One of this year's howler understatements: a hallmark characteristic of David Horowitz and company's Students for Academic Freedom is its casual relationship with the truth. No surprise, yes? This, however, marks a particularly outrageous departure from anything remotely like journalistic integrity-one that I think we ought to scream from the very tops of our ivory towers.
On December 17th SAF posted a New York Sun story about a Princeton student, Francisco Nava who was allegedly assaulted-allegedly-for his conservative beliefs. Writer Annie Karni describes the incident:
"An outcry from students and faculty at Princeton University is rattling the campus here after a student who is leading a movement to instill conservative moral values among undergraduates was physically attacked Friday, beaten, and rendered unconscious in a rare incidence of violence within the Ivy League.
The incident is prompting an outcry from conservative students and faculty who say they feel singled out by the Princeton administration and the majority of the student body, who have remained silent in the face of what many say is a politically charged attack.
A politics major from Texas who is a junior, Francisco Nava, was assaulted about two miles from campus in Princeton Township by two black-clad men who pinned him against a wall and repeatedly bashed his head against the bricks, he told the student newspaper, the Daily Princetonian, in an interview."
Trouble is, the only thing true about this story is that Nava is a conservative politics major from Texas. That's right, and as I pen this, the story's still running at SAF. Here's the story from the AP wire yesterday morning, December 18th:
"A Princton University student who argued that his conservative views were not accepted on the campus confessed to fabricating an assault and sending threatening e-mail messages to himself and some friends who shared his views, authorities said Monday. Princeton Township police said that Francisco Nava was not immediately charged with any crime, but that the investigation was continuing. Nava claimed to have been assaulted Friday by two men off campus, police said. But he later confessed that scrapes and scratches on his face were self-inflicted, and that the threats were his work too, said detective Sgt. Ernie Silagyi. A spokeswoman from the Ivy League university said punishment could range from a warning to expulsion, was pending Monday."
That's Monday, December 17th, which means that the SAF folks likely knew that Nava's story was at least suspicious when they ran Karni's piece. And indeed, this pans out as well. A cursory Google search of the story reveals that it was unraveling by later Monday. Yet here we are Wednesday morning, the 19th, and not only has it not been pulled from SAF, no apology to their (however erstwhile) readers has been issued for having run it without investigating the facts it in the first place.
In fact, the whole thing's even uglier: in the Sun article, Karni reports that Nava "wrote a death threat using an anti-homosexual slur, the Web site Firstthings.com reported this morning. Mr. Nava's roommate at Groton was a founder of the Gay-Straight Alliance, according to the Web site. ‘Evidently he did it once when he was a student at the Groton School,' a professor of jurisprudence, Robert George, confirmed to The New York Sun." Yet despite the fact that suspicion tainted Nava's story right from the beginning, it's announced on SAF as if it were a done deal: "Violence Rattles Princeton."
Here are the facts: Nava was not beaten (at least not by anyone but himself); he was not beaten unconscious; he has a history of fabricating just this sort of drama; people knew it. Honestly, what else can we infer from this other than that D-Ho and company will grab at absolutely anything in order to trash academia? That when SAF folks got wind of a possible beating of a conservative student from an Ivy League school, they became psychotically giddy at the prospect of getting to, well, beat up a big name university? They did get this much right, Nava is a conservative student; from the AP wire:
"Nava, a 23-year-old junior politics major from Bedford, Texas, found himself at the center of one campus controversy recently when he wrote a column for the student newspaper criticizing the school for giving out free condoms, which he said encouraged a dangerous "hook-up culture.""
But this hardly matters. Nava had ample opportunity for conservative political activism at Princeton. As Karni points out, "[w]ith an active Republicans Club, a pro-life club, three major Evangelical groups, and the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions that is led by Professor George, Princeton University is considered one of the Ivy League's more conservative campuses." In other words, for Nava, these opportunities weren't good enough so he faked a beating to get Princeton to stop offering free condoms. For Horowitz and company, however, the story doesn't end there. So hell-bent on destroying academia as we currently understand it, no school is off limits for a SAF attack-even those, like Princeton, who'd seem a little closer to their apparently condom-free (not to mention gay-free) vision of American higher education (not that this is necessarily true of Princeton; conservative students groups need not be composed of Horowitz-crazies).
So here's my take: A graduate of the David Horowitz School of Political Opportunism and Moral Self-Righteousness, Nava deployed a strategy worthy of his own on-line "teachers"-he lied in order to make it look like conservative students are getting a bad deal at Princeton. Scrapes, cuts, and all, he just didn't lie well enough to be convincing. But as Horowitz' bedfellows go, he's now paid his membership dues to that erstwhile brother (and sister)hood at SAF.
Lucky young man.