The meaning of what Horowitz has done

(Also be sure to see the exchange below between Conservative Swede and me about the similarity between David Horowitz and Pope Benedict.)

VFR reader David G. has sent a very perceptive and thoughtful message about the David Horowitz situation. He writes:

Horowitz’s behavior is pretty sad, indeed, for a man who is ranked among America’s top 100 intellectuals. After all, this is a fellow who in recent years has made his mark, in part, by assuring college students that they can’t get a good education if they are being told half the story. LA—you are being told half the story. The silent, other half being the DH-Mills communiqu├ęs, which led to your original banishment. Again, as a public intellectual, Horowitz has fallen short of his accolades. That having been said, DH can, of course, “fire” anyone “at will.” I believe we are talking about is, at the least, a serious lack of professional, as well as common, courtesy.

In Horowitz’s e-mail he describes Mills as a “prick.” Why? What did he sense in Mills attitude that would allow for calling him a prick? That word is a vulgar one and is almost exclusively reserved for someone that we instinctively dislike and are apt to dismiss. (Mills acknowledges the insult on his blog with no self-examination at all other than to ask, “I’m the prick?”) Or, does DH feel that Mills has an agenda and has managed to advance that agenda through FP? Either Mills is a prick because he plays dirty and is repulsive, or Horowitz is angry with him for instigating a donnybrook that Horowitz himself lacks the stamina to deal with. Or both.

DH is also upset because his children are asking why he is publishing a racist. I can only take this characterization of you to be pertinent to the rape article, unless they are privy to the DH-Mills correspondence or have made an extensive study of your work and drawn their own conclusions from it. The latter, I doubt. If the family had seen racism in your work as a result of their own diligent study then I doubt the rape article would have ever seen the light of day at FP. They would have buried you long ago. Yet DH says that he defended your rape article v. Mills. So why is Horowitz upset that his children wrote to him about you ? If he defended you against Mills, and can prove it, wouldn’t the very same argument defend you in the eyes of his children? Strange. [LA suggests: Horowitz’s children’s basis for calling me a racist may be nothing more than Horowitz’s own statement to Mills in 2006 that Horowitz considered certain unknown statements of mine racist and offensive.]

Another oddity in DH’s response to you is that he describes his impression of your work as “interesting if obtuse.” According to The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary obtuse means 1.) Chiefly Bot.& and Zool. Not sharp or pointed, blunt. 2.) Not acutely sensitive or perceptive; dull; stupid. b. Of pain: indistinctly felt or perceived, dull.

Let me simply say that if I were offering even a cursory appraisal of your work, obtuse would not be among my choice of descriptors.

Now, DH has also written extensively about the Black Panthers. I have no doubt that he is familiar with the infamous quote of Eldridge Cleaver in Soul on Ice concerning black on white rape. One obituary of EC in 1998 stated it this way:

“In one essay, Cleaver described his rape of white women as “an insurrectionary act. It delighted me that I was defying and trampling upon the white man’s law … defiling his women. I wanted to send waves of consternation through the white race,” he said.

And he did. When Cleaver was asked to speak at the University of California at Berkeley, then-Gov. Ronald Reagan expressed outrage.

“‘If Eldridge Cleaver is allowed to teach our children, they may come home one night and slit our throats,’ Reagan said.”

I’m not saying that there is a direct causal relationship between the Cleaver quote and the stats presented in your article but this is the kind of stuff that DH would normally be willing to dissect (i.e., ideas have consequences, black rage/white guilt).

Lastly, I would urge you to secure from DH the case against you, that is, the actual articles upon which DH decided to agree with Mills. You stated in an earlier post that it was a mistake for the paleocons to accept a racist tag and the same must hold true for yourself. Not that you are accepting the tag but rather the DH-Mills blow-up is one of those incidents that could unnecessarily dog you forever. It like one of the Duke rape case students said, no matter what he does in life he will always be associated with the incident and that even his obituary will mention it.

I believe that one of the key-most challenges to the traditionalist thinker is to remain free from racism, anti-Semitism and the indulgence of irrational hatreds. If we can’t carve out a meaningful life without those elements then we are lost. You once wrote (and I’m paraphrasing) that as your traditionalist thinking started to really take shape, you worried about being classified among the haters. That you sought a different path was a sign of good instincts and great self-awareness—as well as evidence of a healthy social conscience.

LA replies:

This is exceptionally insightful and useful, particularly your exposition of the wrongness of Horowitz’s behavior and of various oddities in his statement, including what he said about his children.

What I need to do is write an appeal to conservative public opinion and demand that Horowitz lay out what statements of mine he considered racist. As you put it, I have an absolute right to this, since this vague charge could dog me forever. However, I will not write to Horowitz personally, since I will not contact someone who told me (one day after he published a controversial article of mine which he said he stood behind) that he wanted me to “go away.”

We know of various celebrated PC instances in which a person lost his job over the racism charge. In each such case, there was something the person had actually said that got him in trouble. This is the first instance I’m aware of in which a person was publicly called a racist and excluded from a professional relationship without his accuser’s telling him what his racist statement was.

That this unprecedentedly PC event should be the work of the most famous anti-PC crusader in America is astonishing. It is a disturbing omen of something—though of what, I don’t know.

Thanks again for these very good thoughts.

- end of initial entry -

Bill Carpenter, a long-time VFR reader, writes:

I am certain I first encountered your writing on It wasn’t much later that I quit reading FrontPage and let my subscriptions to Commentary and Weekly Standard expire. Doubtless reading you had a major impact on my evolution (along with meeting a coterie of conservative Catholic converts here in Minnesota). Thus it was a real loss for you to be shut out of that venue and lose the opportunity to lure other readers from neo- to traditional conservatism.

In the meantime, though, you have formed many more connections with other bloggers and others who read you and link to your site, so the loss of the FrontPage venue is not as significant as it otherwise would have been.

Public intellectuals are as territorial as anyone. They are not Mr. Chips. I owe Horowitz something in my development too, as I do to the neo-con writers at the publications mentioned above. However, I am very disappointed in his conduct towards you. I interpret it as an attempt to defend his territory from any contact with the national right, which he sees as deadly to the brand name he is trying to develop.

LA replies:

Except that he’s known all along that I am of the “national right.” I have repeatedly tried to get more frank articles published with him on immigration and race, for example, which he always turned down. However, that did not turn him off on me, as he was happy to publish things of mine that came within the sphere that he regarded as acceptable. Also, in late 2005 and early 2006, I was submitting fewer articles to him and had fewer contacts with him; so it’s not as though I was putting increased pressure on him to move to the right, and that he finally reacted against that when, on top of the other annoyances I presumably posed to him, David Mills sent him my “racist” statements (whatever they were) in May 2006. In short, I was not any more of an “ideological threat” to Horowitz in 2006 than I had been in 2005 or 2004 or 2003. So there’s something more going on here than the territoriality of which you speak. I have to assume that it was some of my statements that Mills sent to Horowitz. But it passes belief that Horowitz, instead of communicating with me about Mills’s quotes of my work, wrote back to Mills agreeing with him that certain unspecified statements of mine were “racist and offensive,” thus handing to this leftist enemy who was seeking to harm me a much greater weapon with which to harm me, namely Horowitz’s own e-mail saying that my positions were “racist and offensive.” It is hard to imagine a greater act of betrayal.

Conserivative Swede writes:

Apart from the great loss that you are no more published at FrontPage, and how you have been hurt in this affair, it is really sad to see Horowitz humiliating himself like this. His way of acting makes me think of Pope Benedict, who also took a bold position, which he didn’t have the mental strength to hold. This is what is bound to happen when a fighting stance is not properly based in a substantive position, just as you pointed out about the Pope.

Horowitz is clearly torn regarding issues of race. To me propositions about race are just true or false, or undecidable. That’s how it should be. In case I’d disagree with you about any of your statements on race, that’s it—a disagreement. But to Horowitz there is the parameter of statements going too far away from political correctness, and then it’s no longer a matter of intellectual exploration of true/false. Quite as Pope Benedict was bound to fail since he hadn’t fully repudiated the Second Vatican Council, so did also Horowitz end up in this failure and humiliation for not having fully repudiated political correctness.

Horowitz position on race is of course far better, and far less PC, than most media figures I can think of. And as with the Pope, his intentions were all good. And in spite of his miserable ending of it, I still consider it a badge of honour for him to having published you for several years. No one else at his level did. But because he had never fully repudiated the dogmas of political correctness, the worm in the apple was eventually bound to come out.

I’m aware, when criticizing Horowitz, how I’m just a guy writing under a nickname, and how Horowitz is a high profile public figure, facing exposure with possible personal consequences. I’m the first one to admit that Horowitz is braver and has done far more good than I ever had. But I only describe what I see. To me it’s very telling about the dire situation of our society as a whole, how Horowitz—one of the best—ended up like this.

LA replies:

This is very good. While I’ve written a lot about the Pope’s Regensburg address and its disastrous aftermath, Conservative Swede has tied it together in a new way:

Quite as Pope Benedict was bound to fail since he hadn’t fully repudiated the Second Vatican Council, so did also Horowitz end up in this failure and humiliation for not having fully repudiated political correctness.

Of course. Benedict thought he could seriously and provocatively criticize Islam, without having first renounced the Vatican II doctrine that Muslims are our fellow adorers of the one true God. How foolish could he be? He didn’t realize that if he was going to challenge Islam successfully, he would first have to stand on the non-liberal ground of religious and civilizational difference, not on the liberal ground of religious and civilizational sameness. Doesn’t Jesus say that before a man embarks on a journey, he must first ask himself if he has the means to complete the journey? The Pope did not ask himself this question.

But let’s now look at this further in terms of Conservative Swede’s analogy between the Pope and Horowitz.

The Pope wanted to criticize Islam seriously; but he didn’t realize that he couldn’t do that and get away with it, because he also accepted the Vatican II documents which command the embrace of Muslims as fellow adorers of the one God. So, if Benedict did criticize Islam strongly and, as was inevitable, was attacked for it, he would also inevitably—because of his subscription to Vatican II—have to surrender to Islam.

Similarly, Horowitz wanted to publish my articles criticizing certain aspects of black attitudes and behavior, but he couldn’t do that and get away with it, because the liberalism to which he subscribes holds that all races are basically alike and that to say otherwise is racist. While it may be marginally possible to speak of behavioral differences between the races, it is completely out of the question to speak of intrinsic differences between the races. Horowitz himself only speaks of behavioral racial differences, and (at least according to himself) does not believe that there are intrinsic racial differences, and will certainly not publish any article that speaks of intrinsic racial differences. But by publishing me, he brought himself into association with someone who—as Horowitz himself was entirely aware—does believe that there are intrinsic racial differences. So when Horowitz was criticized by a leftist hit artist for associating with me, he instantly surrendered to the leftist hit artist and betrayed me, his contributor, as well as betraying his many conservative supporters who thought he was a principled foe of political correctness—just as the Pope cravenly surrendered to the Muslim intimidation after the Regensburg speech and betrayed the hopes of those who had thought he was going to be leading the West in a serious stand against Islam.

While the two incidents are several orders of magnitude different in their importance, the analogy between them is valid, as is the moral they teach: you cannot oppose liberalism if you stand on the same ground as liberalism.

LA continues:

As an addendum, I must note that Horowitz seems to be deeply ambivalent about whether there are intrinsic racial differences in intelligence and whether that is a legimate view to state publicly, since, as I discovered yesterday, May 11, from a reader and announced at VFR (and David Mills three hours later posted the same information at his website), Horowitz had published my article on racial differences in intelligence at his Discover the Network website, where it’s been sitting, unknown to me, for, I assume, at least the last couple of years.

M. Mason writes:

It had to be a very strong motive that impelled Horowitz to do what he did——so strong, in fact, that it would be accurate to call it a religious motive. And by the word “religious” I’m obviously referring to his liberalism.

You wrote above that “It passes belief…” that Horowitz acted the way he did. Well, looked at from your vantage point and what constitute your beliefs (and it must be said, even in terms of simple professional courtesy), that’s certainly true. But viewed from Horowitz’s position, his actions were entirely consistent with his own liberal beliefs, and indeed, necessitated by them. Once a convenient pretext was handed to him for considering your views to be “racist” and “offensive”, he duly and very quickly performed the necessary penance and the “shunning” of you that his liberal faith requires of him.

I agree that there is a larger lesson here. Horowitz did not deal with his political schizophrenia, and his highly-exposed public position as “the most famous anti-PC crusader in America” consequently left him vulnerable as a target. The more firmly a person stands in a consistent, principled, traditionalist conservatism rooted in the transcendent, the freer, more confident and resolute he will be in his dealings with others. Without it, he will always remain vulnerable in one way or another to influence and intimidation from the political left because of his own latent liberalism, no matter how important or powerful he is.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at May 09, 2007 09:46 PM | Send

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