For the record, I was never a Trotskyite, nor have I ever accused Soros of being the Lenin of a “conspiracy.” More to the point, Soros’ claim that I never debate my adversaries on the issues is refuted by my writings and actions in the twenty-five years I have been a conservative. Few public figures have answered the arguments of their critics more copiously than I have. I have written hundreds of thousands of words of specific argument, which can be found in my articles archives titled “Replies to (Leftwing) Critics” and “Debates With (and About) the Left,” at Frontpagemag.com, and in published works such as Radical Son, The Politics of Bad Faith, Left Illusions, Hating Whitey, Uncivil Wars, Indoctrination U, and Unholy Alliance. Contrary to Soros, my entire intellectual work can be seen as an extended argument with the left, not an attempt to dismiss it with labels.
The basis for Soros’ claim is a passage in my work, which has been frequently mis-quoted by leftists, and which is actually a description of how the left itself deals with political opponents. A recent reference to this passage by one of my critics, Michael Berube, illustrates the point. “Here’s Horowitz in his 2000 book The Art of Political War and Other Radical Pursuits: “you cannot cripple an opponent by outwitting him in a political debate. You can only do so by following Lenin’s injunction: ‘In political conflicts, the goal is not to refute your opponent’s argument, but to wipe him from the face of the earth.’”
People who have actually read The Art of Political War, which was written as advice to Republicans, will recognize that that this is a description of how I believe Democrats (and leftists like Berube) fight their political wars. It was not my recommendation of how conservatives and Republicans should fight them. Moreover, I said so, in so many words, and in the very next sentence, which Berube deliberately omitted: “Well, we needn’t go as far as Lenin. After all, we’re not Bolsheviks. But destroying an opponent’s effectiveness is a fairly common Democratic practice. Personal smears accomplish this. And Democrats are very good at it.”
My thirty-year effort to engage an argument with the left has not been reciprocated. Except on occasions when I have invited leftists into the pages of Frontpage or onto my public platforms for the specific purpose of debate, few on the left have considered it necessary to engage my work except to ridicule and slander me, as a way of warning others not to take the issues I raise seriously – in short, to “crush” me (as Soros puts it), and eliminate me from the discussion. In a typical encounter, during a debate at Reed University, the Dean of the Faculty opened his remarks by describing me thus: “So, I hypothesize, engaging in political warfare, doing and saying whatever it takes to win, this is what Mr. Horowitz does for a living. It’s his job, it’s his way of life. And, of course, if this is true, then clearly what it means is that it’s simply impossible to take anything he says or does seriously, including anything he says today.” The Dean was hypothesizing from the same mis-represented Lenin quote used by Soros and Berube.
In discussing my book The Professors on the blog Crooked Timbers, Berube recommended the crush-them-and-dismiss-them strategy to other leftists. “My job is to contest [Horowitz’s] legitimacy,” he wrote. To implement such a strategy, progressives should resort to “mockery and dismissal.” Cary Nelson, president of the American Association of University Professors, was more direct. In a review that appeared in Academe he advised: “Please ignore this book. Don’t buy it. Don’t read it. Try not to mention it in idle conversation.” I am not the only conservative to be treated this way in “liberal” venues.
In academic circles, Berube’s strategy of mockery and dismissal might be an effective tool for crushing an opponent, but in the political arena rougher methods are the order of the day. These will also be familiar to most conservatives, but here is a sample of some recent attacks directed at me, which are taken from the Google index: “Fat-assed,” “faux-intellectual,” “a quintessential slobbering lackey,” “neo-con,” “insane,” “Trotskyist turned neo-con scumbag,” “Stalinist,” “Maoist,” “former communist,” “brimming with self-hate,” “hyperventilating about commies,” “traitor,”“anti-education fanatic,” “witch-hunter,” “far-right fanatic,” “far-right wacko,” “Ahmadinejad’s double,” “little Fuehrer,” “right-wing nut,” “Grand Wizard,” “anti-Muslim,” “religious bigot,” “arch- racist,” “Zionist neo-conservative,” “racist Zionist Jew,” “extremist racist Zionist Jew,” “a Nazi mind with a Zionist face,” “a notorious icon of Zionist Islamophobia,” “a blatant Judeo-fascist crusader of Zionism and social regressivism,” “Zionist poof.”
Some of these sobriquets have appeared on widely trafficked “liberal” sites such as HuffingtonPost. Others can be found on Islamist websites and venues of the radical left. Here is how I am described in a broadside by the Revolutionary Communist Party, which appeared on Indymedia.org: “[Horowitz] is a vitriolic defender of everything from the extermination of the Native Americans and the enslavement of Black people, to the savage and criminal wars against Iraq and Afghanistan and the torture of those whom this regime deems to be terrorists. He has set up a website that clamors for the arrest and imprisonment of revolutionaries, radicals, dissenters and liberals and reports every slander, rumor, lie and innuendo that comes his way….In short, Horowitz defends every crime that this system has ever committed and is now preparing to justify even more, and to intimidate and silence any who would question or resist this.” In my speech at Columbia University, during Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week, I observed that malicious lies like this were a form of hate speech -- the equivalent of nooses, or targets painted on one’s back.
In fact, such attacks are entirely representative of the wall of hate that greeted students on a hundred campuses who invited speakers to address the issue of Islamo-Fascism in the last week of October. Yet, when I described this as a hate campaign, Time magazine blogger Andrew Sullivan was inspired to add another epithet to my list, as he accused me of “turning [the event] into polarizing McCarthyism.”
Nor did any “liberals” step forward to defend the students or the speakers, whose only crime was attempting to start a discussion about an issue that affects us all. When liberals did come forward, it was to attack us and run interference for the left. As political sophisticates, they naturally gravitated to Berube’s strategy of “mockery and dismissal,” rather than the slash and burn tactics of the radical street. But their commitments were unmistakeable all the same.
A case in point was two videos that appeared on TalkingPointsMemo. They were created and narrated by its editor, Joshua Micah Marshall, who is a contributor to publications such as Salon, The New Yorker and the Atlantic Monthly. The two fairly elaborate videos were designed with the clear intent of denigrating our efforts, thus lending tacit support to our campus enemies. The first was about my appearance at Columbia and was billed as “the search for the true meaning of Islamo Fascism Awareness Week.” As dramatized by the video, this turned out to be the claim that the Week was concocted as a fund-raising stunt built around the spurious, even ridiculous notion that there might be any threat to the participants. The “bogeyman” of this threat (the term actually used in the film) was the pretext for bilking donors out of funds earmarked for security.
This theory was spelled out in a series of interviews with Max Blumenthal, whom Marshall failed to identify as a young man with a personal axe to grind and an obsessive interest in my comings and goings. Blumenthal’s father was a White House official who stalked female critics of Bill Clinton. The son has made a small career out of stalking me at events and then fabricating preposterous fictions about what transpired. These fantasies are then given wide circulation on Huffington Post.com, Alternet.org, the Nation.com and Blumenthal’s own blog. Among many other gross misrepresentations, Blumenthal has “reported” in his columns that I was the “godfather” behind the ABC miniseries “Path to 9/11,” a film I was unaware of until it was completed and didn’t see until it was aired.
In honor of my Columbia appearance, Blumenthal created his own video and wrote his own column -- “The Demons of David Horowitz.” The flavor of his reporting is suggested in this description: “Pacing the stage like a drunken circus clown impersonating some bygone demagogue, and standing beneath a massive image of a woman being shot in the head, Horowitz launched into a long, frenetic rant about his own persecution at the hands of a shadowy liberal conspiracy.” (The woman being shot in the head was a Muslim victim of the Taliban, and the image of my “frenetic rant” is even belied by the clips -- albeit maliciously edited -- shown in Marshall’s video.)
As it happens, I don’t enjoy having to go to campuses under armed guard any more than anyone else would. I first became fully aware of the dimensions of the campus security problem in 2001, when I was invited to speak at the University of California, Berkeley. The chancellor (no fan of mine) assigned thirty armed guards to watch over the speech. Thirty armed guards represented the university’s judgment as to the scope of the threat posed by the Berkeley left, not mine. But I soon learned the utility of having them. Since then, I have been physically assaulted on a number of occasions -- at Bradley University, Ball State, MIT and Princeton -- to the point where security officers had to step in between me and the attackers or, in the case of Bradley, where radicals smashed a pie in my face (it was not merely “thrown” as some reports have it). I have been rushed on the stage in such unlikely locations as the Pacific Design Center and the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Los Angeles – both times by members of the Revolutionary Communist Party who were out in force during Islamo-Fascism Awareness week. In both these cases, I had failed to hire security and would have been beaten if members of the audience had not tackled the would-be assailants and wrestled them to the ground.
By contrast, the Islamo-Fascism event at Columbia was peaceful, a fact which is deceptively used by Marshall in his video to insinuate that I am a charlatan, and that the threat of violence was fabricated as a fund-raising tool. But the Columbia event was peaceful because of the heavy security not in spite of it. The previous year, when such precautions were not taken at Columbia, violent leftist thugs over-ran the stage and shut down an event at which Minuteman founder Jim Gilchrist was scheduled to speak. Gilchrist had been slandered in advance as a “racist” and “fascist,” which made the attack perfectly justifiable to the “progressives” who staged it. Would they have returned to attack our event if security had not been present? Would any rational person on the receiving end of verbal attacks such as those I have enumerated risk holding a public event without arranging protection? Would any Jew, knowing that there are fanatics in our midst who are incited by their religion to regard us as apes and monkeys, and who see violence as a ticket to heaven, wish to test their forbearance? What can Joshua Marshall be thinking when he portrays me as an alarmist who fantasizes these dangers?
But, in the end, this is not really about me. It is about the state of our country, and about students at our universities who are forced to face down a hostile and sometimes violent mob in order to put on these events. It is about the fact that a movement with fascist overtones has developed within the American left. It is about the emergence of a fanatical movement in Islam, really a death cult, which has declared war on the West, and whose anti-American agendas have been adopted by elements of the progressive left, as the attacks on Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week demonstrate all too clearly.
As for liberals who should properly be appalled at these developments in the left, Joshua Micah Marshall’s videos are instructive. Instead, of being alarmed by the clear and present danger posed by these radicals, they focus on mocking and dismissing those who are addressing the threat. To explain our agendas in organizing Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week, Robert Spencer and I wrote a statement called “Why Islamo-Fascism?”which is available on our websites. Marshall ignores it. Instead, in yet another gesture of derision and contempt, he posts the following from one of his fans: “In honor of Islamofascism Awareness Week I am busy rewriting all of my old history books in order to properly show that the danger of some men in caves, along with one moderate regional power are in fact a greater threat to the United States than were the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, the secessionist Confederacy, and even the Redcoats from our founding days.” Well, who would have regarded Hitler as a threat when he was writing tracts in Bavarian beer halls? And, of course, the Islamo-fascists are way ahead of him already.
There have been more than 9,000 terrorist attacks since 9/11, including the murders of Western infidels such as Theo Van Gogh, whose crime was attempting to warn others. A petition is currently being circulated by leftist professors, like Eric Foner, at Columbia, which among other things condemns its president for criticizing the Islamo-fascist, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, when he was a guest at the school. There have been (and will be) no such petitions to condemn the campus radicals who mounted a hate campaign against conservative students and the speakers they invited to discuss the threat from Islamo-fascists like Ahmadinejad. And therein lies the problem for our country.