Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Poisonous Attitudes

At Phi Beta Cons, Mark Bauerlein finds fault with an article by Rutgers professor Barbara Foley, who says:

As one who in fact suspects that it is primarily liberals, rather than "the right," who are paving the way to a possible U.S. fascism, I include myself among those who yearn to bypass [David] Horowitz and confront what I consider to be the greater danger posed by mainstream political discourse, as articulated—and put into practice—by Republicans and Democrats alike. But we cannot so readily ignore Horowitz and other ideologues of the far right. For it is crucial to recognize the role that they play in defining and extending the political spectrum. Their assertions and proposals function as trial balloons that, even when brought to earth, turn out to have introduced various reactionary ideas into the realm of accepted political debate.
This is a rather poor piece of writing, and Bauerlein is right to complain that Foley doesn’t explain how liberals are “paving the way to a possible U.S. fascism.”

But Bauerlein’s much more concerned by her attack on David Horowitz, who’s admirable because he’s right even – or especially – when he’s wrong:
Some people have said that Horowitz exaggerates the extent of liberal/progressive indoctrination on campus, and in some instances they're right….But Horowitz does have a way of exposing poisonous attitudes on campus, if only by his provocative, in-your-face manner.
Sure. And Gene Ray has a way of exposing the blinkered corruption of the scientific establishment, if only by the sheer force of his personality.

Bauerlein is shocked that Foley would dare to accuse Horowitz of being part of “the growing racist movement within the United States.” But she actually makes a good case, both by quoting Horowitz on the alleged moral failings of the black underclass, and by pointing out that he published articles by the white supremacist James Lubinskas in FrontPage. (Lubinskas is a former assistant editor of American Renaissance, an omphalos of “polite” racism that bills itself as a “journal of race, immigration, and the decline of civility.”) [emphasis added]

Apparently, it’s irresponsible to accuse liberals of paving the way to fascism without explaining oneself...but perfectly reasonable to defend Horowitz against the charge of racism without acknowledging – let alone rebutting – the evidence for that charge. Bauerlein simply accuses Foley of “character assassination,” and presents her as illustrative of the American intellectual's “disconnection of [sic] real public affairs.”

And this, mind you, is the sort of extra-fancy-grade thinking to which higher education must learn to conform.

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