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Monday, April 10, 2006

How Horowitz is my valley

That’s right, the Happy Valley is in for a real treat.  David Horowitz is coming to Penn State!  Fresh from his not-very-exciting debate with his long-lost twin, Ward Churchill, Horowitz descends on our fair campus this Thursday.

This is a historic week!  Penn State’s College Republicans are doing their part to augment Horowitz’s half-million-dollar annual income, and campus and local media (including this very blog!) are helping out with the publicity.  Today’s Centre Daily Times features Pittsburgh Tribune-Review resident wingnut Bill Steigerwald’s 1300-word interview with David Horowitz, in which he fulminates about how the “Democrat party” has “lurched far to the left” and talks a lot about his unhealthy obsession of the week (don’t ask).  The CDT very graciously gave me space for a 650-word essay on Horowitz, and you can read it right here.  (About Steigerwald interviewing Horowitz: when one employee of far-right billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife interviews another, do they “kick up” to the boss?  ‘Cause I think they should.)

Somehow, a week or two ago, Mr. H. discovered that the CDT was going to run a little piece by me, and he wrote to the paper to congratulate them on their ecumenical spirit.  “That’s the kind of journalism we need to see in this country,” Horowitz wrote.  “Free and open exchange, healthy debate—just like the debate I want to inspire on college campuses.”

Fooled you!  Horowitz said no such thing.  On the contrary, when he found out that I had written something for my local paper, he simply lost it, going on one of his characteristically unhinged rants about bias this and IslamoCommunist terrorist that.  And if you’ve been following the sorry saga of Horowitz’s long decline, you know how he responds when someone points out that his new book is full of jawdropping stupidities and boneheaded errors: he whines about being “attacked.”

The latest development is this: on my way through the Cincinnati airport last month, I picked up a copy of The Professors and learned that David (or one of his employees) had, indeed, updated the “Discover the Networks” entry on me.  Even though I didn’t think it was humanly possible, they had made their discussion of my work even dumber.  In their online version, they had merely missed the point of my essay, “Teaching Postmodern Fiction Without Being Sure that the Genre Exists,” in which I suggested that most of the fiction being written today isn’t postmodern, and that postmodernist experimentalism resembles modernist experimentalism more than it resembles anything else.  As you’ll recall, the sorry old fraud had tried to claim that I advocate “teaching literature so as to bring about ‘economic transformations.’” His evidence for this was a sentence in which I wrote, “The important question for cultural critics, then, is also an old question—how to correlate developments in culture and the arts with large-scale economic transformations.” Competent readers understand that I’m asking for accounts of postmodernity to be grounded in empirical fact rather than in the claim that Pynchon is 20 percent more indeterminate than Joyce.  But David, by contrast, has since gone on record affirming that he does, in fact, believe that “correlate” means “bring about.” And mirabile dictu, the book version is still worse!  Now he’s accusing me of anti-religious bias.  Why?  Because I called antifoundationalists “sane” and “secular.” Anti-religious bias!  You gotta love it.  As I note in my CDT essay, my anti-religious bias will come as a shock to my Jesuit teachers. . . .

Now, most sane people are aware that if you say X is sane, you have not thereby said that all non-X is insane.  Here, however, Horowitz mounts a powerful challenge to the sane/insane binary, just as he did in his recent appearance on The 700 Club with Pat Robertson, when he accused college professors of being “killers.”

As for David’s whining that I have “attacked” him by pointing this out, all I can say is that it’s kinda pathetic.  Crybaby pathetic.  I’m talking National Wuss League material.  Here’s a guy who goes around saying truly unhinged, anti-American things, like claiming that my “entire political focus since 9/11 has been in getting our terrorist enemies off the hook,” and when I calmly call him on a couple of his many lies and inaccuracies, he cries and screams and writes Very Angry E-Mails.  And that’s one reason why reasonably intelligent conservatives—and conservatives with some measure of cojones and self-respect—think of David Horowitz as 700 Club material.  That’s kinda pathetic, too, when you remember that Horowitz actually wants to be thought of as an “intellectual.”

Well, the rest of the week should be action-packed.  Tomorrow afternoon at 5 pm, I’ll be a guest on Radio Free Penn State, Lion Radio, WKPS 90.7 FM, and they’ll have Horowitz by phone.  Sam Richards, Penn State’s other Dangerous Professor, will join us at 5:30.  What about the main event on Thursday, you ask?  Well, back on March 31, I’d read in the Centre Daily Times that one of the leaders of the College Republicans “said she is planning to invite Berube and Richards to appear with Horowitz,” but last Friday all I got was a personal invitation to attend Horowitz’s talk.  I guess that counts as “appearing” with him, in the sense that people who sing along with “Positively Fourth Street” on the radio can say that they once sang with Bob Dylan.  Ah, well, life goes on.  I might still go . . . though I have to say that the hockey lineup for the night of April 13 is pretty tempting.  There are thirteen (!) games that night, including Flyers-Devils, Avalanche-Flames, and the critical Canucks-Sharks matchup.  So we will see.  Tomorrow night, April 11, a real intellectual comes to town: Salman Rushdie.  Janet and I got an invitation to that one, too.  Now, that’s a serious invitation.

There might be some anti-Horowitz activity this week, though so far as I know, it’s nothing more than a brief press conference.  I’ve advised the local left against doing any anti-Horowitz demonstrations, under the heading, “Horowitz’s Hands, Playing Right Into.” After all, we’re dealing with a guy who declares jihads against individual professors for handing out snarky T-shirts before his lecture and laughing at some of his remarks.  I think we here at Penn State should be careful to treat Horowitz very, very nicely so that he doesn’t get very, very angry.  For my part, I’m hoping to put together a special parade downtown, “A Celebration of Horowitz,” but I’m not sure I’ll be finished with my float—a 25-foot trailer depicting Horowitz’s service to the Black Panthers—by Thursday afternoon.  If anyone in central Pennsylvania can stop by and give me a hand with the Huey Newton I’m sculpting out of carnations, I’d really appreciate it.

Oh, speaking of Horowitz and black folk.  The publicity for his Thursday afternoon book signing at the Penn State bookstore lists him as “a nationally known author and lifelong civil rights activist.” Yes, I know it’s boilerplate.  Michael Jackson insisted that he be referred to as “the King of Pop,” Kim Jong Il goes by “Beloved Leader,” and David Horowitz demands that he be hailed as “a lifelong civil rights activist.” But since David has just seen fit to publish on FrontPage.com this inconceivably vile attack on the woman who was allegedly raped by members of Duke’s lacrosse team (the essay refers to her as “a divorced, 27-year-old ‘mother’ of two”—love those scare quotes!—and argues that “the story, as reported in the papers, indicates either profound social retardation on the part of the black ‘dancer,’ or else irrationality on the part of racist-oriented reporters”), you have to wonder whether this is a good time for poor old David to be touting his civil rights record.

UPDATE:  I just got word that Horowitz cannot manage to be available from 5 to 5:30 tomorrow, and that he will only debate Sam Richards.  You know, I do believe there’s a song about this kind of thing.  One, two, a one two three four. . . .

Posted by Michael on 04/10 at 01:12 PM
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