Commentary Magazine


The Professors by David Horowitz

The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America
by David Horowitz
Regnery. 450 pp. $18.45

Like a number of other figures in the conservative world, David Horowitz once occupied a point on the left side of the political spectrum—in his case, a point near the leftmost edge. Unlike others, however, he seems never to have forgiven himself for it. As if for penance, he now devotes himself single-mindedly to debunking the anti-capitalist, anti-democratic, anti-American agenda of his erstwhile fellow travelers.

On the website he founded, FrontPageMag.com, as well as in newspaper columns and books, Horowitz has for some time now been offering detailed dossiers of individual radical activists, particularly on university campuses, closely scrutinizing their pronouncements, funding sources, and affiliations. Charges of McCarthyism hurled back from the Left have not deterred him. To Horowitz, his targets are not mere misguided utopians, but intellectually malignant enemies of the West. In The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America, he profiles the worst offenders.

The Professors is organized alphabetically, with each academic-under-indictment being allotted his or her own ideological rap sheet. Most of the profiles are brief, two or three pages long. A number of well-known figures—Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn, for example—are accorded more generous treatment. With a few exceptions, little biographical information is provided. Rather, the charge sheets dwell primarily on outrageous statements and deeds.

Horowitz’s 101 case studies run the gamut from unreconstructed Marxists who continue to rhapsodize about the USSR’s unfulfilled promise, to Islamists openly longing for Israel’s destruction, to experts on postmodernism, postcolonialism, ethnic studies, and other faddish disciplines. Despite the heterogeneous backgrounds of those showcased, their convictions with respect to most major issues emerge as remarkably in tune, if not virtually identical

To those stamped from this mold, America is typically portrayed (in the words of Joe Feagin, a professor of sociology at Texas A&M) as a “total racist society” in which “every part of the life cycle, and most aspects of one’s life, are shaped by the racism that is integral to [its] foundation.” As for 9/11, it was a completely understandable response (according to Ron “Maulana” Karenga, a professor of black studies at California State-Long Beach) to “years of state terrorism, mass murder, selective assassination, collective punishment, and other forms of oppression by the U.S. and its allies.”

Though such evils as institutional racism, globalization, and the war on terrorism are the major preoccupations of Horowitz’s profiled academics, many are also obsessed with more obscure issues, from the merits of lesbianism—the “highest stage of feminism,” according to Bettina Aptheker, a professor of women’s studies at the University of California—to the demerits of “hetero- normativity.” The latter doctrine, in the judgment of Michael Warner, a professor of English at Rutgers, serves to stigmatize promiscuous gay men by placing taboos on sex with total strangers.

A number of Horowitz’s professors use their classrooms and publications to foment hatred of whites, Jews, and Christians. To Timothy Shortell, a sociologist at Brooklyn College, religious Americans in general are “moral retards.” Hamid Dabashi, a professor of Islamic studies at Columbia University, maintains that Israeli Jews are congenitally predisposed toward sadism. José Angel Gutiérrez, a political scientist at the University of Texas, insists that “we have got to eliminate the gringo . . . and what I mean by that is if the worst comes to the worst, we have got to kill him.” And, of course, there is Leonard Jeffries, still teaching black studies at the City University of New York and still apparently of the belief that blacks are “sun people,” morally superior to white-hued “ice people,” and that Jews are “a race of skunks.”

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Many will undoubtedly scorn The Professors as a species of right-wing snuff lit. There are, after all, 617,000 college and university professors in the United States. Naturally, some are going to be wing nuts. Wouldn’t it be better to let them wither in obscurity?

But far from being isolated loons, many of those profiled in this book have national followings. In most cases, they have been spouting the same claptrap for decades, yet have been hired, promoted, and granted tenure nonetheless. Those few who have actually been taken to task by administrators for particularly repellent outbursts typically find themselves defended en masse by their colleagues. In this sense, The Professors is an indictment not only of one particular group of tenured radicals but of a larger academic culture that continues to tolerate, to apologize for, and to protect a set of hateful ideas and their proponents.

Nothing better illustrates this phenomenon than the career of the Native American activist and University of Colorado ethnic-studies professor Ward Churchill, who is the subject of a long introductory essay to The Professors. In October 2001, Churchill described the victims of 9/11 as “little Eichmanns” who had been rightly targeted as a “technocratic corps at the very heart of America’s global financial empire.” Soon after these comments were publicized in 2005, an investigation by the Rocky Mountain News revealed that Churchill had lied about his Indian status and his academic credentials; had plagiarized the work of other professors; and had filled his academic writings with invented facts.

Yet far from being cast out in disgrace, Churchill became something of a folk hero, at least in academic circles. On campuses across the country, professors and students signed petitions denouncing the “witch hunt” against him. When he appeared in public to defend himself at the University of Colorado, 1,500 supporters came out to cheer. Though Churchill eventually resigned as chairman of the university’s ethnic-studies department, to this day he retains his tenured teaching slot.

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The Ward Churchill saga is certainly disheartening. But it also raises an interesting question: how did this charlatan come to be who he is? What led him to acquire his poisonous ideas of America and its values—to the point where he would publicly dismiss the deaths of 3,000 mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers in such callous, lying words?

For that matter, how did any of these 101 professors acquire their bizarre and even pathological ideas, let alone the grim determination to express them? Horowitz does not tell us. And that is a shame, because one senses that behind each of his 101 cases there lies a story that might be not only fascinating but just possibly significant. Set alongside each other, Horowitz’s assorted radicals give the impression of having been mass-produced by the academy. But as a former inhabitant of the far Left himself, and (as he has told us in memoirs) one who was to the manner born, Horowitz would seem particularly well situated to offer a more probing account. As it is, he gives us more than enough information to despise these thinkers, but not nearly enough to understand them.

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About the Author

Jonathan Kay is managing editor for comment at Canada’s National Post.




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