Campuses of Repression – by Richard L. Cravatts

Columbia Speaker Horowitz

As yet more evidence that American campuses have become, in Abigail Thernstrom’s apt description, “islands of repression in a sea of freedom,” St. Louis University has demonstrated that that free speech on campuses begins and ends according to how well that speech conforms to existing political orthodoxies. The University’s College Republicans and Young America’s Foundation had invited conservative author David Horowitz  to deliver a speech entitled, “An Evening with David Horowitz: Islamo-Fascism Awareness and Civil Rights,” and university administrators, once again choosing to avoid a close examination of radical Islam, cancelled Horowitz’s planned appearance.

What St. Louis University’s administration has done here is essentially to exercise the “heckler’s veto,” shutting down speech with which it does not agree, or which is feels is too controversial for certain protected minorities on campus; but ominously, and in seeming contradiction to the school’s own stated policy “to promote the free and open exchange of ideas and viewpoints, even if that exchange proves to be offensive, distasteful, disturbing or denigrating to some,” this particular speech was suppressed in advance of the event, based on a belief that the speaker’s words would possibly insult Muslim students and inflame their sensibilities.

Their decision seems to belie the University’s own feckless contention, in its “Policy Statement on Demonstrations & Disruption,” that it “encourages students, faculty and staff to be bold, independent, and creative thinkers,” and that “fundamental to this process is the creation of an environment that respects the rights of all members of the University community to explore and to discuss questions which interest them, to express opinions and debate issues energetically and publicly, and to demonstrate their concern by orderly means.”

There are troubling issues here, putting aside the basic question of fairness of denying certain students, with certain political beliefs, the opportunity to invite speakers to campus to share their views. Horowitz’s speech was cancelled (and he has appeared, by his own account, on more than 400 campuses in the past), not because it might contain speech that was demonstrably false or even incendiary, but because some individuals might be ‘offended’ or ‘intimidated’ by speech that they were perfectly free never to hear. Students have a right to be offended by the speech—even hate speech—of their fellow students or invited speakers and speak back to that speech with speech of their own, but their fellow students and invited guests also have a Constitutionally-protected right to be offensive, contentious, even controversial, provided their speech and conduct is within the bounds of the law.

“For me, it was … the content,” explained the university’s dean of students, Scott Smith, in rationalizing the decision to rescind Horowitz’s invitation to speak, “particularly, the blanketed use of the term Islamo-Fascism.” The school was also concerned that the speech would be seen as “attacking another faith and seeking to cause derision on campus.” But where does a college administration, whose own institution claims to value speech that is even “offensive, distasteful, disturbing or denigrating to some,” decide that this particular topic—radical Islam—cannot and should not be spoken about? Is this not a relevant discussion in a world where, since 9/11, over 12,000 acts of terror have been committed by murderous radicals in Islam’s name? Does not an ideology which has as its aim the subjugation of other faiths and a world-wide caliphate under sharia law, and is fueled by billions in petro dollars, deserve, and, in fact, require, some critique and evaluation? And Mr. Horowitz’s context for delivering his speech is also relevant; his view is that the current jihad against Israel on campuses in America and Canada is a symptom of the West’s accommodation to radical Islam, and part of a wider problem caused by the Left’s excuses for, and embrace of, totalitarian movements.

Horowitz always emphasizes in his speeches that when he is critiquing Islamo-fascism, he is not indicting all of Islam, or all Muslims, only those who use the religion as a justification for jihad. That is clearly the point of his message, and any honest listener to his speeches would think that it was. So St. Louis University’s notion that it had to preemptively protect the sensibilities of its Muslim students is at best condescending and at worst another way that unwritten speech codes are constructed, according to attorney and free speech expert Harvey Silverglate, to “protect ideologically or politically favored groups, and, what is more important, insulate these groups’ self-appointed spokesmen and spokeswomen from criticism and even from the need to participate in debate.”

This obscurantism where radical Islam is being discussed—or not discussed, as the case may be—has much wider implications outside the relatively protected campus community, as Anne Bayefsky, from Eye on the, for instance, recently observed. Led by the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the morally-incoherent UN Human Rights Council has passed a new resolution, Bayefsky says, apparently embraced by the Obama administration, that “emphasizes that ‘the exercise of the right to freedom of expression carries with it special duties and responsibilities . . .’ which include taking action against anything meeting the description of ‘negative racial and religious stereotyping.’”  Tellingly, and ominously, the resolution was passed to protect one religion and only one—Islam—and had as its main intention to criminalize blasphemy and essentially exculpate radical Islam by inoculating an entire religion from inspection, criticism, or condemnation.

Most disingenuous is how institutions of higher education like St. Louis University, while horrified by the prospect of a David Horowitz visit, use their claims of academic free speech as a cover for regularly bringing outrageous, anti-American, anti-Israel, out-of-the-mainstream views to campuses—either in student-run organizations, in course materials and teaching philosophies, in the sponsorship of festivals and cultural events, or in the person of controversial speakers and artists. For example, the concern over offending certain student groups suddenly did not have the same sense of urgency when speakers, with views certainly as controversial as Horowitz’s, were enthusiastically invited to the Washington University campus, notable among them Norman Finkelstein, who spoke in 2007 as part of “Palestine Awareness Week,” sponsored by Saint Louis University Solidarity with Palestine.

Finkelstein has loudly and notoriously pronounced his extreme views on the Middle East for years, not to mention his loathing of what he has called the Holocaust “industry,” something he has called an “outright extortion racket;” in fact, he blames Jews themselves for anti-Semitism.  Writing in Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History, his off-handed, sardonic response to Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz’s own book, Chutzpah, Finkelstein accuses Jewish leadership, a group he defines as a “repellent gang of plutocrats, hoodlums, and hucksters,” of creating a “combination of economic and political power,” from which “has sprung, unsurprisingly, a mindset of Jewish superiority.” What is more, he continues, “from this lethal brew of formidable power, chauvinistic arrogance, feigned (or imagined) victimhood, and Holocaust-immunity to criticism has sprung a terrifying recklessness and ruthlessness on the part of American Jewish elites. Alongside Israel, they are the main fomenters of anti-Semitism in the world today.”

Finkelstein’s best known work, The Holocaust Industry: Reflections On The Exploitation of Jewish Suffering, cruelly minimizes the magnitude of the Holocaust while simultaneously making the perverse accusation that it is used by Zionists to extract sympathy from the world community and to justify the oppression and subjugation of the Palestinians by Israelis. Despite its popularity with anti-Semites, Islamists, and neo-Nazis worldwide, one critic, Brown University genocide expert Omer Bartov, described the book in a New York Times review as “a novel variation on the anti-Semitic forgery, ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ . . . brimming with indifference to historical facts, inner contradictions, strident politics . . . indecent . . . juvenile, self-righteous, arrogant and stupid.” Historian David Greenberg was similarly critical of the level of scholarship in The Holocaust Industry, calling it “a hate-filled screed” filled with “pseudo-scholarship, extreme anti-Israel ideology and—there is no way around it—anti-Semitism. And it stinks.”

Finkelstein, who was recently denied tenure at DePaul and then fired (his fourth such experience at a university), has now also adopted the position that this professional set-back is the direct result for being bold enough to speak up against Zionism and Israel, and he has been punished into silence accordingly, even while he regularly visits college campuses nationwide, usually at the invitation of the Muslim Students Association, where, as he is demonizing Israel and America, he coddles homicidal Palestinians and defends the terror of Hezbollah with such admissions as: “I did make a point of publicly honoring the heroic resistance of Hezbollah to foreign occupation . . . Their historic contributions are . . . undeniable.”

So it is telling that when this academic charlatan, this morally-imbecilic Holocaust denier, appeared on the St. Louis campus as part of a multi-day hate-fest against Israel and Jews, no one on the administration thought that the content of Finkelstein’s speech might offend or defame any of its students. Might not Jewish students feel intimidated, offended, or otherwise uncomfortable on their campuses when they witness speakers cheering for terrorist groups whose oft-stated goal is the murder of Jews everywhere? When they see the Star of David painted as equivalent to a swastika? When the Jewish state is regularly described as an apartheid regime, a brutal occupier committing ‘genocide’ against the Palestinians, and the main obstacle to world peace? When academics claim that that Israel is not morally worthy of U.S. support and only enjoys it as a result of a pernicious, cabal-like “Israel lobby” working against America’s best interests? Of course Jewish students are damaged by this prevalent and unrelenting activity on their campuses; but mendacious administrators apparently feel that Jews―like Christians, white people, and capitalists―do not require, or do not deserve, protection from being offended or insulted by speech.

Liberal-leaning academics at St. Louis University and on other American campuses seemingly hold the notion that free speech is only good when it articulates politically correct, ideologically-acceptable views of protected victim or minority groups. But true intellectual diversity—the ideal that is often bandied about but rarely achieved—must be dedicated to the protection of unfettered speech, representing opposing viewpoints, where the best ideas become clear through the utterance of weaker ones. For Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, for instance, the protection of free expression for all views was essential, not only to allow discourse of popular topics, but, even more importantly, in instances where unpopular or currently-controversial speech is deemed offensive and unworthy of being heard. “If there is any principal of the Constitution,” he observed, “that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other, it is the principal of free thought—not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate.”

  • Seamus P.

    I'm a college professor and this article is correct. Administrators will do ANYTHING to stop any form of activity that will incite the left. They see no problem in that. Any leftist, any one at all, can speak freely at the college, though. Freedom of speech is one way. If you are a tyrant, a terrorist, or other home grown leftist, you have an open mike. Conservative? No, there is no place for “racists” on the campus, haha.

  • USMCSniper

    “Herbert Marcuse, a Marxist theorist, wrote a famous article in the 1960s that advocated a “repressive tolerance” that would repress the Right and tolerate only the Left. Why college administrators and professors of all people would think that they had the right to engage in this kind of totalitarian thought control is beyond comprehension. These codes invariably are used to justify “malicious aggression” against those who do not conform to the narrow ideology of the campus Left. Labeling dissenters as “haters” or “harassers” is a cowardly and immoral way of avoiding real, substantive debate.”

  • CrispusAttucks

    censorship is never justified, but I can see why people would be uncomfortable with a non-muslim or non-ex-muslim critizicing a culture/religion with which he has nothing to do with. If I wanna learn about Islam and it's dangers I would rather hear coming from someone who has lived it, who knows it inside and out, like Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Would it be o.k. for white Christians to go around the country giving speeches on “Judaism” or Islamic clerics visited universities and gave speeches about “the evils of Christianity”? I think not.

    Horowitz is also somewhat of a pompous ass-clown who since his early days has gone from one extreme idea to another, everything is very black or white to him, the man is far from being a voice of reason or moderation. He's just an angry white man with a loud bark but little bite. Small man, big mouth.

  • healthi
  • earthman

    We let the left take over the colleges over the years, just like they are taking over (or already took over) the government. Sadly it may be too late to change things back to normal.

  • josephwiess

    Isn't it strange how the Truth offends the guilty?

  • Tar_and_Feathers

    What's up with the “pompous ass-clown” stuff? What is this, amateur night at Pee Wee's Playhouse?

    My friends, please observe how easy it is to get people like CA to reveal the cards they're holding: Thinly veiled hatred and resentment towards those who effectively criticize and de-bunk the orthodoxies of the Left. And done in a petty juvenile way that wouldn't even play well in a junior high debate.

    Small man, big mouth indeed.

  • John from Toronto

    It's time the term politically correct be dropped. What is usually meant when this term is used is that something is politically correct according to the left, which is nonsense in itself.

  • seek

    So St. Louis University has gone p.c., eh? I grew up in the St. Louis area, and it's hard to believe this respected Jesuit institution would cave in like this. If you're Catholic, save your tuition money and pay your respects somewhere else.

  • Anna DeBlasis

    I am not a Jew or an Arib but I completely agree with this article and Mr.David Horowitz…….. Shame on ST. Louis University….. This is not the America I grew up in ! Where has it gone ??… We`re erroding from the inside out… Isn`t that how all of the great nations have fallen ?

  • patriotwork

    We must work with David Horowitz to roll back this poluted tied of leftist activity and antisemitism at universities across this land.

    CP,No.3,you don't know much about Horowitz,or you are lying. Either way,you are the small person with the big mouth. Add small mind,too.

  • antioli

    The College is deciding for the students what they have the right to hear. The students should not let the administration play favorites as the forum belongs not to the administration but to the people of the state and the decision to listen or not to listen is up to the student.If the student does not wish to listen he does not have to attend;if the student does wish to hear then no one has the right to prohibit him from listening No administrators and no group of hecklers should be allowed to violate the rights of the students to listen or to play guardian of the students minds. For the Administration or group that censors a speaker who has been invited by the students by denying him access to the students forum is acting like a dictator. The College is an appendage of the government and thus the administration either by banning or by allowing hecklers to silence the invited speakers is engaged in illegal governmental censorship and is acting in lawless retrograde mannerwith respect democracy and with respect to the will of the people.Does the Administrator wish to act against people as if he were a primitive dictator? If so he should not be a control person of an institute dedicated to learning.

  • Jp

    Anyone who can read and think critically can easily discover that Finkestein's views are not what is stated in this article. He fought vehemently to get his Mother, a Holocaust survivor who lost her entire family, reparations and was only able to get a few thousand. He wrote the Holocaust Industry to indict those who stole Holocaust reparations money from the real victims and extorted governments, using the memory of the Holocaust for personal financial gain. A just and worthy cause for any Jew. I admire him greatly. And so did the late great Raul Hilberg author of “The Destruction Of European Jews” and considered the leading scholar on the Holocaust. Hilberg stated, regarding Finkelstein's writings and tenure dispute, “That [his work] takes a great amount of courage in and of itself. So I would say that his place in the whole history of writing history is assured and that those who in the end are proven right triumph, and he will be among those who will have triumphed, albeit, it so seems, at great cost.” He also said regarding the attacks on Finkelstein due to his work in The Holocaust Industry,
    “I was also struck by the fact that Finkelstein was being attacked over and over. And granted, his style is a little different from mine, but I was saying the same thing, and I had published my results in that three-volume work, published in 2003 by Yale University Press, and I did not hear from anybody a critical word about what I said, even though it was the same substantive conclusion that Finkelstein had offered. So that’s the gist of the matter right then and there.” The source for this is easily found on I'm sure what is every reader of frontpage's favorite website In regard to his “firing” from St. Paul. Not true. He was denied tenure due to a witch-hunt by Dershowitz. His peers unanimously voted to give him tenure. In arbitration he agreed to resign and received a settlement package that included an acknowledgement of his great work as an Assistant Professor at St. Paul. I suggest everyone read first “The Case for Israel” by Dershowitz, as I did when some family wanted me to make Aliyah (move to and live in Israel), and check the sources then read “Beyond Chutzpah” by Finkelstein and check the sources to see what kind of men Finkelstein and Dershowitz really are. This article is simply false and misleading. Let the bashing begin.

  • antioli

    What do you think of Bobby Fischer?
    Do you think his views on Jews was valid . Did his views in any way resemble those of Finkelstein

  • sflbib

    What you say is true for public institutions, but St. Louis is a private one and can “censor” what it pleases, although not a good idea, especially when your website says, “We don't so much embrace ideas as challenge them, always looking for larger, stronger answers. As a consequence, not only will you learn to defend your ideas, you will learn to improve upon them, developing the intellectual wherewithal to think clearly, argue pointedly and express yourself beautifully.”

  • CrispusAttucks

    I'm lying? You clearly do not know a thing about Horowitz's history…

  • CrispusAttucks

    hatred? because I'm stating the obvious? what could I possibly resent? That Horowitz doesn't have a moderate bone in his body? Is that not true? The man went from the ultra left to the ultra right and believes that his ideas are absolute truths. He is just another TV and online figurehead, like Glenn Beck, who is full of frustration, anger and self loathing. I feel sorry for these people.

    “Thinly veiled hatred and resentment towards those who effectively criticize and de-bunk the orthodoxies of the Left.” – So how has Horowitz effectively debunked anything? Who is his audience, aside from a marginal minority of ultra right people who visit this site and watch glenn beck?

  • robertschneider

    I grew up near St. Louis. Back in the late 50s and 60s, I remember St. Louis Univ. being hard on the Protestant infidel. Why in the world does Islam deserve more respect than Calvinism?

  • trickyblain

    Wait. I thought that, according to “conservatives,” private business should be free to run their companies as they see fit. St. Louis University is a private business. Why does Horowitz have a “right” to speak there? Horowitz is neither an employee of the university, let alone a member of a protected class — where does his right to spew come from?

    If the university indeed wanted to present “a close examination of radical Islam,” there are thousands of infinitely more qualified individuals than a man angry that he is not taken seriously as an intellectual. A man whose degree is in English Lit. Academic qualifications are not attained by running a Web site geared for an extreme political faction.

    Should St. Louis University invite the managing editor of “Stormfront” to give a discussion on African-American culture? Whoever that is, I'm sure he considers himself an expert on such matters. But he's not — his views are contaminated by bigotry and hate. Just as Horowitz is not an expert on “Islam,” “The LEFT” or much else, save self-aggrandizement.

  • Tar_and_Feathers

    The Left has had an intense disdain for Horowitz ever since he became an outspoken conservative. It was interesting for awhile, then tedious, and now boring. When did the animosity of the Left become such dull monotony?

    I suspect Horowitz will continue to write, lecture, and appear on the cable news outlets, as well as continue to irritate all of his detractors. Good work if you can get it.

  • mike902

    St Loius U receives Federal and State funding…thus by litigious definition is not “private” anymore…strings come with big-brother-dollars.

  • mike902

    Horowitz does not represent “ultra” anything. He represents those of us who are and forever will be patriotic middle America. Please tell yourself what you think you need to hear to smooth over your projection and denial of the left-wing idiocracy. The blind left as usual…