Saturday, January 06, 2007

Clash of the Titans, Division II semifinal

The Chronicle of Higher Education invited long-time adversaries David Horowitz and Michael Bérubé to lunch--the same lunch--and the two, who'd never before met, accepted. The resulting conversation is pretty interesting, especially when they get on the subject (via feminism, somehow) of Ward Churchill:
Horowitz: I'm not against women's studies. I'm against a feminist indoctrination program.

Bérubé: I'm against any indoctrination program, partly on the grounds that they don't work.

Horowitz: No, also on the grounds that they're illiberal.

Bérubé: And they're illiberal and they piss people off; they make conservatives into even more fierce conservatives. One thing I say in my talks is who, after the Ward Churchill thing broke, actually said "You know, he's got a point. We are like little Eichmanns. I've never thought of it before." No, it was a terrible moment for the left.
Of course, the truth is that many on the left agreed with Churchill, often at the top of their lungs and in the nastiest terms possible. That's what made it a terrible moment (and much more than a moment) for the left. Horowitz temporizes:
Horowitz: That's hardly the issue.

Bérubé: No, it is very much the issue, about what kinds of public speech are good for the left.
Again, for Bérubé the problem is not that what Churchill said was evil drivel, but that he made the left look bad. Horowitz is fugue-like:
Horowitz: Tell me why the [American Association of University Professors] didn't leap in and say how did Ward Churchill get [to be] a goddamn chairman of the department of ethnic studies, which means he's teaching minority students? How did he get that with an M.A. in graphic arts? Why aren't you up in arms?
Actually Chutch's M.A. is in "Cross-Cultural Communications," and I can think of at least one reason the AAUP isn't "up in arms" about his odd career track at CU: their fearless but uncomprehending leader, Roger Bowen.
Bérubé: Actually there was an internal investigation of Ward Churchill, come on.
Total nonsequitur. Horowitz comes back with one of his own:
Horowitz: No, there was because the governor of the state called for firing him, which I opposed.
He just wanted to get in how broad-minded he is.
Bérubé: I know you were opposed. I noted that.
Horowitz: You guys have to defend the standards.

Bérubé: Let's keep the Churchill thing straight, though. Someone who even answers the question stupidly and reductively as he does is still entitled to ask the question: "Is there such a thing as collective guilt in a superpower?" That's a legitimate research question; it's not a First Amendment question.
A legitimate research question? It's begging the stupid question, that being, "What, exactly, are we guilty of? Yeah, I know: war, greed for oil, global warming, rape of the environment, immiseration of brown-skinned people, stinky farts, on and on. Problem is, lots of people don't agree that these things are even happening, at least to the extent or for the reasons claimed, let alone that "we" are guilty of them. Horowitz, being Horowitz, replies Horowitzianly:
Horowitz: You treated me in your book as though I'm attacking the ideology. As though I have an objection to left-wing ideas in the university, which I don't and I haven't. It's the standards that are gone; they've just been eroded. And you guys would be smart actually to enforce standards because you're so dominant in these fields that you've redefined them in ways so that they are left-wing fields. But you don't even enforce your own standards.

Bérubé: With Ward Churchill, someone was asleep at the wheel, that's for sure. But otherwise we do pretty well—
Insert derisive snort here.
Horowitz: Someone? A ton of people. The whole department that hired him, that promoted him, that gave him tenure, that made him chairman, and the field!

Bérubé: I can use "someone" in the plural sense. But seriously—
Horowitz: You need to read my introduction [I hate when people say that] because I explain why it's a system— as leftists would say, a systemic corruption—

Bérubé: See? Still a leftist in that way. Good.
Horowitz is still--well, a commie, not a "leftist"--in more ways than that. His carelessness with facts, for one; his Stalinist sense of humor, for another. Bérubé mentions that too: "I have always been struck, for instance, that Horowitz has no sense of humor whatsoever, and I'm afraid I have used that against him rather mercilessly." Now there's a "truth" that's true in all cultures: David Horowitz has no sense of humor whatsoever.

The whole interview is worth reading (at one point the Chronicle reporter notes that "the chipper waitress never asked why there were three tape recorders on the table"), and has cute little caricatures of the participants, to boot.

Update: No, I'm not forgetting that Horowitz's mag publishes essays by racist David Yeagley.

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