March 20, 2005

Operation: University Storm

Great perspective on the David Horowitz-led crusade against academia from Billmon's Whiskey Bar, great site in general:

"Scenes From the Cultural Revolution"
Last spring I organized college students to investigate the voter-registration records of university professors at more than a dozen institutions of higher learning. I had them target the social sciences. The students used primary registration to determine party affiliation, although admittedly, it's not always an exact match.

David Horowitz
Closed doors, closed minds
June 20, 2002

The "working groups" organized sessions to expose and to criticize teachers and divided all teachers into four categories: good, fair, those with serious errors, and anti-Party, anti-socialist rightists.

Youqin Wang
Student Attacks Against Teachers:
The Revolution of 1966
July 1996

* * *

In Colorado and Indiana, a national conservative group publicized student allegations of left-wing bias by professors. Faculty . . . were pictured in mock "wanted" posters; at least one college said a teacher received a death threat.

Associated Press
Conservative Students Target Liberal Profs
December 25, 2004

During the Cultural Revolution, Red Guards turned to a more spontaneous medium to denounce alleged counterrevolutionaries. They wrote "big character posters" and posted them outside people's houses or schools to publicly expose their alleged crimes.

Irene Leung
Writing and Technology in China


  1. I just checked out Horowitz's article The Campus Blacklist. Wow. After presenting some charming anecdotal evidence and carefully stylized statistics, Horowitz comes down on the "Marxists, socialists, post-modernists and other intellectual radicals" among us "whose ideas of how societies work have been discredited by historical events." Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the entirety of Scandinavia a testament to the fact that socialists have a pretty good idea about "how societies work"?

    The questionable part about Horowitz's research, it seems, is that it is "fair and balanced" in the same way as Fox News. Horowitz apparently interviews "a dozen or more conservative students personally" at each campus he visits, talks with them about their classroom experiences, and then is somehow able to make comparative inferences about how differently conservative and liberal students are Clearly this is a scientific way to go about things.

    Most of the 2nd half of the article focuses largely on one of Horowitz's experiences with a professor who apparently was quite vocal about being against his visit to a university campus. Somehow we are to believe that this one professor (who---if the story is true---arguably confused her academic and political energies to some degree) is representative of all professors everywhere in the country. clearly.

    I think the real gem of the article comes towards the end though. Horowitz points out that "blacks in America are now the freest and richest black people anywhere on the face of the earth including all of the nations that are ruled by blacks." Excellent. So I guess we really shouldn't let Black people be in charge then, right? I mean it's really in their own interest, right? Because we want them to be "rich" and "free" right?

  2. Also, for whatever its worth, we have tons of conservative profs at Dartmouth.

  3. Niral Shah1:41 PM

    I think the idea of intellectual diversity on campuses is great. I just think David Horowitz is a idiotic blowhard who completely misses the point. Within a Government department, as far as international relations is concerned, a school should try, when hiring, to cover the entire range of legitimate and credible philosophies - from realism, to liberalism, to constructivism. For Economics, there should be professors who are very pro-free-market, and professors more influenced by Galbraith and the like, or revisions of Keynesianism. Within every department, there are differing schools of thought that are integral to a full understanding of the material at hand, and these ideas rarely break down on lines so simple as conservative vs. liberal.

    As for Marxism being irrelevant, well, first of all, my guess is that Horowitz is among the group of conservative reactionaries who believe that, once far enough to the left, an idea is socialist/communist/marxist/"evil red commie bastard". Scandinavian countries aren't socialist - they are thriving capitalist economies with universal welfare policies. As a result of culture and reigning ideology, they actively seek out a more even distribution of wealth, and a guaranteed minimum standard of living. Some academics believe stark inequity can cause political/macroeconomic unrest, and these are valid ideas. Horowitz's ideology hasn't undeniably triumphed, and besides, is he really comitted to diversity, or just a conservative dominance of intellectual debate?

  4. Hi Niral, I’m going to go ahead and reply to your comments because I think you may have misunderstood me…

    No one is denying that the idea of intellectual diversity on campus is a good thing. The goal of Lemuel’s post and my first comment on it was simply to point out the absurdity and logical fallacy of Horowitz’s article. I am not advocating the indoctrination of academia with exclusively liberal opinions, I was simply (and somewhat lightheartedly) shedding some light on how silly it is to make broad, overarching claims about the entirety of American academia based on one person’s (arguably tremendously biased) interviews with a dozen republicans on various college campuses.

    OF COURSE a school should try to hire people who can teach different theories of International Relations and the fact that ALL of the theories of IR you mentioned are not only included in Government courses here at Dartmouth but mandatory for the major speaks highly of Dartmouth’s “intellectual diversity” with respect to it’s Government curriculum and thus necessarily (at least to some significant degree) its faculty hiring.

    I hesitate to comment on your prescription for a balanced economic curriculum simply because it exemplifies quite a bit of ignorance on your part. I suggest you spruce up your economic background before making any further serious suggestions.

    Mostly, your little ditty about Scandinavia not being “socialist” bothers me. In making this claim, you make the exact same mistake that Horowitz does which is to conflate a capitalist economic system with a capitalist social system. The two are not necessarily coincidental and as a corollary to this, the existence of a capitalist economic system and a socialist social system are not mutually exclusive conditions. My goal here is not to argue with you about the degree to which Scandinavia is socialist, but rather to point out that with respect to its institutional, educational, healthcare, child-subsidization, and welfare structures, Scandinavia operates largely under socialist ideologies. The fact that these socialist structures exist and thrive within the context of a capitalistically dominated world economic system does not mean that they are irrelevant or “radical” (as Horowitz would have us believe); rather, their existence justifies the teaching of MULTIPLE theories of economic and political structure, which I believe is what you were trying to get at before anyhow.

    I would call your statement “some academics believe stark inequity can cause political/macroeconomic unrest, and these are valid ideas” something of an understatement. (For further reading on the topic and empirical proof of the “valid ideas” to which you refer, see Perrson and Tabellini 1994 , Alesina and Rodrik 1994, Ray 1998) Again though, your point simply highlights the validity of the “liberal” worldview and thus the importance of a plurality of theoretical viewpoints.

    Is Horowitz really committed to diversity? Well, to some degree, this is a moot question. Whether or not he is ultimately rooting for diversity or simply a more visible place for his cronies in academia seems less important than the fact that he’s causing a major ruckus and getting a shit load of attention for it. Without being called out on his fallacious logic and egregious errors, Horowitz’s power of persuasion will be stronger and his discourse more accepted. This, from what I can gather, is not what either of us wants.

  5. I didn't misunderstand you, what I was saying was more of a general issue I have with the "intellectual diversity" thing, i wasn't actually responding to you, just tossing out a related opinion I guess. Its something about Horowitz's whole thing I wanted to get off my chest.
    Yeah, my response made it clear I know more about government than I do about economics, and I was hard pressed to come up with decent examples...I don't really know economics that well, at least in terms of formal schools of thought.

    As for the Scandinavia thing, right, its not quite capitalist, and not quite socialist. Japan, from what I've read, actually built a system post-war that was a blatant compromise between Marxism and capitalism. I think it evolved differently in Europe. I'm not entirely wrong with what I said about them being capitalist. But, your point about different ideologies coexisting is still valid either way.
    Anyway, yeah
    Didn't mean for it to seem that I didn't think you were against intellectual diversity. Just wanted to point out there is a lot more to the term that Horowitz lets on. I go off on tangents without provocation.