David Horowitz, the right-wing Savonarola, takes an unholy interest in higher education. One of his pet projects is a so-called Academic Bill of Rights, which he is agitating for states to enact into law (no takers yet). His avowed aim is to muzzle lefty professors, who, Horowitz claims, are running amok–dominating faculties, bullying conservative students and promoting their radical agendas in the classroom. Colleges that fail to sign on to the bill of rights would be monitored by state officials and politicians.
In February Horowitz tossed another log on the auto-da-fé, publishing a book called The Professors (Regnery), which, the subtitle boasts, reveals “The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America.” Normally, we can leave Horowitz’s effusions to his claque, but a couple of our contributors reported (rather boastfully, we thought) that they’d made the list. That caused us to wonder who else among our regulars made the cut. So we put intern Dean Powers on the case, and after combing the data bank he came up with twenty-seven Nation names in the Horowitz book. Among them, they have contributed a total of 255 dangerous articles, editorials and/or reviews to our pages.
We were initially pleased that so many of our writers made the grade. This is the kind of list a muckraking, status quo-shaking magazine like The Nation should be on. We thought about suggesting to our advertising people that they take out a series of ads bragging, “The Nation–America’s Most Dangerous Magazine, says David Horowitz.”
But we had second thoughts. First, he never actually said that. And second, we would be basing the claim on the word of a writer we’ve always regarded as a man of questionable accuracy. The copy fails the truth-in-advertising test.
But what a star-studded roster of names we could boast of, from Aptheker (Bettina) to Zinn (Howard). It includes Stanley Aronowitz, Derrick Bell, Mary Frances Berry, Michael Bérubé, Noam Chomsky, Matthew Evangelista and the Coles–David and Juan (no relation). And then there are those menaces Richard “Fearsome” Falk (a record forty-four contributions) and Eric “the Red” Foner (twenty-two), both members of our editorial board. And those notorious former SDS-ers Todd Gitlin and Tom Hayden, still no doubt nursing dreams of Sovietizing America. Not to mention killer scholars like H. Bruce Franklin, Manning Marable, Robert “the Media Guy” McChesney, Mark LeVine and Michael Warner.
What’s this? Orville Schell is on Horowitz’s list but not his brother Jonathan (who teaches at Yale). Horowitz’s role model, the late Senator McCarthy, would never have overlooked such an airtight case of guilt by association.
And to top it all, dominating the slate with twenty-four signed contributions to the magazine, is our former editor and current publisher emeritus, Victor Navasky, who qualifies as an academic because of his second career teaching at the Columbia Journalism School. Who promoted Navasky to a position where he’ll be training new cadres of dangerous journalists? Why, this is a conspiracy so immense it threatens to rock the Republic to its foundations.
On further investigation, it turns out that Horowitz isn’t even a very good reporter. Many of his claims are wrong and his citations inaccurate. As just one example, he claims that Navasky has “bankrolled” the Columbia Journalism Review. Navasky wishes that were true, but to date his only effort in that direction has been to return a check he got for writing an article.
Why don’t we forget the whole thing?