Horowitz brings controversial ideas to Student Union
Editor’s Note: Due to the snow day, this article will appear in the paper edition of Thursday, Feb. 25. As such, the online article has been slightly updated.
On Tuesday evening, former New Left radical turned conservative pundit and author of such works as “Hating Whitey: and Other Progressive Causes,” and “Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left,” David Horowitz spoke in the Cape Cod Lounge in the Student Union.
Outside the Lounge two UMass Police officers were stationed at the door, with numerous law enforcement officials inside in plainclothes.
Justin Thompson, vice president of the University of Massachusetts Republican Club, the RSO which brought Horowitz to UMass, defended the heavy police presence at the event, citing previous events including Don Feder’s speech in March 2009, which was disrupted by protesters.
David Horowitz is described by the Republican Club as a well-known author and lifelong civil rights activist. He was sponsored to speak at UMass for a payment of $5,000 plus expenses, including transportation, lodging, and payment for protection.
Those protesting disagree that his speech was worth funding.
“I am here protesting because, as a UMass student attending a public university, I don’t welcome homophobia, and Islamophobia that is integrated in Horowitz’s hate speech.” said Marah DeFlavia, a junior at UMass. “I feel that bringing Horowitz to this campus was socially irresponsible, and it sends a negative message regarding our campus.”
Protesters passed out flyers labeling Horowitz a racist, citing an article he wrote which likened calling Rush Limbaugh a racist to calling minorities racial epithets.
The evening seemed a perfect test of some of Horowitz’s primary tenets, as he has asserted that liberal thinkers suppress free thought in academia in such pieces as “The Professors: 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America.”
Ultimately, this forum turned out better than last year’s contested gathering. Some protesters did speak out, and while they were asked to leave, none were forcibly removed or arrested.
The UMPD also implemented security measures, including not allowing audience members to bring backpacks with them inside. Members of the audience were also asked not to hold up signs or interrupt, though some disruption did occur.
UMass student Alex Tuffile was excited for the night’s events, having read all of Horowitz’s books. When asked his thoughts on the protesters, after viewing them quietly passing out flyers, he responded that he liked them. Citing past speeches, specifically the Don Feder speech, Tuffile said he feels the security measures are necessary.
“It was a disaster. I don’t have a problem with people when they protest, but it was ugly,” he said.
Thompson, the Republican Club vice president, gave opening remarks and thanked everyone for attending the speech, stating that Horowitz’s presence would hopefully facilitate conversation and debate.
Thompson explained why the Republican Club chose Horowitz.
“David Horowitz has been a strong proponent of free speech on campus,” he said.
Horowitz also provided an outlet for the club to display a more conservative speaker.
“You may remember Ms. Meghan McCain, who brought a more independent viewpoint [coming to campus.] Surprisingly for some, she wasn’t conservative enough,” said Thompson.
Next to speak was Derek Khanna, the president of the Republican Club. Khanna spoke of Horowitz’s lack of political correctness and the need for such in the University environment. Khanna spoke of not being able to call his country a “she,” and said, “Today, we live in a society where use of the word ‘niggardly’ requires an apology,” which the audience greeted with hissing sounds.
As he took the stage, Horowitz began his speech with an attack on liberals.
“Universities were set up to be free institutions that taxpayers pay for. It is due to out of control spending on faculty and out of control governmental loans that tuition costs are so much,” said Horowitz.
He went on to call college professors lazy, claiming they only work “nine hours a week, eight months out of the year.”
He continued to claim that professors generally represent just one side of the aisle politically. Horowitz sat in on a 90 minute civil liberties class during Tuesday’s classes, which he felt did not show multiple viewpoints on the subject.
“The professor tried to sell students on the decency of the Supreme Court, and denied them key information,” he said, furthering that he believes an educator’s job should entail “teaching you how to think, not what to think.”
Midway through his speech, Horowitz spoke on an educational department with which his views are commonly connoted. Horowitz said that women’s studies departments’ goals are to “make students into radical feminists.”
On the issues of gender and racial hierarchies in society, Horowitz claimed such inequities do not exist in America. He also said, to much audience protest, that the women’s studies department “doesn’t actually care about women,” because of genital mutilation occurring in Islamic cultures.
Horowitz expanded on his view of education stating that “the entire liberal arts college cannot give you a good education.” The only department Horowitz felt was of value was the engineering college, because through science, he believes the department presents facts without political slant.
Horowitz also told the crowd his views on religion. He deemed Muslims radicals, citing a poll claiming ten percent of Muslims agreed with jihad, or holy war. Making numerous comparisons to Nazi Germany, Horowitz called the Islamic jihad worse.
“Islamists are worse than the Nazis, because even the Nazis did not tell the world that they want to exterminate the Jews,” he said. In another comparison to Nazis, he added, “there are good Muslims and bad Muslims just like there were good Germans and bad Germans.”
After an hour of speaking, Horowitz took questions. Numerous students asked him about the conflict between Israel and Palestine, to which Horowitz responded heatedly, “The Palestinians are Nazis. Every one of their elected officials are terrorists.”
He spoke of how the countries in the Middle East were created and had no right to the lands that now make up Israel. “The Jews were attacked. They had every right to expel every Arab from both Israel and, when they were attacked in ‘67, from the West Bank.”
Zamil Akhtar, president of the UMass Muslim Student Association, spoke of how every Muslim, himself included, did not support the jihad, and said, “You said that you had not heard Muslims condemn the jihad. I can show you hundreds of Muslim scholars that disagree.”
“You also spoke of genital mutilation,” added Akhtar, “which is not a part of the culture – of my culture – as you said.”
Horowitz asked if Akhtar would denounce Hamas, to which Akhtar responded he would, and retorted by asking Horowitz if he would denounce Ann Coulter’s Islamophobic remarks, to which he responded, “It was a very apt satire.”
On the differences between sex and gender, UMass student Ashley Lesperance tried to explain the differences between gender and sex.
“Gender is defined as socially constructed to oppress women, versus sex which is what you are born with, gender is what is in fact socially constructed,” Lesperance told Horowitz.
Horowitz retorted by referencing former Harvard President Larry Summers, who drew criticism when he claimed women had lesser scientific abilities than women.
“Women possibly have a lower aptitude for math and science than men. And that’s a gender difference. Women have a lower aptitude in mathematics than men, and that is a scientific fact,” said Horowitz.
After a 30 minute question-and-answer of agitated remarks between the protesters and Horowitz, he told audience members lined at the microphone that he was finished answering questions and was escorted out of the room by his bodyguard.
Michelle Williams can be reached at email@example.com.