Horowitz: provocateur, whiner and hypocrite

In the last month, conservative provocateur David Horowitz – who is not, it should be noted, the same David Horowitz who teaches history at PSU (Vanguard April 12, 2001) – has received national attention for being a self-proclaimed victim of censorship. Horowitz submitted an advertisement, with the catchy title “Ten Reasons Why Reparations for Blacks is a Bad Idea for Blacks – and Racists Too,” to 73 campus newspapers nationwide (although not to the Vanguard).

The advertisement contains his usual anti-reparations arguments, but Horowitz sticks in a couple of howlers calculated to incite protest. He says, for instance, that “only a tiny minority of white Americans ever owned slaves” – true enough – but two paragraphs later implies that slave ownership was common among American blacks (he forgets to explain that some free blacks “owned slaves” on paper because they had “bought” relatives in order to free them).

He claims that reparations are unnecessary because welfare programs are already “reparations to African Americans” – thus drawing on the racist stereotype that all blacks are on welfare. He argues that blacks should be grateful to America for freeing them from slavery – to which University of Massachusetts professor Earnest Allen Jr. aptly responds, “if someone chops off your fingers and then hands them back to you, should you be grateful for having received your mangled fingers, or enraged that they were chopped off in the first place?”

All newspapers have a right to decide what to print or not; that some papers chose not to accept Horowitz’s ad is not censorship. Students, in turn, have a First Amendment right to protest. Protesting doesn’t stifle freedom of speech; on the contrary, protesting is freedom of speech.

According to Horowitz, leftists censor views they find objectionable through the “moral intimidation” of “wild accusations of racism and bigotry.” In other words, people who speak out may be accused of racism.

I’ve experienced this myself. Here at PSU, allegedly racist imagery in one of my political cartoons led to angry responses from a local NAACP official and from the president of the university. I had intended the offending cartoon to be anti-racist.

So I’d say Horowitz is right: it’s easy to be accused of racism on American campuses. But so what? No one has a Constitutional right to freedom from criticism. Free speech means that everyone can speak, and everyone takes the risk of not enjoying the response they get. Not speaking for fear of what people will say is not called “censorship,” Mr. Horowitz. It’s called “cowardice.”

In New Jersey, the editors of the Daily Princetonian cleverly turned Horowitz’s crusade on its head. They accepted Horowitz’s ad, but also printed an editorial which criticized Horowitz for racism and announced the paper’s intention to donate all revenue from the ad to a civil rights group.

Horowitz, stung, has refused to pay the newspaper “until the slanders are withdrawn and a public apology is made to David Horowitz and the Princeton community.”

I trust the Princetonian won’t give in to Horowitz’s feeble economic blackmail, but that’s beside the point. With his actions, Horowitz has shown he’s no advocate of open debate. When students protest his views, Horowitz pathetically whines that his free speech has been infringed. But when Horowitz objects to the content of a student paper, he hypocritically attempts to force their views off the market. Horowitz believes in freedom of speech for only one side: his own.