David Horowitz

David Horowitz’s Archives: “The Nation” Has a Little Lie….

Posted on December 10 2010 6:45 am
David Horowitz is the editor-in-chief of NewsReal Blog and FrontPage Magazine. He is the President and CEO of the David Horowitz Freedom Center. His most recent book is Reforming Our Universities

This article was originally published by FrontPage Magazine on March 31, 2006.

Long before Senator McCarthy enjoyed his hour of disreputable fame, another Joseph had discovered how to deal effectively with political rivals. Not only the inquisitive senator, but every political inquisitor since, has owed a primary debt to comrade Stalin. It was Stalin’s sinister genius to realize that arguing a case was not the best way to prevail in a dispute. Engaging his opponents on the merits of their critique was not his choice. Instead, he arranged show trials to conflate them with Adolf Hitler and purge them from his party’s ranks. So why should it surprise me when the left-wing opponents of academic freedom avoid engaging the argument on its merits and instead focus their efforts on conflating me with Senator McCarthy?

“He’s Got A Little List,” is the not-so-subtle title of an attack on my book The Professors, which appeared in The Nation, written by one of its longtime editors, Richard Lingeman. Why should it concern Lingeman that, in fact, I don’t have a little list, or any list for that matter? My book is an argument about the state of American universities, backed up by data that consists of profiles of more than 100 professors, from which four important patterns of faculty conduct and university governance appear.

The “lists” that have been compiled from my book have been compiled by leftists and are to be found on websites like The Nation’s. The reason I do not have a list is that unlike the senator with whom Lingeman wants to link me, I am not seeking anyone’s head, nor have I made a single demand that would give an honest observer the slightest impression I was. The attempt to associate me with Joseph McCarthy is motivated by reasons of pure malice, not unlike those inspiring his vendetta and Stalin’s: Lingeman and The Nation would like to purge me from the academic debate, which would save them the trouble of actually having to confront my argument.

Of course, The Nation is not a congressional committee or a state with a firing squad (and even less so am I). The Nation is only a long-surviving left-wing propaganda mill whose efforts to promote socialism in America and abroad have everywhere failed. Consequently my fate will be a lot better than that of the poor souls, victims of Stalin, The Nation’s editors cheered to their graves during the Stalinist purges of the 1930s.

Not to mention the 1940s. In a 1946 article about Stalin’s postwar purges (“The Soviets Clean House”) [1]Walter Duranty explained to The Nation’s progressive readers that “purge” meant “to cleanse” in Russian, and that a house cleaning was all Stalin intended. In Duranty’s memorable words, Stalin had launched “a general cleaning out of the cobwebs and mess which accumulate in any house when its occupants are so deeply preoccupied with something else that they have no time to keep it in order.” At the height of this house cleaning, Stalin was killing 20,000 Russian citizens a month. But according to The Nation (in 1946 as today) the main danger facing humanity was the incipient fascism of the West. [2]

From his opening sentence, Lingeman’s indictment is under way: “David Horowitz, the right-wing Savonarola, takes an unholy interest in higher education.”

Savanarola: an Italian Dominican priest, and briefly ruler of Florence, who was known for…anti-Renaissance preaching, book burning, and destruction of art. [3]

Book burner is the guilty association Lingeman is attempting to pin on me. In other words, in advocating that professors adhere to traditional standards of professional conduct enshrined in the faculty handbooks of their own universities and the guidelines of their national organizations, I am guilty not only of McCarthyism, but am worthy of comparison to a forerunner of the Inquisition.

Anyone even casually acquainted with my academic freedom campaign or the Academic Bill of Rightswould know that my agenda is exactly – and explicitly – the very opposite of what is charged in this crudeNation attack. From the Academic Bill of Rights: “Curricula and reading lists in the humanities and social sciences should reflect the uncertainty and unsettled character of all human knowledge in these areas by providing students with dissenting sources and viewpoints where appropriate.”

The only statements that I have ever made about books in relation to the academic curriculum are that there should be more of them. Students should not be exposed to only one viewpoint – whether Left or Right – but more than one. Lingeman may wish to burn me at the stake for not subscribing to the leftist faith. Fair enough. But then who is the Savonarola here, punishing for heresy?

It is true I have not lacked temptation. The text about America most widely assigned by radical professors is the well-known Stalinist cartoon called A People’s History of the United States, written by Howard Zinn. It is certainly disgraceful that a political hack like Zinn – who still thinks America started the Korean War and who has rallied to the cause of every Communist enemy of the United States from Stalin to Castro to Hugo Chavez (not unlike The Nation itself) – should be an icon of the American Historical Association. Or that he should be a classroom authority throughout the university system and have his discredited Marxist trash shoved down unsuspecting student throats. But the fact remains that I have never asked – let alone demanded – that a single book by Zinn (or his many equally pathetic academic clones) be removed from a single curriculum or from any classroom in which a text on American history was appropriate.

I have objected to the use of the Zinn book in one case, which has nothing to do with his bankrupt ideas, but does underscore my agendas. This was a course in the Social Work Program at Kansas State University, where Zinn’s book was the lone assigned text in a class in “Social Welfare.” [4] In fact, according to the syllabus, every class session was organized as a reading of one of the chapters in Zinn’s book. I objected because Zinn’s text was irrelevant to the academic subject of “Social Welfare” in a Social Work program. One of the class assignments, for example, was Zinn’s chapter “Vietnam – the Impossible Victory,” which celebrates these  imposition of a totalitarian state on that benighted country. However dear to the hearts of leftists the Communist triumph was, it has no pertinence to a course on “Social Welfare” in a Social Work program. Moreover, it was being taught by faculty members not trained in history, nor any subject that would provide them professional expertise on Communism or the war in Vietnam.

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