More on David Horowitz

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Fri Jun 16 07:00:36 MDT 2000

Conclusion to a review of David Horowitz's "Long March". Full article is at"


Critical sense and intellectual detachment have never been Horowitz's
forte. As he embarks on a new set of battles, the stakes are somewhat lower
than in the past. Lives are not on the line; only jobs and reputations are.
Take Horowitz's campaign against China expert and writer Orville Schell,
dean of the UC-Berkeley Journalism School. In 1998 Horowitz's legal arm,
the Individual Rights Foundation, filed suit against the Regents of the
University of California on behalf of Michael Savage, a conservative radio
commentator who had applied unsuccessfully for the deanship. Schell got the
job, but the IRF suit contended that since he was selected through an
old-boy network of New Leftists, his appointment constituted political
patronage and was therefore illegal under California labor law.

Why was Schell, whom Horowitz has labeled a "Gucci Marxist," unfit for the
position? "Although he has written several books on China and authored some
op-ed pieces," Horowitz affirmed in Hating Whitey, he is "not a working
journalist." Schell's curriculum vitae lists twelve books and 206 articles,
including contributions to The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker and
Harper's Magazine. The case eventually collapsed when Savage refused to be

Horowitz's crusade against Steve Wasserman, editor of the Los Angeles Times
Book Review, was conducted with similar methods. When Wasserman arrived at
the LA Times in 1996 Horowitz spread rumors about his youthful relationship
with the "Red Family" commune, "a group of Berkeley urban guerrillas." In
an interview with Buzz magazine Horowitz repeated a story he says he heard
in the sixties--that Tom Hayden taught the young Wasserman how to
manufacture explosives. Horowitz later withdrew the charge in a letter to
Buzz: "Steve now informs me that the story is untrue and I have no reason
to disbelieve him." (Wasserman says he was never a member of the Red
Family.) Subsequently, Wasserman asked Horowitz to contribute a 250-word
essay to a symposium on Marx's Communist Manifesto, but he shortened the
piece for reasons of clarity and coherence. When Horowitz saw his tiny
essay alongside a lengthy commentary by Eric Hobsbawm, he dispatched a
letter to Times publisher Mark Willes, lecturing him about Hobsbawm's
Communist past and insisting that "Wasserman has an agenda in defending
Marx." Willes passed the letter to Wasserman, who communicated his
displeasure to Horowitz. That prompted Horowitz, writing in Salon, to once
again dredge up the old charges about the rifle-toting Red Family: "They
hoped to launch a 'war of liberation' in America, and Wasserman was one of
their foot soldiers."

For Horowitz, it's not only journalism schools and newspapers that harbor
subversives; the Democratic Party itself has been invaded. One of the many
people pilloried in Hating Whitey is Carlottia Scott, who was an aide to
former Representative Ron Dellums and is currently political director of
the Democratic National Committee; Horowitz labels her a "communist." Is
Scott a member of the CPUSA? "I don't know that she's a member of the
CPUSA," he replies with irritation. "Small 'c,' please."

In leveling such charges, Horowitz knows he is being outrageous, but it's
all part of the high-stakes game he is playing. He seems to accept the fact
that something in his character propels him toward the edge, wherever it
may lie, and it's a risk he accepts wholeheartedly. He is a man willing,
maybe even eager, to play with fire. Perhaps that is the surest way of
saying to the Olin, Scaife and Bradley foundations, "Use me." At one point,
in discussing his long campaign against Elaine Brown, he confesses that for
a while he was afraid to turn on the ignition of his car in the morning. I
asked him if he meant that seriously. He does. "Hating Whitey has returned
the apprehension," he admits. "But when I am out there," he says, "talking
about the violence that is committed against whites in America by
blacks--which is huge and largely unreported--I know there are black people
out there who see me as...somebody standing in the way of justice for them.
And that means they hate me. And I need to just recognize that." Thus far,
he hasn't received any threats.

    * * *

In an article in the New York Times Magazine last November about the new
cold war scholarship, Jacob Weisberg interpreted Horowitz's career as a
"fierce Oedipal struggle entwined with radicalism." That is ultimately a
question for psychohistorians, but what is certain is that Horowitz craves
approval, and that underneath the fiery demeanor is an insecure human
being. More than anything, he wishes to be taken seriously as an
intellectual and an apostate. In 1998, when Smith College Professor Daniel
Horowitz published a biography of Betty Friedan--one that delved into her
political affiliations in the forties and fifties-- Horowitz tore into the
book in Salon, demanding that Friedan come clean about her "Stalinist
Marxist" past. But he also purchased an advertisement in a Smith College
newspaper that proclaimed: "An Invitation to Professor Daniel Horowitz (No
Relation) or Any Member of the Smith Faculty or Administration to a Debate
on Any One of the Following Subjects: 1. The Fibs of Smith Alumna Betty
Friedan. 2. Smith's Political Hiring Practices that Result in a Liberal
Arts Faculty Overwhelmingly on the Political Left. 3. What has happened to
Students' Academic Freedom? (As in the Right Not to be Ideologically
Indoctrinated in the Classroom) --David Horowitz." No one accepted his offer.

He talks openly about his quest for intellectual respectability. Here is
Horowitz on The New Republic: "[Literary editor] Leon Wieseltier, for some
reason, hates me. I have no idea. They not only don't ask me to write for
them, but they don't review my books." On lunch with Steve Wasserman,
months before his invitation to the Marx symposium: "I found myself
wondering whether a leftist writer of reputation comparable to mine would
have been invited to lunch by Wasserman and not asked to write a review for
his magazine." On being snubbed by the sociologist Alan Wolfe at a
conference: "I invited him to breakfast. I wanted to speak to Alan. I think
a lot of what he does is good work. He was afraid to get near me. I could
see him drawing back. I think he's afraid of the taint. I ate alone."

    * * *

At 61, Horowitz shows no signs of exhaustion; indeed, Hating Whitey is his
most incendiary work to date. His guilt over Betty Van Patter is an
unrelenting source of anguish, and consequently there is every reason to
believe that his crusade against the "Great White Whale" will continue, in
all its peculiar sound and fury. Horowitz strenuously rejects allegations
that he is a neo-McCarthyite. But his zeal and righteousness, his passion
for lists and old political affiliations, his use of gossip and innuendo,
his endless feuds and vendettas make him a creature of the fifties--not
Whittaker Chambers, as he would have it, but something closer to Walter
Winchell. "Stigmatizing" and "segregating" the left has brought him
financial security in addition to a host of other benefits. His beloved
column in Salon is a platform from which he can launch guerrilla raids deep
into enemy territory; his recent marriage to a much younger woman has
finally brought him some domestic tranquillity; and his burgeoning
reputation in the Republican Party reduces the likelihood that he will have
to eat alone, at least in Washington.

Louis Proyect

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