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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

On civility

Friends, readers, fellow humans, I have looked into my heart.

The past week’s posts have made it painfully obvious to me that I do not speak kindly of David Horowitz.  The contrast between my posts on disability and my posts on Horowitz has been stark; the contrasts between my long-running series on Horowitz and my long-running series on Jamie have been downright jarring.  That’s partly because I love Jamie deeply, and Horowitz not so much; and, in turn, that’s partly because Jamie Bérubé is a thoroughly delightful human being, and Horowitz . . . er, not so much.  I have always been struck, for instance, that Horowitz has no sense of humor whatsoever, and I’m afraid I have used that against him rather mercilessly.  This has been somewhat unfair of me.  Mr. Horowitz underwent some difficult times in the past, especially near the end of his career as a New Leftist, when he joined the Symbionese Liberation Army only to find that the people of Symbionia did not, after all, greet him as a liberator.  He doesn’t need snark and mockery from people like me.  Indeed, after reading this thread of comments at Inside Higher Ed, I realized that I have occasionally used the unforgivably racist and sexist term “D. Ho.” to refer to Mr. Horowitz (and have, until now, permitted commenters on this blog to do likewise), whereas he has always spoken of me with civility and respect.

Some of you—particularly those of you who are unfamiliar with my postings on Horowitz from February through April 2005—might wonder where all this snark and mockery of mine comes from.  Well, first and foremost, as a liberal, I blame society.  But upon further reflection, I find that I have to take some personal responsibility for my actions.

I kicked off the decline in civil discourse last February, when Horowitz unveiled his comprehensive guide to the left, “Discover the Networks.” Overlooking the vast amounts of time and research that went into the creation of the site, I mocked it.  Yes, readers, it’s true.  As Horowitz pointed out at the time, I refused to “engage the intellectual argument” of the site; instead, as he put it, I callowly and opportunistically “seized on a quirk in the format, an entirely innocent feature of the site” in order to suggest that Horowitz had tried to link Bruce Springsteen and Mohammed Atta, Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and Roger Ebert, Susan Sarandon and Zacarias Moussaoui.  Now, it’s true that he also told Salon’s John Gorenfeld that it wasn’t a quirk of the format at all:

You just can’t separate Ebert from a terrorist like the blind sheik Rahman, Horowitz told me. Chalk it up to the limits of presenting information on a two-dimensional computer screen. “It’s a limitation of—what? Of language? The human mind?” mused Horowitz. “The two-dimensional, three-dimensional, four-dimensional universe?”

It’s probably a limitation of all of the above.  As you know, this isn’t an either/or kind of blog.

Horowitz also defended his link between Barbra Streisand and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, writing, “it should be obvious that even the otherwise innocent Barbra Streisand shares negative views of the Bush Administration and its mission of liberating Iraq with anti-American jihadists like the aforementioned [Abu Musab] Zarqawi, even though we are sure that she deplores some of his methods.” As Horowitz graciously remarks here, Streisand is otherwise innocent—except for her negative views of the Bush Administration.  So he clearly draws an important distinction between two otherwise similar figures.

Still, even though Horowitz has uttered some contradictory and confused remarks about “Discover the Networks,” this doesn’t excuse the incivility with which I spoke of his hard, hard work.  Nor does it excuse my behavior in the sorry episode that followed.

In the course of this Networks-inspired debate, “Is the Left in Bed with Terrorists,” there was an Unfortunate Event.  Horowitz’s assistant, Jamie Glazov, gave me a series of questions, to which I promptly replied; he then emailed me Horowitz’s responses, which were voluminous and omnidirectional.  Feeling somewhat as if I’d been hunting with Dick Cheney, I told Mr. Glazov that I would need a few days to find the time to compose replies to all (or even half) of Horowitz’s charges.  Mr. Glazov sent me a reminder or two in the next few days, urgently but not impatiently, and within the week I managed to find an unbroken three or four hours with which to work.

I was therefore flabbergasted when the debate was published on FrontPage.  All of my second-round replies had been dropped from the exchange, which concluded with the following:

Glazov:  Mr. Horowitz, what is your take here on Prof. Berube’s contribution to our second and last round?

Horowitz: This answer from Michael Berube is disappointing but not surprising. As I have already observed, the left has become so intellectually lazy from years of talking to itself (and “at” everyone else) that it has lost the ability to conduct an intellectual argument with its opponents.

Readers, I parried him.  And I said some unkind things, like calling Horowitz a “sorry old fraud.” I mean, here I’d gone and taken the trouble to reply in good faith to all manner of when-did-you-stop-supporting-your-Islamist- jihad-friends questions, and FrontPage not only dropped my replies but called me an example of the intellectually laziness of the left?  Good grief!  I said some bad words that day.  I may even have uttered imprecations.  For this, I am truly sorry.

FrontPage patiently explained to me that I had indeed been hunting with Dick Cheney, and that, in accordance with the Cheney Hunting Protocols, any damage I’d incurred was my own fault:

In the final round, when Prof. Berube emailed his final response, he did not put his answer at the bottom of the exchange by his name as is the procedure at Frontpage Symposium. Instead, he inserted his comments in an interlineated format which answered Horowitz’s comments point by point and he put his very last paragraph below his name. He did this without flagging his interlineated replies throughout the text or informing the moderator, Jamie Glazov, of what he did. The moderator therefore scrolled down and assumed the final paragraph was Prof. Berube’s final answer.

I was not sure what to make of this at the time, since I’d asked Mr. Glazov for a few days to reply to Horowitz’s first round of responses, and since I’d sent him an interlineated email that was nearly twice as long as the one he’d sent me.  I believe I even expressed some skepticism as to whether FrontPage would have corrected the record if I had not written about the exchange on my blog.  That was uncharitable of me. 

And as a result, things have spiralled downward ever since.  Horowitz has taken to calling me an “intellectually challenged leftist,” though I am sure he did not mean to sleight people with intellectual challenges in so doing.  (That piece mentions me only in passing; it is primarily devoted to a searching, respectful critique of Tim Wise as someone with “a big mouth with a bigger nose” who, despite his place in Discover the Networks, is “too insignificant to justify the allocation of substantial resources to track down everything they have written or said.”) And I, for my part, have continued to treat Horowitz with nothing but snark and mockery.

So, in a spirit of contrition, I stopped by David’s blog yesterday to learn how to address one’s political adversaries with civility and respect. Here’s what I found:

Berube has now posted another attack on me without a addressing a single substantive issue between us. Typical. Just more rehashing of lies about me already told and already refuted, including the Isserman canard. Yes, I did not recognize the stylistic pecularity of Berube’s links, which are merely bold not underlined. Big deal.

In one case, Berube reiterates his slander calling my reference to the showing of Farentheit 9/11 a lie because I couldn’t confirm it (and therefore stopped referring to it). Can Berube confirm that it wasn’t shown? Of course not. Can any of the critics of Bush prove there were no WMDs? Of course not. This makes every critic of Bush a liar by the Berube’s abysmal standard.

Elsewhere, Berube claims he “hyperlinked to facts” in defending his libels. He did not hyperlink to facts. He hyperlinked to an attack on me on a leftwing site InsideHigherEd, whose editor is sometimes more responsible than he was in this particular case. I hyperlinked to the facts. Readers who go to Two Disputed Cases in Colorado will see what hyperlinking to the facts means But readers don’t have to work that hard. They can just read the paragraph I wrote above and note that Berube doesn’t begin to deal with it. The text of Exam is printed in my new book and confirms the truth of what I said. Berube is a liar and a brazen one at that. He can count on his fans not to look into the facts and on the core belief of progressives that if you repeat a slander enough times it becomes a fact, at least for other progressives.

The Isserman canard I answered at http://www.hnn.us. I am weary of dealing with leftwing slanders like these because I know that I am talking to a wall. The Colorado exam is a perfect example. No honest person examing the facts could write and then repeat what Berube has. This is by way of explanation as to why I am not going to look for the specific link on HNN. I’m sure that anyone who cares to will be able to find it.

Berube began this exchange (which has now degenerated to the point where I am going to take a shower) by attacking a book he hasn’t read, then instead of admitting his fault repeating slanders he hasn’t bothered to examine (I’m giving him an enormous benefit of the doubt in this) and then when they have been refued repeating them again along with rehashed others. All this, it should be remembered, is to avoid engaging an intellectual argument about the state of our universities which he knows he can’t defend.

One small point: I kinda sorta did engage an intellectual argument about the state of our universities about three weeks ago, in a 5000-word post that nearly broke the Internets.  I even addressed some of Mr. Horowitz’s arguments in that piece.  But I don’t expect him to read such things.  He’s a very busy man—indeed, right now he’s a very busy man who needs to take a shower.

To his credit, Mr. Horowitz addresses one of my objections about my appearance in his new book, The Professors.  It appears that I have once again seized on a mere quirk in the format—or, rather, a “stylistic conceit”:

Michael quibbles with a bullet-point heading, a stylistic conceit of the book, which claims that Berube believes in teaching literature so as to bring about “economic transformations.” Michael protests that the sentence from which this phrase comes is lifted out of context. This is what the sentence says: “The important question for cultural critics, is also an old question—how to correlate developments in culture and the arts with large-scale economic transformations.” This appears to me like a classical Marxist notion. Michael doesn’t actually argue otherwise. In other words, despite the context Michael supplies, the statement stands.

You heard it here from the Respectful One himself, folks: the statement stands.  It’s official: David Horowitz thinks “correlate” means “bring about.”

Oops!  Sorry about that.  I lapsed back into mockery for a moment.

O, the incivility!

My more polite and respectful responses to Mr. Horowitz can be found in this week’s Chronicle of Higher Education

I am puzzled, however, by Mr. Horowitz’s offhand reference to WMD.  While I apologize for slandering Mr. Horowitz by suggesting that he made claims that he couldn’t substantiate (he did, but that is certainly my fault), I do not understand the analogy at work here.  By the Berube’s abysmal standard, critics of Bush are liars, because they cannot prove the negative with regard to WMD.  And because I cannot prove the negative with regard to the showing of Fahrenheit 9/11, I have therefore called myself a li. . . no, wait, I’m confused.  Let me look at it again.

In one case, Berube reiterates his slander calling my reference to the showing of Farentheit 9/11 a lie because I couldn’t confirm it (and therefore stopped referring to it). Can Berube confirm that it wasn’t shown? Of course not. Can any of the critics of Bush prove there were no WMDs? Of course not. This makes every critic of Bush a liar by the Berube’s abysmal standard.

OK, I think I’ve got it now.  “Berube” is to “the nonshowing of Fahrenheit 9/11” as “Bush’s critics” are to “the nonexistence of WMD.” So Bush’s critics, in claiming that there are no WMD, are liars, because I said that Horowitz retracted his claim that a Penn State biology professor had shown Fahrenheit 9/11 to his class. . . .

Golly, that doesn’t sound right.  Maybe Horowitz is to the nonshowing of Fahrenheit 9/11 as Bush’s critics are to the nonexistence of WMD.  In other words, there may still be WMD in Iraq, and someone may have shown Fahrenheit 9/11.  And, uh, anyone who says otherwise is a liar by my abysmal standard. 

No, that’s preposterous.  I think the simplest explanation is the best: if I cannot confirm that Fahrenheit 9/11 wasn’t shown, then there were WMD in Iraq.  Readers are hereby invited to speculate—respectfully, mind you—on whether those WMD weigh the same as a duck.

Posted by Michael on 02/14 at 08:56 AM
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Monday, February 13, 2006

You got served

Last fall, when word went around the disability studies circuit that Johnny Knoxville was going to star in a movie called The Ringer, the premise of which was that his character feigns a developmental disability in order to defraud the Special Olympics, people were—shall we say—skeptical.  I, however, was curious.  For the past few years, I’ve been telling people that the Farrelly Brothers (who produced, but did not write, The Ringer) have been trying, with mixed success, to do something smart and interesting with the dynamic of disability.  Sometimes their efforts have taken the fairly traditional form of deploying characters with disabilities as the moral barometers of their narratives, as in There’s Something About Mary, and Shallow Hal was, among other things, an attempt to redefine beauty in terms of an ethic of care (wherein the most beautiful people in the world are those who serve others selflessly).  But in Stuck on You, by contrast, they tried to pull off something like a disability comedy from an anti-normative perspective: when, at the outset of the film, an obstreperous patron at Greg Kinnear’s and Matt Damon’s burger shack (the two are conjoined twins and short-order cooks) demands that the “freak” be removed from the place, the regulars agree—so they get together and toss the insensitive jerk out of the restaurant.

I imagine, though, that the Farrellys were getting a little tired of exploring disability sympathetically and not having anyone notice.  So The Ringer takes the subject and puts it front and center.

I’ve been asked a couple of times about how I see the film, as a parent of a 14-year-old with Down syndrome.  “With popcorn,” I say, “and a large bottle of Dasani water.  Jamie gets himself a Coke.” Actually, Jamie’s seen it twice—once with Janet and Nick over the Christmas holiday winter solstice break, and once with me.

It’s not quite successful as a comedy, largely for the reasons Stephanie Zacharek explains in her Salon review: we really don’t have a lexicon for developmental-disability humor yet, and we don’t quite know when or how to laugh.  But on the most obvious (and accessible) level, the film is a biting and overdue sendup of the Daniel Day-Lewis/ Dustin Hoffman/ Tom Hanks/ Sean Penn/ Cuba Gooding tradition in which nondisabled actors win Oscars and/or the hearts of millions for portraying adults with developmental disabilities [edited in response to reader comments:  Daniel Day-Lewis’ Christy Brown had cerebral palsy.].  In The Ringer, Knoxville’s disability act is exposed quite quickly by the Special Olympians themselves, and they proceed to take over the rest of the film.  (The National Down Syndrome Society and the Special Olympics have enthusiastically endorsed the movie, and the Special Olympics were given control over the final script and the use of on-screen ad-libs as well.) As in There’s Something About Mary, one would be forgiven for coming away with the impression that angels walk this earth in the form of attractive female siblings of people with developmental disabilities.  But you know, perhaps it’s not the worst thing in the world for mainstream Hollywood films to glorify the siblings of people with developmental disabilities.  I mean, it’s not like everybody’s doing it.

In the end, then, we weren’t offended by the film; we were intrigued.  And Jamie liked it (and asked to see it again) in part because it reminded him of his own Special Olympics experience this past November, which I’ve been meaning to narrate on this humble blog for a full three months now.  So here goes.

While I was at the University of Michigan on November 10 and 11 of last year, Jamie went with his volleyball team to Villanova University for the Special Olympics Pennsylvania Fall Festival.  Those of you who are either family friends or very diligent readers of this blog will know that this constituted Jamie’s first-ever road trip and overnight hotel stay with people who are not members of his immediate family.  The deal was this: Jamie would travel with his YMCA team, the Red and Black Attack, on Friday afternoon; they would check in to the hotel that evening, and Jamie would room with two teammates and one of the coaches.  That night, I would fly home from Michigan, get up the next morning, and then drive to the outskirts of Philadelphia, three-and-some hours away.  The day’s volleyball games would be over by the time I arrived, but Jamie and I would catch up, maybe go swimming, get dinner, and (most important of all) go to the Special Olympics dance that night.

I arrived at Villanova around 4 in the afternoon.  One of Jamie’s roommates greeted me in the lobby of the Doubletree Suites, telling me that Jamie was a little wild; another roommate spotted me on the second floor, and said, “he’s bouncing on the bed and he wants to watch cartoons.” (Jamie is by far the youngest member of the team; the first person who spoke to me was in his thirties, and the second was in his early fifties.) “Has he behaved himself?” I asked.  “He’s a handful,” the roommate replied, in a singsong kind of voice.  When I was finally ushered into Jamie’s room by roommate number two, he was watching college football, and he was thrilled to see me.  Which is to say: he looked over at me, smiled, and said, “hi, Michael!  now can we go swimming?” before turning his attention back to the football game.

As I packed up Jamie’s suitcase and led him down the hall to our room, the coaches stopped us to say that Jamie had been simply wonderful the whole time, and that he’d done absolutely everything they asked (except maybe for eating too much ranch dressing at the previous night’s dinner), and that he was due for some “kid time.” They also told me that Jamie had had some fine kid time earlier in the day at the Olympic Village, where he danced with Darth Vader and some Star Wars storm troopers, introduced himself to dozens of people, and sat on a few of the motorcycles that were on display.  They gave me a Polaroid of a very cool-looking Jamie on a small Yamaha.  It sounded like he was managing to enjoy himself.

The dance, they said, would start at 8, and Jamie could come to dinner with the team or we could have some father-son time on our own.  We took option (b).  Jamie swam for a while, and then we went to the local mall (we were in one of those post-postmodern sprawl complexes that consist of generic motels and shopping centers) where we found that the casual-dining chain, Thank God It’s Ruby Tuesday Applebee’s, had a 45-minute wait.  So we got some slices of pizza at Sbarro and split a salad.

The dance turned out to be quite a scene.  Hundreds of adults and teenagers with developmental disabilities, just hopping and bopping and having a great old time.  Dozens of student volunteers and Villanova athletes, as well.  Jamie led me through the thick of the crowd and then out again, asking me, “where’s my group?” When he didn’t find them, he decided he would just dance by himself for a bit.  “Do you want me to dance with you?” I asked.  “No, you sit right there,” he replied, pointing to a nearby foldout chair.  Clearly, this was his party.  So I took my seat as he danced to two or three songs.  Then “his group” arrived, he spotted them in the crowd, and they all danced together for about fifteen or twenty minutes—until I learned that the van would leave at 6:15 am the next morning for Sunday’s first game.  “But the game is at 9,” I said.  “Yes, but we’re going over for breakfast and some practice first,” the coaches said.  “Yow,” I exclaimed.  “Oh, you don’t have to join us,” they assured me.  “You can just drop him off at the van and go back to sleep for a while.” Good, I thought, but I would still have to get up at 5:30—after traveling from Ann Arbor to State College the night before and then from State College to Philly.  So I got Jamie into bed by 10:30 that night, and crashed a half hour later.

The next morning, the phone rang promptly at 6:05.  “He’ll be down in five minutes,” I said groggily, as Jamie brushed his teeth.  After seeing him off, I did indeed go back to bed, knowing that when the morning’s game was over I still had another three-and-a-half hour drive in front of me.  I packed us up, and set the alarm for 8:30.

Now, a word about Jamie’s volleyball career to date.  Last year he was part of the “skills” class at the YMCA (a half-hour every Sunday in the fall of 2004), at which he learned how to serve and set.  He didn’t move to the ball during games, having no instinct for position play, but when it was hit directly to him (not too hard), he was capable of hitting it back, and occasionally he even hit it over the net.  But that was about it.  He was able to strike the ball sharply when it was his turn to serve, but he never cleared the net from that distance.  This year, he’d improved to the point at which the coaches invited him onto the YMCA team, but he was (as I’ve said) the youngest person on the squad, and though his position play was better and he was bigger and stronger than last year, he still hadn’t cleared the net on a serve.  At the one-day tournament at Juniata College this past October, he played four games; he wasn’t a starter, so he saw far more action in between-game practices than in games (and he sometimes asked to practice one-on-one with me), but he did manage to assist on two winning points, setting up much taller and older teammates capable of hitting it over the net with brio.  Though he’s now over five feet tall, he looked tiny out there; his jersey (he wore number 2) came down to his knees.  But he wasn’t completely out of sync with the general level of volleyball being played at the tournament; each team seemed to have three or four adults with disabilities who were serious athletes, a couple of capable players, and a couple of people who might or might not be able to hit the ball back.  Jamie was somewhere between group two and group three (closer to the latter), I thought, but I loved the fact that he was on the team, I liked the fact that the Red and Black won a gold that day, and I knew he’d improve with experience.  I did notice, however, that some teams allowed their weaker players to serve from a line that was about six or seven feet closer to the net than the back out-of-bounds line, and I wondered why the Red and Black Attack coaches didn’t offer this option to Jamie, who was now capable of reaching the net on a serve.  But I didn’t say anything.  I didn’t want to be one of those sports parents. Why isn’t my kid . . . ? You know what I mean.

So that Sunday morning at Villanova, I got some coffee at a Dunkin Donuts and drove to the campus at a leisurely pace, untroubled by the fact that I didn’t know exactly where I was going.  Games were being played at three different gyms, and even after I found the information desk it took me another ten minutes of wandering through Villanova’s sports facilities before I found the Red and Black Attack.  The game was well under way, and when the Y coaches saw me enter the gym, they promptly substituted Jamie for the player at the front right corner.  This meant, of course, that on the next point won by Red and Black, Jamie would be serving.

I was sitting behind the Red and Black end of the court, and when the team rotated and Jamie took the ball to serve, I sat at the edge of my chair and bit my fist.  If I’d had a towel I would have looked like Jerry Tarkanian.  Jamie tossed the ball lightly into the air with his left hand, swung his right arm through, and . . . delivered a perfect serve, clear over the net and between two opponents, neither of whom was able to return it.

Ace.

The YMCA crew clapped and cheered as Jamie took the ball for his second serve.  This one was a monster: soaring to the rafters, it looked for a moment like it would hit a light fixture and be declared out of bounds.  But it reached the crest of its arc just a few inches shy of the roof, and came plummeting down in the back left corner of the other team’s court.

Another ace.

In the lower-division Special Olympics volleyball games, no team is allowed more than three serves in a row.  (That’s one way in which they recognize the talent disparities among the players.) So Jamie’s next serve would be his last no matter what happened, and, no doubt a bit overeager by this point (for he was truly pumped), he shanked it.  But he had gotten his first two points in Special Olympics play, and when Red and Black won the game—which they did—he lined up with his teammates and shook hands with the other team before he was picked up and swung around in a circle by a very proud father. 

As Cubs fans say, wait til next year!

In the meantime, Special Olympics basketball begins soon.  I’ve been practicing with Jamie at the Y on the weekends, and yesterday, after five or six tries, he hit his first three-pointer.  Nothing but net.

Posted by Michael on 02/13 at 06:12 AM
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Saturday, February 11, 2006

Horowitz Agonistes

From Marita, in comments to yesterday’s post:

Any of you catch the latest (blog? post?) at FrontPageMag?

Mr. Horowitz provides us with this:

In any case, the professor has evidently learned nothing since from my response to his first post which reminded him that the bien-pensant among us, particularly professors of literature, generally read books before they review them. Here’s how Berube’s response to that idea begins: “Um, no, David, you poor thing. [Oh, did I mention that Michael imagines himself a humorist?] “That’s wasn’t a book review. This is a book review.” (Emphasis Michael’s.) But then he writes: “I got my impression of your ‘book’ … from hearing about my own entry in it.” From “hearing about” his own entry?

OK, so is he seriously so intellectually dishonest that he’s willing to claim that the remainder of the post, rather than the link, constitutes a book review?. . .  Or should I take the more charitable view that maybe he hasn’t quite got the hang of this whole internet thing yet?

Marita, this is not an either/or kind of blog.  We like to think in terms of both/and.  Horowitz is intellectually dishonest, as we’ve established time and again, and he’s kind of clueless about how the Internets work.  There’s always the possibility of a Third Way, as well:  one could imagine that Horowitz is so bag-of-bricks stupid as to think that the “this” in “this is a book review” referred to yesterday’s post rather than to my recently-published review of Theory’s Empire (there, that should make it clear).  But personally, I don’t buy it.

We might also consider the possibility that Horowitz is kind of unethical, as Marita suggests when she notes that he took one of his critics who wrote to him directly, and responded by publishing her email address.  Decent people consider that kind of thing either very childish or very vile, you know.  Or maybe both!

But who knows?  Perhaps, at long last, Horowitz is beginning to come truly and fully unhinged, as Chris Clarke notes.  Here’s Chris (single indent), followed by Horowitz (double indent):

OK, this is funny.

In DHo’s latest, he says:

You need to stop fantasizing that ‘leftwing fascists’ are attacking you,” says the very professor who calls me a liar without checking the facts.

Is the perception of widespread attacks a fantasy of mine? ...  if you Google the words “McCarthy +David Horowitz” you will find over 400,000 references. Not to belabor the point but the most recent issue of the The Chronicle of Higher Education, the principle journal of academic administration, carries as its lead feature, a piece by leftist Ellen Schrecker called “Worse Than McCarthy.” The article purports to be about me and people like me. A version of it was read at the Temple Hearings.) It’s Berube who is the fantasist if he really believes I am not under attack.

For those of you who didn’t follow the link in Michael’s post, he was referring to an exchange I had with Horowitz in which I said:

Hey, maybe you could stage a fake attack on yourself in an airport washroom! That worked for Morton Downey Jr. when HIS fifteen minutes of lukewarm fame was fading.

Oh, wait, I’m wrong. It didn’t.

and Horowitz replied:

Thanks to leftwing fascists like yourself I don’t need to fake attacks on me.

So either DHo really equates criticism in web-based articles with physical assault, or he’s a mendacious O’Reilly wannabe.

Again, Chris, I see no need to fall into the logocentric trap of the binary either/or.  Horowitz obviously considers “McCarthy+David Horowitz” Google hits to be a form of physical assault (they are called “hits,” after all), and he’s a mendacious O’Reilly wannabe.  And I think Ben Alpers deserves some kind of door prize for writing, in yesterday’s comments, that “DHo spends most of his $300k/year time frenetically Googling himself to see what others are saying about him.” Bingo, Ben!  (Second prize goes to the commenter who wrote, “it’s really kind of amazing that Horowitz seems unable to resist the slightest taunt, even a light-hearted, good-humored one.")

But you know, dear friends, I resent being called “the very professor who calls [Horowitz] a liar without checking the facts.” The truth—and I use the term advisedly—is that I called Horowitz a liar while hyperlinking to the facts.  Horowitz lied about the student in Colorado, he lied about the biology professor who allegedly showed Fahrenheit 9/11 to his class, he has lied about me (actually, the line about how my “entire political focus since 9/11 has been in getting our terrorist enemies off the hook” comes closer to actual slander), and—I can’t believe I forgot this one!—he lied—to O’Reilly, on one of his many Fox News appearances—about his speaking engagement at Hamilton College.  Or, as Horowitz put it at the time, “I fibbed about my invitation to Hamilton and about my Academic Bill of Rights . . . because it was truer to say that I had to be invited by students . . . than to say the faculty there—the Kirkland project in particular, which is what we were talking about—would invite me.”

That’s what Hamilton history professor Maurice Isserman got for inviting Horowitz to his campus, folks!  He got himself his very own Horowitz Lie on national television.  Maurice eventually replied in the pages of Academe.  Whereupon Horowitz, being Horowitz, wrote to Academe to complain, capping off his letter by writing, “my only conclusion can be that Isserman must regret bringing David Horowitz to Hamilton.” (Given the strange third-person reference, it’s hard to know whether “Horowitz” was really the “author” of that letter.) To which Isserman replied:

I don’t regret bringing Horowitz to Hamilton College. What I do regret is that Horowitz is an unrepentant liar, and this fact is not better understood within the circles in which he still carries some measure of malign influence.

Touché, Professor Isserman.

Now, from today’s lengthy blog at FrontPage, it appears that Horowitz believes he holds himself to “a higher standard of honesty” (no, I am not making that up) because he refrained from repeating his Fahrenheit 9/11 lie at the recent hearing at Temple University:  “I had been unable to verify it,” Horowitz writes. “Because I could not verify it I had stopped mentioning it long before the hearings started.”

Well, no, David, that doesn’t involve a higher standard of honesty.  In fact, you’ve never really withdrawn the Fahrenheit 9/11 claim at all; you’ve merely whined, “I have a small staff and am unable to check every claim that is brought to me.” So you make claims you can’t verify.  Then you stop for a bit.  Then you make them again in another form, and blame your small staff for mistakes.

So, folks, insofar as Horowitz lies and lies and lies and lies, that makes him a “liar.” An unrepentant one, at that.  And insofar as he writes “the principle journal of academic administration” rather than “the principal journal,” he’s sometimes kinda careless about what he writes, too.  (What, you thought maybe I wouldn’t prounce on that one?)

Anyway, Marita, Chris, Ben, Maurice, and everyone—keep up the good work!  At this rate, by the time David gets onto Hannity and Colmes for his week-long gig ("kind of like John and Yoko on the Mike Douglas Show,” writes Phil Klinkner, also of Hamilton College), he’ll be in a highly explosive state.  That should be fun for the whole family.

Posted by Michael on 02/11 at 11:12 AM
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Friday, February 10, 2006

It’s a gas gas gas

In his “reply” to Monday’s post, David Horowitz, International Man of Mystery, writes,

Is it typical for professors of literature to review books based on fund-raising literature?  Apparently it is if they’re progressive.

Um, no, David, you poor thing.  That wasn’t a book review. This is a book review.  [Noon, February 11:  note to David and other unpracticed blog readers:  the “this” in the previous sentence is actually an Internets hyperlink! Click on it and see!  It does not refer to the rest of this post.  Sorry for the confusion!  --MB] I responded to your promotional email for the book, as I subtly suggested in the sentence, “In his promotional email for the book . . . Horowitz catalogues some of the reprobates and miscreants I’m in with.”

Michael Berube—one of the professors profiled in my new book—has written a lengthy blog about the book but using a fund-raising letter the Center sent out as a text.

It wasn’t lengthy, and it wasn’t a “blog.” A “blog” is a web log.  On a web log, one writes “posts.” Just saying.

This leads Berube to attack the inclusion of Robert Reich among the profiles. But Robert Reich is not included among the profiles—this was a mistake made by author of the fund-raising letter.

My bad!  Oh, no, hold on.  Actually, your bad.  Here’s “your” letter:

This book, a product of the research we are able to do thanks to your financial support [sic] CSPC’s National Campaign for Academic Freedom, exposes the tip of the iceberg, and then some, of the worst “hate America” voices in academia today. What we’ve exposed will astound and anger you:

. . .

At Brandeis University: Robert Reich is a Professor of Social and Economic Policy. He was Bill Clinton’s Labor Secretary and is a multi-millionaire. That doesn’t keep from [sic] telling his students that the U.S. has “fallen under the sway of radical conservatives who, by the malicious application of intolerant moral precepts, intended to secure the “reign of the rich” at the expense of most Americans.”

The person who signed this letter is “David Horowitz.”

Now of course, old man, I realize you didn’t actually “write” that “letter.” But it’s kinda weird and postmodern and deconstructive of you to blame the “author” for his “mistake.” As Michel Foucault once put it, the “author-function . . . results from a complex operation whose purpose is to construct the rational entity we call an author, except in the case of David Horowitz, who is neither a rational entity nor an ‘author.’”

On the basis of another leftists review on Amazon, Berube thinks the book is apparently just a bunch of reprints of David’s DiscoverTheNetworks pages.

As it happens, I have not been quite so obsessed with your Amazon reviews as you have, David.  In fact, I haven’t even seen them.  Why would I bother?  The book isn’t even out yet—how can it be getting all these Amazon reviews?  I got my impression of your “book” (the mistakes in which, I’m sure, you will shortly blame on the “author”) from hearing about my own entry in it—an entry about which, you may remember, I said

I could dilate endlessly on the random-access technique by which Horowitz cut and pasted those last two phrases into his account of me (they occur near the end of the essay, and have nothing to do with each other), but I think you get the point by now.  Horowitz can be a fairly clever guy when he wants to be, but here he’s not even trying.  This is genuinely stupid stuff.  I mean, Michelle Malkin quality stupid.  Personally, I’m disappointed.

I mean, when I say that cultural critics try to “correlate developments in culture and the arts with large-scale economic transformations” and you accuse me of “teaching literature so as to bring about ‘economic transformations,’” that’s really quite stupid.  And I say that in a wholly non-judgmental way, old sport.

Back to your “blog”:

Sorry Michael it’s not. Berube’s blog also notes that Professor Ron Karenga is included (and he is) and is described as a torturer and the inventor of Kwanzaa which he is. Berube’s retort:  most of David’s readership thinks torture is just fine.  Thanks Michael for justifying your inclusion in a book about what’s wrong with the university.

Hey kids!  It’s time for a FrontPage Readers Poll!  Do either of you support the use of torture?

Now, while that’s going on, allow me to observe that many supporters of the War on Terror and Global Struggle against Extremism have, in fact, come out in favor of torture in the past four and a half years.  More than this, they have accused various liberals and journalists of “treason” and “aiding and abetting” and “blah blah blah” whenever we expose—or merely object to—the Cheney Archipelago of secret torture sites that are now strung around the globe.  (We don’t take these accusations personally, of course, because we know we’re dealing with people who will accuse us of treason simply for quoting the Bill of Rights.) I’m just pointing that out, David.  And yes, I suppose that as far as you’re concerned, this justifies my inclusion in a book about what’s wrong with the university.

What I actually said, however, was that the phrase “torturer and the inventor of Kwanzaa” is a little like “arsonist and the creator of Grandparents’ Day.” It’s a problem of moral scale, you see.

OK, now that that’s all cleared up, let’s get to your rousing conclusion already:

Of course the fact he is only reading a fund-raising letter (avoiding therein the stress of reading a 112,000 word book) doesn’t prevent Berube from prouncing The Professors an outrage.  I consider that an medal of honor Michael. Now why don’t you try actually reading the book Herr literature professor and writing a real response. If you have intellectual fortitude to do this, I’ll post it and answer you.

Prouncing?  What’s a prounce?  You mean I lie in wait and then I prounce?  Rowrrrrrr!  If I have intellectual fortitude to do this, of course.  And yes, I did say that it’s an outrage that you didn’t rank us, and that only 23 of the 101 are AAUP members.  See “random-access cut and paste technique,” above.

PS: The book is only a stressful read for radicals; for the others it’s a gas.

It’s a gas?  It’s a gas? You mean, like, grazing in the grass it’s a gas baby can you dig it?  What is this sixties hippie lingo, old man?  And what’s with all the typos and solecisms?  You weren’t doing bong hits when you wrote this, were you?  Because you know Acapulco Gold is bad-ass weed.

Now, it’s true that I have not yet received my copy of your book.

And here I need to explain to my readers that over the past couple of years, David has sent me my very own personal copy of Uncivil Wars, his book on reparations; Left Illusions, one of his six or eight or fifteen memoirs about his intellectual odyssey from far-left firebrand to wingnut crank; and two copies of Unholy Alliance, the book in which everyone from Noam Chomsky to Todd Gitlin is cast as a Friend of Osama.  The first of these is inscribed personally to me, calling me “a worthy adversary.” It’s a gesture I haven’t reciprocated, as you might imagine.

You know what, folks?  I think David hasn’t quite forgiven me for that.  Remember what he said about my neglect of his work last year?

radicals like Berube can’t be bothered to actually read or respond rationally to anything that ruffles their progressive feathers, let alone be concerned about the fact that their entire political focus since 9/11 has been in getting our terrorist enemies off the hook. (Doubters can consult the archives of The Nation, The Progressive and any number of leftwing sites on the web to confirm the negative posture of progressives towards the war on terror and their sympathetic back-bending for terrorists.) Naturally, not a single leftwing journal or blogger, for that matter, so much as noticed Unholy Alliance, or addressed its arguments, despite the fact that there is no better known critic of the left than myself and Unholy Alliance makes the same claims that now incite them.

That’s right, David, there is no better known critic of the left than yourself.  And my entire political focus since 9/11 has been in getting our terrorist enemies off the hook.  That’s why I’ve failed to read your book.

So, about that review you demand.  How’s never?  Is never good for you?

And finally, dear “author,” one friendly piece of advice.  You need to stop blaming other people for your “mistakes.” Like the “mistake” in which you lied about the student who was flunked for refusing to write an essay on how Bush is a war criminal, and then replied to the exposure of your lie by writing the now-classic ”Some of Our Facts Were Wrong; Our Point Was Right.” Or the “mistake” in which you lied about the biology professor who showed Fahrenheit 9/11 to his class and then replied to the exposure of your lie by complaining that you don’t have “the resources to look into all the complaints” you publicize and that criticisms of your truthiness are just “nit picking, irrelevant attacks.” And, of course, the famous “mistake” in which your site dropped fifteen paragraphs of my debate with to you and then accused me of “intellectual laziness.” You really need to start taking some personal responsibility for your behavior, old man.  And you need to stop fantasizing that “left wing fascists” are “attacking” you.

If you have intellectual fortitude to do this.

Posted by Michael on 02/10 at 08:01 AM
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Thursday, February 09, 2006

Why disability studies entails the study of everything else, part two

Welcome to the second (and final) installment of Douglas Baynton Should be Mandatory Reading for Everyone Working on the History of U.S. Citizenship Week!  Yeah, I know, it’s an unwieldy title.  That’s why we’re only doing two installments.

Here’s Doug on disability and gender:

Paralleling the arguments made in defense of slavery, two types of disability argument were used in opposition to women’s suffrage: that women had disabilities that made them incapable of using the franchise responsibly, and that because of their frailty women would become disabled if exposed to the rigors of political participation.  The American anti-suffragist Grace Goodwin, for example, pointed to the “great temperamental disabilities” with which women had to contend: “woman lacks endurance in things mental. . . .  She lacks nervous stability.  The suffragists who dismay England are nerve-sick women.” The second line of argument, which was not incompatible with the first and often accompanied it, went beyond the claim that women’s flaws made them incapable of exercising equal political and social rights with men to warn that if women were given those rights, disability would surely follow.  This argument is most closely identified with Edward Clarke, author of Sex in Education; or, a Fair Chance for Girls.  Clarke’s argument chiefly concerned education for women, though it was often applied to suffrage as well.  Clarke maintained that overuse of the brain among young women was in large part responsible for the “numberless pale, weak, neuralgic, dyspeptic, hysterical, menorraghic, dysmenorrhoeic girls and women” of America.  The result of excessive education in this country was “bloodless female faces, that suggest consumption, scrofula, anemia, and neuralgia.” An appropriate education designed for their frail constitutions would ensure “a future secure from neuralgia, uterine disease, hysteria, and other derangements from the nervous system.” (41-42)

Scrofula!  Uterine disease!  Who knew?  Clearly education and suffrage were deleterious to women’s health.  Whereas corsets, say, were hazard-free.

But here’s the rub: at the time, most women (and advocates of women’s rights) made their case for citizenship precisely by distinguishing themselves from segments of the population that were properly considered diseased and disabled.  That’s the way the logic of abjection works, folks!  Just as dangerous professor Michael Warner argues, in another context, in The Trouble with Normal.

Back to Baynton:

A second powerful and recurrent rhetorical device for suffragists was to charge that women were wrongly categorized with those legitimately excluded from political life.  A popular theme in both British and American suffrage posters was to depict a thoughtful-looking woman, perhaps wearing the gown of a college graduate, surrounded by slope-browed, wild-eyed, or “degenerate” men identified implicitly or explicitly as “idiots” and “lunatics.” The caption might read, “Women and her Political Peers,” or, “It’s time I got out of this place.  Where shall I find the key?” Echoing this theme, suffrage supporter George William Curtis rhetorically asked a New York constitutional convention in 1867 why women should be classed with “idiots, lunatics, persons under guardianship and felons,” and at the national Woman Suffrage Convention in 1869, Elizabeth Cady Stanton protested that women were “thrust outside the pale of political consideration with minors, paupers, lunatics, traitors, [and] idiots.” (44)

Is this stuff still relevant today?  You bet:

While historians have not overlooked the use of disability to deny women’s rights, they have given their attention entirely to gender inequality and not at all to the construction and maintenance of cultural hierarchies based on disability. . . . [J]ust as it was left unchallenged at the time, historians today leave unchallenged the notion that weakness, nervousness, or proneness to fainting might legitimately disqualify one for suffrage. (43)

And that’s not to mention (to pick up from yesterday’s installment) racist cranks like Dinesh D’Souza, who wrote in The End of Racism that the civil rights movement failed because it did not consider its likely consequences, namely, that “racism might be fortified if blacks were unable to exercise their rights effectively and responsibly” (169).  Of course, we’re far more enlightened than the benighted creatures of the nineteenth century.  No one today would think of allowing racist cranks like D’Souza anywhere near national media, and no one would dream of arguing that “frailty” was a legitimate ground for excluding women from some aspects of public life.

Speaking of cranks!  It’s time for a . . .

David Horowitz Update: Yes, I’ve seen his latest.  I’ll have my reply tomorrow.  And don’t forget to set your TiVo for Hannity and Colmes next week—David is their guest every single night!  Five full hours of Horowitz!  Let’s hope he doesn’t say anything stupid or untrue.  Because, you know, that would be unfortunate.

Posted by Michael on 02/09 at 11:09 AM
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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Why disability studies entails the study of everything else

Over the past few months I’ve been corresponding with a graduate student at another university who’s just getting into disability studies and beginning to offer disability studies courses.  At one point, she asked me if I’d attended the MLA session on “Citizenship and United States Writing”; I replied that my MLA was almost entirely given over to administrative matters, and that I’d only had time to attend two sessions.  She told me that no one on the panel had addressed citizenship in the context of disability, whereupon I said, “hey, that sounds a lot like the American Studies Association,” whereupon someone else said, “sounds pretty much like the American Historical Association, too” whereupon someone wondered whether the American Sociological Association had done anything on disability and citizenship, whereupon we all agreed that everyone who wants to talk about the history of U.S. citizenship, from here on in, should be required to read Douglas Baynton’s essay, “Disability and the Justification of Inequality in American History,” in The New Disability History: American Perspectives, edited by Paul Longmore and Lauri Umansky.  Notice is hereby served.

Baynton writes, “Disability has functioned historically to justify inequality for disabled people themselves, but it has also done so for women and minority groups.  That is, not only has it been considered justifiable to treat disabled people unequally, but the concept of disability has been used to justify discrimination against other groups by attributing disability to them” (33).  Baynton explicitly aligns his essay with Joan Scott’s groundbreaking “Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis” (American History Review 91 [1986]: 1053-75), and closes by arguing that disability is “more than an identity, [it] is a fundamental element in cultural signification and indispensable for any historian seeking to make sense of the past. . . .  It is time to bring disability from the margins to the center of historical inquiry” (52).

So for today, let’s take a look at what Baynton has to say about the intersection of disability and race in American history:

Disability arguments were prominent in justifications of slavery in the early to mid-nineteenth century and of other forms of unequal relations between white and black Americans after slavery’s demise.  The most common disability argument for slavery was simply that African Americans lacked sufficient intelligence to participate or compete on an equal basis in society with white Americans.  This alleged deficit was sometimes attributed to physical causes, as when an article on the “diseases and physical peculiarities of the negro race” in the New Orleans Medical and Surgical Journal helpfully explained, “It is this defective hematosis, or atmospherization of the blood, conjoined with a deficiency of cerebral matter in the cranium, and an excess of nervous matter distributed to the organs of sensation and assimilation, that is the true cause of that debasement of mind, which has rendered the people of Africa unable to take care of themselves.” . . .

A second line of disability argument was that African Americans, because of their inherent physical and mental weakness, were prone to become disabled under conditions of freedom and equality. . . .  Dr. Samuel Cartwright, in 1851, for example, described two types of mental illness to which African Americans were especially subject.  The first, Drapetomania, a condition that caused slaves to run away—“as much a disease of the mind as any other species of mental alienation”—was common among slaves whose masters had “made themselves too familiar with them, treating them as equals.” The need to submit to a master was built into the very bodies of African Americans, in whom “we see ‘genu flexit written in the physical structure of his knees, being more flexed or bent, than any other kind of man.” The second mental disease peculiar to African Americans, Dysaesthesia Aethiopis—a unique ailment different “from every other species of mental disease, as it is accompanied with physical signs or lesions of the body”—resulted in a desire to avoid work and generally to cause mischief.  It was commonly known to overseers as “rascality.” Its cause, similar to that of Drapetomania, was a lack of firm governance, and it was therefore far more common among free blacks than among slaves—indeed, nearly universal among them—although it was a “common occurrence on badly-governed plantations” as well.  (37-38)

Things become more complicated, of course, when people who are stigmatized by association with disability seek to claim membership in a community of citizens by distinguishing themselves from people with disabilities, who are thereby treated as if their stigmatization is appropriate to their condition:

The attribution of disease or disability to racial minorities has a long history.  Yet, while many have pointed out the injustice and perniciousness of attributing these qualities to a racial or ethnic group, little has been written about why these attributions are such powerful weapons for inequality, why they were so furiously denied and condemned by their targets, and what htis tells us about our attitudes toward disability. (41).

Did we discuss Baynton’s essay in my disability studies seminar today?  You bet we did, along with three other essays.  Stay tuned for tomorrow’s installment on disability and gender!

Posted by Michael on 02/08 at 04:02 PM
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