Tuesday, April 27, 2004

My dinner with Horowitz 

I was very lucky last week to get to have dinner with David Horowitz and five other people at a St. Paul restaurant that I'll leave nameless because they were out of lettuce. (I mean, look, how do you run a restaurant without lettuce when you have salad on the menu?) I was reading Doug Bass' description of the MAS banquet the following night and since Doug took notes and I didn't, you probably can rely on his description of the evening. I was surprised, however, by the reaction of some of the professors in attendance. They were uncomfortable with the stridency of his comments. Horowitz seems to revel in the characterization of himself as "David Howitzer". At one point he said, "I'm sick of people characterizing faculty as 'liberal'. They're not liberal. If they were liberal your organization wouldn't exist. They are leftists. Bolsheviks." His booklet for Students for Academic Freedom is little and red, a not-very-subtle dig.

Indeed, nothing about Horowitz is subtle, which I think is one of his two strengths. The other is of course his ability to pierce through leftist cant because he was part of it for so long. His explanation of the Academic Bill of Rights is that of a wedge issue, something that gains leverage to get one wants in the university. Again, I think faculty are loathe to think politically about their institutions -- that's supposed to be left to chairmen and deans. Perhaps it's because I am a chairman that I believe Horowitz is correct in his thinking. I doubt most faculty are going to view him as a role model, but his role, he said himself at the banquet, is as an outsider knocking down the walls of leftist academia. He leaves it to others to rush through the breach.

The man has quite an energy level for someone who must be approaching retirement age. He talked himself hoarse Friday night but tried to answer all questions. I left hoping he has enough shells left in the howitzer to finish his vital work.