David Horowitz Is Wrong

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A response by David Horowitz to David B. Mazel of North Adams State College in Colorado, who has investigated “conservative academic intolerance,” may raise even more questions than Mazel’s research.

Bothered by Horowitz’s recent demonstration that major universities are so politically correct that they would not put into student newspapers a paid advertisement for an open discussion of reparations for blacks, Mazel created his own litmus test for tolerance on the other side. He offered to pay 11 traditionalist educational institutions, including Bob Jones University, Liberty University, and VMI, for running in their papers an endorsement of abortion containing the sentence “God is an abortionist.”

Of the schools Mazel approached, only Hillsdale College would run his ad. From this he inferred that rightwing schools are at least as prejudiced as those nationally known institutions that turned down Horowitz’s call for a debate on black reparations.

When asked about this finding and Mazel’s inference, Horowitz stated this opinion: “He’s confirmed what I’ve been saying. He has shown that the Columbia Spectator and Harvard Crimson are as narrow-minded, partisan, and authoritarian as the paper of Bob Jones University.”

In point of fact Mazel has shown nothing of the kind, and the fact that Horowitz believes that he has may tell as much about Horowitz as it does about his would-be refuter. Is a Christian school that refuses to publish unmistakable blasphemy doing the same thing as a university that claims to support critical inquiry but refuses to debate social policy?

Unlike the Ivy League institutions and state universities Horowitz approached, some private colleges have explicit religious missions, which is the aspect of their identity that Mazel was challenging. More accurately, Mazel went out of his way to outrage religious sensibilities. His action might be easily compared to sending a black college an ad for a Klan rally and then grumbling when the black administration won’t publish it.

If state universities regard reparations to blacks as superseding their function as places of inquiry, taxpayers and alumni should be openly informed about this major change in their mission and not be subject to further mendacity.

There are other significant differences between the situations being discussed. Mazel’s statement about the Deity is transparently malicious babble. It seems designed to offend not only Fundamentalists or, more broadly, theists but anyone who believes in rational and dispassionate discourse.

Whereas Horowitz made documented and defensible arguments against reparations, Mazel is making efforts to spit in someone’s face, preferably in that of a believing Christian. But, even more importantly, the bigotry Horowitz has exposed is state-enforced. It is the Justice Department and various state agencies operating under federal instructions that impose the victimological thought-control Horowitz has shown to exist at elite universities.

As far as I know, the American political class does not impose the theological specificities of Bob Jones or Liberty University. There is no reason to assume that it would be a good thing if the federal bureaucracy did, but the fact is that it does not. What the government is pushing is the creation of a multicultural society that practices openness partly by assaulting and marginalizing what most Westerners used to believe was right and proper.

Horowitz cannot or will not see this for two reasons. One, like other neoconservatives, he persists in drawing an exaggerated distinction between what the state does and what the culture produces. By now these activities are becoming indistinguishable, given the enormous and continuing inroads that government administration has made into social and commercial relations.

Once an institution is subject to making provisions against discrimination or a “hostile” environment, all the rest of the cultural baggage must come in time, including the morbid fear of appearing “insensitive.” While there may be at the same time a cultural disposition among academics that favors the attitudes Horowitz deplores, without the state breathing down our backs these behavioral tics would not have quite the same consequences.

What would German anti-Semitism have amounted to without the Nazi state to whip it up and put into grim totalitarian practice? (Lest there be any confusion here, note that I am indeed comparing the contemporary therapeutic managerial regime to its ugly Teutonic cousin. Both have opposed intellectual freedom and social spaces with a moral vengeance.)

Two, Horowitz cannot get over disliking Christianity and believes that he is delivering the ultimate insult to leftwing totalitarians by comparing them to Fundamentalist Christians. In his attempted defense of Paul Weyrich (published on his website) for making allegedly anti-Semitic statements in an Easter message to his friends, Horowitz lands up conceding most of the argument of Weyrich’s Jewish liberal critics.

Weyrich’s citation of the Gospel of John, probably written by a Jew, about Jews who crucified Christ, is alleged to be the heart and soul of Western anti-Semitism. This problem, for Horowitz, is particularly grave, inasmuch as he dwells on the raging Christian anti-Semitism he discerns in the U.S.

Perhaps Horowitz has sources of information that are not available to me. In the country in which I live, Christians, including Fundamentalists, run after Jews apologizing for crimes they never committed, like the Holocaust and the Spanish Inquisition. Having just finished doing extensive research on American Protestant cultural and social attitudes, I can assure Horowitz that the problem he faces is different from the one he imagines.

It is an American Christian politics of guilt and not a return to Tsarist discrimination that is tearing apart our society. It is also an undemonstrated premise that the account of the crucifixion found in the Gospels leads automatically to anti-Semitism.

One can as easily trace back the phenomenon to the Jewish Scriptures, which are full of unkind acts that Jews committed against each other, e.g., the sale of Joseph by his brothers, the stoning of Jeremiah (whose castigations sound very much like those of Jesus), and the various horrors committed by the rulers of the Northern Kingdom. The opposition to Jesus by some Jews but not by others fits into the context of Jews fighting other Jews, which is a recurrent biblical theme.

And there are also clearly philosemitic statements in the New Testament, such as Paul’s reference to the Jews as God’s first and dearly beloved and passages in the Acts that show Jewish Christians snubbing gentiles whom they treat as second-class Christians.

In his whining about the anti-Semitism lurking in American Christian hearts, Horowitz ignores very plain facts. Those Christian denominations that pore over the New Testament the most heavily have been, by and large, the least anti-Semitic. The Bible-reading Quakers and Mennonites have no history of anti-Semitism, unlike the Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox who do have such a history but study the Gospel of John and the rest of the New Testament far less.

Moreover, as suggested above, anti-Semites have found grist for their mills in both Testaments: thus Nazis dwelled with force on the genocide committed by Jews when they occupied the land of Canaan, while the Emperor Hadrian, according to a Rabbinic commentary recited on the Day of Atonement, put down a Jewish uprising with special brutality as a punishment for the kidnapping of Joseph by his brothers.

Furthermore, anti-Jewish sentiments prevailed among the Romans before they turned from killing to becoming Christians. Cicero, Pliny, Seneca, and Juvenal wrote disparagingly about Jews whom as proud, xenophobic pagans they despised. Even more significantly, in the first century BC, Alexandrian Greeks massacred their Greek-speaking Jewish fellow-Alexandrians, without the incitement of the passage cited by Weyrich.

Finally the discrimination Horowitz might cite as the fate of an earlier generation of Eastern European Jewish immigrants affected Christian immigrants as well, from Scandanavian and German Lutherans to almost all working-class Catholics.

As far as I know, these victims of discrimination were not excluded from jobs, country clubs, or elite universities because of the charge of deicide. They were simply viewed as vulgar, foreign, or, in the case of Catholics, agents of Papal influence.

Horowitz would do well to chill and start noticing real differences, between totalitarian maniacs supported by the modern state and the relatively innocuous Southern Fundamentalist “authoritarians.” The two are not the same; nor are the Bible-quoting Fundamentalists the advance guard of Tsarist Orthodox oppression.

May 8, 2001

Paul Gottfried [send him mail] is professor of history at Elizabethtown College and author, most recently, of the highly recommended After Liberalism.

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