Sunday, May 08, 2005

David Horowitz, making up shit again??

My morning just wouldn't be complete without possibly catching everyone's favourite right-wing academic conspiracy theorist, David Horowitz, in perhaps another one of his urban myths.

From this piece over at the web site of Lying, Right-Wing Slime for Academic Fascism, we have Dave making the following claim:

"At Columbia (University)," he said, "science professors showed 'Fahrenheit 9/11' the day before the election."

Wow, that's a pretty serious accusation -- serious enough to think maybe Dave's mentioned it before. And sure enough, this claim has some history to it. Or does it? From Dave's own Front Page Rag site, we have this piece and the salient excerpt:

On March 30, I spoke at Bowling Green State University, a state school in a blue-collar area about thirty miles outside Toledo, whose 20,000 students each pay $15,000-a-year tuition to attend. On election eve 2004, the university through its official activities program put on a showing of Fahrenheit 9/11, Michael Moore’s hate film against George Bush and the American liberation of Iraq.

Hmmmm ... those two stories certainly match in terms of showing the film the night before the election. But that's at Bowling Green, not Columbia. And it makes it clear that the movie was shown by the college, not by a specific science professor. Could it be that Dave is just making up crap again? Well, if we read further, we find another claim related to that film:

At another school in Pennsylvania that I visited the week before, a biology professor showed Fahrenheit 9/11 to his biology class in the midst of the presidential campaign. In taking an entire class to show this propaganda film, the professor was obviously not teaching his students biology, or imparting any knowledge he was credentialed to share with them.

OK, this sounds closer but notice that this heinous academic crime allegedly occurred somewhere in Pennsylvania. Last I looked, Columbia wasn't in Pennsylvania so that's clearly not what Dave is talking about, althought you have every right to start feeling a mite suspicious that Dave simply tailors his stories for his audience.

Well, there's one way to settle this, isn't there? Let's just let Google run wild all over Dave's site and see what it comes up with when handed "Columbia" and "Fahrenheit 9/11". Surely, that's going to settle this. And what do we find? Hmmmmm ... nothing even remotely resembling Dave's claim.

So, let's open it up to the readership. Can anyone provide more detail on the Columbia story? Or is this just another Horowitz fairy tale? The lines are open.

Afterthoughts: Anyone who's followed the ongoing saga of serial liar David Horowitz has to be depressingly familiar with the pattern behind Dave's claims; specifically, they're maddeningly vague and never quite seem to agree in those critical little details.

For example, did this happen at Columbia? Or at Bowling Green? Or somewhere in Pennsylvania? Was it "a biology professor" (singular) or was it some "science professors" (plural)? Did it happen "the day before the election", or just " in the midst of the presidential campaign"? Details, details. And since I'm feeling particularly snarky today, I'm going to throw out an open invitation to the SAF's own National Campus Director, Sara Dogan.

Since the SAF published that piece on its website, I don't think it's unreasonable to ask the SAF to stand behind its veracity. So, to Ms. Dogan, I have the following questions regarding the alleged showing of Michael Moore's film at some imprecise college or university by some unnamed faculty member (or members) on some unspecified date during the 2004 presidential campaign:
  • At which college did this happen?
  • When exactly did it happen? (That is, the precise date and time.)
  • Where did it happen? (That is, the exact venue.)
  • Who was responsible for the showing?
  • Finally, if you can't substantiate this claim, will you pull that story from your site and issue a retraction?
You'd think that, being the story that it is and having happened several months ago, the SAF would have definitely covered it somewhere on their site. And you'd be wrong. So, one more questions for Ms. Dogan: Why is there absolutely no mention of this incident anywhere on your web site? Enquiring minds definitely want to know.

P.S. Just in case Ms. Dogan doesn't read this blog, feel free to drop her an email at, and give her a nudge. Fair and balanced -- that's our motto here at CC HQ.

UPDATE: The first commenter below refers interested readers to a write-up on Dave's visit to Bowling Green. Sadly, it's just Dave being Dave.


outeast said...

The facts aren't hard to check. Horowitz certainly made the speech at BGSU, for example, because a search of their website finds a statement from the Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs:

Unfortunately, however, many of Mr. Horowitz's other statements were inaccurate or misleading. The errors range from verifiable matters of fact to the exaggeration and mischaracterization of events here at the University. In each case, the errors help to portray an inaccurate image of Bowling Green State University.

For example, Mr. Horowitz criticized the University for showing Farenheit 9/11 on election eve—going so far as to state that showing it was a violation of federal law. In fact, the movie showing on campus that night was Dodgeball. It is true that students showed Farenheit 9/11 on campus during the election season, and they also showed FarenHYPE 9/11 and many other films.

A number of other criticisms are made in the statement:

The University does respect Mr. Horowitz's right to express his ideas—whatever they are. And, as he himself pointed out that night, this country gives all of us the right to free speech--and all the right to look foolish in public.

Unfortunately, however, many of Mr. Horowitz's other statements were inaccurate or misleading. The errors range from verifiable matters of fact to the exaggeration and mischaracterization of events here at the University.

The statement can be found here:

CC said...

Excellent. What this tells me is that, even when there is some basis for a Dave story, he still gets the details hideously wrong in spectacular ways.

And while it clarifies the Bowling Green version, it still doesn't address Dave's claim above suggesting that something like this happened at Columbia. One wonders if Dave is similarly out to lunch with that story. If you have anything to add, the phone lines are still open.

CC said...

It might be worth pointing out that, depending on how literally you take Dave, he could be talking about different, "Fahrenheit 9/11"-related events.

On one occasion, he described the film as being shown "in the midst of the presidential campaign." That could very well refer to Bowling Green, of course.

But he also used the phrase "the day before the election." Was Dave still talking about Bowling Green and playing fast and loose with the truth, as seems to be the case above? Or was this meant to refer to a different incident at another college?

As you can see, trying to substantiate a Dave story is like trying to nail Jell-O to a wall so I'm definitely still open to any info regarding the Columbia claim.

outeast said...

Hmm, I'm bored of googling. A thorough check of the Columbia website, though, and a look at the first 140 google hits for 'culumbia university "fahrenheit 911" election' turns nothing up.

OTOH, if I were to get all conspiracy theorist on yo ass I might point out that the "palpably anti-American" Columbia (as Horowitz's colleague John Perazzo describes it) has come in for a LOT of conservative stick for the stance of its Middle East Institute - making it a logical target for such allgations.

How about writing to Columbia to ask?

outeast said...

Um, I didn't misspell columbia in the search I was making, btw:)

CC said...

How about writing to Columbia to ask?

I could, but I don't think that's my job. If Dave makes this kind of accusation, I think it's his job to supply the proof.

I also gave Google a workout and I think I can say I made a "good faith" effort to track down the facts.

At this point, I figure I'm within my rights to take the position that, unless Dave or someone at the SAF can come up with the evidence, this story is bogus.

These days, when it comes to Dave, I believe the appropriate attitude is "Guilty until proven innocent."