Horowitz Maligned for Asking Hard Questions · 20 February 2009

By David Giffin - Emory Wheel
After the presentation made by David Horowitz on Wednesday, many were left feeling offended or wronged. Many were even personally hurt by the comments Horowitz made during his presentation — several of his remarks represented perspectives that went against the grain of campus culture. Regardless, Horowitz made at least one positive contribution: he gave an honest speech, voicing his opinion, ignoring any concerns for how others might feel about it.

The College Republicans were brave to invite Horowitz back as a speaker. The rash actions of non-Emory groups at Horowitz’s presentation in 2007 forced him to leave mid-speech and threatened the public image and academic sanctity of Emory as a learning institution. But valuing free speech, the College Republicans extended to Horowitz a chance to finish delivering his message, even at the risk of harming the College Republicans’ own public profile.

The message was not pleasant to hear or respond to — Horowitz’s rough, demeaning manner during the question-and-answer session hurt the efficacy of his message. The real challenge for Emory students, especially those who came with pre-formed opinions on issues regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Islamic extremism, was to see past any perceived bias in order to understand the actual material being presented.

Many have argued, and will continue to argue, that Horowitz’s opinions are hateful and despicable. Though he did use powerful adjectives to convey his opinions, he was extremely careful to clarify that he did not intend to generalize or insult those who identified with the cultural or ethnic groups he addressed. When audience members scoffed or chose to exercise a specific finger, Horowitz restated that his positions on Islam were only focused on radical or fundamentalist elements. Horowitz also made a strong effort to clearly define his terms, and to back up his stances with tangible examples. Many still tried to incense Horowitz and force him to deliver extreme response during the question-and-answer session, and though he did become frustrated, no attempts succeeded.

His message, however, was lost on many who refused to step outside their own opinions.

Emory is fueled by the vision of being an ethically engaged community, and this vision may not be turned off or on at our convenience. The relativistic idea that all cultural values are equal is a fallacy, especially in a global community that seeks a vision of human rights. Like it or not, every culture must be carefully scrutinized — and this lies at the root of what Horowitz was attempting to demonstrate.

This is the heart of the controversy behind David Horowitz — he says what many refuse to hear, because such comments must be made in order to realize our true vision. By engaging in this discussion, Horowitz forces us outside our comfort zones in order to confront extremely difficult questions.

Why are there disproportionately high numbers of U.N. declarations decrying Israel and virtually none blaming Hamas for its own atrocities? Why haven’t Western Muslims more forcefully denounced women’s rights violations including honor killings, especially when honor killings have taken place in the United States — even in Atlanta? Why do left-leaning politicians and academics value the works of revolutionaries such as Che Guevara, when such revolutionaries are often responsible for horrible crimes and rights violations?

To actively engage these questions not only fulfills Emory’s vision, but also puts listeners on track toward being rational, whole human beings. Not doing so discredits our own humanity, and that simply won’t do anymore.

So thanks, David Horowitz. We can try to become human once more.

David Giffin is a College junior from Charleston, Ill.