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Jewish World Review June 20, 2000 / 17 Sivan, 5760

David Horowitz

David Horowitz
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Consumer Reports

In the Enemy Camp -- WHEN I AGREED to be interviewed by Nation reporter Scott Sherman, many people thought I was crazy. After all, The Nation is the house organ of the left I left behind. "They'll crucify you," was one of the more restrained advisories I received. The reason I said yes, despite warnings like this, was that I had read a piece Sherman had written about my friend Ron Radosh in Lingua Franca magazine, which caused me to think that cooperating might be worth the gamble. The Lingua Franca piece was clearly hostile to Radosh, but was pretty faithful to his intellectual perspective – very unusual, in my experience, for any piece about any conservative in any left-wing magazine. Moreover, I am generally known as someone willing to enter terrain that others might think twice about in order to carry battles to the enemy camp.

I had my own agendas, too. In particular, I wanted to see if I could get a Nation reporter to write the story of the murder of Betty Van Patter by the Black Panther Party, and perhaps even to express some regret over the long cover-up by The Nation and the left of this deed. I thought that maybe Victor Navasky, the editor of The Nation whom I have known for a quarter of a century (and whom, to this day, I can't help but feel an affection for), was having a guilty conscience about the atrocious review of Radical Son he ran in The Nation, which defended the Panther murderers and sought to discredit my witness.

Scott Sherman's article, "The Long March of David Horowitz," has now been published, and my friends and I can both claim to have been somewhat right. But they will justifiably claim that they were righter than I (pun intended).

To my disappointment, the piece Sherman has written is a caricature rather than a profile – a one-dimensional portrait of me as a kind of political Mad Max, with some pop psychology thrown in. In Sherman's lengthy rendering, the combative side of my political persona gets a good working out, but where's the rest of me? I readily plead guilty to carrying on a war with the left at least as fierce and uncompromising as the war the left carries on with America, and with the decent defenders of America on the other side of the political barricades. But that is hardly the full sum of who I am and what I have written, and Scott Sherman knows it.

On the other hand, my expectations, based on his previous performance, that Sherman would represent my positions with a degree of accuracy well beyond the moral capabilities of, say, an Eric Alterman , were actually pleasantly fulfilled. This very fairness, however, often serves to expose the misrepresentations committed in the authorial voice. "[Horowitz] has trained his sights on a new target: Afro-America," writes Sherman – a not so subtle implication that I am a racist. On the other hand, the quotes he cites from my book Hating Whitey make it clear that what I really targeted was not African Americans as such, but racial hucksters like Louis Farrakhan and Al Sharpton, and their facile allies (Cornel West among them) in the academic left.

Aside from the quotes attributed to me, however, Sherman's text would not lead a reader to guess that there is any complexity to my side of the debate, let alone a reflective dimension to my personality or work. Again, Sherman knows what he is doing. Thus, he refers, in passing to Radical Son, as "a compelling, infuriating" book. Yet, what unsuspecting reader of this article would suppose that anything I might write could inspire an adjective like "compelling" or do anything but infuriate?

In cooperating with this project, I opened a significant window on my life and work to Scott Sherman, but regrettably he only took advantage of a small portion of it, and badly distorted some of that. For example, he describes my office thus: "Of the fifteen people employed here, some are reluctant to communicate with a visiting reporter, others speak their mind. When I phoned the office a few weeks before my arrival to inquire about its proximity to public transportation, I was informed by one of Horowitz's young assistants, 'The bus system is awful, but you don't want to ride with those people anyway.'"

Presumably, this is intended to be a John Rocker moment. In fact, among the young staffers in my office, when Sherman visited it, were two gays (one of whom is my executive director), an African-American, a Hispanic, an Asian, an Egyptian and five women. Most of the people I hire, as far as I know, are apolitical. As it turns out, the woman who made this remark is from the rough streets of Philadelphia and has been living for ten years with a black man who is the father of her daughter (who is very obviously black and is also ten). Even if a reporter did not know this, any reasonably balanced account would have noted the context of the office itself– not to mention my own public record as a staunch advocate of racial and ethnic and (dare I say) gender inclusion.

Sherman's account of my appearance on the Tavis Smiley Show on Black Entertainment Television to discuss my book Hating Whitey is similarly noteworthy for its failure to mention salient facts that refute its ugly premise (Horowitz is targeting Afro-America.). For example, I was seconded on the show by Larry Elder, a black radio Talk Show host who is neither a Republican nor a conservative and whose radio program was scheduled to be axed as the result of a political boycott, until I launched a $300,000 media campaign to defend him. The campaign boosted his ratings and made him the number one drive-time talk show host in Los Angeles.

Sherman also completely misunderstands my failure to respond to the scholastic bloviator Michael Eric Dyson, our professorial opponent on the show. "Horowitz seemed overwhelmed by Dyson's rhetorical finesse, and by his repeated insistence that, given escalating levels of inter-marriage, 'black folks are loving whitey.'" [emphasis in original] Actually, Elder and I decided to ignore much of what Dyson said, because we were sure that no one in the viewing audience would be able to translate his post-modernist academese into intelligible English. Nor did we believe that many would agree with his silly claim that the phenomenon of inter-racial marriages served to cancel the noxious rants and widespread influence of messrs Farrakhan and Sharpton. (Would Sherman or Dyson like to turn the argument around and tell us that inter-racial marriages prove that whitey is loving blacks and there is no white racism? Our black viewing audience responded to the telephone survey, conducted during the live hour, by voting a whopping 62% to 38% to support the Elder-Horowitz side of the following proposition: "Black people blame white people too much for their own problems." This was a pretty interesting result, which Sherman decided not to mention in his account of what happened.

Readers of Sherman's version of my war against the left would be surprised to learn that as a conservative I have defended Christopher Hitchens, written a reference letter for Roz Baxandall to help her get academic tenure, put on anti-McCarthy plays in Hollywood, defended gays in Oregon, and recently held a luncheon for the writer John Irving, a Democrat who gave a predictably pro-abortion speech to an audience that was mostly conservative, applauded Irving warmly, and which included Scott Sherman. Nor would they guess that I have made the president of the Oakland NAACP a member of my board, lauded South Park, and attacked moral censors of the right, including Jerry Falwell, Alan Keyes, and the editors of the Weekly Standard -- among many other acts that would be politically incorrect for the cardboard villain that Scott Sherman has created.

There are other gross omissions and unreasonably distorted presentations of what I have done in Sherman's piece that would be tedious to rehearse in detail here (e.g., his tendentious account of my suit against the UC Berkeley Journalism School – not Orville Schell -- and his inexcusable mis-representation of my well-documented conflict with LA Times book editor Steve Wasserman).

There are also some vicious slanders (in addition to the racial one), which I am obliged to mention. For the record: I do not have a passion for lists (a la McCarthy); I do not engage in "endless feuds and vendettas," and I do not use "gossip and innuendo" as a political modus operandi. Like it or hate it, "in your face" would more accurately describe my combat style.

In the end, my biggest disappointment with Sherman's article is his failure to convey what he learned by talking to people involved in the efforts to bring some posthumous justice to Betty Van Patter. He was introduced to a group of individuals who do not agree about politics, but who have waged a long and lonely struggle to right the wrong perpetrated for a quarter of a century by institutions like The Nation, whose editors and writers have preferred not to look too closely at the crimes committed by their friends. While he did end twenty years of silence and cover-up by The Nation, he did so in tentative enough fashion to let many of its readers persist in their illusions and he did nothing to give them a picture of the anguish that these attitudes have caused the children of Betty Van Patter over all these years. This is not incidental, in the least, because the harassment and pain suffered by these surviving victims of the crime now will continue, and Scott Sherman will bear some of the responsibility for it.

Nonetheless, given what The Nation has written in the past about Betty Van Patter's murder, given what its reporters usually write about me, and given the way its editors undoubtedly continue to feel about my political campaigns, there is enough that is accurate and even honest in "David Horowitz's Long March," that I do not altogether regret making it possible.

JWR contributor David Horowitz is editor of Front Page Magazine and the author of several books, including, Hating Whitey, Art of Political War, Radical Son : A Generational Odyssey . Comment on this article by clicking here.


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03/27/00: Smoke and Mirrors
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03/08/00: Racial Killings & Gun Control
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01/25/00: Intellectual Class War
01/03/00: A faith that ruined whole continents and destroyed a world of human lives
12/28/99: Brain Dead Till the End
12/14/99: Letter to the past
12/07/99: Why Republicans Lose
11/23/99: MLK is no doubt spinning in his grave
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11/02/99: Reflections on The Road Taken and Not

© 2000, David Horowitz