Horowitz and SUNY

by Jon Mandle on May 5, 2005

A few weeks ago, in the midst of the – um – mis-communication over his debate with David Horowitz, Michael Bérubé speculated:

I think we’re finally getting to the real reason David hates professors so much. It has nothing to do with our salaries or our working hours: he hates our freedom. Horowitz knows perfectly well that I can criticize the Cockburns and Churchills to my left and the Beinarts and Elshtains to my right any old time I choose, and that at the end of the day I’ll still have a job – whereas he has to answer to all his many masters, fetching and rolling over whenever they blow that special wingnut whistle that only far-right lackeys can hear. It’s not a very dignified way to live, and surely it takes its toll on a person’s sense of self-respect.

With respect to the issue of self-respect, here’s the giveaway: think about how often Horowitz complains that the intellectual left doesn’t take him seriously, doesn’t read his books, and so on. What’s weird about this, you’ll probably have noticed by now, is that American left intellectuals are just about the only thinkers who pay any attention to Horowitz at all.

I’ve tried to do my part by not paying attention to him as much as possible. But I did read the Chronicle’s article about him (previously subscription only, now free – I think). [Update: The Chronicle circulated a special link to make this article available free.] There were several chuckles, some of which others have noted –

“For 20 years, when I have written books on the left, the left has ignored me,” he says. “It’s just what Stalin did to Trotsky.”

He claims he would make more money as a liberal, too, “at least three times,” what he earns now. According to the center’s most recent available tax form, Mr. Horowitz received an annual salary of $310,167 in 2003. He declines to give his current income, but in addition to his salary, Mr. Horowitz receives about $5,000 for each of the 30 to 40 campus speeches he gives each year.

“Someone would have made a film out of it [his autobiographical Radical Son] if I was a leftist,” he says bitterly.

Bérubé’s speculation receives some support: “If he were liberal, he contends, he could be an editor at the Times or a department chairman at Harvard University.” And the author summarizes Horowitz’s outlook this way: “While he wants desperately to be included in the academy — for professors to assign his books and invite him to speak in classes — he seems eager to punish it, in part, for turning a cold shoulder to his work.”

But the real news to me was this tidbit:

The academic bill of rights may have its genesis back in Mr. Horowitz’s grade school, but it really started to take shape after a December 2002 meeting with some fellow Republicans in New York. He met with Thomas F. Egan, chairman of the Board of Trustees of the State University of New York System; Peter D. Salins, the system’s provost; and Candace de Russy, a member of the board, to discuss the problem of leftist indoctrination in college classrooms and how to solve it.

“I was among sort of friends,” Mr. Horowitz says. “It allowed me to think aloud.”

No surprise that Candace de Russy recently urged the SUNY Board to adopt a version of Horowitz’s “Academic Bill of Rights.” I can’t wait until our own aggrieved creationists come out of the woodwork.



Scott McLemee 05.05.05 at 1:03 pm

Stalin “ignored” Trotsky? Original as that interpretation is, I still don’t think Horowitz going to get to teach Soviet history even if he gets his bill passed.


Steve LaBonne 05.05.05 at 1:13 pm

Horowitz wants to compare himself to Trotsky? Where’s Ramon Mercador when you really need him? ;)


Jake 05.05.05 at 1:18 pm

The 20 years ~ Stalin/Trotsky comment suggests to me that Horowitz should have been ice-picked nearly 10 years ago to make it a really good analogy.

I do like the vision of Horowitz with a blood-dripping pen clenched in his mouth, though.
( http://www.fbuch.com/leon.htm , halfway down.)


Louis Proyect 05.05.05 at 1:18 pm

Yes, I noticed this business about Horowitz meeting with top officials of SUNY myself and brought it to the attention of the Marxism mailing list I moderate and to my wife, who is completing her dissertation at Albany.

It is becoming clearer and clearer that the drive for “balance” is mainly a rightwing drive to neutralize the leftwing by reducing its presence in the last bastions where it has a presence–like Columbia University or PBS. I use the word “leftwing” in the broadest sense.

Here’s how the new witch-hunt is playing out at PBS, by the way:

NY Times, May 1, 2005
Republican Chairman Exerts Pressure on PBS, Alleging Biases

WASHINGTON, May 1 – The Republican chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is aggressively pressing public television to correct what he and other conservatives consider liberal bias, prompting some public broadcasting leaders – including the chief executive of PBS – to object that his actions pose a threat to editorial independence.

full: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/02/arts/television/02public.html?

The other night my friend Michael Yates was a guest on Tavis Smiley’s PBS talk show, but I had no idea when it was on. As it turns out, the show airs at 12:30am but PBS has never advertised it once. Smiley is a left-of-center African-American and I guess PBS doesn’t want to advertise his presence. I should add that Smiley left NPR in disgust because, as he put it, “NPR’s own research has confirmed that NPR has simply failed to meaningfully reach out to a broad spectrum of Americans who would benefit from public radio, but simply don’t know it exists or what it offers.” Meanwhile, PBS has umpteen ads for nature shows about the sex lives of zebras or for Master Race Theater.

If PBS has too many leftists (hahaha), then maybe the answer is to give Smiley’s air-time to Ann Coulter. You see the logic here? And if Columbia University’s MEALAC department is overrepresented by leftists, then maybe the board of trustees would be well-advised to add a protégé of Daniel Pipes in place of that ornery Joseph Massad.

It is unfortunate that scholarly blogs such as Crooked Timber and Cliopatria have not been able to discern what is going on. This has to be understood in political terms. Crooked Timber has a vaguely leftish tinge, but is susceptible to these moods, as evidenced by their performance around the get Ward Churchill crusade. Cliopatria, on the other hand, is simply Frontpage lite.


Barry Freed 05.05.05 at 2:03 pm

“For 20 years, when I have written books on the left, the left has ignored me,” he says. “It’s just what Stalin did to Trotsky.” *sniffle*

Da Ho, still a red-diaper baby after all these years.

Anyone got a spare ice-pick they can lend me?


JR 05.05.05 at 2:31 pm

Tavis Smiley left NPR because they refused to pay for the marketing that he demanded. NPR can’t make stations take programs- individual stations have to sign up (and pay for) programming. Smiley was on twice as many stations as NPR had projected when they decided to do his show – he was doing great and had plenty of NPR support. But he resigned when NPR refused his agent’s demand that it make a “cash marketing commitment” of $3 million – an amount he must have known that NPR couldn’t meet. Then he made a big deal of resigning because NPR wasn’t doing enough “outreach” – ie advertising his show.

He still does his PBS show, and if you’ve ever watched it you know why it’s on at 12:30 am. It sucks.


Louis Proyect 05.05.05 at 2:40 pm

His show sucks? Compared to what? Charlie Rose, the horse-faced flatterer of Thomas Friedman or a brain-dead Hollywood star on a publicity tour? The execrable Tucker Carlson? The Jim Lehrer Snooze Hour?

Tavis Smiley’s shows are archived at: http://www.pbs.org/kcet/tavissmiley/archive/. People can judge for themselves.


Cryptic Ned 05.05.05 at 3:02 pm

Arts & Letters Daily was once the first website I went to every day to read something interesting. But this week, on two consecutive days their “Article of Note” was heralded as follows:

“David Horowitz: single-minded, feisty, and like many a prof, a man who loves to lecture. He wants open universities for people like himself… more”

“Fewer than one in ten climate scientists thinks climate change is caused mainly by humans. Huh? Where’d you read that? Not in Science, not in Nature… more”


Louis Proyect 05.05.05 at 3:14 pm

by Dennis Loy Johnson

November 5, 2001 — The death, two weeks ago, of Lingua Franca, the great magazine about intellectual and literary life in the academy, was not only sad news for the magazine’s followers and admirers — it was a shock.

The “apparent demise,” noted David. D. Kirkpatrick in a New York Times report on October 18, “elicited exclamations of dismay in the world of letters.” (“Eggheads are anguished,” began the lead in the Chicago Tribune’s story four days later.) Adding to the surprise was the odd way the news first broke — not in a company announcement or a press release or even in reported rumors but in a hurried, three­sentence letter (scroll down) written by the magazine’s managing editor, Andrew Hearst, and sent the day before the New York Times story to Jim Romensko’s MediaNews website. It read like something being filed from a battlefront: “I’m writing to let you know that as of today, Wednesday [October 17], Lingua Franca has suspended operations,” Hearst wrote. There had been, before that, no indication the eleven-year-­old magazine was in trouble…

In a flurry of lawsuits in the aftermath of the collapse, one female editor sued [Dennis] Dutton for “bamboozling” her by asking her to work gratis in return for being a full partner and receiving a significant share when he sold the site. (Another Lingua Franca editor wrote a letter describing Dutton “a highly polished con­man” and “a cyber­predator of the most insidious sort.”) He then cut her out of the deal when he sold Arts and Letter Daily to Kittay’s Academic Partners for an amount “substantially in excess of $1 million.” I guess this kind of maneuver falls into the category of bad faith rather than bad writing.

full: http://www.mobylives.com/Lingua_Franca_demise.html

Arts and Letters Goes Under
(posted to http://www.marxmail.org on Oct. 7, 2002)

I usually check in on Denis Dutton’s “Arts and Letters Daily” website each morning at: http://www.aldaily.com/ to find links to online articles in places like the Chronicles of Higher Education, New Republic, Spiked-Online, etc. Except for some nominal representation of the left like an occasional Terry Eagleton piece, the website was one of the most determined disseminators of an eclectic ideology mixing Scientistic skepticism, a Frank Furedi kind of libertarianism and a rather stuffy belief in high culture of the sort found in Hilton Kramer’s New Criterion.

Dutton, a New Zealand professor hailing originally from the USA, first attracted attention for handing out “Bad Writing” awards each year to people like Judith Butler. At the time, I was a big fan of Alan Sokal and greeted these awards with great relish just as I reacted to Alan’s spoof in Social Text. Subsequently I learned that not every swipe at postmodernism is a sign that you are on the side of the angels. The animosity directed against postmodernist relativism can often drift into a kind of reactionary belief in Absolute Values such as the supremacy of the capitalist system, the right to smoke cigarettes in restaurants and to take bribes from multinational corporations for publishing apologia on behalf of the right to plunder the 3rd world in the name of “progress”.

full: http://www.columbia.edu/~lnp3/mydocs/modernism/Denis_Dutton.htm


JR 05.05.05 at 3:21 pm

Re Tavis Smiley, I take back ‘it sucks’ and replace it with “I think he’s boring.’ I don’t think an argument that other shows are worse is a reason to watch his.

A&L Daily has always had a conservative slant, but it’s still worth looking at- but this week was dreadful. Berube’s already slammed the CHE article on Horowitz. The Telegraph article that was the subject of the global warming link was simply wrong- the guy who supposedly found that 90% of climate scientists don’t believe in global warming actually found that 75% are sure of it and 25% have some doubt that it’s caused by humans. (The Telegraph seems to have conflated two different studies– one of them 10 years old- and misinterpreted them.) I sent Denis Dutton an email about this and he’s still got the false statement up. I don’t need Dutton to link to poorly reported newspaper articles, I get plenty of those on my own.


Jayanne 05.05.05 at 3:35 pm

Dutton, a New Zealand professor hailing originally from the USA, first attracted attention for handing out “Bad Writing” awards each year to people like Judith Butler.

and Homi Bhaba. I was shown (illicitly) another piece nominated for the prize that year, it was terrible; it wasn’t postmodernist, so, no chance.. BTW the Judith Butler piece *was* badly written (but not impenetrable etc.) but it didn’t deserve the flak she got for it, a special attack by Martha Nussbaum incl..; many have written as badly as Butler did then.


JR 05.05.05 at 3:35 pm

PS: The Moby Lives article that’s excerpted above about Dutton is 100% innuendo and 0% facts–prompted by the fact that Dutton was traveling on the author’s deadline and didn’t get back to him. Read it, you’ll be underwhelmed.


Barry Freed 05.05.05 at 3:49 pm

I mourn the loss of Lingua Franca and will forever remember from that hilarious piece on deconstructing Gilligan’s Island, the immortal phrase: “Gilliganian jouissance.”


praktike 05.05.05 at 3:57 pm

Stalin ignored Trotsky?

Dear Lord.

btw, Horowitz never got a PhD. So … where’s the beef?


roger 05.05.05 at 4:46 pm

I’ve complained for years about the practices of Morgan Stanley. And yet, after all this time, THEY STILL HAVEN’T OFFERED ME AN EXECUTIVE POSITION. Hard as that is to believe. I’ve also complained about Great Britain (no cabinet offer yet from Downing Street), Microsoft (where’s the call from BG?) and many others.

Thus, I understand the agony Horowitz has gone through, as his touching life story hasn’t been filmed (with Brad Pitt in the role of our hero, obviously), Harvard has not responded to the generous offer to run the Kennedy School, and he’s had to suffer on all sorts of fronts.

I look forward to ignoring his next book.


Ginger Yellow 05.05.05 at 4:59 pm

Someone had Horowitz killed with an icepick? Where can we send the cheques?


Victor M. Muniz-Fraticelli 05.05.05 at 5:07 pm

Judging by the Chronicle piece, Horowitz is a textbook example of ressentiment:

For every sufferer instinctively seeks a cause for his suffering; more exactly, an agent; still more specifically, a guilty agent who is susceptible to suffering—in short, some living thing upon which he can, on some pretext or other, vent his affects, actually or in effigy: for the venting of his affects represents the greatest attempt on the part of the suffering to win relief, anaesthesia—the narcotic he cannot help desiring to deaden pain of any kind. This alone, I surmise, constitutes the actual physiological cause of ressentiment, vengefulness, and the like: a desire to deaden pain by means of affects.

Friedrich Nietzsche. On the Genealogy of Morals. Walter Kaufmann, trans. New York: Random House, 1967. P. 127. [Pt. III, Sec. 15]


Scott McLemee 05.05.05 at 5:13 pm

Two simple points, not that it will make any difference:

(1) The notion that it is clever to make a joke about political murder is about as degraded as the supposed joke itself.

(2) Trotsky was killed with an ice axe, not an ice pick. If you must be inane, at least be accurate.


Walt Pohl 05.05.05 at 5:32 pm

Horowitz really made $300,000 a year? I know highly accomplished people who work in finance and they all make a fraction of that. I doubt Trotsky at his career peak never cracked six figures.


urizon 05.05.05 at 5:46 pm

I happen to be a SUNY student. In my experience—at SUNY New Paltz, anyway—Horowitz’ work has already been done for him. More than fifty percent of the New Paltz faculty are untenured adjuncts who make approximately two thousand dollar for a 16 week course. The number of tenured professors is shrinking every year, and the way things are going, there will be a couple of tenured professors in each department with dozens of adjuncts doing all the heavy lifting for a pittance.

Now we’ve got that mendacious, fascist fuck Horowitz going after tenure within the SUNY system. What tenure, David, you pea-brained douche-bag?


Nice when two different agendas dove-tail so seamlessly into one another, huh?


david 05.05.05 at 5:50 pm

I had a friend adjuncting the second half of World History years ago who insisted that the only fact anyone took out of a two semester W.H. survey was that Trotsky got killed with an ice pick. You’ve got your work cut out for you, Scott.

Is it still okay to make jokes about Catherine the Great and her horse?


nick 05.05.05 at 5:56 pm

Arts & Letters Daily was once the first website I went to every day to read something interesting.

I noticed A&LD’s wingnut tendency a long while back, and stopped visiting. It’s something that’s always been there.


Uncle Kvetch 05.05.05 at 8:06 pm

“While he wants desperately to be included in the academy—for professors to assign his books and invite him to speak in classes—he seems eager to punish it, in part, for turning a cold shoulder to his work.”

I recall that much the same was said about Newt Gingrich, back when there were people who gave a shit about Newt Gingrich.


Martha Bridegam 05.05.05 at 8:26 pm

Hey, I’m a liberal. Where’s my professorship?


Barry Freed 05.05.05 at 11:48 pm

Two simple points, not that it will make any difference:

(1) The notion that it is clever to make a joke about political murder is about as degraded as the supposed joke itself.

I won’t claim my all too obvious quip was clever, but I’ve heard plenty of brilliantly clever jokes about political assassination from the likes of Lenny Bruce, Paul Krassner and Bill Hicks just to pick three which spring immediately to mind. And some of them were downright uplifting too.

(2) Trotsky was killed with an ice axe, not an ice pick. If you must be inane, at least be accurate.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Comrade Trotsky, if he were alive today and had an internet connection would agree with me in agreeing with your initial caveat: You’re right, it doesn’t make a difference.

Try not to be such a stuffed shirt. You’ll give PC a bad name.

(And while you’re at it you might do something about that horrendous graphic banner on Inside higher ed that takes up such a large portion of my screen and I can’t get rid of with either adblock in firefox or pith helmet in safari. I find it it even more annoying than pop-ups/unders would be, and that’s not a joke.)

And by the way, I’m in the company of no less an authority than Marx on the first point above:

“I think the only hope this country has is Nixon’s assassination.”

-Groucho Marx interview with Flash magazine in 1971.


Nate Roberts 05.06.05 at 3:43 am

I read the /Chronicle/ piece and did not find any actually found it to be too flattering of Mr. Horowitz. I don’t recall any mention of the David Project’s roll in the attack on academic freedom at Columbia University or anything that would give the reader a flavor for the type of hate he promotes.

They could have mentioned, for example, a recent article in his FrontPageMagazin.com which calls slain peace activist Marla Ruzicka an “activist bimbette hampering… American soldiers and helping their terrorist killers” and rejoices over her death.

For a flavor of all the the /Chronicle/ article chose to ignore, here is something I posted something on DailyKos which discusses both the Marla attack and provides a round-up of the Columbia case:

LINKED: Marla Ruzicka Attack & Academic Freedom at Columbia University

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