Academia and the Left · 16 April 2006

Filed under: Press Coverage

By George

David Horowitz is not the first conservative to speak truth to the liberal establishment, but he has distinguished himself both in style and method. A review of his recent book, The Professors.

The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America
by David Horowitz
Regnery Publishing, Inc. (2006)
Hdbk., 450 pgs
ISBN: 0895260034

For many years now, David Horowitz has been doing his part to balance the leftward tilt of the American academy. Recently he appeared before an audience at Duke University and issued a scathing rebuke of what he has called the politicization of our college campuses.

It was quite a performance. I am not sure I have ever seen a speaker contrive with such fierce determination to alienate as many people as he could by speaking politically incorrect truths. It was as if the Christian in the coliseum had turned to lecture the mob and the lion on the sins of carnivores.

Of course, he is not the first conservative to speak truth to the liberal establishment. A half century ago William F. Buckley, Jr. decried atheistic socialism on the Yale campus. The cantankerous Willmoore Kendall likewise took great pleasure in annoying his colleagues at Yale with his unfashionable conservatism. In more recent years, Allan Bloom created a stir with The Closing of the American Mind, which argued against those who would deprive students of a classical education. Bonfire of the Humanities (Hanson, et. al.) and The Revolt of the Elites (Christopher Lasch) are other notable efforts at dissecting some of the failures of the American educational system.

Horowitz joined this struggle more than twenty years ago when he and Peter Collier started the magazine, Heterodoxy, which documented the absurdities that pass as scholarship at many American universities. In taking on this challenge, the two authors demonstrated their grasp of a point made by the respected historian John Diggins and others: the left, having lost the political battle in the 1960s and 1970s, has turned its attention to the classroom where it has pursued its agenda with a vengeance.

Yet Horowitz has distinguished himself from even these notable efforts both in style and method. The style is combative to the point of being indigestible. Horowitz is not interested in using wit or charm to lure the audience in his direction the way Buckley in his prime might have. He brings to his audience examples of academic abuse that inevitably produce one of two reactions: outrage or disbelief.

For Horowitz, this is a war and he is taking no prisoners, rhetorically speaking. He is determined to mobilize alumni and students to counter pervasive leftist thinking that dominates significant areas of the university curriculum, particularly the humanities. If this requires removing incompetent or irresponsible academics, so be it, though this is not his intent except in the most extreme circumstances.

Horowitiz's latest book, The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America, is another salvo in this ongoing national debate and it is recommended to those who don't appreciate what the furor is all about. Let us turn to the introduction of The Professors, for here Horowitz makes all the right distinctions.

This book is not intended as a text about left-wing bias in the university and does not propose that this bias is necessarily a problem. Every individual, whether conservative or liberal, has a perspective and therefore a bias. Professors have every right to interpret the subjects they teach according to their individual points of view. This is the essence of academic freedom. But they also have a professional obligation as teachers, whose purpose is the instruction and education of students, not to impose their biases on students as if they were scientific fact. The professional task is to teach students how to think, not to tell them what to think.

This critical passage refutes claims on the left that Horowitz is creating his own hit list for the purpose of excluding dissenting radical voices. Moreover, the greatest dissenting voices on college campuses these days are not those of the radical left, which point he makes in the introduction. Horowitz, like Bloom before him, has become "radical" simply by asking that the traditional purpose of a university be preserved. A respectful exchange of ideas, theories and points of view is one thing, but the use of the classroom by paid educators as a platform from which to launch narrow political agendas is another.

Horowitz likewise makes a convincing argument that conservatives have been driven from the campus to such a degree that a true exchange of ideas is nearly impossible. Students are forced into narrow ideological boxes and they risk ostracism and even academic standing when they dare to resist politically correct dogmas.

I have intentionally avoided delving at length into the specific list of academics included in the book. They are examples of a much broader trend, but as Horowitz has suggested, the list of 101 could have easily been 1001. Moreover, it is my own view - and one Horowitz shares - that some of the academics represented here are deservedly renowned in their fields, while campus cult figures like Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn are truly troublesome as they peddle lies and half truths to naïve students or audiences already hostile to the American mainstream.

Let us look at a few others. Consider Ihsan Bagby at the University of Kentucky, who has suggested: "Ultimately, we [Muslims] can never be full citizens of this country [the U.S.] because there is no way we can be fully committed to the institutions of this country."

This begs the question why the professor is here in the first place if he is not prepared to exercise his rights or obligations as a citizen.

Or we have Professor Richard Falk at Princeton University: "Given an Attorney General like John Ashcroft, the domestic face of the American global design is revealed as a kind of proto-fascist mentality that is prepared to use extreme methods to reach its goals. Without being paranoid, this is the sort of mentality that is capable of fabricating a Reich-stag fire as a pretext, so as to achieve more and more control by the state over supposed islands of resistance."

The allusions to Nazism are fully consistent with the left's belief that President Bush is another Hitler.

And of course we have Professor Nicholas De Genova at Columbia University, who during an anti-Iraq war teach-in called for "a million Mogadishus," a reference to the killing of 18 Marines in Somalia during which time the United States was trying to assist a nation on the brink of starvation. De Genova is also quoted as saying: "U.S. patriotism is inseparable from imperial warfare and white supremacy."

As Horowitz observes, ideologues can rant on radio and in Congress, they can host television shows, or edit journals of opinion. They can even teach on college campuses provided they regulate themselves as mature professionals. The problem, of course, is that many of them find the responsible practice of their profession a difficult weight to bear, which point Horowitz underscores. This is the central theme of the book.

Among the 101 we find former terrorists, cranks, and criminals who lack even the most basic academic credentials. They have found positions only because they hold leftist views with which the majority of the faculty on campus either agree or fear to resist. We also find racists, anti-Semites and nationalist separatists. We have professors who - apparently - believe that Hawaii and California should be liberated from American occupation. Will they then ask that all of Central and South America be likewise liberated? The realities of global migration and history are inconsequential to ideologues who prefer spouting nonsense to thinking through the implications of their comments.

Alarming as some of this is, the problems in academia run even deeper than Horowitz documents here. I would mention at least three trends that are negatively impacting college students in this nation.

- We have the fashionable new left pushing unapologetically a political agenda that is hostile in many ways to the mainstream values and institutions of this country. That is particularly problematic, as Horowitz observes, because they have no sense of place or evenhandedness. In the name of being politically correct and sensitive, they have driven discourse to the edges of rational debate.

- Related, but somewhat distinct, is the fashionable post-modern critique of the humanities. This is a larger issue that extends beyond the political fanaticism Horowitz seeks to isolate and expose. Theory has become master of all, but much of the theory is half-baked Marxism or worse. The great traditions of Western thought and literature are being crucified on the cross of political correctness and esoteric theorizing that threatens to divorce students from the rich well that is Western culture. I have no problem with teaching students other great intellectual or philosophical traditions, but the first stop along their intellectual journey should include a sustained encounter with their own culture's political, literary, religious and intellectual history.

- And finally there is the fragmentation of human experience and culture that invades not only the campus but a popular culture consumed most aggressively by younger Americans. The message pounded into children and young adults is that normal communication and experiences are no longer viable or valuable. The violence, alienation and attitudes evident in contemporary music, television and movies is - I would argue - a direct result of nihilistic and post-modern theorizing in which human beings are no longer seen as precious souls living out their own drama, but rather as replaceable political units in class, gender and racial struggles. Students are being brainwashed, but not by Shakespeare or the Greek philosophers or even Mark Twain. The culprits are ideologues and Hollywood elites who have quit caring about enlightening them because they are too busy trying to manipulate them for their own narrow purposes.

All of this has created in the West a great deal of self-loathing and self doubt. No student of history can deny that the West has its sins, crimes and atrocities, all of which should be understood and explored within the total context of human history. But if Hitler is the West, so too is the allied effort to derail his mad vision. If slavery is part of the West's legacy, so too is the liberation of much of the world from slavery. As Robert Penn Warren once wrote - yes, Western culture has failed in many respects, but it has failed according to the very standards it has woven into the world's political and cultural fabric.

So how to respond? First, we should insist that students read great works and study them in an environment in which the full range of human experience and emotion can express itself. Just as important, and here Horowitz is right on target, standards need to be established concerning the professional conduct of academics. Professors should be held accountable when they abuse their position at the expense of providing a decent education to students who, if nothing else, pay a significant portion of their salaries.

We have come a long way from God and Man at Yale. Or have we? Buckley sparked a furor fifty years ago when he argued that a private university had an obligation to give its students thorough exposure to the great ideas that shaped the civilization in which they learned and thrived. Today, one suspects that Horowitz would be satisfied if students could simply enter the classroom without being bombarded by anti-American propaganda of the sort so comprehensively documented in his book.

These two critiques - a half century apart - share this common thread: neither man has been content to simply standby as our educational system is driven into the arms of those who despise the traditions on which our nation was founded. Horowitz is as controversial today as Buckley was fifty years ago, which only goes to show just how relentless have been the enemies of freedom.

The Professors is available on

George Shadroui has been published in more than two dozen newspapers and magazines, including National Review and Email comments to