The Left's mental straightjacket on the campus is removed for one evening.
Last Wednesday, evening the Freedom Center’s David Horowitz gave a much anticipated and ferociously opposed presentation before a crowd of more than 300 people at Moore Hall at the University of California at Los Angeles. The event was hosted by the Bruin Republicans, self-described as “the only officially right-of-center organization on the UCLA campus” – which is a good, albeit disheartening, indicator of the very issue Horowitz has been addressing on hundreds of campuses across this country, and which was the evening’s topic: the fact that our institutions of supposedly higher learning are utterly dominated by intolerant progressive academics who are ill-serving and mentally straight-jacketing their students.
Horowitz’s speech was as blunt as the title of his presentation – “Intellectual Terrorism: The Left’s War on Free Speech.” Pacing back and forth at the front of the hall, he was revved up right out of the gate and became even more impassioned as he went on. He began the wide-ranging, forty-minute speech with a condemnation of academics who indoctrinate rather than teach (“The students who suffer most are those of you who are on the left, because your assumptions are never challenged.”) Among other topics, he went on to decry campus anti-Semitism and to identify Islam as the greatest oppressor of women and gays in the world today. He delivered a myth-busting history of “Palestine” and a concise explanation of his opposition to slavery reparations a hundred years after the fact. And he attacked the Muslim Student Association, ubiquitous on major college campuses, as a creation of the Muslim Brotherhood, a supporter of the terrorist organization Hamas and the sponsor of Israel Apartheid weeks across the country.
He was flanked throughout the speech by very visible security – a tragic necessity for Horowitz, who is a lightning rod for some of the most bilious hatred that has ever been directed at a conservative public figure. He regularly receives threats prior to speaking engagements and has in fact been physically attacked. This is the inevitable result of his having once been a radical leftist himself, for the Left is only marginally more forgiving of its apostates than fundamentalist Muslims are of theirs.
But considering that Horowitz is frequently the target of organized disruption on the part of certain antagonistic student groups, this UCLA crowd was notably and unexpectedly quiet and respectful. There were literally no interruptions, heckling or outbursts, apart from frequent applause from a largely supportive crowd (and one other I’ll describe in a moment). Horowitz seemed so disarmed by this that he commented on it and commended the crowd for it more than once, eventually confessing that his many previous difficult campus experiences may have inclined him to a bit of paranoia.
However, the audience’s civility belied the atmosphere of intimidation under which the event was organized in the first place. In addition to the usual concerns which prompted the hiring of private security, there was more subtle coercion at work. The Bruin Republicans were the only student group that dared host Horowitz; no Jewish group at UCLA would sponsor him or participate in erecting the Freedom Center’s “Palestinian Wall of Lies,” designed to counteract campus campaigns against Israel’s so-called “apartheid state;” indeed, one of those Jewish groups told a Bruin Republican organizer that she would be ostracized by the Jewish community on campus if she participated in arranging Horowitz’s presentation – a threat that was probably unfounded and that she ignored, to her credit.
Evidently, however, the Muslim Students Association and Students for Justice in Palestine – both singled out by Horowitz as groups conducting a hate campaign against Jews on college campuses – decided to sit the speech out. The only questions about Islam after the speech were raised by a couple of members of conservative organizations who asked Horowitz to comment on the threat of Sharia and the existence of moderate Muslims. Regarding the former, he pointed out that people are so focused on violent terrorism that they fail to recognize the more subtle threat on the cultural front. As to moderate Muslims, he noted that there are good and bad people in all religions; there were probably many Germans who did not support Nazism either, he said, but their existence didn’t make a damn bit of difference in terms of halting the Final Solution.
The only apparent organized opposition to Horowitz’s appearance came from the Afrikan Student Union, which serves the needs “of the Afrikan student body and the Afrikan community within the context of the Struggle for Afrikan liberation.” The ASU passed out flyers outside the hall questioning Horowitz’s upbeat assertions about the prosperity of American blacks. The ASU members apparently weren’t mollified when he noted in the speech that his commitment to the civil rights movement began in 1948 – probably before the parents of the students present were even born.
During the Q&A period, one black student (who was grasping one of the flyers but didn’t identify herself as belonging to the Afrikan Student Union) confronted Horowitz about racial inequality in America. He pointed out that although there’s never been a Jewish president, there is currently a black one – clear evidence of how far blacks in this country have come – and he encouraged them to celebrate that progress. This positive perspective prompted exaggerated eye-rolls from more than one of the black students waiting in line to speak.
One girl, her voice quivering with emotion, challenged him to explain why she should embrace America, when there are so many impoverished black communities. Horowitz replied that 49% of blacks in this country are middle class, that many others are wealthy, and that every single inner-city school disaster across the country from Harlem to Watts can be attributed to school boards and school districts that are 100% controlled by Democrats, who use the schools as a jobs program for adults and a cash cow (through the unions) for the Democratic Party and thus have a vested interested in keeping blacks under their collective thumb. If you’re voting Democrat, Horowitz said, “you need to re-examine your commitments because you’re voting for your oppressor.”
The final questioner mentioned that conservative new media pioneer Andrew Breitbart, in his book Righteous Indignation, cited the political demonization of black conservative Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas as the inciting incident in his switch from Left to Right; the student asked if there were a similar watershed moment that inspired Horowitz’s own political conversion. Having read his intellectual autobiography Radical Son, I knew that there was such a moment. I knew what was coming, and knew it would get a reaction.
Horowitz explained briefly about his supportive association with the Black Panthers in the 1970s: “That was before I understood that the Panthers were a criminal gang of thugs” under a veneer of progressive ideology. This elicited a loud groan of disapproval toward the back of the hall from a couple of male students, who seemed to be unaware of – or perhaps dismissive of – the Panthers’ lengthy rap sheet of violent crimes. Their murder of Horowitz’s friend Betty Van Patter was the beginning of his about-face.
After the speech, the Afrikan Student Union members conferred intently outside the hall, apparently strategizing a response to Horowitz, who had closed the talk by offering his e-mail address to anyone interested in further discussion. For many, if not all of the left-leaning students who attended the event, it was possibly the first time they had been challenged by a conservative viewpoint on campus.