Something We Did

David Horowitz was one of the founders of the New Left in the 1960s and an editor of its largest magazine, Ramparts. He is the author, with Peter Collier, of three best selling dynastic biographies: The Rockefellers: An American Dynasty (1976); The Kennedys: An American Dream (1984); and The Fords: An American Epic (1987). Looking back in anger at their days in the New Left, he and Collier wrote Destructive Generation (1989), a chronicle of their second thoughts about the 60s that has been compared to Whittaker Chambers’ Witness and other classic works documenting a break from totalitarianism. Horowitz examined this subject more closely in Radical Son (1996), a memoir tracing his odyssey from “red-diaper baby” to conservative activist that George Gilder described as “the first great autobiography of his generation.” His latest book is Take No Prisoners: The Battle Plan for Defeating the Left (Regnery Publishing).

Twitter: @horowitz39
Facebook: David Horowitz


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In real life, however, in that Greenwich Village townhouse, Kathy Boudin and her comrades were deliberately building a bomb filled with nails, which they intended to detonate at a social dance at Fort Dix — a dance that would be attended by 18-year-old draftees and their dates. In real life, Kathy Boudin was a calculating terrorist with no mercy for those she regarded as her political enemies. My opposition to her parole then and now is because of the criminal acts she committed and her refusal to face up to them — not because she opposed the Vietnam War.

The only article I ever remember writing about Kathy Boudin’s parole begins with this sentence: “The separate reality of radicals, which made them unable to comprehend their own deeds, was made vivid for me in a New York Times story I read later, about the parole appeal of … Kathy Boudin.”[2] The author of Something You Did never sought to interview me to find out who I was or what views I had of these events before defaming me in his play. He is a perfect example of those radicals who inhabit a separate reality, which makes them unable to understand how others see them and therefore unable to comprehend themselves.

In Something You Did I am represented as a self-serving cynic and a representative specimen of the system I once opposed. My character, “Gene,” cuts million dollar deals on the basis of his fame as a radical turncoat and receives $50,000 speaking fees to spread his noxious views. I wish. Perhaps the playwright was thinking of Cornel West or Michael Moore, who resonate with the prevailing leftwing views of literary and academic culture and who might actually command such contracts and fees.

In addition to being a materialistic narcissist, the character allegedly based on me is also portrayed as an embittered racist, and a xenophobic Jew. I will answer these canards one at a time. In constructing my character as a wealthy cynic the author chooses to confront a radical cliché rather than the reality of the person who was Kathy Boudin’s most corrosive critic. I am pretty much the same individual I was when I was on the left, though hopefully wiser from experience. I am still a missionary and driven by certain ideals, not the avaricious operator represented in the play. My conservative views are driven by what I see as the destructive ambitions and practices of the left, and their negative impact on the very people — blacks, the poor, and the Vietnamese – whom radicals claim to support. Any honest reader of my work would know that. A confrontation between a radical and a former radical who has had second thoughts about the practical results of his commitments would have provided a more interesting center for this play than the progressive melodrama the author has settled on.

But melodrama it is, and therefore the conservative antagonist must also be exposed not only as an opponent of radical terrorists but as a racist, and since he is Jewish, a tribalist – a “reactionary.” In the play my character refers to the murder of “two” civil rights workers in Mississippi deliberately omitting the third, James Chaney, because he was black and in this reactionary tribalist’s mental universe only Jews count. Just on a personal note, my three black grandchildren would not appreciate this artistic license. Those who have followed my career and writings will know that I am more faithful to the civil rights ideals in which we leftists claimed to believe in the Sixties, than the author of this play. The point I made in my autobiography Radical Son about these issues, which the author has grossly misrepresented is that Jewish radicals like Kathy Boudin feel superior to the groups they are claiming to help, in this instance blacks, and so fail to understand them as individuals. The terrorist act, which provides the basis for this play, was committed by a group of violent black criminals whom Boudin mistook for black victims and comrades. Stokely Carmichael, who is a target of the remarks made by the character associated with me in the play was a black anti-Semite and racist whom Jewish progressives mistook for an ally. That very specific point has simply been distorted beyond recognition by the author in order to smear me and all conservatives as racists.

The play concludes with Allison’s plea to the parole board to be released. She defends herself by claiming that whatever she did and whatever mistakes she made were in behalf of the Vietnamese and Cambodians, and that the real criminals are the Americans who supported the anti-Communist cause. In other words, there is nothing she needs to regret about the political views that led her to commit her heinous acts, and besides her adversaries were much worse.

There are two problems with this attempt at an exculpation. The first is that Kathy Boudin and the anti-war left really didn’t care that much about the Vietnamese and the Cambodians. When America left Indo-China in 1975 and the Cambodians and Vietnamese were being slaughtered by the Communists in one of the largest genocides of the 20th Century, there were no protests by the American left of those atrocities, not by Kathy Boudin and not by her comrades-in-arms.

My second problem with Allison’s appeal is that the factual premise on which it is based is a lie. Kathy Boudin was responsible for the death of a black policeman, Waverly Brown (actually first black policeman ever hired by the Nyack police force). But the act that killed him was not and could not have been a protest against the Vietnam War. Officer Brown was killed by Kathy Boudin and her friends in 1981, when the Communists were in power in Vietnam, and the United States had been out of Indochina for six years.

This play is dishonest in its core. It misrepresents the reasons Kathy Boudin committed her crime; it misrepresents the crime itself; and it whitewashes her culpability as a supporter of terrorist acts. Finally, it misrepresents who I am and why I opposed her parole.

[1] Radical Son: A Generational Odyssey, 1997

[2] “Clinton’s Pardoned Bombers” in Left Illusions: An Intellectual Odyssey.

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  • swathdiver

    Property not people, Bill Ayers gives the same lame excuse.

    Was she in the room when Ayers told the undercover G-Man that he had no qualms murdering tens of thousands of conservatives in camps after the "revolution"???

    As usual these people ignore reality and vainly struggle to live in utopia and apart from God.

  • Chezwick_Mac

    Cogent, comprehensive, and morally unambiguous. Nice response, David. How sad you had to endeavor to write it in the first place. The author of the play ought to be ashamed.

    • Guest

      Don't you realize radical Lefties are pathologically incapable of shame? They are likewise incapable of admitting error of any kind. Until you understand that they are driven by a barely suppressed rage which issues from their fear of the world you'll never comprehend their actions or their words.

  • Marvin Cohen

    David,
    How about a play about YOUR life that is accurate! Or a movie based on it. I bet it would be thought provoking, exciting, and controversial. I'd go see it.

    • Chris

      I've thought for a long time that someone should make a movie of Radical Son.

  • Ed Hart

    Yes, I think it is time for a movie about the Weather Underground.

    • tagalog

      Emile De Antonio already did one. Somebody did another one sometime after the turn of the century.

  • jbtrevor

    David's response sheds light on something I've thought for some time: It's time for conservatives to take over the artistic media. I'm tired of holding my nose and buying tickets for entertainment that is more ire inspiring than exhilarating!
    I know an artistic creation titled: Radical Son would be widely successful! Do it!!!!

    • Indioviejo

      I agree with you 100%. I grew up with John Wayne and Hollywood erased anything good in the perception of the American character a long time ago. I refuse to pay money to see my country and our people constantly denigrated for the world to misjudge us. It is so sad that they set the perception so far from reality. Redical Son should be a historical watershed. We can only hope.

    • Bill Kerney

      There is a way to take over the media. Broadband wireless to the home using the new free White Spaces technology. Produce content in 1080p and send it right to big screens in homes. Direct. David knows a ton of talent to fill the pipes to the home screens and capitalized cost of the system is less than than a national Wi-Fi system.

      What will slow this down or halt it altogether is the inability of conservatives to figure out where up is. What is important vs not important. Movies and TV have always depended on technology and now the technology is here to end the dominance of the left over our culture.

      But much like David had no help trying to get balance into colleges from conservative leadership I expect no reaction to the fact that media is controlled by the left only because conservatives don't/won't act.

      • jbtrevor

        Methinks the conservative leadership is changing…or we'll change them. David has the American people on his side..

    • tagalog

      A few years ago (maybe I should say many years ago at this point), somebody made a movie called A Small Circle of Friends. It was not a particularly memorable movie, although it wasn't as bad as the critics say either. It was about some Harvard students who entered the university in the 60s as ordinary people and then moved to the far left, then grew up. Somebody could make a really good movie about that, and the experiences of David Horowitz would be an excellent foundation for the story.

  • Alex Kovnat

    Here's an interesting idea for a play: One on how Eldridge Cleaver turned from horrid leftwinger to a somewhat more moderate guy. Said play should also mention how another radical, one Mr. Charmichael, stoked the fires of hatred until the very end of his life.

    • tagalog

      It could have the David Mamet Story as a subplot.

  • antifascist18

    Bill Ayers should have been hanged years ago as both a traitor to the USA and a terrorist. The fact that government attorneys botched that case should have made no difference – but that does speak volumes about the attorneys the government hires – including the current crop trying to sue Arizona.

    People call President Nixon many things. The fact is too, he really wasn't tough enough or the bastard the Neo-Nazis of the Left say he was. If he were he'd stay in power, hang Ayers and all of his associates and outlaw the Democratic Party. As a result of his decision to abide by the Constitution, something the current fraudulent occpant of the WH refuses to do, we've gotten Carter, Clinton, and the Kenyan Monkey – and his pals like Ayers and Boudin treated as respected, legitimate people when they are still scum.

  • tagalog

    About Kathy Boudin: this compassionate lover of the people conspired to make a bomb to kill people at a dance at Fort Dix. She was a highway robber and murderer who, like all criminals, will lie about anything to advance her agenda. And evidently she's chosen as friends those who will lie for her.

    David Horowitz: he participated in publishing a left-wing magazine that always had a small strain of contrarianism (remember the article about hippies called The Children's Crusade? How about the skeptical article about Bob Dylan? Remember those?). He said a lot of stuff that millions of others also believed. He didn't harm a hair on anybody's head. And as best I can tell, as one who lived through the late 60s/early 70s days in New York City, on the fringes of the Left, and read Horowitz's books, I don't think he's lied about anything.

  • Chuckray

    Some day the "Horowitz story" will be a compelling one in our great nation's history. And perhaps he will be considered a patriotic hero of considerable significance.

    • ajnn

      It would be nice. But without holding elected office or writing an enormous best-seller, his name is not likely to be remembered by other than students of the era.

      Who remembers Chernikovsky ? Moreau is only remembered because of a painting.

      LASTING fame is tougher than we like to think.

      • Chezwick_Mac

        You may very well be right, but here are some legitimate reasons why David might be semi-immortalized by his work…

        1) The body of David's work far transcends any single effort. Had he written a best seller and then wrote little else, it wouldn't equate the prodigious volume of his work

        2) The subject matter: His is no idle prose. David is tackling some of the most important sociological issues of our time. If conservative ideals ever triumph in our culture, he will be lionized as a guiding spirit. Should they remain on the periphery, he will be a cult hero to a large "counter-culture".

        3) David's humanity distinguishes him from many polemicists of our age. Its exposition is unmistakable in 'The End of Time', 'A Cracking of the Heart', and even in 'Radical Son'. This gives him a personal connection with the reader that can only enhance his stature.

  • crackerjack

    A political radical remains a political radical, fancy he himself Leftist or Zionist. Radicals in politics substitute personal inferiority complexes and insecurity with a political "message" they hope to impose on others and in many cases, like Horowitz , an over exaggeration of their own role in scociety coupled with a saviour complex towards a nation or people.

    Many of these characters show their true colours with age.

    • ajnn

      And so the behavior of David Horowitz shows a man who is honest and compassionate in his heart and not like the 'kathy boudin's' of this world. Good comment !!!

    • Tom Cole

      Actually Zionism is rather rational. It says that after the Jews were dispersed from their land, their guest countries did not always make them welcome. When they were not welcome, sometimes they were herded into ghettos, sometimes they were murdered. So why not go back to the homeland, where they would not be at the mercy of the whims of the mob?
      The problem was that Palestine had a substantial population of people who did not want Jewish immigration, or a Jewish state. The problem was also that the many neighboring Moslem countries did not want a Jewish state either. Other than that, it was a rational idea.
      A leftist radical who sees the error of his past passion for leftism may end up being more rational than a non-thinking type who accepts the political fads of the day and the info of the mass media and colleges without thinking skeptically about them.

      • crackerjack

        We need to differentiate here. Horowitz' radical Zionism is not rational in putting Zionism before Judaism. In fact, its just a new form of anti-semitism, rendering Jews who question of challenge Zionist goals as "self hateing".

    • Radegunda

      Try putting down the Psych 101 textbook and thinking for yourself.

      • crackerjack

        Nobody needs a textbook to see the irony in this case. Obviously one of the leading figures of America's "Restoring Honor" movement, one who is constantly lashing out against alleged radical connections of his opponents, was himself deeply involved in subversive, terror activities. Why should we forgive and forget in the case of Horowitz, when it is he who refuses to forgive and forget in the case of others?

    • tagalog

      Horowitz has never hidden his view that the right should use many of the tactics the left uses to advance its agenda.

      • crackerjack

        The spot on description of a radical ! The use of radical tactics and methods to advance ones agenda, be it left or right. Horowitz views may have changed, his approach hasn't; destruction of the opponent by any means necessary.

  • jacob

    After reading the concept in which who signs ANTIFASCIST 18 holds the present occupier of the White House, makes me wonder how come the FrontPage censor considered offensive my qualifying OBAMA as the White House's Muslim "Socialist" Demagogue….

  • Aubrey

    Why arn't there cold case files still open for Bill Ayers and his wife? I though the time for the crime of murder never expired.

  • Lisa_H

    "He [the playwright] is a perfect example of those radicals who inhabit a separate reality, which makes them unable to understand how others see them and therefore unable to comprehend themselves."

    I would go even further: "You can only see others as clearly as you see yourself." (quote from Stephen C. Paul) It was only after I looked within that I was able to see where others were coming from. This has been a long painful yet rewarding and never ending process. This (out of the personal) is what has ultimately led me to my now-held political convictions–as opposed to the left's conviction that the political is personal.

    • ajnn

      me too !!!

  • Seek

    The memes of any radical political or religious group can be intoxicating to young adherents. Repetitious phrases attain a halo of absolute truth. The Weathermen needed a reality check back then; David Horowitz did what he could to create one. Plays like this merely keep old illusions alive. But they won't work to those who seek truth.

  • Eddina Symns

    “Whether the radical sins of the past can be forgiven even as the reactionary sins of the present multiply.” IS THE WRONG QUESTION TO ASK. The answer to it is obvious.

  • http://www.shugartpoliticalaction.shugartmedia.com/index.html Tar_n_Feathers

    Old Leftists die hard. Long since discredited, most will go to their graves convinced they were right. Honest introspective reevaluation is something they dare not attempt. To do so would render their very purpose of existence into a cartoonish sham. One reason Horowitz still gets crap from the Left is that he has effectively deconstruct the Left's mythology, and therefore the fantasy world in which they live.

  • LibertyLover

    David – I've read most of you works, but "Radical Son" is one of my all time favorites by any author. I was a college student in the SFO Bay Area during the '60's but I guess I'd be called a Paleo-conservative. I was a chapter president of YAF. At any rate, your biography was moving to me. My wife also read it a was likwise moved. BTW, she was raised in San Francisco during the '50s & '60s. You really are one of our heros.

  • Rifleman

    You must be getting under someone's skin. I'd take such a play from such a person as a flattering compliment, but I'm weird like that. If bad people hate me, I'm doing something right.

  • USMCSniper

    The Left makes a provocative film “Death of a President,” which depicts the assassination of George W. Bush and they award and honor each other as of it were some achievement and it is even shown in Canada. Make the same film about Obama and show it in Canada and watch the hate speech charges come.

    • Guest

      See my comment above to ChezwickMac

  • John Doba

    David, your life and thought are an inspiration. You're the most interesting writer in the country, substantively, and your prose style is just gorgeous to boot. It's amazing the dreck coming out of the Left—thank goodness you're here to help focus and channel the movement to contest that. Keep up the fine work.

  • crackerjack

    Let's be honest here. Horowitz would have been the most prominent stone thrower had news of a connection with radical terror groups croped up among his opponents and his buddies from FOX News would be up in arms 24/7 demanding consequences.

    In the case of Horowitz, all is to be forgiven and forgotten. Why?

  • rihanna britney

    Horowitz did not murder anyone. Thats the difference.

    • crackerjack

      He collected money and posted propaganda for those who murderd. Where is the outcry in America, where the primetime with Beck, where is FOX?
      This is an important and exposing episode in the life of a notable political figure.

  • topeka

    Thank you David, just for being. You're a liberal with an open mind – and once one's mind is open…. reality replaces fantasy. As it happens, we live in a time when simply standing up for what is right makes one a target. Hang in there.

    Meanwhile, back on the farm, many of us have paid for our sins too. Often, without any comfort, forgiveness, or hope. To be targeted by a lefty as a villian in a play is an honor, and a privilege of an effective prophet. Consider the rest of us, who have only broken dreams.

    As for the critics of David's blog – Mr. Horowitz did not murder anyone, true. But just as important, he changed so that he could continue opposing oppression – and yes, even murder. American policies do not make haters hate, but Liberal policies allow violent people to kill others. Liberals oppose simple, basic policies which would stop violence, and mitigate famine, disease, pestilence, war, crime, rape and even slavery. Mr. Horowitz opposes all of these things every time he opposes whacky radicals re-inventing Kool-Aid on college campuses, which makes him dangerous, and an object of ridicule.

  • PAthena

    Check Kathy Boudin's relationship to I. F. Stone. I think she was a close relative. (I.F. Stone worked for the KGB, as John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr, and Alexander Vassiliev have shown in their book, SPIES: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America.)