The Professors · 13 February 2006

Filed under: Press Coverage

By Scott Jaschik--FrontPageMag.com--02/14/06

The following is a Q&A on David Horowitz's new book, The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America, which was published yesterday and has already created a mini-culture war on the web. The questions were submitted by the editor of InsideHigherEd.com, Scott Jaschik, in preparation for an article which also appeared yesterday on InsideHigherEd.com under the title "David Horowitz Has a List" and with the explanatory heading: "New book names the '101 most dangerous academics in America.' Some included feel honored, and others see McCarthyism." One might ask: What "others"? Obviously these are the same group of people. Yet the very pairing shows how remote from anything connected to McCarthy this book is. Since the announcement of the book, Horowitz has been inundated with letters from academic radicals wanting to be included on the list. In the McCarthy era, no one did that. -- The Editors.

Q: What was your goal in writing the book? How do you see this differing from other work you've done on your websites, etc.?

Horowitz: I wanted to provide a picture of the problem that my academic freedom campaign is trying to address. This problem is the corruption of the academic culture through the efforts over thirty years of a large cohort of academic activists, whose political agendas take precedence over their academic commitments. Ward Churchill is the poster professor for this group, but the political corruption of the university encompasses many tenured radicals who are smarter and less extreme than Churchill. The issue here is not their radical point of view -- as I make clear in the introduction to my book -- it is their determination to introduce their politics into the curriculum.

In my text I refer to a 2002 conference at Columbia University called, "Taking Back The Academy: History of Activism, History As Activism," which included such academic notables as Eric Foner and Jacquelyn Hall (both of whom are profiled in my book). Their view that scholarship and activism are inextricably entwined is the polar opposite of Stanley Fish's view that ideology and scholarship are conflicting enterprises and that academics who are also activists should "save the world on your own time" and not on university time. This was of course the title of an article he wrote for the Chronicle of Higher Education when you were its editor. I'm with Fish on this one.

In other words the argument of my book is not about radicalism as such or leftwing professors as such but about what is appropriate to a university classroom. Yes, there are no conservative professors in the book, but that is because there are virtually no conservatives in the academy anymore, and the ones who are there are not radicals towards the academic environment (the radical caucuses in the professional associations explicitly set out to overthrow the idea of professional neutrality). In other words there are no conservative Ward Churchills or even Eric Foners in the academy.

Q: On his blog, Michael Berube says that you are largely recycling material -- is that fair?

Horowitz: Like many academic leftists, Berube would like to avoid dealing with my book or even reading it. This charge is one way of accomplishing that. His post on The Professors is based on a fundraising letter that my direct mail firm sent out to solicit contributions for the Center for the Study of Popular Culture. The comment about recycled material is taken from an Amazon reviewer who hadn't read the book. The reviewer on Amazon says readers can save their money by going to my website at www.discoverthenetworks.org. If a reader does that -- assuming he or she actually wanted to read my book -- they would be sorely disappointed. Yes they will find a profile of Noam Chomsky and there are a couple of other public intellectuals -- Juan Cole is one -- who can be found there as well. I have published portions of the book, which is standard procedure for authors. But 90 percent of the book is unavailable on DiscoverTheNetworks. More importantly, the profiles in this book are there to back up an analysis which is contained in the introduction and in two chapters at the end of the text. If academics like Berube want to refute my book's claims they need to read it first, and then address the argument. My suspicion is that we will wait a long time before this happens.

Q: Certain fields (Middle Eastern studies, peace studies, for example) are represented heavily while others (the sciences) aren't. What does this mean?

Horowitz: It means that my book is not about leftist control of the university as some Internet blogs are claiming. Here is a sentence from my book (which no one seems to have read yet): "Although such a judgment is beyond the scope of this inquiry, it is a reasonable assumption that the majority of university professors remain professionals and are devoted to traditional academic methods and pursuits." My book is about the corruption of certain parts of the academy (and you've named two of the worst examples).

My text is explicit about the fact that fields like the hard sciences are relatively free of the problems I am addressing, for the obvious reason that there is a reality check and the fall into pure ideology is difficult where such a check exists. Here is what my book says about the parts of the university that are most prone to the corruption I am describing: "Thus, the problems revealed in this text - the explicit introduction of political agendas into the classroom, the lack of professionalism in conduct, and the decline in professional standards - appear to be increasingly widespread throughout the academic profession and at virtually every type of institution of higher learning. These are even more pronounced and concentrated in fields and departments that have been created by faculty radicals with the specific intention of furthering their ideological agendas. These fields include Peace Studies, Middle East Studies, Women's Studies and African American Studies. They are also pronounced in some traditional disciplines such as Sociology, Anthropology and English Literature as well as in select History departments like the one at Columbia University."

Q: What do you hope legislators or trustees will do with the book?

Horowitz: Well I hope they will read it and get a good look at the magnitude of the problem in our institutions of higher learning. Then I hope they will encourage the creation of Offices of Intellectual Diversity and Professional Standards at every university and college in the country. Then I hope they will continue to pay attention to the institutions in which they have fiduciary roles to see that universities maintain the standards that were once championed by the American Association of University Professors itself but have been abandoned by that organization and have increasingly fallen into disregard and disuse.

Q: Some people are calling you (again) McCarthy-like for the book, saying that the idea of issuing a list is similar to what McCarthy did -- is that fair?

Horowitz: The only McCarthyism related to this book is to be found on progressive blogs that attack it before it is even available and attack it for its alleged political motives -- the associations of its author and his "tainted" political credentials. Add to that a rash of misrepresentations of what the book is about and you have the perfect McCarthyite mix.

The actual book is quite innocent of any of the sins of Joseph McCarthy. To begin with -- and here I quote from the introduction that no one has so far read: "This book is not intended as a text about leftwing bias in the university and does not propose that a leftwing perspective on academic faculties is a problem in itself. 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. That is the essence of academic freedom." Now imagine a real McCarthyite saying that: A leftwing perspective on academic faculties is not a problem in itself.

Q: One professor has made specific complaints about the book. Juan Cole (who did not receive the material about himself in the book from me) told me that he never says that neo-cons are a Jewish movement and that he has never called Israel fascist. He says that he has pointed out that neo-cons make up a small percentage of Jews, and that he has said only that there are fascist elements in the Likud Party. Are there quotes you would offer to back up your statements?

Horowitz: Here are the two paragraphs from my book that seem to be the ones referred to. I could not find a statement in my book claiming that Cole has called Israel fascist or even that he has described Israel as fascist. If you have one, send it to me.

"Professor Cole's views are shaped by his fundamental belief in a conspiracy of Jewish 'neo-conservatives' that runs U.S. Middle East policy. His recurrent theme is that a nebulous 'pro-Likud' cabal controls the American government from a small number of key positions in the Executive Branch. He never names the leaders or organizations behind this fabulously clever and utterly secret conspiracy, but vaguely associates it with organizations like the American Israel PAC (although the PAC is estimated to be 80 percent Democratic) and any prominent Jew in the Bush administration.

"Here are some examples: 'The Neocons wanted to knock down Saddam, Khamenei and al-Asad in hopes that those countries would be so weakened and preoccupied with internal power struggles that Sharon would have an unimpeded opportunity to pursue his dreams of Greater Israel.'[1] 'It may be that the powerful Likudniks inside the U.S. government are deliberately engineering a diplomatic rift in NATO, so as to ensure that Paris and Moscow cannot position themselves to influence Washington's position (usually supine) toward Sharon's excesses.'[2] Paul Wolfowitz's attitude to NATO allies is 'so gratuitous and immature that one can only guess something else lay behind it;' in Professor Cole's view, that 'something else' is a wish to create bad blood between the U.S. government and states that are, in Professor Cole's terms, 'no longer a knee-jerk supporter of Israeli militarism and expansionism.'"[3]

ENDNOTES:

[1] Juan Cole, "Kwiatkowski on the Neoconservative Coup at the Pentagon," Informed Comment, February 23, 2004.

[2] Jonathan Calt Harris, "Juan Cole, Media - and MESA - Darling," FrontPageMag.com, December 7, 2004.

[3] Juan Cole, "Wolfowitz Throws Tantrum at France, Germany, Russia and Canada: The Failure of Emotional Intelligence," Informed Comment, December 12, 2003.