Tuesday, April 26, 2005

What the hell IS it with David Horowitz?

It's not like I want to make a career out of beating Dave with a tire iron (although, truth be told, that thought has some definite appeal), but, Jesus on a stick, it's breathtaking just how repulsive this guy and his Academic Fascists "Backwards r" Us culties can be. The latest evidence comes from a recent piece by Dave over at Clown Hall (reproduced robotically at the SAF site), where Dave describes his harsh, skin-roughening treatment at yet another campus where he's accused academics of being un-American, terrorist traitors. Let's follow the bouncing gibberish, shall we?

The story I'm about to relate took place on my visit to the Honolulu campus of the University of Hawaii last week. It is entirely indicative of the unprofessional, ungracious, and unacceptable behavior of many professors on our college campuses, in this case the chairman of the Political Science Department at this school, a man named Jonathan Goldberg Hiller.

Oooooh ... harsh words. And what exactly is Hiller guilty of?

The student who invited me to the University on behalf of the College Republicans -- I will call him Jamie -- is a political science major. In anticipation of my visit, Jamie had asked Professor Hiller if his Department would be one of the sponsors of my talk and if the Department would host a reception for me. Professor Hiller said yes to both requests.

Why, damn him! Damn that man and his left-wing, pro-liberal, anti-conservative, gutless appeasement. The nerve, I say, the unlimited nerve! To help sponsor Dave and then, even worse, to host a reception for him! And to further insult Dave with a "modest honorarium"? Have they no shame at all? Anyway, onward.

Dave continues with what, in his pre-Neanderthal mind, is clear evidence of anti-wingnut bias when he compares his visit with that of the controversial Ward Churchill:

Before Churchill arrived professors in political science and other departments vied with each other for the honor of introducing him, and attended in droves, and encouraged their students to do likewise. No professors showed up for my speech.

Gee, Dave, I just don't understand that. Could it be perhaps because you've made an entire career of accusing left-wing academics of being prejudiced, treasonous, un-American communist sympathizers who are in bed with terrorists? Could that have anything to do with it? Think hard now, it might eventually come to you.

But Dave's horrors were just beginning as we can see from his own description of his evening speech:

My speech, which was in the evening, went tolerably well. There were no pies and though there were some catcalls and a wall of hostile posters faced me from the rear of the audience, I spoke for an hour and there no interruptions. I was even presented with a lei.

Mother of God! No pies, no interruptions and a lei afterwards! Does the treachery of these evil leftist professors know no bounds at all? The horror, the horror! But if you think you've plumbed the depths of Dave's duplicity and stupidity, you ain't seen nuthin' yet.

The reception at the Political Science Department had been scheduled for earlier in the afternoon. At the appointed time, Jamie, who is a soft spoken well-mannered young man, brought me to the Political Science Department outer office. The first thing I noticed was that the Chairman's office door was adorned with a large Anti-Iraq War poster. I have made a personal campaign against such political statements on professorial offices.

Really? Can this be true? It would certainly be an odd position from the founder of the organization "Students for Academic Freedom". Read that name again. Students. For. Academic. Freedom. Generally meaning, you know, freedom. Academically speaking. To do stuff like, maybe, put up posters on your office door. Or stuff like that. Of course, it doesn't faze Dave that, later in that very same column, he explains:

Of course the Academic Bill of Rights begins with a defense of their right to their political views,...

Obviously, then, when Dave says he supports their rights to their political views, well, come on, it's not like he really meant their, like, right to their, you know, political views. Or anything. (And it's not clear why an anti-war poster should immediately represent a political viewpoint, anyway. But that would be nuance and, as we've seen before, Dave doesn't do nuance.) But if you think you've seen just how dense and dishonest Dave and his followers can be, well, buckle up. 'Cuz it gets just plain weird now.

Dave describes a private chat he has with budding, little fascist-to-be "Jamie" thusly:

I asked Jamie, who is a senior and whose father served this country in the military, if he had ever taken a course with Professor Hiller. When he said no, I asked him why. He pointed at the [anti-war] sign.

Let's see, where to even start? First, is there any point in mentioning that Jamie's father served in the military? It has no apparent relevance to the conversation but Dave is just playing the sympathy card. I guess we should all be grateful that he didn't babble on about how Jamie was the last of 17 children, always wore hand-me-downs and had to trudge barefoot, five miles each way, to school and back in the winter, uphill both ways, or something equally stupid. No, this is just Dave, being an annoying suckup, going for the heartstrings. But that's almost sane compared to what follows.

Note how Dave asks Jamie if he's ever taken a course with Hiller, Jamie says no and, by way of explanation, just points to the anti-war poster. If there was ever a stupider response, I can't begin to imagine what it is. Note that Jamie, never having taken a course from Hiller, can't possibly have any firsthand knowledge of his classroom demeanour. None whatsoever. And yet, based on that simple poster, Jamie has clearly concluded that ... what? That Hiller would be biased? That Jamie would would be the target of in-class, pro-liberal prejudice? What?

Jamie openly admits he knows nothing of Hiller's teaching style and yet, he's already decided that any course Hiller teaches just wouldn't work for him. This isn't evidence of academic bias. It's evidence that Jamie is nothing more than a simpering, whiny little shit who can't get past someone's office door poster to decide if he wants to take a course. It's evidence that Jamie will happily imply academic, pro-liberal bias on absolutely no evidence whatsoever.

And the best part? Well, you and I both know that, from that day forward, based on that simple conversation and that poster, both Jamie and Dave are now going to have more "proof" of anti-conservative bias, aren't they? Neither of them will have ever set foot inside a Prof. Hiller classroom but both of them will describe, to anyone who listens and based on nothing more than a door poster, how Hiller is just another example of that nasty left-wing academic prejudice.

And another David Horowitz horror story will have been spun out of thin air. Or pulled out of his ass. Or whatever. Sort of like the way this guy does it.

: Apparently, that dastardly left-wing, terrorist academic community has embraced Prof. Jonathan Goldberg-Hiller, honouring him with a 2003 Regents' Medal for Excellence in Teaching. Bastards. Heartless, conniving, treacherous bastards, the lot of them.

NOTE: Part 2 coming shortly -- I'm not done with this quite yet.


M@ said...

You know, I used to choose professors who were good, even if -- shock! horror! -- their opinions differed from mine. In fact, I remember distinctly the argument that started when my prof announced that atheism is merely an intellectual fad. Good times.

I think that the people who have the trouble in university that the right-wingers are often harping about these days are the people who have a hard time understanding and accepting a differing point of view without feeling compelled to change their own views.

It's an important academic skill to say "I understand what you're saying, and I see why you're saying it. And I don't think your argument is convincing." Very few academic arguments, of course -- even in English lit -- are that polite, but that's basically the way it works, and it allows us to continue to work together towards the common goal of understanding and advancing our particular field.

It applies to politics too. The kind of people who say "you're with us or you're against us" or boil things down to a binary argument don't deserve a place at the political table. And their time will come.

Kind of reminds me of arguing with teenagers, who often see things as binary black and white issues. If you can't find consensus, you're not likely to be very successful.*

* Current US administration excepted.

Mark Richard Francis said...

Horowitz, having once been a Maoist New Lefty, is quite comfortable with authoritarism. Thus academic freedom = what he deems to be acceptable.

People like Bush, Horowitz, the religious right, and the pro-Pope Catholic left are all into authoritative governments.