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.