IN WHICH WILL BE FOUND WHAT IS SET FORTH THEREIN

Thursday, April 13, 2006

IT'S HARD OUT HERE FOR A PIMP



THURSDAY night (why that’s important will become clear a little farther on), and Penn State University hosts a “lecture” by David Horowitz (I know, scare quotes are such a cliché).

Even your cynical and jaded reporter was taken aback by the sheer audacity of Horowitz’s willingness to lie to an audience that knows he is lying. At the outset of his rambling talk, which did eventually get around to his book, Horowitz held up a copy of today’s issue of THE DAILY COLLEGIAN, our official student newspaper. Referring to an article on the first page above the fold, Horowitz said that Graham Spanier, the President of Penn State, had said that “the College Republicans are offensive.” Attendees from off campus would rightly be shocked at such a thing. It would be uncommon behavior from any university president, most of whom are at such great pains never to offend any constituency. Of course, it was not true. But think about it: Horowitz is standing in front of a mostly student audience, most of whom read their daily paper. Not only that, he’s standing in the HUB building, where there are copies of that issue of the paper sitting around in bins within easy reach of his audience. In response to the involuntary groan that arose in scattered portions of the audience, even from conservatives, even from people who had been planning to make noise LATER maybe, Horowitz began his litany of denouncing people in the audience as rude, brain dead, fellow travelers, etc. But here is why people were groaning. This is what you will read in the student paper. In response to debates raging on campus about plans the College Republicans had made to hold a “CATCH AN ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT DAY” (and in a way, I wish they had really done it seriously – I suspect that if they found any actual illegal immigrants on our campus they’d be surprised at who they were), this is what President Graham Spanier is quoted as having said:

“The nation’s immigration policy is a legitimate topic for discussion and debate. . . . However, the approach initially proposed by the College Republicans, while protected by the First Amendment, was unproductive and offensive to many.”

Yep – pretty much exactly the sort of carefully measured statement you’d expect from a seasoned university president. Not only did Horowitz tell a lie to hundreds of people who knew he was lying, though, he upped the ante later in the evening when he stated that President Graham Spanier “owes the College Republicans an apology for calling them offensive.” At this point I (yes, me – the guy who doesn’t even shout out in church! The guy whose last hoot at a concert was recorded in 1967) shouted out “read the whole sentence.”

What can I say in my defense? I’m one of those rude left-wingers who has no respect for David Horowitz’s right to lie in public places? I’m one of those people so stupid he thought Horowitz might read the whole sentence?

OK – I suffered a rare lapse under the pressure of finding myself a faculty member suddenly thrust into the position of defending a university administrator.

The “lecture” (scare quotes aren’t scaring anybody, I know) went downhill from there.

Horowitz repeated many of his favorite falsehoods familiar to us from his previous stops on this tour. I’d expected that he would say more about Penn State, as he’d had quite a bit to say about the locals when he was at Duke, including continual denunciations of my friend Wahneema Lubianao, but I guess he and his small staff just couldn’t come up with anything. He told us more than we wanted to know about Colorado and Marietta, mostly right out of his standard talking points.

There were, however, moments of levity. At one point he started out to draw an analogy between the inappropriateness of professors inserting their ideological biases in classroom sessions and an imagined scenario involving a rabbi and his congregation. For some reason David Horowitz tends to get tangled up whenever he starts to imagine something, which is particularly tough for him since so many of his examples are drawn from the realm of the imaginary. About halfway into his scenario, he stopped and said, “Let’s leave the rabbi out, because it’s Saturday.” I spent the rest of Thursday evening wondering if I should tell his handlers what day it was so that there wouldn’t be a badly disappointed Horowitz audience waiting somewhere on Saturday for the good David to turn up.

And then there was this – Horowitz launched into his “it isn’t a list, it’s a book” routine. He went even further with this than he had at Duke. It came to be much like his “I never said ‘political bias in the classroom’” number. At one point, Horowitz flatly declared, there “are no lists on my web site.” Now, the singular in that construction gave me some trouble in researching his claim since he has more than one web site. But let’s just see here . . . OK –

On the discover the networks site, there is, as it happens, a list of the dangerous professors that are the subject of his ire, with accompanying photos so you can pick them out on your campus.

Frontpagemag reproduces the Young America’s Foundation’s list of the ten most shameful campus events of 2003.

Frontpagemag has a list of commencement speakers (a far from random sampling of campuses, says this former statistics student) compiled to establish Horowitz’s case against political bias in selecting speakers (and this one is under Horowitz’s own byline, I should add).

Frontpagemag has a list of Hollywood celebrities who “pretend to understand US foreign policy."

One of my personal favorites, Frontpagemag has a“list of some of the modern American left's most reviled people, objects, institutions, and ideas”
contributed by Chris Weinkopf.

And, because I can imagine Horowitz making a distinction between lists contributed by his writers (even though he said flatly there are no lists on his web site) and lists he has posted there himself from one source or another, for good measure here’s another one of his columns. An entry in the Horowitz’s Notepad feature, flagged “SEND THIS TO YOUR BRIGADE,” starts out this way:

"THE FOLLOWING LIST of 'books on U.S. poverty' reflect the Stalinist grip on American universities and what it has done to scholarly life in this country. Michael Bibby is evidently a professor somewhere. H-NET list for American Studies is an Internet list for American Studies scholars. Bibby has asked for the title of books on U.S. poverty from the list members who are all academic 'scholars' in the field of American Studies. So far as I can tell, all these books are left-wing books, some dating back forty years and more. Not one that I am aware of is a book from a conservative scholar. This is not an accident, nor is it unusual in today’s university, which -- outside of the sciences and other practical or administrative disciplines -- is a national disgrace."

(See, David can use scare quotes too!)

By the way, and getting back to the subject of poetry, Michael Bibby is indeed a professor somewhere who has done exemplary work on African American poetry of the forties and fifties, among other things.

And please note this eruption of political bias in Horowitz’s column. He said of this list of books, “Not one that I am aware of is a book from a conservative scholar.” Right there on the list as he reproduces it in his notepad is the name of William Julius Wilson. Not so very long ago, William Julius Wilson was a darling of the right because he is a conservative black scholar, whose works were seen as lending credence to the right’s arguments about race and the economy. When Wilson’s THE DECLINING SIGNIFICANCE OF RACE first appeared more than two decades ago, it was widely and wildly heralded on the right. What could have happened to cause Wilson, once warmly embraced by conservatives and loudly defended as a brave scholar willing to stand up against received wisdom and face down the liberal blacklist, to fall so far out of the right’s embrace that Horowitz, who clearly knows who Wilson is, cannot recognize him as a conservative? Look at the Wilson title that appears on the list:

When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor

What happened is that Wilson’s dedicated scholarship has brought him to conclusions that are unwelcome in such quarters as Frontpagemag. Back in 1998, writing for the web site that contains no lists, Horowitz spoke of William Julius Wilson as:

“one of the most distinguished African American sociologists in the country, now at the W.E.B. DuBois Institute at Harvard, who is the author of a famous study of blacks in America titled The Declining Significance of Race.”

By 2001, Horowitz is unable to recognize the name of William Julius Wilson as belonging to a conservative scholar. Now if that isn’t political bias at work, I don’t know what is.

And about those security guards. There were a couple of uniformed officers in the room, as we’d come to expect from Horowitz’s other stops on this tour (and let’s hope the police at least knew that it wasn’t Saturday.) It turns out that the imposing fellow I’d seen looming over Horowitz in the video of the Duke talk is his own personal guy. Do you wish you had your own personal guy? I was a little shocked to see the uniformed guards taking directions from Horowitz’s guy, but he also gave me some amusement. In the minutes before the talk, Horowitz’s security guy stood at the podium to check out the spotlight that was shining down on it. Then he stooped down to Horowitz’s level to make sure the light was positioned so as to fall on David as he faced off against the pinko Goliaths. Made for one of the lighter moments of the evening.

Still, let’s hope that future speakers at Penn State won’t stoop to David Horowitz’s level.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

I thought your account of Horowitz's talk was well-written and hilarious. It did take me a minute to get past the post title, though. If Horowitz is a "pimp," who or what are the "whores" in this situation?

Ralph Hitchens said...

You & Michael B. Have you never heard of generalization? I'm as happy as anyone of the "Loyal Opposition" would be to see D-Ho take it in the shorts, but calling his statement about what President Spanier had said a "lie" was a bit of a stretch. Strictly speaking, yes. But the average guy hearing Ho's statement and reading what Spanier actually said wouldn't see all that much of a disconnect. Really, you don't need to swing at every pitch.

Aldon Lynn Nielsen said...

Dear Anonymous:

(I always wanted to start a letter that way.)

Following in the Horowitzian mode of responses I will ask, who says I was calling Horowitz a pimp? I have never said on my web site or elsewhere that "David Horowitz is a pimp!"

Aldon Lynn Nielsen said...

Ralph Hitchens:

Uh . . . I certainly have heard of generalization. I have also heard of quotation, something DH seems to have trouble doing accurately. And I have heard of misrepresentation. The fact of the matter is that David Horowitz held up a copy of the paper and purported to quote from it something that it plainly did not say.

and believe me, there were many pitches I didn't swing at -- Including the part where Horowitz doubted out loud that any of the faculty have read the faculty handbook here. We read it like the Bible, like batting avaerages, like classic verse -- It contains the arcana of our promotion and tenure policies -- you can't survive if you don't read it.

Further on the problematics of figurative language (the only reason I'm taking up so much of your time in this response to your response.)

Note that the first response reads DH as the pimp of the title, whereas this second response reads him as D-ho. This language stuff is tricky, no? (Yeah, I know it's his initial and a truncation of his surname -- but we'd never do that at this site.)

Mark Scroggins said...

Great post, Aldon -- & v. v. cool to see you blogging!

Idelber said...

Congratulations on a hilarious account. It's nice to see Dr. Ho embarassing himself even further. I didn't know he carried personal bodyguards around . . .

As for the difference between what the college paper actually printed and what he reported, I believe that yes, for most people that would qualify as a lie.

Cheers,

Anonymous said...

I've told Michael Berube and I'll tell you: making light of Horowitz's small staff should be off limits in serious academic discourse.

That aside, nice work. And Ralph is wrong: it was a "lie." But a Horo-lie. Deserving of a home-run swing.

I suggest we get clear on what the meaning of "list" is. Clearly Horo-list is thinking of archaic origins, agricultural metaphors, or the verbal "to list." As in "the Titanic began to list." His blog does not list.

Matt said...

Thank God for blogs like yours and Michael's, for without you that notoriously left-wing Fox News would be the only media outlet to put such losers in their place.

AaronBarlow said...

Security guards? I'd been wondering why we haven't had a repeat of last year's pie-ing of Horowitz. Here's what he had to say about it:

"There's a wave of leftist violence against conservative speakers on college campuses, and tonight I was a target. Four juvenile delinquents at Butler University doused me with a chocolate cream pie at the beginning of my speech on academic freedom (as if to make my point!). Three of them were arrested including a female who hurled racial epithets at my friend Marvin Scott, a professor at Butler and the Republican candidate for the Senate in the November election. This kind of thuggish behavior is of course encouraged by a radical faculty which regularly derides conservatives and conservative students and by an administration which tolerates all this. I was lucky my glasses weren't broken, since the pie was slammed into my face at eye level."

So now, I see, he carries the pie police with him!

Poor little David.

Leo Casey said...

William Julius Wilson has never been a conservative scholar. He has always been a social democrat, and it really does not take a very careful reading to discover that. Now, Horowitz is enough of a fool to decide that because the title of a Wilson book spoke of the "declining siginificance" of race, this must be some sort of neo-conservative argument that racism was on the decline, and Wilson must be a kindred spirit,when in what was an arument that social class was becoming more important than race. Do we have to be as shallow and foolish as Horowitz? Calling Wilson a conservative is nonsense.

Aldon Lynn Nielsen said...

Leo Casey raises an important issue, but I think part of the problem here is opposing a label like "conservative" to an affilation like "social democrat." It is true that William Julius Wilson's name has appeared on the advisory board for the Social Democrats. And it may well be that his politics might be more accurately descibed using some sliding scale between neoliberal and neoconservative. For the reading of Wilson as neoliveral, see Howard Winant at http://www.soc.ucsb.edu/faculty/winant/whitness.html

Good to read alongside that Stephen Steinberg's observations that :
Nevertheless, there are strains of conservatism in his writing that Wilson has been unwilling to confront. His 1979 book, The Declining Significance of Race, gave credence to the idea that this nation solved its "race problem" with the passage of landmark civil rights legislation in the 1960s, and that today blacks with the requisite education and skills confront few obstacles on the road to success. Then in The Truly Disadvantaged, published in 1987, Wilson explicitly rejected race-based public policies, including affirmative action, opting instead for class-based approaches that attack structural unemployment and provide improved welfare and social services, including job training, for those who need it. Although many leftists were mesmerized by his emphasis on "class," Wilson's class analysis never amounted to more than a contention that blacks lacked the education and skills to survive in a postindustrial economy. His position is indistinguishable from that of human capital economists who insist that black underrepresentation in the higher occupations is due to deficiencies in their "productive capacities." It is true that Wilson ends up in the liberal camp, arguing for an expansion of the welfare state and the creation of job programs, but as his critics on the right point out, his praxis is logically at odds with some of his core assumptions.

An additional problem has to do with Horowitz's and y use of the term "conservative scholar," which doesn't, at least in my mind, mean exactly the same thing as "conservative politican."

I agree with Leo that I should have been more careful -- I don't agree that it is nonsense to use the word conservative in association with aspects of Wilson's thought.

As penance, I will spend more time reading Wilson's earliest writings, which tend to be far more thoughtful than Horowitz's

j-ho said...

...“read the whole sentence.”

Just the kind of knee-jerk, incendiary, hate speech that I would expect from a leftist, commie-socialist-fascist, French-loving, science-believing, Christmas/Easter stealing, America-hating, reality-based member of the radical elitist intelligensia.

Lester said...

You have every right to heckle such a professional prevaricator and cantologist as Horowitz. You should be proud to have shouted out for the first time in 40 years at that, um, thing. I suspect you've had even more appropriate opportunities since 1967, and I hope you'll take advantage of the moral righteousness inherent in insulting such creeps as Horowitz well before another 39 years elapse.

People like Horowitz make me suspect that elements of the right wing find dirt on known figures and use that dirt to get these people to be spokespersons for things otherwise completely untenable. Dennis Miller is another similar figure that comes to mind. I realize this is some sort of hybridization of paranoia with indulgent rationalization, but it's a nutty synthesis that helps me sleep at night. Otherwise I just can't bear it, that people like Horowitz come up with their nonsense of their own sincere free will.

Lester said...

You have every right to heckle such a professional prevaricator and cantologist as Horowitz. You should be proud to have shouted out for the first time in 40 years at that, um, thing. I suspect you've had even more appropriate opportunities since 1967, and I hope you'll take advantage of the moral righteousness inherent in insulting such creeps as Horowitz well before another 39 years elapse.

People like Horowitz make me suspect that elements of the right wing find dirt on known figures and use that dirt to get these people to be spokespersons for things otherwise completely untenable. Dennis Miller is another similar figure that comes to mind. I realize this is some sort of hybridization of paranoia with indulgent rationalization, but it's a nutty synthesis that helps me sleep at night. Otherwise I just can't bear it, that people like Horowitz come up with their nonsense of their own sincere free will.

Hattie said...

I think it's an industry. I think these people are total cynics. They think they are smart and that everyone else is stupid. It's how they make a living.
The bodyguard part is new to me.

Stencil said...

Lester said: "I realize this is some sort of hybridization of paranoia with indulgent rationalization, but it's a nutty synthesis that helps me sleep at night."

It keeps me up. Sometimes it seems as if there are public figures who spend 30 years trying to gain left-cred, then individually turn, by lottery I imagine, or on cue to statistically improbable phrases uttered on John Stewart or other cute liberal outlets. And doesn't it always happen during periods of national disconsensus?

Though I never had much personal hope for the following figures, it is a list worth pondering.

1. Christopher Hitchens (of course)
2. Da Ho
3. John (anti-war activist) Kerry
4. Bill Clinton (admirable, socially conscious scholarship boy turned instrument of neo-power--a la welfare reform, Reno's ATF, Kosovo, etc.)
5. Hanoi Turner (this list's namesake it seems)
6. The previously mentioned, Dennis "smart comedy for dumb people" Miller
7. Anybody remember Geraldo Rivera before his "sabatical"?

And room for your readers to add more.

I'd just like to say that after just a very few visits to your blog I'm not for sure where it sits on the irony - post- - post-post-irony spectrum, likewise wrt skepticism and paranoia, but if intentions matter to the moderator, I'm not precisely sure of my level of sincerity here: nor do I think it is possible for the average reasonable person to be anymore. Are the postmodern media and two- to three-party state systems of the "more-" developed world really just a form of psychological warfare?

For instance, is it ironical, or paranoid, to "half"-believe that this nation's top political and media planners are consciously quoting Orwell's 1984 in an attempt to, well, see if they can. A postmodern "happening." Andy Warhol meets Jacob Burckhardt.

By the way (back to the post) I'm with the other reader who doesn't get the pimp reference. Horowitz, and his compatriots on the above list, which, like other lists, absolutely is not on your website (blog)--is a ho. His staff may think of him as their pimp, but he's a ho.