Posted at 8:27 AM on Thursday, April 13, 2006 by David Horowitz
I like Alan Colmes. This doesn't mean that he hasn't attacked me (he obviously has) or he doesn't say things all the time that set my teeth on edge (he does). But what else would you expect since he's on the left and I'm a conservative and we disagree on so many fundamental issues. But Alan Colmes is a decent and considerate man, who loves his country. He is a better spokesman for the left than many leftists deserve (and since no good deed goes unpunished they give him hell for it).
Last night I appeared on the Hannity & Colmes Show from Harrisburg Pennsylvania (I'm in the vicinity to speak at Penn State) and Alan confronted me with the most recent of many attacks on me by the Soros-Brock Media Matters website. According to Media Matters, I "lied" on a previous H&C segment in saying my book does not attack professors for views they hold outside the classroom. That does not mean of course that I don't find Ward Churchill's views reprehensible -- I do. It just means that if leftists like Churchill keep their political extremism outside the classroom, I'm not going to accuse them of violating academic standards inside the classroom. Of course if their academic publications are propaganda cartoons then their academic credentials are suspect on that score. As it happens, in our debate Ward Churchill said that he "professes" his political views in the classroom. So the question raised by Media Matters in his case is "moot."
Of course Media Matters didn't express an intellectual disagreement with me on these issues; they just called me a "liar." So when Alan brought up their charge, I told him it was a smear site, and wasn't worth responding to. Alan was genuinely non-plussed by this characterization. So today I wrote him this email:Just to clarify Alan. One reason I refer to Media Matters as a "smear site" is that they invariably take reasonable differences of opinion and refer to them as "lies" by their adversaries (like me). This is one of those cases.
My book The Professors makes a case that certain professorial behaviors are non-academic and unprofessional (like the high school teachers). I will quote shortly my criteria for this which I adhere to in the book. I have never called for the firing or disciplining of a professor for having leftwing views inside or outside the classroom. The sliver of truth in the Media Matters statement is that since my book is a series of profiles of 101 professors I do profile their general perspectives which may or may not be expressed outside the classroom, and sometimes (but pretty rarely) I do comment on the content of what they say. But there's a difference between that and saying because what they say is ludicrous outside the classroom they shouldn't be in it.
Here is my general position on professors' political views as stated in the introduction to my book (p. xxvi):
"This book is not intended as a text about leftwing bias in the university and does not propose that a leftwing 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."
And here are the criteria I establish in the book for actionable faults in the professors I profile:
"When viewed as a whole, the hundred or more portraits in this volume reveal several disturbing patterns of university life, which are reflected career’s 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)."
So when I say that I don't attack professors in my book for holding views outside the classroom I mean it in this focused sense -- these are the academic abuses I describe in my book. One other is regarding the university as a political institution rather than a neutral educational one. This is why for example a thoughtful leftist like Todd Gitlin is in my book (he is one of the very few thoughtful leftists in my book by the way). It misrepresents my book to say that I indict Todd because he has leftwing views -- though I do inevitably write about those views as part of my portrait of who he is. The fault I find in Gitlin is that he seems comfortable with the leftwing dominance of the university and the vanishing presence of conservatives on faculties, that he sees the university as an instrument of social change rather than a neutral scholarly enterprise.
My objection to Media Matters is that they convert this difference in views of my book into a "lie" on my part. There are dozens of Media Matters articles on me as a liar. The rest are on me as a racist. When I have objected to their characterizations in emails, or pointed out the errors in their presentations of me, they have ignored them and gone on with the same charges I have refuted. (By contrast, my website DiscoverTheNetworks has a whole section for "corrections" that leftists who have a quarrel with what we have written about them have sent in. And we always correct factual errors that are pointed out to it.)
There is not one Media Matters article that presents me as a conservative who disagrees with their political views. That's why I regard it as a smear site.
Sent: Thursday, April 13, 2006 8:27 AM
Subject: RE: Media Matters, you and me
Thanks very much for your email. I understand your perspective. What Media Matters referred to was when you came on our show with Churchill and said that you refrained from criticizing professors for their actions and speech outside the classroom, and they then went on to point out where, in your book, you're critical of a number of professors for their extra-curricular activities.
While you haven't directly called for firing of professors for their left-wing views, your book has the effect of firing people up and angering conservatives about what is being said and done by professors both inside and outside the classroom. And even though you state, "This book is not intended as a text about leftwing bias in the university and does not propose that a leftwing perspective on academic faculties is a problem in itself," it is hard to believe that you don't recognize that your book is perceived as just that. You're not exactly throwing bouquets to professors who take strong stand on issues and who participate in groups like the Center for Constitutional Rights (which, to you, is radical but to many, including libertarians, is not). And your book is so heavily weighted with and critical of the actions of leftists, it's hard to view it as anything other than a screed against liberal or left wing views by those who hold jobs in academia.
You, have, though, heightened the debate, and given much food for thought.
DH: Thanks Alan. As I said, reasonable people can disagree about sound-bites on a fast-paced show like H&C where you're sitting in the dark and things are coming at you from all sides (I actually did a double take over Sean's question about Nazis and Klansmen -- I thought it was coming from you), but calling people liars over these matters is not right. Also, on the matter of firing, I publicly and in the Rocky Mountain News and at the height of the furor, defended Ward Churchill's job against my friend Governor Owens. If you or I had to worry about every consequence of the positions we take we would hardly be able to open our mouths. Yes, the fact that my book features leftists could make it seem like a screed against the left if one didn't read my 15,000 word argument in the first and last two chapters. And I cut critics slack for this reason. But I don't have too much patience for people who call me a liar and a racist over and over and then claim to have sensitivities to the impact of my statements on their friends. As you know, I have not only never called you names despite our disagreements, but have praised you as well (I know, I know, that cuts two ways). Thanks for responding. I'm going to post my letter and these two along with a little prefatory praise...
We have implemented a new commenting system. To use it you must login/register with disqus. Registering is simple and can be done while posting this comment itself. Please contact gzenone [at] horowitzfreedomcenter.org if you have any difficulties.
blog comments powered by