Wednesday, April 12, 2006
THE THUG WAY OF KNOWLEDGE
Geez — this just gets better and better. Now Horowitz calls Michael Bérubé an "intellectual thug" – For those of you who don’t routinely check in at FRONTPAGEMAG.com, let me invite you to wander on over there and take a gander at what a Horowitz exercise in debate looks like.
Just a few random takes –
It may be, as Horowitz conceded, that he has no evidence that any Penn State biology professor ever required his students to watch Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 in class, but that’s no reason for Horowitz to let go of this claim for once and all. It turns out that Horowitz never thinks the mere absence of evidence is any reason to abandon a good story altogether. He writes:
"I have no evidence to this day that the claim was false because I lack the staff to check the more than fifteen Penn State campuses where the incident could have taken place and I have myself been informed by students, for example at Columbia, that Fahrenheit 9/11 was shown in inappropriate classes."
See, the simple fact that he has no evidence that something happened doesn’t obviate the possibility that something of this sort could have happened. He has been told, after all, that the film was shown at Columbia (which is so much like Penn State, isn’t it?) in "inappropriate classes." What classes? What professors? Though the professor profiles in his book carry credits for the multitude of "researchers" that did Horowitz’s leg work for him, and despite the heavy funding he has for his center, the poor guy just doesn’t have a staff he can use to check to see if something really happened or not.
And remember the matter of that incorrectly attributed Eric Foner quote? It turns out that the reason the incorrect identification of the author was "inconsequential" was that Horowitz had meant to quote a passage that really was from Foner, one that he’d used in an earlier book (why do fresh research? Especially if you don’t have the staff), and, as Horowitz insists, the falsely attributed quote "does not really differ from Foner’s view." Imagine a student in your freshman English class explaining that while the words in her paper appearing in quotation marks and attributed to Churchill were not, as it turns out, the words of Churchill but rather belonged to Roosevelt, this was inconsequential because they didn’t differ from Churchill’s views. So it is intellectual thuggery for Michael Bérubé to "ignore the substance" of what Horowitz had said, simply "so he could make up another paragraph discrediting" Horowitz. Isn’t the problem Horowitz’s tendency to make up paragraphs?
And one more, just by way of encouraging you to read Horowitz at greater length – and this one really does typify Horowitz’s approach. In the FRONTPAGEMAG piece, Horowitz repeats, as he has in the past, that it is just plain "malicious" for people to go around saying that he is campaigning against liberal bias.
"I am not campaigning against ‘liberal bias.’ In fact, I have never even employed the term ‘liberal bias' except to disown the phrase itself," so writes David Horowitz, with a good scholarly footnote pointing readers to the page in his book where he does this disowning.
But it would seem that Horowitz assumes that nobody has read anything else that he has written in FRONTPAGEMAG. On March 15, he wrote the following:
"I have not conducted a "campaign against what [Horowitz] calls political bias in college classrooms." In fact I have never used the term "political bias in college classrooms."
Not only, we are to believe, is it a calumny to say that he is campaigning against liberal bias, but it is untrue even to say that he is campaigning against political bias in the classroom at all. I guess the escape clause here is found in the way his denial is pegged to thinking of "political bias in college classrooms" as a term that he has ever used. He is, in his own words, conducting a campaign against political bias in the selection of commencement speakers (this may explain why Bush and Cheney get so many invitations, I suppose). He is, in his own words, campaigning against political bias in the hiring of faculty (and is any one of us not against that?). He is, in his own words, campaigning to stop professorial expectations of student performance being defined as agreement with the political biases of the professor. And he does, again in his own words, favor:
" legislation requiring public institutions to create and publicize processes for protecting students against political bias."
So let us, at the risk of intellectual thuggery, take a page from Horowitz’s own book. It may well be true that he has not used the term "political bias in college classrooms." (Though I can’t be sure that he has never used that exact phrase, since I don’t have the staff to check everything that he has ever said anywhere and it is certainly something he could have said. And I have, after all, been told by students at Duke and Texas and Berkeley that he did say something like that. And besides, it is inconsequential if he has not said it in exactly those words because that phrase does not really differ from the views he has expressed, right?)
I genuinely hope that David Horowitz and his supporters will not ignore the substance of what I have said just so that they can make up paragraphs to discredit me. That would be a terrible thing to do. Surely David Horowitz has never engaged in that kind of thing before.
Ah, humanity. It’s time for me to let this go and get back to all that homework Horowitz doesn’t think professors do outside the classroom.