Thursday, May 19, 2005

Free Speech & Giving the Right a Hard Time

David Horowitz in Chicago:
How to Handle an Anti-Left Fanatic

by Carl Davidson

[I jump into a discussion of what to do when former leftist turn rabid rightist David Horowitz speaks at Northwestern University in the few days.}

I sometimes suspect that Horowitz is not quite playing with a full deck.

In one sense, he's like the NeoCons, shifting from Trotskyism to Bush's Napoleonic world-changers, except that his broader jump started a little further to the left and landed quite a bit further to the right. Plus he did it in a few years, while it took them a few decades. Perhaps that stretch overstrained his synapses.

I know he's driven by something other than reason. Heather Booth and I tangled with him and Peter Collier on WBBM-AM for and hour or two when their first book, 'Destructive Generation,' came out a while back. In one section of the book, he claimed an SDS meeting in Cuba with the Vietnamese was set up to train us in terrorism. I told him that I was there and that I had helped to set it up, and that every point he made was total fiction. I explained how it was a fiction, and challenged him to back up a single fact so that we would know that he hadn't just made it all up or had been fed a batch of lies by some CIA operative.

He couldn't. He just got extremely flustered and counter-attacked by saying, on air, that Heather and I were just supporters of the well known 'gangster' and 'political whore', Harold Washington, who was campaigning at the time. (Some of his ultra-left Trotskyism stuck with him, it seems, despite his new claims to be a great civil rights leader and admirer of Dr. King) Needless to say, that didn't endear him to progressive Chicago. After that it was all downhill, and he just raged. Even his buddy and co-author, Peter Collier, was taken aback and raised an eyebrow now and then.

In another sense, it could be that he's mainly just in it for the money. His various fronts are now bringing in millions from the wealthy right foundations. 'Horowitz Inc.' is doing quite well these days.

In any case, I think it's useful to distribute materials exposing his views to those who aren't aware of his fabrications, but I have my doubts about how useful it is to create a ruckus or throw pies at his speaking events.

He loves it when we do this stuff, and, in a way, he often uses us as his theatrical props. With every disruptive catcall and pie, he hears the cash register ringing; he loves to play the victim to his proto-fascist funders, and uses it to fill his coffers and build his base even more.

Still, we need to deflate him; we just need carefully to find a good way to nudge him into exposing himself as a raving maniac, while we are seen as the guardians of democratic rights, freedom and progressive values that we are.


How Carl?!


Carl replies:


I would start by googling 'David Horowitz' and 'neo-confederate' for starters. He's cozying up to some of their funders these days. Here's a link to get you going:

Since he's speaking on 'liberal bias in the class room,' I might also try to find out if he's for teaching 'creation science' in biology class as the antidote to the 'liberal bias' of Darwin.

Since he has a canned speech, see what he says and distribute some materials showing what a wacko he has become. Shouldn't be that hard to get people laughing at him. Just don't get suckered into his victimhood trap.


Reply to Carl:

This is a job for al-pieda. Sme people deserve nothing more than just desserts ... No pies carl?


Carl Replies:

Nope, my Doc told me to lay off the carbs and cholestrerol. But to each his or her own. Have fun...

Reply by 'hmmm'

Wow I usually think that Carl is flaky usually but this is kinda on point.

Serously, Horowitz gets off on conflict. He came to UIC to speak one time also brought in by the Republicans. He couldn't really prove anything that he was talking about when someone questioned his facts. At one point he claimed he had a better census data. He said that blacks in this country live way better then anywhere else so you know, screw black rights. As if black people a seperate entitity not full citizens of THIS country. He also called some people al-Quada's little helpers. When people got pissed he started huffing that he was denied his right of speech.
So essentially he wanted to call people names but got upset when it came back to him. He left early too. Apparantly he was expecting people just to take insults.

Its better to just print up all the shit he is getting wrong. And there is a lot of it on his website!


By Carl, replying to Pfeifer:

In an otherwise fine article overall, I have to register a strong objection to this point Pfeifer makes:

'While hopefully running Horowitz off campus and out of town, students and their allies in labor and elsewhere, asking questions like the ones below will help students and the working class move away from the bankrupt 'everybody has a right to speak no matter how horrible the speech is' argument.'

There is nothing at all 'bankrupt' about 'everybody has a right to speak no matter how horrible the speech is.'

While wrapped in a left pose of class militancy, this argument really surrenders to fascism.

The reason freedom of speech exists, and the reason why the working class and all consistent democrats have fought for it, is precisely to protect speech that someone else considers horrible, disagreeable or outrageous.

Speech that is pleasant, agreeable and non-horrible doesn't need much protecting; it's usually accepted as normal discourse.

If you don't like someone's speech or assembly, the best antidote is more massive counter speech and more massive counter assembly. You rely on the masses and mass democracy, not restrictive or repressive measures.

I fully understand that in class society, wealth skewers speech, and all other democratic rights as well, in favor of the rich. When all is said and done, that doesn't matter, especially in our current situation.

Believe me, you do not want to go down the road of restricting or suppressing the speech of your adversaries. It will be turned around and used against you in triplicate in an instant. And don't try to wrap this 'restrict the speech of the bad guys' argument in the colors of the 'working class.'

The working classes and all the oppressed distinguish themselves from reaction precisely by being the most consistent and adamant defenders of democractic rights. It's is the bourgeoisie itself, including the liberals, that waver, wobble and are otherwise inconsistent on the matter of bourgeois democratic rights. When the theocratic right is rising on the horizon, the last thing we need to do is to hand them the First Amendment and the rest of the Bill of Rights on a platter.

All of our enemies, moreover, say that the first thing the left will do if it comes to power is to take away the right to speak of its opponents. But our stand has to be that we come to power by winning the battle for democracy, not by subordinating, belittling or restricting it.

It's one thing to throw cream pies. Shooting yourself in the foot by restricting the scope of civil liberties is quite another.


Comment By 'okay'

Talk with some of the more extreme college republicans and freedom alliance members at UIC, some of whom are also members of protest warrior, and then talk to me about 'ignorant people calling each other fascists'.

Either tell us what the so-called anti-Semitic statement was or stop mentioning it.

My guess is that you did not catch what happened with the arrestee from the very beginning or else you would not be talking like one of those domestic abuse apologists. How can you so casually dismiss the legitimate concerns that were racing through the young woman's mind when you probably don't even know her and obviously didn't catch the whole thing? Two complete strangers, both of whom were men, outsiders to the UIC community, twice the size of the woman, and seriously looked as though they weren't playing with a full deck, adopting an aggressive tone and posture while telling the woman to shut up and grabbing her by the shoulders is grounds for assault in any court. According to the woman, and you have no grounds to dispute this, they squeezed her shoulder forcefully.

And for the record hate speech is not protected by free speech laws, and fuck it if it was.


Carl's Reply to OK:

I agree with everything but your last sentence, 'OK,' where you say:

'And for the record hate speech is not protected by free speech laws, and fuck it if it was.'

Hate speech certainly is still protected by the First Amendment, although some would like to erode it. That's why the ACLU correctly defended the right of the Nazis to speak and assemble in Skokie, and we had the right to counter-speak and counter-assemble at the same time.

The line is classically drawn at 'yelling fire in a crowded theater,' which is usually interpreted quite narrowly, usually benefiting us.

Many reactionary officials, for instance, have tried to use the 'fire in a theater' argument to have our side convicted of going 'beyond speech' to 'incitement to riot' or incitment to commit other illegal actions at militant demonstrations.

The rub is who gets to define 'hate' in 'hate speech'? We use it in the context of rightist tirades against women, racial minorities, gays, Jews, Arabs, etc. But it's not far down the slippery slope to having our adversaries define 'hate speech' as speaking hatefully against capitalists or religious fundamentalists, and encouraging people to take action against them.

I'm for putting the bar extremely high on this matter, such as 'yelling fire in a crowded theater' or leading a chant of 'lynch him now' when a captured Black is dragged before a Klan rally. These are the few cases where words truly become inseparable from criminal acts, but these are also clearly not the same as Horowitz barking at us or us yelling 'fascist' back at him. Here the speech of both sides is protected, and justly so.

[The conclusion of this story is that Horowitz didn't do too well in Chicago this time. He showed up with his own pie, but accidentally dropped it on himself. His usual tirades were loudly, firmly but civilly rebuffed by the students.]

1 comment:

Comandante Gringo said...

You're absolutely right -- I mean Left -- Carl. We don't defend neonazis' freedom of speech because we're wimpy saps: we defend it because to *not* to is to produce the proverbial 'thin edge of the wedge' which the fascists hope to suck us into producing -- which they can then use to play the injured party and then justify going on the offensive against us at another level entirely.

And the *really* good thing about our principled defense of free speech for all, is that this naturally and inevitably leads to the frustrated Right *resorting first* with (eventual and unavoidable) violence -- which is our touchstone for self-defence. Which is exactly why there is no point to people on the Left starting anything violent and giving the State an excuse to repress us (and which is why they rely on agents provocateurs so immensely): if we have a smart strategy and are disciplined, it is *they* who will resort to violence -- and thus reveal their true nature. And this also shows everyone watching exactly what Carl is also getting at elsewhere: that it is the *Left* which is the true guarantor of democracy in this world. And that the Left is also prepared to defend this freedom at the barricades if needs be.

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