Monday, April 11, 2005
Why Horowitz Hates Professors
Over the weekend, a couple of friends wrote to ask what had happened to me. “Michael,” said one, “do you realize you’re featured on David Horowitz’s FrontPage website yet again – this time in a ‘debate’ with Horowitz on the topic, ‘Is the Left in Bed With Terrorists’? What made you debate the guy in the first place, and why did you let him set these bizarre when-did-you-stop-beating-your-wife terms?
“And more important, why did you tank so badly in the final round?”
Another friend suggested that Horowitz had made me “testy” so that I came off like a punch-drunk fighter who’d had enough; yet another pointed out, in bewilderment, that Horowitz had gotten 3300 words in the debate and I’d gotten a mere 860. “What’s up, Michael?” he asked. “You’re not normally so . . . taciturn. Have you finally gotten tired of dealing with D. Ho. at last?”
D. Ho.! Dang, I wish I’d thought of that one. But what was this nonsense about “860 words”? That didn’t sound right. I took part in an email exchange with one of David’s personal assistants, Jamie Glazov, over the past couple of weeks, with the understanding that it would be published in FrontPage. Like my earlier exchange with FrontPage in 2003, this one was long and full of back-and-forths, and my part of it certainly went well over 860 words.
But when I went to the FrontPage site to check out the “debate,” I found that almost all my replies to David had been cut from the “conversation,” and that Glazov and Horowitz, after chopping all the stuff I’d written, slapped me upside the head for not replying to them:
FP: Prof. Berube, it was clear to you that, in this second round, you just had your final turn. We had ascertained that this would be your final opportunity to discuss each of the points that Mr. Horowitz would raise, and that Mr. Horowitz would then have a final reply. And yet, this is all you have to contibute [sic] to what was supposed to be an intellectual dialogue.
Mr. Horowitz, what is your take here on Prof. Berube’s contribution to our second and last round?
DH: 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.
Well, holy infant Jesus with a rattlesnake, folks – what a shabby little stunt. First they refuse to publish my responses, and then they chastise me for not responding to them? What is going on over there at FrontPage – are they smoking crack, or are they just giving up altogether? Did they think maybe I wouldn’t notice that fifteen paragraphs of mine had somehow disappeared from the text of the “debate”? And did they forget that I have my own website, where I can call them out on this stuff for the benefit of the savviest readers on the Internet? Or maybe they were hoping I wouldn’t keep my own copy of the exchange? I did, of course, and I’ll reproduce it below – so you all can see just how bad things have gotten with Horowitz & Co.
Now, of course, I know what you’re thinking – Michael, didn’t you see this coming? why did you expect that Horowitz and his minions would reproduce your every word? And the answer, straight from the man who brings you Mister Answer Man, is this: I had every reason to expect that they’d print my replies in full, because last time around, two years ago, that’s exactly what they did. They sent me emails, and I sent back interlineated replies. They didn’t edit that debate one little bit, and that one ran a great deal longer than this one – over 9000 words, in fact. (After all, it’s not like they have space limitations!) But this time, they simply decided to cheat, editing out almost everything I wrote back to them in the “second round,” and then, incredibly, declaring victory because I didn’t reply to them. Well, golly gee willakers, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen weaker or more incompetent “debaters” in my life.
The question isn’t why I trusted them to behave like honest people. (I’ve been suckerpunched before, but never by suckers so shameless as this.) The real question is why they had the intellectual confidence to run the full text of my replies the first time around, whereas now they’re reduced to these adolescent shenanigans. Is it because, in five consecutive clumpy posts on this humble blog, I have taken Horowitz apart step by step over the past two months, leaving him looking worse than foolish? Is this last “debate,” in fact, an abject admission that Horowitz does not have the intellectual wherewithal to conduct a real argument with me?
Ehhh, as Bugs Bunny would say, could be! But whatever the reason, we now know this: Horowitz isn’t just a far-right ideologue. He’s also a sorry old fraud. Here, for the benefit of you who will delight in learning just how sorry poor old David has gotten, is the record of everything FrontPage cut from our “debate” before accusing me of intellectual laziness. (My original reply was sent, according to my sleek, stylish Eudora 6.2, on 11:14 AM on April 3. Everything that follows is from that email to Jamie Glazov. Practically everything David wrote, in this email, was published in the final “exchange”—as well as his later emendations and elaborations, which I never saw. But my contributions were, ah, “disappeared.")
DH: How does the database “blur the distinctions between the mainstream left and the far far left” or “between the far left and liberals such as Barack Obama?” The database clearly identifies five categories of leftists: “Totalitarian Radicals,” “Anti-American Radicals,” “Leftists,” “Moderate Leftists” and “Affective Leftists.” How are the distinctions blurred if they are made? I notice that Michael doesn’t single out one statement that we have made about Barack Obama in our profile of him that is either false, inappropriate or misleading. In other words, we have actually made the distinctions he claims we haven’t.
MB: The database makes “distinctions,” yes. But it insists nonetheless that everyone listed in it is part of a “network.” Now, imagine that I compile a “network” that links Olympia Snowe to Timothy McVeigh, or Bruce Willis to Augusto Pinochet. Wouldn’t sane people see something wrong with that?
DH: What Michael and I seem to actually disagree about is whether Barack Obama is a “liberal” or a “leftist.” My question to him would be how can anyone who supports racial preferences and income redistribution be regarded as a “liberal.” But whatever conclusion one draws – whether Obama is a leftist, a moderate leftist or a liberal—surely no reasonable person can maintain that we have blurred distinctions when we have actually codified them.
MB: Here, David is straightforward about what’s at stake: he wants to move the rhetorical goalposts so far right that anyone who supports affirmative action and progressive taxation is labeled a “leftist.” All well and good: that’s David’s job, and I respect him for doing it so diligently. My job, then, is to push right back on those goalposts, and to insist that David’s “Network” is the work of a far-right ideologue. More than this, it’s the work of a far-right ideologue who desperately needs to disavow the intimate ideological connections between the Islamist far right and the American far right.
DH: Michael’s comment about Barbra Streisand and Zarqawi is unintelligible. To say that two people share some views – in this case opposition to American policy in Iraq – is not the same as saying that any critic of policy is an ally of Zarqawi.
MB: No, it is David’s comment about Barbra Streisand and Zarqawi that is unintelligible. (The comment was this: “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.”) David’s remark clearly implies that if one opposes the war in Iraq, one necessarily endorses “some views” espoused by people who have no conceivable contact with any progressive/left American project whatsoever—like Zarqawi. On the contrary, part of our criticism of the war in Iraq is that the Bush Administration bungled an opportunity to launch a strike against Zarqawi because it was so obsessed with Saddam Hussein.
DH: As I have explained before (Why We Are In Iraq) not all criticism is the same. Calling Bush Hitler is one kind of criticism, calling him mistaken is quite another.
MB: Calling Bush Hitler is foolish.
DH: And there are many gradations in between. My comment was made to answer the specific question: why are these two people, Zarqawi and Streisand, in the same database? It is a question the left really has to answer rather than me. How can people who claim to be for women’s rights, gay rights, equality and freedom have taken sides in the war with the terrorists in Iraq and come down on the anti-American end? I have answered this question in a book, Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left, that not a single leftist has commented on.
MB: OK, then, consider this a comment. I’ve read that book, and I endorse women’s rights, gay rights, and egalitarian social justice in the following terms: I believe that all humans born have equal entitlement to shelter, sustenance, health care, education, political participation and representation, reciprocal recognition, and respect. So-called “leftists” who make exceptions to this principle when it comes to Cuba and Cambodia are not my allies. But right-wing ideologues who invoke this principle only in order to take cheap potshots at leftists are not even serious interlocutors. David, let me know when you’re willing to endorse my conception of the left. In the meantime, I think the right has to explain why it’s apologized for terror (in Oklahoma City) and torture (in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib) and virulent racism (in South Africa).
DH: I have argued that the left today is largely defined by its oppositions, first to the United States and then to Israel. I have even posted a lengthy analysis of the left’s history from 1945 to the present that was written by an academic leftist for the socialist magazine Dissent that comes to exactly the same conclusions. I would welcome in these pages a leftist response to these conclusions. So far I have not seen any.
The reason why the left’s behavior after 9/11 suggests that a watershed has been passed in the development of the left itself can be understood by referring to the left’s anti-war effort over America’s intervention in Vietnam some forty years ago.
In the Vietnam War the United States was supporting a dictatorship in South Vietnam on the grounds that the dictatorship was anti-Communist. “New Leftists” who believed by and large that Communism was a flawed attempt to create societies governed by the principles of equality and justice had an argument (whether one considers it plausible or not) for opposing the United States defense of the South Vietnamese regime. Perhaps (so they reasoned) a victory for the guerrilla forces of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam would mean the emergence of a society that honored the principles of equality and justice. This an was incentive to see that America was defeated. And this indeed is the delusional vision that motivated people like Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda other anti-war activists.
MB: Millions of Americans opposed that war not because they desired an NLF victory, but because they feared—in terms that the late George Kennan would surely understand—that the US war in Vietnam would lead us to become more, rather than less, like our enemies who were fighting proxy wars around the globe. And millions of Americans opposed that war on the pragmatic ground that it was not, in fact, critical to the outcome of the Cold War. As I’ve said to you before, David, in one respect the antiwar left has been pretty clearly vindicated on the subject of Vietnam: that war was not, after all, crucial for U.S. national security or to the fate of the free world. We could have walked away in 1954 or 1964 instead of 1975, and the Berlin Wall would still have come down in 1989, the Soviet Union would still have collapsed in 1991. And there would be 58,000 more Americans – and roughly a million more Vietnamese – around to watch it happen.
It is true that some New Leftists, in the “network” you once inhabited, were NLF supporters. Had I been 10 or 20 years older at the time, I would have criticized them.
DH: But in Iraq, America set out to overthrow a dictatorship not defend one. What could saving Saddam Hussein – which was the practical goal of the anti-war left – mean but more corpses shoveled into mass graves, more human beings stuffed into plastic shredders and more terror generally for the Iraqi people. In Iraq the United States overthrew a monster regime, and liberated women and Iraq’s minorities—and the left did everything in its power to prevent this.
MB: I am glad that Saddam has been captured. I wish that it could have happened in a way that did not so dramatically compromise the United States’ standing in world affairs—and this is not a trivial matter, because the US’ standing in world affairs will set the conditions for our ability to act effectively against al-Qaeda in the future. But has this war really liberated women in Iraq? David, you’d be wise to be more circumspect about this; you might wind up being disappointed by your new Shi’ite friends. And you might do well to read more deeply in the history of Iraq since 1920.
In the meantime, I salute all the American leftists who opposed Saddam throughout the 1980s, when Reagan and Rumsfeld were making their marriages of convenience in the face of the Iranian Revolution.
DH: Some leftists actively support what they call the Iraqi “resistance,” led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Others like Barbra Streisand and Michael Berube don’t like Zarqawi or Saddam but they seem to fear George Bush even more. More importantly they have put their political bodies on the line first to obstruct America’s war of liberation and save Saddam’s oppressive regime, and then to denigrate and undermine America’s post-war effort to consolidate its victory, an effort which if successful would allow Zarqawi to emerge as the ruling power in Iraq.
MB: This is beyond nonsense. As a supporter of the US-led overthrow of the Taliban and as a liberal-progressive opponent of al-Qaeda, I opposed the war in Iraq because I believed that it would not advance our goals of marginalizing and defeating Islamist extremism. And I argued that it was foolish for Bush to ignore Zarqawi in his drive to invade Iraq.
I believe that American military and intelligence resources should have been deployed to capture bin Laden and Zarqawi. David offers apologies for the policies that have left both of them free men—and then he impugns my patriotism. You’ll forgive me if I find this hard to believe.
DH: So it’s not really I and the DiscoverTheNetwork team who have to defend our decision to include Zarqawi and Streisand in the broad networks that link disparate elements of the left. Rather it’s leftists like Michael Berube who have to explain to us why they are engaging in a political course of action which if successful would strength the global Islamic jihad and its misogynist, homophobic and reactionary agendas.
MB: No, I’ve made it quite clear, time and time again, that I oppose violent, ultrareligious patriarchy at home and abroad. Let me know when you’re willing to disavow misogynist, homophobic and reactionary forces in the US.
[Then there’s a brief exchange in which I mention David’s Salon essay in defense of Pinochet; FrontPage kept that part of the debate intact. And then they ran David’s reply in full – it runs another six paragraphs after the one below – while cutting my three-paragraph response.]
DH: Well of course I specifically did not defend Pinochet in the article he refers to; in fact I specifically criticized Pinochet. What I did that upset Michael was to point out that Pinochet left his country prosperous and democratic (he voluntarily submitted to a referendum which he lost) and contrast this to the fact that Castro is the longest surviving dictator in the world and has made his country dramatically poorer than it was when he took power. For this Michael called me a Nazi (to be precise he said he couldn’t wait for my next article defending the Third Reich). Now that’s what I call blurring distinctions Michael, and I have to say it is pretty much a staple of the arguments of the left.
MB: OK, it’s time to draw some distinctions—at last! I did not call David a Nazi—though I’ve now heard from two sources that he’s made this claim on his tours through our nation’s college campuses. But I certainly did argue that all of David’s arguments in favor of Pinochet (whom, in all fairness, he did “criticize,” in the course of arguing that Pinochet had been good for Chile) could be made a fortiori for Hitler, who certainly improved the German economy and—unlike Pinochet—was actually elected to office.
But what David refuses to acknowledge here is that I have criticized Castro again and again—not only in the 1990s, but much more recently, when, at the outset of Gulf War II, Fidel imprisoned 80 dissenters and executed three people who’d tried to hijack a ferry to the US. The contrast really couldn’t be clearer: I criticize dictators on my left, and David offers half-hearted “criticisms” of a right-wing torturer who “left his country prosperous and democratic.”
I have no problem with the disavowal of extremists to my left; I encourage David to disavow extremists on the right. Break the links between your network and Pinochet’s—and the links between your network and Gary Bauer’s or Randall Terry’s. Anytime in the next few months would be fine.
– And that’s all, folks. A pretty substantial set of edits, if you ask me. Instead, all you’ll find at FrontPage is my summary remark,
The American right needs to dissociate itself from:
– the torture and murder of random Iraqis and Afghans
– its support of South African apartheid
– its support of violent, ultrareligious homophobic patriarchs in the US
– its support of violent, ultrareligious homophobic patriarchs abroad.
Until it does, I’m going to persist in thinking that its recent endorsements of “freedom” are hollow and meaningless.
Followed by Glazov’s line, “And yet, this is all you have to contibute [sic] to what was supposed to be an intellectual dialogue” and David Horowitz’s more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger remark about how he’s disappointed but not surprised by my failure to show up.
So what do you think, dear readers? Do you think David is going to disavow any of his friends in the far-right network anytime soon? I don’t, and here’s why: though he never tires of asking me to dissociate myself from leftists with whom I have no connection in the first place, David doesn’t disavow people on the far right. On the contrary, he hires them (remember, he gave Ann Coulter a job after she was fired from the National Review back in the fall of 2001 – yes, he’s even lower on the food chain than Jonah Goldberg) and, even more important, he answers to them. Remember, the day he says one bad word about the religious right in this country, or the day he demurs in the slightest about our very own domestic right-wing terrorists and their enablers, that’s the day his sugar daddies at the Bradley and Scaife foundations cut him off and toss him out of his “center.” That’s why he wouldn’t answer my challenges; indeed, that’s why he wouldn’t do so much as print them.
I think we’re finally getting to the real reason David hates professors so much. It has nothing to do with our salaries or our working hours: he hates our freedom. Horowitz knows perfectly well that I can criticize the Cockburns and Churchills to my left and the Beinarts and Elshtains to my right any old time I choose, and that at the end of the day I’ll still have a job – whereas he has to answer to all his many masters, fetching and rolling over whenever they blow that special wingnut whistle that only far-right lackeys can hear. It’s not a very dignified way to live, and surely it takes its toll on a person’s sense of self-respect.
With respect to the issue of self-respect, here’s the giveaway: think about how often Horowitz complains that the intellectual left doesn’t take him seriously, doesn’t read his books, and so on. What’s weird about this, you’ll probably have noticed by now, is that American left intellectuals are just about the only thinkers who pay any attention to Horowitz at all. Most of the country’s serious intellectual conservatives consider him either a useful rabble-rouser or a rank embarrassment, more akin to Michael Savage than to Michael Oakeshott. And with good reason.
So let that be my final word on David Horowitz. From now on, those of you who want to refer to him on this blog should simply use the terms “far-right lackey” or “sorry old fraud.” We’ll know who you mean.
UPDATE: In other news, Billmon has it right: hitting people with pies is really stupid. And he’s right about everything else, too.
UPDATED UPDATE: In comments, Alex has a very interesting piece of news:
I sent an email to frontpage and actually got a prompt reply! Here it is, verbatim from Jamie Glazov:
“there has been a mix-up and this will all be corrected very shortly. No worries, you will see Michael’s full answer and David’s response.”
So there you have it . . . that’s quite some mix-up though, to accidentally remove key paragraphs from your opponent’s responses. Damn computers.
And as I replied to Alex in comments, that’s quite some mix-up to lose all those paragraphs from my e-mail—and then predicate the entire exchange, as FrontPage did, on the claim that “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.”
If this is a mix-up, and an honest one, then of course I will withdraw the charge of fraud, and I certainly expect them to withdraw the charge of intellectual laziness. I have to say, though, that I don’t get it. Perhaps the fact that I interlineated my response to David threw them off? But that doesn’t make any sense, for four reasons: one, I’ve interlineated responses to their questions before. I do believe it is standard practice in long e-mail communications that attempt to simulate “dialogue,” after all. Two, they sent me a 3200-word e-mail and I returned to them a 4300-word email. In other words, I added about 1100 words to the exchange, and the return e-mail was quite obviously substantially longer as a result. I’ve gone over the text many times (oy), and I don’t see how someone could think that I’d replied with only a single, snippy, off-topic paragraph. Three, I had no other feasible way to respond to the scope and breadth of David’s remarks except by interlineating. Replying at the very end of all his remarks would have made hash of the exchange (and, in fact, I thought I was doing Mr. Glazov a favor by lining up the various arguments point by point and replying to each one). Four, a full eight days had elapsed between March 25, when Glazov sent me David’s remarks, and April 3, when I sent my reply. During that time, Glazov sent me two prompts (gracious ones), and I assured him I was working on the reply but would need a few days. It doesn’t make sense that I would wait a week in the course of this exchange and then reply to David’s many charges with a single paragraph.
At the same time, it doesn’t make sense that they would pull a stunt that would allow me such a slam-dunk response, either. As I said above, they printed everything written by all parties in the 2003 forum, and whatever else one can say about FrontPage (and there is plenty!), they do not have a history of legerdemain on this order.