Horowitz v. Bérubé

by Henry on December 5, 2006

Tom Bartlett at the Chronicle sat down Michael Bérubé and David Horowitz for lunch a couple of weeks ago. The results are here. It’s interesting and enjoyable; Horowitz clearly doesn’t have much of an idea of how to deal with an interlocutor who doesn’t take him Very Seriously. All in all, Horowitz doesn’t seem particularly bright.



Thompsaj 12.05.06 at 4:45 pm

I’ve always thought Berube seemed very bright when I’ve read his commentaries. And I thought Horowitz seemed the dimmer of the two in the linked exchange.


Timothy Burke 12.05.06 at 5:02 pm

Yeah, you might want to fiddle with that sentence, Henry. It reads as if “doesn’t seem particularly bright” refers back to “interlocutor”, which in turn is Berube.


LizardBreath 12.05.06 at 5:03 pm

You’re misparsing the sentence. Read it like this:

Horowitz… all in all, doesn’t seem particularly bright.


Zed 12.05.06 at 5:04 pm

Just to clarify, is it Bérubé or Horowitz who you don’t feel seems very bright? Or both?


Zed 12.05.06 at 5:07 pm

(Wow, three of us in as many minutes with that concern… and let me just add that in that exchange, I didn’t feel that either of them came off as particularly bright.)


Timothy Burke 12.05.06 at 5:30 pm

I know that’s what he meant. But look at the sentence: “interlocutor who doesn’t…AND…doesn’t seem particularly bright”.


Matt 12.05.06 at 5:37 pm

… and, all in all, he doesn’t seem particularly bright.


ralph 12.05.06 at 5:46 pm

I’m with timothy: I read it twice because the “interlocutor” portion is closer to the reference than the **intended** referent. But, in general, the actual discussion doesn’t help me much; one of the essences of the Horowitz argument is that “bad”, “indoctrinating” professors never should teach ever. But 1) bad only means he doesn’t agree; and 2) if we knew and could agree on “bad” we’d not hire them, right? Finally, 3) D. Ho. tactics suggest some sort of “action” against those professors in a vague, threatening sort of way. THAT is as anti-liberal as you can get.


Matt Kuzma 12.05.06 at 6:04 pm

This just underscores a very important point that has been drilled into me over the last few years.

Many things have been said about arguing on the internet, and we all know about flame wars and forum discussions devolving into chaos. Internet conversations can really become embarrassing for all involved, including the casual reader who happens to witness them. The internet brings out the stupid in people, and until I read this transcript, I would have thought that academics and others who are used to conversing via text would be immune to its effects, but apparently that isn’t the case.

It’s edifying to see two passionate intellectuals resolve some long-standing disagreements over a single face-to-face meeting. It implies that even they are affected by the difficult-to-interpret nature of written communication and the spontaneous and unedited nature of internet text. Bloggers beware: if you treat your written words more casually because you can publish them so easily on the internet, you are apt to fall victim to the same kind of animosity based on misinterpretation.


etat 12.05.06 at 6:15 pm

Grammar Police! Let’s take an overlong sentence with some grammatical issues and make it convey something unambiguously.

The results are here. It’s interesting and enjoyable. It’s also clear that Horowitz doesn’t have much idea about how to deal with an interlocutor who doesn’t take him Very Seriously. All in all, Horowitz doesn’t seem particularly bright.


kid bitzer 12.05.06 at 6:29 pm

this transcript brings out one of the weird things about Horowitz:
when you get him away from the Hannitys and Limbaughs, face to face with some real academics, he’s not only conciliatory and eirenic, he is practically obsequious.

It’s this weird mixture of envy and hostility–wanting to belong and hating those who exclude him.

The poor guy–I’ve seldom seen a worse case of wanna-be academic disease. If only somebody had taken him to the Faculty Club years ago and said, “you know, David, we really respect you–we think of you as one of us.” That probably would have placated him enough that the rest would never have happened.


Uncle Kvetch 12.05.06 at 7:00 pm

The poor guy—I’ve seldom seen a worse case of wanna-be academic disease.

Two words, kid: Newt Gingrich.


rea 12.05.06 at 7:29 pm

“It’s edifying to see two passionate intellectuals resolve some long-standing disagreements over a single face-to-face meeting.”

Well, it might be edifying, if we were to see that. I doubt, however, that any real long-standing disagreements were resolved.

“. . . a worse case of wanna-be academic disease . . . Newt Gingrich.”

According to that unimpeachable source, Wikipedia, Gingrich has a PhD in history from Tulane, and spent 8 years on the faculty of West Georgia College (and was denied tenure).

More a case of not-very-successful academic than wanna-be academic . . .


Henry 12.05.06 at 7:54 pm

Ah, it’s Horowitz who doesn’t come across as being so bright, as I hoped would be clear from context, but obviously wasn’t. Have changed accordingly.


Shelby 12.05.06 at 8:14 pm

I dunno — I thought the exchange was pretty even-handed. Horowitz was more serious about it, but neither dim nor at a loss. I expect Berube is smarter, but that dialogue doesn’t show it.


Uncle Kvetch 12.05.06 at 8:17 pm

More a case of not-very-successful academic than wanna-be academic

I stand corrected, rea. I think the overall point holds up, though.


David 12.05.06 at 9:20 pm

o joy!


raj 12.05.06 at 9:30 pm

Horowitz is probably laughing all the way to the bank. He was a radical lefty in the 1960s when it was fashionable to be a radical lefty. In the early- to mid-1970s, when it was becoming clear that being a radical righty was going to be more lucrative, he switched to being a radical righty.


Maynard Handley 12.05.06 at 9:42 pm

“Horowitz doesn’t seem particularly bright”

Not the only one. We get, in audio, an “excerpt” of the interview in some weirdo proprietary streaming format, rather than an mp3 I can download and listen to on my iPod. Goodbye, Chronicle of Higher Ed; enjoy your life in the 20th century, but most of the rest of us have moved on to the 21st, where life is too short, and the options too numerous, to put up with this sort of crap.


Fledermaus 12.05.06 at 10:37 pm

David seems like he’s boxing a jello cube, I mean what’s the rebuttal to this exchange:

Horowitz: There’s two Michael Bérubés also.

Bérubé: There are eight, nine Bérubés.

Post-modernism at its best.


Tyrone Slothrop 12.05.06 at 10:41 pm

I disagree with most of the commenters above, in that I think it’s Horowitz who doesn’t seem all that bright.


JR 12.05.06 at 10:42 pm

Horowitz: There’s two Michael Bérubés also.
Bérubé: There are eight, nine Bérubés.

Note Michael’s impeccable grammar.


Passing Fancy 12.06.06 at 3:24 am

A disturbing number of commentators here seem overly concerned with who “seems bright”. Outside of academic discourse, that’s largely irrelevant.

Horowitz, I think, did a better job of restating his own opinions and thereby getting them out there; Berube, on the other hand, said little or nothing to explain why he disagrees with Horowitz or sees Horowitz’s arguments as dangerous and inane. Some witty waffle about there being “2 David Horowitzs” and “8 or 9 Berubes” notwithstanding.

I should add that I say all this as someone who thoroughly agrees with Berube and finds Horowitz both politically repulsive and deeply manipulative. But really – Berube came across, by and large, as a fairly stereotypical liberal, sneering at his enemy’s views rather than combating them.


David 12.06.06 at 5:21 am

“2, 3, many Berubes” — Che Guevara


Michael Sullivan 12.06.06 at 9:37 am

I must agree with passing fancy’s comment in 23. I come from the same perspective, and I’ve generally been disappointed in my trips through the blogsphere at how well my philosophical compatriots express their views. Crooked Timber is one of relatively few examples I’ve found where the discourse is often of a quality similar to the better libertarianish blogs.

But this post isn’t a very good example of why I like the place. Whether Horowitz seems “all that bright” or how he responds when people don’t take him seriously isn’t particularly relevant to the merits (or lack) of his argument.

Mocking plays great to the permanently converted, but it’s time more of us on the left realized that a majority of the population is at best skeptical about many liberal shibboleths. The right has been more consistently out in the public sphere making arguments for 40 years now, and over the last 20, they’ve largely co-opted the mainstream media. We cannot take it for granted that most people understand liberal ideas. It’s been twenty years as the minority AFAICT and things are still looking pretty bleak in the public sphere based on my survey of blogs over the last year.

I think Berube is absolutely correct that the largely leftist academy is *bad* for the left. Many leftist intellectuals are university professors, and the colleagues they mostly come in contact with are also leftist. There is a tendency to read or hear somebody’s devastating critique of some right wing position, and just file that question away as “answered” and never go through the actual critique with many people and spread it. Why? Because you don’t need to if everybody you meet already believes the same thing. The problem is when this attitude spills over into a public sphere filled with those who disagree. We “know they are wrong” and don’t take them seriously enough to go back to the critiques that convinced us they were wrong and spread that information out for others.

If we don’t take criticism seriously, it’s hard for those who don’t already agree with us to take *us* seriously. Berube shows his own political Limbaugh-ish personality throughout most of this exchange as much as Horowitz does in his tv appearances.

Aren’t we supposed to be better than those guys?


harry b 12.06.06 at 12:15 pm

As a CTer I’d like to emphasize my agreement with passing fancy and michael sullivan — berube comes off as flip and uninterested in debate. Fair enough, in a way, I couldn’t be bothered to debate Horowitz either. But, then, I wouldn’t meet him in a forum where I knew our discussion would be widely circulated — and if I accidentally found myself in that situation I’d work hard to make sure that I took the debate seriously enough to persuade some observers who, though not Horowwitz acolytes, are tempted by his positions. There is a place for mocking and sneering, but that isn’t it.


Seth Finkelstein 12.06.06 at 1:53 pm

Liberal intellectuals tend to believe that measured rational discourse triumphs over dishonest demagoguery. Right-wing pundits usually know better.

But so far, nobody has really come up with a strategy that’s both effective and workable for the liberal intellectual. Note lack of money may be an under-discussed factor.


Shelby 12.06.06 at 2:01 pm

Liberal intellectuals tend to believe that measured rational discourse triumphs over dishonest demagoguery.

Self-consciously liberal intellectuals like to say so, but in practice resort more often to sneering. Ideally with a witty quip appended. While the rest of us find the witty quips entertaining, the sneers are not particularly persuasive.


harry b 12.06.06 at 2:11 pm

What works depends on the environment, and on what you want to achieve. The long haul of winning over a majority of people to a left wing vision of social justice and support for the practical programs needed to realise it in a way that is sustainable against the inevitable setbacks that will be placed in our way probably needs all sorts of methods; one of them is measured rational discourse. In our, very right wing, environment, by the way, I suspect that demogoguery serves right wingers well, but not left wingers. Measured rational discourse is what we have available to us. Lets use it.


Henry 12.06.06 at 2:26 pm

I’m preparing a longish piece on Berube’s new book which I think responds in part to passing fancy, Michael Sullivan and Harry (or if it doesn’t, I’ll try to make it do). The short version is that I think that merciless and unrelenting mockery is _exactly the right_ response to Horowitz, although it wouldn’t be the right response at all to some of the more serious conservatives who make similar arguments. The evidence from repeated dialogues suggests that Horowitz is completely uninterested in serious dialogue on these issues – any concessions that you make will be taken and banked. I think that Horowitz has been able to thrive in part because he’s been very clever at shifting back and forth between two different standards of debate. When it suits him, he acts like a political hack, going in all guns blazing and quite deliberately and provably lying to make mud stick. But when academics attack him in the political terms that he himself uses, he comes over wounded and indignant that his serious effort to contribute to conversation hasn’t been taken seriously, invoking a set of academic norms about reasoned debate between different points of view, but only as a means of attack. He shifts back and forth between the two at will, which is why he’s been quite politically effective – and I think that treating him as a serious sincere interlocutor is setting yourself up for trouble (he is at no pains to treat you in the same way). Nor do I think that you need demagoguery to respond to him – but I don’t think that you need to play his game either. And that’s why I think Berube responded as he did (or at least that’s why I think his mockery was justifiable and appropriate). My arguments on this are rooted in Weber’s essays on politics and science as vocations, but more on that when I get finished writing the damn thing.


John Emerson 12.06.06 at 2:36 pm

The poor guy—I’ve seldom seen a worse case of wanna-be academic disease.

So what am I, dog meat?


engels 12.06.06 at 3:07 pm

Berube came across, by and large, as a fairly stereotypical liberal, sneering at his enemy’s views rather than combating them

I’m confused. I thought the stereotypical liberal was someone who wasted everybody’s time trying to “understand” and “engage” her opponents, when she ought to just condemn them as the evil Godless Islamic commies that they obviously are. How times have changed.


engels 12.06.06 at 3:31 pm

Self-consciously liberal intellectuals like to say so, but in practice resort more often to sneering.

Shelby likes to say this, but in reality is completely deluded on this matter. Your move.


Shelby 12.06.06 at 3:38 pm

Engels: the quip is supposed to be witty.


engels 12.06.06 at 3:51 pm

Engels: the quip is supposed to be witty.

Shelby, you say that it is, but in actual fact… (continued on page 107)


abb1 12.06.06 at 3:58 pm

I think Shelby is quite right about a typical liberal intellectual, there’s a lot of dogmatism and rigidity there. But at least they are not insane like the wingnuts.


engels 12.06.06 at 4:49 pm

I think Shelby is quite right about a typical liberal intellectual, there’s a lot of dogmatism and rigidity there

No shit, there probably is. Then again, what you say is so vague that it would be hard for anyone to object to it. But this isn’t the claim I took issue with, which was that “liberal intellectuals… resort more often to sneering [than to rational argument]”.

A commitment to rational discussion as a means of getting at the truth and resolving disagreements is one of the ideals of liberalism, and something which distinguishes it from conservatism as well as some forms of socialism. Of course liberals often fail to live up these ideals, but droning on about this, as if it were a failure which were peculiar to liberalism, seems to me hypocritical at best and, when it comes from Horowitz types, deliberately dishonest.


Seth Finkelstein 12.06.06 at 5:35 pm

Ah, but sneering and a witty quip are still a belief that measured rational discourse triumphs over dishonest demagoguery. It’s faith that the audience will understand that the demagogue isn’t worth their time, and will see through the protestation of wounded innocence. As we see, this is often a misplaced belief.

It is the *type* of sneer and quip which is key – the liberal intellectual’s disdain will too often only resonate with other liberal intellectuals, while the right-wing hack plays to the emotions of the general audience.


Shelby 12.06.06 at 6:43 pm

Am I now a “Horowitz type”? I think that’s the insinuation, as I haven’t seen anyone else level the “sneer-and-quip” charge.

A commitment to rational discussion is indeed a hallmark of the liberal tradition, which has little to do with the modern political/intellectual left-liberalism I was tweaking. In any event, I was making a joke as much as a serious point — though Engels’ first response merely proved its accuracy.


engels 12.06.06 at 7:21 pm

No, that wasn’t the “insinuation”: I don’t know anything about you or your views so I wouldn’t liken you to Horowitz.

A commitment to rational discussion is indeed a hallmark of the liberal tradition, which has little to do with the modern political/intellectual left-liberalism I was tweaking.

But Shelby why do you think this? It is rather controversial, you know. Like your other comments on this thread, it is just a dogmatic assertion of your own, rather weird opinion. Banging on about rational discussion does not make someone a rational person: engaging in it might do.


engels 12.06.06 at 7:27 pm

By the way, I think we can all be United Against Sneering. It’s nasty and mean. (By definition.)


Shelby 12.06.06 at 7:45 pm

Why do I think “a commitment to rational discussion is indeed a hallmark of the liberal tradition”? Because it was the primary method by which the liberal tradition developed and advanced its theses, making them widely accepted as truths or sound principles.

Why do I think the liberal tradition has little to do with modern political/intellection left-liberalism? Because people who identify themselves with it so rarely demonstrate that they have absorbed and are guided by the liberal tradition, rather relying on polemics and cliquishness and pretending they have made an argument.

This does not mean I think right-conservatism is any better on these scores. However, its adherents (the more sophisticated of whom also claim the banner of classical liberalism) don’t use the sneer-and-quip approach to “debate” as much as the ignore-your-opponent-and-restate-your-points-ad-nauseum approach.

Interestingly, the same people I’ve been criticizing often DO use reasoned debate about matters nonpolitical. Why they have trouble applying it to political discussions, I don’t know.


Shelby 12.06.06 at 7:49 pm

Or at least, that’s my own, unsupported, rather weird opinion.


Shaftesbury 12.06.06 at 8:23 pm

I like sneering. Also quite fond of mocking.


engels 12.06.06 at 8:46 pm

Shelby, as far as I can see, you have made three claims in this discussion.

i) Self-consciously liberal intellectuals… resort more often to sneering [than to rational discussion]

ii) the liberal tradition… has little to do with.. modern political/intellectual left-liberalism

iii) people who identify themselves [as liberals] rarely demonstrate that they have absorbed and are guided by the liberal tradition, rather relying on polemics and cliquishness and pretending they have made an argument

Breaking this down, I think we can say that (iii) is roughly equivalent to (i) and at neither point did you give an argument for it. Your argument for (ii) is, apparently, that it is entailed by (iii).

I think it is fair to say therefore, as I said above, that your argument has consisted of little more than a repetition of your original assertion: that liberals are not rational people and hardly ever give arguments for their views. I do not believe this is true, and I do not think that argument-by-repeated-assertion-that-one’s-opponent-is-irrational is a very convincing style of debate.

As for your complaint about quips, or “sneers” as you insist on calling them, has it occurred to you that it is sometimes possible to make a substantive point in an oblique or humorous way? If American conservatives do not understand this, then they really need to read more, or get out more.

I think if conservatives in America really did have lots of good arguments for their views I think I would hear about them more often. From my experience of arguing with them on the internet, what I hear far more frequently is just this endless complaining that “liberals” are not rational, are ideological, are driven by groupthink, knee-jerk reactions, bias, ideology, emotional urges, yada yada yada. This suggests to me that most the American conservatives I have met either don’t have many good arguments available to them, or aren’t bright enough to work out what they are.


abb1 12.07.06 at 3:08 am

It’s not liberalism-specific; every rational ideology (including liberalism) can be argued. It’s just that when an ideology is prevalent and unchallenged in your environment, pretty soon many of the propositions start being felt like postulates. This will negatively affect your ability to argue. That’s all, it’s only natural.


engels 12.07.06 at 9:08 am

abb1 – No, that is not the point we were discussing at all. Thanks anyway.


Chris Williams 12.07.06 at 9:15 am

I’ve read this and it looks like they tied on points as far as the text goes. The sidebar info is necessary to support Berube’s main points, while Horowitz came out with his directly. Were I him. I’d claim that the editing is biased in MB’s favour.

But having said all that, the ultimate sneer was Horowitz saying “Hayden White” as if this proved that he’d won the argument. In my experience (and I was raised in the heart of the British empiricist tradition of historiography), any historian who’s given historical method the first thought – even the most dyed-in-the-wool positivists – contends that Hayden White has a point, even if they cheerfully light bonfires with copies of _Rethinking History_. To the majority, Hayden White isn’t a joke, but a serious thinker who deserves a serious response, even if they end up disagreeing with him.


Thoughtful Commentator 12.07.06 at 11:23 am

No, Chris, I think Horowitz made an important point in calling Hayden White a phony and calling the entire History of Consciousness Program at Santa Cruz a “corrupt department,” and Bérubé should have engaged Horowitz’s important point more thoroughly and thoughtfully instead of responding with a typical liberal sneer and quip.


Chris Williams 12.07.06 at 12:52 pm

The problem is, if DH is going to pick on Hayden White as his example of phonyness, then he’s into sneerable territory himself. Berube did in fact make the right response: if Hayden White is a ‘phoney’, then a large chunk of the British historical establishment – the Evans-cheering, Sokal-admiring, pomo-hating British historical establishment – have been fooled by him. Or possibly they’ve read him and DH hasn’t. What else is there for MB to say except ‘no he’s not’?

Why didn’t DH lead on Joan Wallach Scott, who needs more defending? Perhaps because he’s a fool. Or perhaps because he’d already painted himself into a corner by condemning a whole academic programme the content of which he’d not bothered to research, so he needed to attack White to justify himself.

DH is very fond of these broad-brush attacks, but when his critics call him on them, he’s short on examples, and forced to fall back on badly-judged insults. Or worse, he tries that “Yes, well, that’s just the sort of thing that us intellectuals have to say when we’re talking to the masses – surely you, as a fellow intellectual, understand. ” schtick, which sums up conservative elitism better than anything I can think of. Check out the end of part 15.

DH is a Trofim Lysenko for our times.


engels 12.07.06 at 2:06 pm

I agree entirely with thoughtful commenter’s comments. Why can’t we all be more thoughtful and serious? And those silly typical liberals… why can’t they be as thoughtful as I am? And seriously people, no more sneering. Turn that frown upside down!


Steve 12.07.06 at 3:34 pm

Those who think Berube should have engaged more deeply are missing the “two Horowitzes” point. From Berube’s perspective, he’s faced with a guy who, when left to his own devices, launches into angry polemics and accuses Berube of harboring warm thoughts towards terorrists and the like. Then when you’re face to face, suddenly the same guy claims to espouse normal, reasonable positions and expects you to have a calm dialogue.

It seems to me that if you go along with this, you do indeed play into a liberal stereotype – the liberal who is so eager to prove his reasonableness that he will engage in spirited debate on any topic, including the topic of whether he should be hung for treason. On the Internet at least, many conservatives seem to play this game where it’s accusations of treason one moment and calls for civility the next, and when it’s time for the latter they expect you to forget all about the former and pretend like it didn’t happen. In the real world, that’s not how we act towards people who cast vicious aspersions in our direction, and I don’t blame Berube for not wanting to play the game.


Laleh 12.07.06 at 3:35 pm

Was no one struck by the fact that Berube just agreed with almost everything pejorative that was/has been said about Ward Churchill and about Sami al-Arian? What is that? “I am a good liberal, and they are baddies; I can talk to Horowitz; fuck those radicals”?


abb1 12.07.06 at 3:52 pm

…agreed with almost everything pejorative…

No surprise here, he’s done it before. Good liberal, exactly, suitable for the NPR.

“Is there such a thing as collective guilt in a superpower?” That’s a legitimate research question…

“Research question” – lol.


Grand Moff Texan 12.07.06 at 3:59 pm

Aren’t we supposed to be better than those guys?

Yes, but the point is to act like it. As you can see from “thoughtful commentator,” even when you respond to what little substance they have, they’ll always claim that you just “sneered” at them.


Unthoughtful Commentator 12.07.06 at 4:09 pm

All power to revolutionary heroes Ward Churchill and Sami Al-Arian! Down with NPR “liberals” who defend these heroes’ right to speak but disagree with the substance of the “little Eichmanns” remark or with Al-Arian’s fundraising for jihad and for George Bush’s 2000 campaign! Down with academic “liberals” who distinguish between Churchill’s First Amendment right to speak outside the classroom and his academic freedom to pursue the question of collective guilt in a superpower! Down with liberal sneering!

The Churchill and Al-Arian people! United! Will never be defeated!


Steve 12.07.06 at 4:20 pm

Maybe Ward Churchill does, in fact, deserve perjoratives? Dunno.


abb1 12.07.06 at 4:37 pm

Hey, Michael, I like good NPR liberals. Let ’em be. It takes all kinds.


Michael Bérubé 12.07.06 at 5:37 pm

OK, then, abb1. But why lol at the research question? If Daniel Goldhagen can answer that one reductively, so can Ward Churchill.

And you know, Churchill has a pretty haughty and disdainful attitude toward people like me who defend his right to speak but not the content of his remarks. So I’ll just let him look for allies elsewhere.


abb1 12.08.06 at 3:34 am

I just thought the “research question” was funny – of course there is responsibility, it’s immediately becomes obvious once you look at some other superpower, as Mr. Churchill suggests. But fair enough.

Like I said – it takes all kinds. There are plenty of NPR liberals, plenty of wingnuts, but not nearly enough moonbats like Churchill (in the public sphere, that is). They are endangered species, need protection.


sfb 12.08.06 at 10:37 am

DH is a Trofim Lysenko for our times.

Is Horowitz a Lysenko, or a sloppy researcher? There is an important difference. Lysenko cooked the books and made certain that his research came out supporting the ends desired by Comrade Stalin. So there was intent to deceive. Is that somethig proved with Horowitz? I’d agree that his work is sloppy, and not of a quality that I would like to associate with research universities.

However, let’s note that many academics (Professor Berube excepted) seem to be perfectly willing to support the research fraud of Micheal Bellesiles and Ward Churchill. Bellesile and Churchill fit the comparison to Lysenko much more aptly than Horowitz.

Lastly, Hayden White is greatly over-rated, as are most of the folks who quote him approvingly.


Professor Berube Excepted 12.08.06 at 2:56 pm

“However, let’s note that many academics (Professor Berube excepted) seem to be perfectly willing to support the research fraud of Micheal Bellesiles and Ward Churchill. Bellesile and Churchill fit the comparison to Lysenko much more aptly than Horowitz.”

Firstly, the Bellesiles case was more “interesting” than is sometimes recalled. He was tenured, thus given special status relative to the review of “Arming America”. Additionally his work was sanctioned via peer review and his preliminary work, in part due to that sanction, was published in major journals. He attracted critical and important sources of financial support. Further still, other academics and professionals, as well as prominent others still among the chattering classes, heaped rather abundant praise upon the book (in professional journals), in part because it lent the imprimatur of academe to an ideologically interested program. Further still the book was published by a prestigious publisher.

Hence the complicity was of such a thoroughgoing nature that one might be forgiven for wondering just how rigorous the peer review and more prefessional book reviews were. Or, because of the ideological interested quality of the work, was an abundance of self-assurance at work, along with a sneering contempt, in order to ward off rigor, rather than welcome it. Habits of mind have consequences often beyond their prime targets and targeted suspects.

And some of those details concerning Bellesiles’ case are recalled, but the implications that stem from those details are not typically explored very thoughtfully. Ward Chruchill’s was an even more “interesting” case, though it did fall within an even less desciplined discipline.

By contrast nothing of the sort has been proven in Horowitz’s case, and he functions as a private citizen who is pointedly persuing an activist political program, airing it all openly for public review as well. Hyperbole? Yes. Excess and generalizations at times? Yes, unquestionably. But to a large extent that is part and parcel of any activist who is having to break through

And Lysenkoism? Not remotely close, even to the contrary. As alluded to, what Horowitz is attempting to counter registers closer to Lysenkoism, Bellesiles and Churchill representing only the more grievous cases. Horowitz’s hyperbole and generalizations, while they cannot be denied, are taking place within an activist’s openly avowed program, not within academe, hence different standards of measure are applicable as well, which is not to say mutually exclusive in their entirety, but it’s a different setting entirely that he is operating in.

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