On October 19, 1959, Frederick Moore Jr., a freshman at the University of California, Berkeley, climbed the steps of Sproul Hall and began a hunger strike to protest the university’s compulsory military-training requirement through ROTC. “I am a conscientious objector,” Moore declared. “I object to killing and any action aiding war.” David Horowitz, a 20-year-old graduate student in the English department, was so moved by Moore’s stance that he volunteered to defend him at a campus debate. Horowitz’s opponent, a young military veteran, insisted that ROTC’s detractors simply lacked the guts to fight the Communists; Horowitz disagreed. “Wearing a uniform with a million other guys is easy; hiding behind a gun is even easier,” he proclaimed. “All you do is what you’re told; you and a million others.” Concluded Horowitz, “Was not patriotism of this sort questionable?”
Many years later, in the fall of 1987, Horowitz received a phone call from the office of Elliott Abrams, an Assistant Secretary of State. It was time to fight the Communists. “Are you willing to serve your country?” one of Abrams’s young assistants jauntily inquired. A few weeks later, Horowitz found himself in Managua, Nicaragua, where, at the expense of US taxpayers, he offered tactical advice to anti-Sandinista labor unions, politicians and journalists, and, in the dining room of the Intercontinental Hotel, thundered, “For the sake of the poorest peasants in this Godforsaken country, I can’t wait for the contras to march into this town and liberate it from these fucking Sandinistas!”
These days, not much remains of the student who stood up to defend a conscientious objector in the twilight of the Eisenhower era. The years have transformed Horowitz into a steely gladiator, an indefatigable pugilist in the culture wars, the right’s very own Ahab. “Lapsed radicals like ourselves are always condemned to regard the left as their Great White Whale,” Horowitz and Peter Collier confessed in their 1991 anthology, Deconstructing the Left. “This book is a record of our sightings of the beast. We may not yet have set the final harpoon, but we have given chase.”
Throughout the nineties, Horowitz spent much of his time combating “political correctness” in American universities. His weapon in that crusade was Heterodoxy, the tabloid-sized monthly he founded with Collier in 1992 and which, Horowitz has written, “is meant to have the feel of a samizdat publication inside the gulag of the PC university.” But the spirit of Havel and Michnik is noticeably absent; Heterodoxy is a garish, surreal compendium of Horowitz’s obsessions and demons, neatly packaged for right-wing consumption. There are lists (“The Ten Wackiest Feminists on Campus”), odd cartoons (Karl Marx in drag) and admiring letters from the next generation (“I am 11 years old and I cannot thank you enough for publishing this wonderful paper…my schoolmates are a bunch of feminist, liberal, PC, vegetarian multiculturalists”). In 1993, when the literary critic Catharine Stimpson told a reporter that frequent attacks in Heterodoxy had transformed her into the magazine’s “centerfold,” the editors replied with a pornographic pastiche of her in its April 1993 issue, under the caption “ms. april.”
But the PC “gulag” is just one of Horowitz’s targets. His self-appointed mandate is to sniff out and expose leftist chicanery–real and imagined–wherever it may exist. He is a busy man. “One has to stigmatize the left and segregate it,” Horowitz told Insight magazine in 1989. Last year, when the anthropologist David Stoll challenged the veracity of Rigoberta Menchú’s autobiography, Horowitz rushed to purchase advertisements in six college newspapers announcing: rigoberto menchu nobel laureate and marxist terrorist now exposed as an intellectual hoax.