David Horowitz: Battering Ram for Bush Regime

by Leslie Rose

Revolution #002, May 15, 2005, posted at revcom.us

In the fall of 2003, David Horowitz came to town. As a result, Dr. Oneida Meranto’s teaching career became a nightmare. By the 2004/2005 semester, Dr. Meranto, a Navajo professor in political science at the Metropolitan State College of Denver, was taping her classes to defend her career. And two days after class started, a student filed a grievance with the college saying that in her class the professor "attacked Republicans. She implied that we are incapable of thinking critically and should therefore drop her class." The college president reviewed the tape and found no grounds for the complaint. Dr. Meranto was forced to tape her class as self-protection against students trained in dirty tactics and egged on by David Horowitz to go after their progressive professors.

According to the campus paper, the complaining student was actually sent into the class by a former student who had filed complaints against Meranto in 2003, after attending the speech by David Horowitz. That student, a six-year Marine Corps veteran and president of the campus Republican club, had accused Meranto of a liberal bias and of intimidating conservative students. After a lengthy investigation the university found she had done nothing wrong. In the meantime, Dr. Meranto endured death threats ("shoot the commie bitch") after the Marine student posted a slanderous article on David Horowitz’s on-line magazine. Fearing for her life, students walked Meranto to her car after evening classes. ("A Liberal Professor Fights a Label," Jennifer Jacobson, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 11/26/04)

Watch What You Say

Who is David Horowitz? He is a former 1960s radical turned right-wing bully, a self-described "battering ram" in service of extreme right-wing politics. Recently, he has attracted attention for his part in the highly organized ideological and political assault on Ward Churchill, a radical Native American professor in the ethnic studies department at the University of Colorado.

In the wake of 9/11, the Bush regime, through press secretary Ari Fleischer, put out a threat: "People have to watch what they say and watch what they do." Later, Fleischer had to back off the "watch what they say" part.

But in America today, "watch what you say" is back with a vengeance . Will people be allowed to engage in critical inquiry and speak out against the government, or will critical thought be muzzled? This question is being sharply battled out at universities across the country.

Enter David Horowitz.

Fascist Methods and Agenda

Horowitz is president of the right-wing Center for the Study of Popular Culture and founder of the online FrontPageMagazine.com. He is a major architect of the so-called "Academic Bill of Rights," which is being introduced by Republican politicians in legislatures in Ohio, Florida, Indiana, New York, and California among other states (see "A Student Bill of Fights," The Nation , 04/04/05).

In tandem with these legislative efforts, Horowitz has promoted a network of campus spy squads of Republican youth called Students for Academic Freedom (SAF). This handful of brownshirts harass and demand the firing of liberal and radical professors. Horowitz and SAF amplify the tales and charges by arranging for these students to appear before state legislative hearings—at which point the conservative blogsphere and Fox-like media go into action and create lynch-mob hysteria against these professors.

There is a pattern to the reactionary tactics. It can be seen in every sphere in battle after battle: in the arts, in the media, in the teaching of evolution, in judicial nominations.

First, the fascists play the victim . On campuses, these Republican students allege that they are persecuted by left and liberal professors. They complain about bias in classes, file grievances, write slanderous articles, and drag progressive professors through unjust investigations.

Second, they dress themselves up as advocates of "fairness ." They charge that conservative students receive low grades and are intimidated in classrooms. And they pretend that all they want is fairness and equal time for their views, including hiring conservative faculty. (Horowitz and these students oppose affirmative action for oppressed minorities but want it for right-wing Republicans to get jobs as professors!)

Third, they intimidate and seek to suppress those with opposing positions—to turn on anyone who objects to this persecution and, once they have the ability, to impose a regime of "thought control." In the case of the universities right now, they are setting out to purge radical and progressive scholars. Horowitz himself has said: "In political warfare you do not fight just to prevail in an argument, but to destroy the enemy’s fighting ability."

The Bush forces are out for nothing less than to create a society where there is NO platform to contest their worldview. Students won’t learn that evolution is a fact. Students who have been indoctrinated that the U.S. is a force for good in the world will not even be introduced to the contradiction between that propaganda and the realities of the situation.

A professor at the University of New Mexico described the reaction of students to a film that carefully documents the Bush administration’s pretexts for the Iraq war: "I found the students to be almost speechless.One student became visibly enraged and began pounding on his desk.’I want to know why we aren’t allowed to see this kind of information in mainstream news. I feel betrayed, used. I feel like my government is more dangerous than the terrorists.’" ("The New McCarthyism on Campus: Ward Churchill and the Imminent Destruction of Higher Education," Carolyn Baker, Counterpunch.org, 2/9/05)

What will it mean for society if the reactionaries carry out their witch-hunts?

Connect the Dots

There’s a booklet that Karl Rove, George Bush’s chief strategist, describes as "a perfect guide to winning on the political battlefield." It is a booklet that Republican congressman Tom Delay and the right-wing Heritage Foundation made sure that every Republican member of Congress and 2,300 conservative activists got a copy of before the 2000 election. That booklet is "The Art of Political War " by David Horowitz. (See "The Banana Republicans: How the Right Wing Is Turning America Into a One Party State," John Stauber, 2005, excerpts online). Horowitz wrote the tract after a 1998 visit to Austin, Texas, at the invitation of Rove, to discuss strategy and crafting the message for a Bush run at the presidency. Hanna Rosin, in a Washington Post article (April 23, 2000), writes that, earlier, when Bush’s bid for governor of Texas was being shaped, Rove gave Bush his three favorite books, one of which was Destructive Generation: Second Thoughts About the Sixties by Horowitz. Rosin describes how in 1997-98, Rove "started to summon his favorite thinkers to the governor’s office," as he strategized about Bush’s run for president. Horowitz was one of the select few.

In waging the culture war in academia, Horowitz works on a parallel track with Lynn Cheney (the wife of Vice- President Cheney). Lynn Cheney was the former head of the National Endowment for the Humanities in father Bush’s administration. Cheney has tried to effect a high-toned disguise, while Horowitz has been unabashedly down and dirty working in the gutter. But Cheney and her American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) were also responsible for a post-9/11 hit list of radical and liberal professors whose teaching and statements were to be monitored. And it is no coincidence that when the media frenzy against Ward Churchill began, the governors of New York and Colorado immediately called for Churchill’s firing—both are members of ACTA’s "Governors’ Project."

Horowitz invokes the idea of "balance" in academia, but what he is really up to can be seen in his many writings and on his website. A typical headline of an article from his online magazine: "The ALA Library: Terrorist Sanctuary." The ALA is the American Library Association.

Horowitz rants that those who dare deviate from the government’s propaganda are themselves "terrorists" and "terrorist supporters." The left in the antiwar movement and on the campuses is portrayed as having " alliances with the Islamic radicals." "Treason" is a legally lethal label slapped on those who dare to critique U.S. designs of empire. Horowitz’s treatment of Noam Chomsky is a perfect example. Described by The New Yorker magazine as "one of the greatest minds of the 20 th century," Chomsky is also one of the most outspoken critics of U.S. foreign policy. Horowitz vilifies Chomsky’s work as "demonic and seditious" and declares that "its purpose is to incite believers to provide aid and comfort to the enemies of the U.S." (Horowitz, The Unholy Alliance, Radical Islam and the American Left, 2004).

A key target of the right-wing campaign for thought control on campus is certain courses and entire departments. According to Horowitz, they are "interdisciplinary and are ideological in their very conceptions.Women’s Studies, Ethnic Studies, American Studies, Cultural Studies, Peace Studies and other easily identified disciplines." (" Bowling Green Barbarians," 4/4/05, frontpagemagazine.com).

Horowitz and the reactionaries are determined to discredit any questioning of the history of the U.S. and what the U.S. does in the world today. Examination of the brutal history and legacy of slavery; the genocide of the Native Americans; the stealing of land from Mexico; the domination of other countries at the point of the American gun.this is all "America bashing."

The reactionary forces are fearful of the birth of a new student movement that knows and spreads the true history of the U.S. and its role in the world. They want to bury the lessons and legacy of the 1960s. As Horowitz puts it, "When Americans are sufficiently divided, their government is significantly weakened in its ability to exert its will on international actors and events." Translated: we must preempt the possibility of radical ferment and upsurge on campus and in society that might threaten the Bush team’s global agenda of unprecedented U.S. domination over the world. Horowitz sums up: "Consequently, it is the war at home that will ultimately decide America’s fate." (from introduction to Unholy Alliance )

A sledgehammer is being taken to academia in the U.S. Its critical thinkers and dissenters are in grave danger of being mowed down and silenced. Labels like "sedition," "treason," "collaboration," and "support for terrorists" are bandied about by a man who strategizes with Karl Rove. In the current political climate, these spurious charges are designed to destroy the richness of academic life, to ruin careers, and to incite violence and government persecution against those who have been targeted.

There is far too little critical thinking and dissent in society as a whole. That is the criminal situation. And critical thinking and dissent must not only be defended in the colleges and universities but spread in society. This is what the reactionaries want to prevent. And it is why a major assault on academia is emanating from and connected to the highest office in the land.

A counterrevolution is gathering speed and momentum. It matters to the whole direction of society and to millions around the world who hate U.S. domination and oppression whether the campaigns of David Horowitz and his backers triumph or are trounced. They will be forced to back off only if powerful opposition is built on campuses and spills out and intersects with the broader battle in society—as two worlds more and more collide.