberals, leftists and Communists from persecution for their ideas. In fact the first two tenets of the Academic Bill of Rights forbid the hiring, firing, promotion or demotion of any professor for their political views whatever they are.
Having lied not only about the essence of the Academic Bill of Rights, but also about its details, Podesta’s site proceeds to the witch-hunt and character assassination phase (which a perusal of the site which show is its natural instinct): “Horowitz, who is the driving force behind the movement for ‘Academic Freedom’ in Ohio and other states, has a distinguished history of intellectual defamation, historical inaccuracy and political bullying.” Three more lies/slanders take your pick.
Intellectually speaking, the line between criticism and defamation is usually in the eye the beholder. Are John Podesta and his friends liars or have I defamed them? I’m sure their view will be very different from mine. Legally – and defamation is a legal term -- I have never been sued for defamation let alone convicted as, for example, Democratic presidential aspirant and Podesta friend Al Sharpton has. So to accuse me of having “a distinguished history of intellectual defamation” is simply false.
I also have no record of “historical inaccuracies.” Like every public figure and writer I have sometimes erred in hastily made statements, but these instances are few, far between, do not touch on important matters. Moreover, always (and unlike my critics), I have promptly corrected any errors that have been pointed out. All the charges of historical inaccuracy that have been charged to me by my political enemies are matters of opinion converted by unscrupulous opponents into issues of fact. Fifty books on the “lies” of George Bush produced by “progressives” for the last presidential contest demonstrate quite clearly that Democrats and others on the left have a constitutional inability to distinguish between opinions and facts.
The Podesta site gives the following absurd examples of my alleged intellectual defamations and historical inaccuracies:
1. “He has freely compared American liberals to Islamic terrorists”
The statement is a lie. I have never compared actual liberals to Islamic terrorists. The reference link is to the Amazon site where my book Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left is sold. Even the title gives the game away. It’s about Radical Islam and the American left. Is Podesta suggesting that American liberals are actually leftists? The gravamen of my book is that the American left has formed a de facto alliance with Islamic Radicals and that through its influence in the Democratic Party it was able to dramatically affect the last election, in particular by turning supporters of the Iraq War like John Kerry into opponents. My book specifically praises American liberals and Democrats like Bill Clinton, Joe Lieberman and Dick Gephardt for resisting the pressures of the left (in the main) and supporting a noble and necessary war. So much for this slander.
2. “Slandered the Democratic Party and John Kerry for criticizing the war in Iraq”
The source for this charge is a column decorously titled, “Is David Horowitz A Lunatic” (no defamation involved here!) by the Washington Bureau chief of The Nation magazine, a publication that supported Stalin, Mao, Ho, Fidel, Alger Hiss, and the Rosenberg Spies, and has sympathized with every American enemy, finding “root causes” to explain their attacks when its editors could not openly embrace their agendas and opposing every American war since 1945, while supporting every Democratic candidate for president including and especially John Kerry. In other words, this is a case of the Podesta site slandering itself. I have, by the way, responded to and refuted the claims made in this Nation column here.
3. "and made a habit out of accusing his detractors of racism."
The Podesta site’s source for this charge is MediaMatters, a site created and run by the self-confessed liar, Soros-protégé and Podesta ally, David Brock. MediaMatters is entirely dedicated to the slander of Republicans and conservatives and has no other evident purpose. The Media Matters list of instances where I am alleged to have called detractors of mine “racists” begins with Al Franken and includes six other individuals and organizations (among them, “The Democratic Party”). Five of these, including the Democratic Party, have never been my “detractors” as such, so it is yet another lie to imply that I indiscriminately apply the term “racist” to my detractors in all but two of the seven cases adduced. The fact is that I apply the term “racist” to racists, and to detractors like Al Franken, who refer to me casually as a “racist” without a shred of evidence and simply because they are arrogant and ignorant and know they can get away with it. My account of the Franken caper can be found here. (Just for the record: I called the Democratic Party racist for supporting race-preference laws and running corrupt and failing school systems in America’s inner cities whose trapped students are mainly Hispanic and black).
The Podesta site article is barely 200 words long but it contains several more lies, which I will not bother going into (it has already taken me almost ten times the space here to set the record straight). Unfortunately, this is what the political argument has become in America, and in this Democrats and so-called liberals are primarily responsible.
Sure I’m an aggressive and partisan conservative. But I constructed the academic freedom campaign very carefully to avoid precisely what has happened. I vetted the Academic Bill of Rights in advance with prominent leftists and got their approval for the text. I framed the academic freedom campaign in terms which were entirely liberal and viewpoint neutral, protecting people in the academic community on all sides of the political spectrum. What I didn’t do was to protect radical ideologues and political activists whose agendas involved abusing the universities and their students for political ends. They were and are in fact the targets of this campaign whose purpose is to restore educational values to our educational institutions.
But the ideologues and the activists are very powerful. They intimidate university administrators (witness the Larry Summers affair at Harvard); they dominate and have the support of the faculty unions, the education lobby (AAUP, AFT, NEA) and the leftist networks of the Democratic Party, which they now also control. John Podesta’s Soros-funded operation both exemplifies that control and implements it. This is why a perfectly liberal document like the Academic Bill of Rights and its sponsors are being pilloried across the country as “fascists” by people who call themselves “liberals” and claim to abhor slander.