Friday, February 15, 2008

David Horowitz is not my Savior

While it may not seem directly relevant to his relentless assault on academia, David Horowitz’ latest attempt at hysterical fear-mongering should make anyone committed to the free exchange of ideas shiver in their boots. Purportedly launched across a hundred college campuses on—no kidding—Valentine’s Day, it’s no accident that his campaign to “stop the genocide that Islamic radicals are planning” aims at college students—and, of course, at their professors (

Don’t get me wrong; I and countless others take senseless loss of life, wherever it occurs, very seriously. In fact, many of us take it so seriously that we seek to educate ourselves about the histories, the contexts, the religions, the cultures, the politics, and the economics of each distinctive nation because we know—as Horowitz utterly ignores—that facts matter. No matter how many times he denies that he’s referring to all Muslims, when Horowitz refers to Islamofascism he knows he’s smothering the relevance of historical fact in the perverse service of creating a monster with which he can fear-monger his way to realizing his real aims.

And these are not far to find. The Declaration Against Genocide is, first and foremost, a thinly veiled attempt to salvage what little momentum there was for “Islamofascism Awareness Week.” Despite Horowitz’ proclamations on Fox that it was the largest student uprising against Islamic radicals, the week was in fact orchestrated, executed, and spun by Horowitz. Not one wit of it involved any spontaneous student “uprising,” and not one event’s focus was students. Many students, I think, even got it that they were just pawns in his latest photo-op. That Horowitz was booed was a given; that some protesters played into his hands unfortunate.

But for the love of Pete, wouldn’t it be great if students could be rallied to care about real issues? Part of what’s so disturbing and warped about the Horowitz’ campaign is that there are real issues, real genocides, real wars about which students should care (and many—but not enough—do). The Middle East is a tinder-box—but as any real academic knows, simple answers aren’t captured by a hate campaign, and the United States is certainly no innocent player.

Nonetheless, the same Horowitz who insists that these poor “kids” are unwitting dolts manipulated by evil Leftist college professors is the Horowitz who’d cast them in the role of patriots ready to resist the Islamofascists. What stunning hypocrisy. What Horowitz does not want students to get, of course, is that their own government behaves in ways rightly characterized as fascist, that it has engaged in the greatest assault on civil liberty we’ve seen since McCarthy, that it sanctions torture, that it spies on citizens, and that it actively suppresses science not in favor of its corporate-military policies. He calls folks who have the guts to expose this corrupt administration “America haters,” branding those who are in fact the real patriots—the ones willing to stand up against fear-mongering—as traitors.

And this brings me to the second real aim of the Declaration Against Genocide, namely, that, given everything we know about his past strategies and actions, campaigns and interviews, its clear that the Declaration isn’t really about genocide at all; it’s about Horowitz’ latest attempt to attack academics. Consider: He drafts a declaration purporting a genocidal “plan.” He claims that this “plan” has been inexplicably ignored by academics—implying that we have failed to take terrorism seriously. He then postures himself as a savior—offering us a chance at redemption, and all we need do is sign the thing and we can avoid being, well, traitors. No doubt, the declaration is aimed particularly at feminists and other assorted “leftists,” the sinners most in need of the salvation only Horowitz can offer.

How utterly manipulative and opportunistic. The declaration is nothing other than the attempt to (a) turn students against professors on the wholly unwarranted supposition that we have failed to take terrorism seriously, (b) turn public sentiment against the academy on these same grounds, and (c) chill the free exchange of ideas; signing the declaration is signing onto an entire ideology about the good and the evil—and Horowitz knows it.

Lastly, the declaration is about Horowitz and his apparent savior complex. I don’t need to be an expert in neurosis to see that he’s awaiting his next interview on O’Reilly to propagandize for the fascism he favors. But as I have said along with many others many times: among the greatest dangers of our time is the religious extremism that undergirds the profoundly bigoted rhetoric of “us against them.”

David Horowitz is a poster child for bigotry, and it’s our responsibility not only to see through the spin to his motives, but to actively resist propaganda that can lead us nowhere but to world war. The academy must remain a safe haven for the free exchange of ideas and the unencumbered liberty to express them. The Declaration Against Genocide is, in fact, a hate-mongering loyalty oath, and David Horowitz its mercenary salesman.

Wendy Lynne Lee