Interview with David Horowitz: The ProfessorsRoundup: Talking About History
Horowitz: Well, it's not as though I'm a stranger here. But thanks.
FP: When DiscovertheNetworks.org first came out, the Left launched its attacks within just a few hours of the database’s appearance on the web, meaning, clearly, that it had not even begun the process of examining the website’s huge content. To continue this tradition, various leftists have scathingly “reviewed” The Professors before the book even came out. Could you tell us some of the details here? And can you talk about this phenomenon for us? What does it say about the Left? The Left’s response to your book is directly connected to the very problem your book analyses, no?
Horowitz: The book was "reviewed" on Amazon and on several Internet sites by people who made no bones about not having read it. Michael Berube actually attacked it twice without bothering to obtain a copy, the first time on the basis of a fund-raising letter which mentioned the book and the second on the basis of my response to his attack, pointing this out. The point of these attacks is to discredit the book in advance, before anyone has a chance to read it, in the hopes of discourage anyone with a liberal or leftwing bent from reading it at all. The reason the left doesn't want anyone to read it is because the left its (and has been for a long time) intellectually bankrupt and really has no reasoned response to conservative arguments generally and to the critique of the university in particular. It lacks the ability to construct a credible case. This has been demonstrated over and over during academic freedom campaign and our attempts to secure an Academic Bill of Rights.
In opposing our efforts, the political left -- with the American Association of University Professors in the lead -- has relied on gross misrepresentation of our agendas and ad hominem smears, directed primarily at me, in place of any substantive argument. It has claimed, for example, that we want to fire “liberal” professors (which the Academic Bill of Rights specifically forbids), impose political controls on the academic curriculum (which is pure invention – I have offered a $10,000 to anyone who can find such language in the Bill of Rights and there have been no takers), and that we have presented no evidence of abuses that would establish the need for reforms (in fact we have provided extensive testimony, which is collected in a new booklet – The Academic Freedom Hearings In Pennsylvania, in addition to the documentation in my new book The Professors.
Typical of the dishonest campaign of the left is the claim by the AAUP that the bills we have supported would introduce new restrictions on professors’ speech. This is a easily refuted lie. The restriction singled out by the AAUP is actually a verbatim quote from the AAUP’s own academic freedom guidelines: “Teachers are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject, but they should be careful not to introduce into their teaching controversial matter which has no relation to their subject.”
This is the sentence we have used to try to restore professional behavior in the classroom and it is taken verbatim from the AAUP’s famous 1940 Statement on the Principles of Academic Freedom and Tenure.
FP: A coalition of left-wing groups -- the ACLU, the National Education Association, the pro-Castro United Students Association, the Soros-funded children’s crusade Campus Progress and People for the American Way -- is now trying to censor your book before the public has a chance to read it. They have denounced the book claiming that it is a “blacklist” when of course they have all the hiring power in the university and have used it to blacklist conservatives. Your book explicitly states that “Professors have every right to interpret the subjects they teach according to their individual point of view.” (p. xxvi)
What gives here? What is the Left’s objective in this particular tactic?
Horowitz: As I said, the left is counting on deception to carry its case. And to conceal the fact that it has become a profoundly reactionary force – fighting against intellectual diversity and academic freedom. It is attempting to fight this battle as a re-run of the 1950s, just as it tries to present the conflict over Iraq as a re-run of the Vietnam War. But in Iraq conservatives are supporting a liberation movement, and in the universities we are opposing a blacklist.
FP: Reading your book, one can’t avoid the feeling that a war is being waged. The Left clearly sees the education system as a weapon. Could you talk about this a bit?
Horowitz: The left refers to its blacklist of conservatives as “revolution by search committee” – the search committees being the three-man screening boards for all departmental academic hires. If there are 100 applicants for a single job (as there often are) and the search committee gets to narrow this list to three (as it usually does) it’s easy to see how the final selections can lead to ratios of 30 leftists to every conservative in traditional fields like sociology and anthropology and even greater disparities in ideological fields like Women’s Studies and Black Studies.
The idea of seizing control of “the means of cultural production,” as I point out in my book, can found in the two Marxists most popular among tenured leftists in the 1970s and 1980s, Antonio Gramsci and Herbert Marcuse. It flows as well from Foucault’s idea that knowledge expresses power relations. The task of the academic revolutionaries is to seize the power at its source.
FP: I found this a haunting read. Many of the cases here literally sent chills up my spine. One entry that particularly disturbed me was the one on Professor Bill Ayers (pp.29-32), where you remind us that this 60s radical was the leader of the terrorist “Weatherman” cult. One detail that has always been on my mind throughout the years in studying this character and his group was that his girlfriend, Diana Oughton, died in a Manhattan townhouse when the bomb they were making accidentally blew up.
You would think that the death of his girlfriend would have perhaps led to some second thoughts on Ayers’ behalf. But apparently not. And throughout the Left’s history in general, there is this same disturbing theme: never looking back and never reflecting on the evil consequences inspired by leftist ideas.
Could you give us a few words of wisdom here on this phenomenon -- which Paul Johnson has referred to as “the heartlessness of ideas.”?
Horowitz: Even when I was a leftist Bill Ayers struck me as a superficial human being, and essentially thoughtless. You’re right, however, that the left is endemically thoughtless in this regard. It is incapable of confronting its failures and crimes – of being minimally accountable – because its agendas are not pragmatic to begin with. Leftists don’t really care about the balance sheet of what they have done. What they care about is the future – their fantasy of a world redeemed. Their calculus is analogous to that of the suicide bomber. When you get to the garden of Allah what you’ve left behind is trivia that doesn’t matter.
FP: In your entry on Angela Davis (pp.115-119), we are reminded how Czech dissidents approached Davis and asked her to stand up for the Czech dissidents imprisoned by the Czech tyranny. Davis responded: “They deserve what they get. Let them remain in prison.”
I have never believed that the Left’s agenda is motivated by some kind of good-hearted and naïve view of the world. I think Davis’ statement speaks volumes and, far from being an aberration of what is in the Left’s heart, is actually the very symbol that represents the fundamental purpose of the progressive faith.
Horowitz: Envy, resentment, hate – these are the left’s emotional motors.
FP: Along with anti-Semitism, an unmistakable joy in the atrocity of 9/11 is one of the characteristic passions of the professors examined in your book. Why did 9/11 so inspire the Left? What did it represent to them – especially to the academics you examine?
Horowitz: Just come-uppance for the arch enemy – the United States.
FP: At the end of the entry on bell hooks (pp.223-226), you write: “. . .This is a distinguished professor with a six-figure salary, loaded with academic honors, who is given license to conduct a one-sided Marxist-feminist indoctrination of hapless students, but still believes—as she explains as an invited commencement speaker—that she is living under the tyranny of a fascist dictatorship: namely, the United States.”
I have always been fascinated with how leftists hate a society that gives them all the free time and opportunity to sit around and think up everything they despise about it. How do these individuals reconcile their belief that they live under fascism with the reality that when they denounce it nothing happens to them – except that they receive great cultural and material rewards?
Horowitz: This is just the other side of the coin of their forgetfulness of all the misery they have caused, wars they have made inevitable, poverty they have created, racial and ethnic antagonisms they have inflamed. Just as there is no practical calculus of costs for the past for them, because they live inside their fantasy of the future, so the present doesn’t really exist for them either. It is just a passage on the road to a world where everybody will be rich and these little contradictions will seem retrospectively as nothing at all. Since they are (or see themselves) as the leaders of this miraculous transformation their own little privileges are just rewards.
FP: You show that many of these profs (e.g.. Cornel West, 366-369, Mary Frances Berry, 66-70, Kathleen Cleaver, 89-91, Michael Eric Dyson, 132-135) are promoted without having produced any real scholarship or without having met the academic standards the profession claims to live by. I can’t help it, but an image of the Soviet nomenklatura comes to mind. Could you share your thoughts with us on how many of these academics get tenure and get promoted without actually having produced serious scholarly research in 10 years or ever?
Horowitz: I think that would be an interesting research project. Do you suppose the Ford Foundation would fund it?
FP: Overall, what are the dangers of the situation you demonstrate in The Professors? What would you answer to the person who says: who cares?
Horowitz: Does this person care about the accounting scandal at Enron? Because this a far greater scandal whose implications are infinitely more serious. The intellectual corruption of the university is not merely about money; it is about minds, young minds – and therefore the future of our country.
FP: How can ordinary people help to make a change in the pathological situation in academia that you reveal?
Horowitz: Most people have no idea what has happened to our universities. This is particularly true of university trustees and of the relevant committees – Education and Appropriation – of the state legislatures that oversee the largest part of our system of higher education. When they wake up, changes will come.
FP: David Horowitz, thank you for joining us today.
Horowitz: My pleasure.
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