Monday, May 12, 2008

Why Horowitz Is Wrong (Again)

UPDATE: Horowitz has updated his blog to fix the errors in his first sentence, and added at the end, "Wilson put up an 'answer' which literate people can see is no answer at all." Actually, it's Horowitz who is failing to answer. I've explained why I think trying to de-fund student groups is a form of censorship. Horowitz hasn't explained whether he thinks it's acceptable to remove funding from "offensive" groups, and hasn't justified this odd interpretation of "free speech."

: Horowitz has written me to say, "The lawyer's letter was a request for information. If the university has regulations (e.g., the tearing down of flyers put up to advertise a speech by the guest of a recognized student group, the obstruction of the speaker etc) how would asking the university to enforce those regulations an attempt to infringe free speech? Your argument presumes that that's what I'm going to ask the university to do; even if that were the case (and you have at present no basis for presuming that it is) your quarrel would still be with the university not with me. And probably with current interpretations of the Constitution. After all this is a state institution and presumably they have not put regulations in place that violate the Constitution. If regulations against destroying other people's property (flyers) and obstructing speakers in a university setting are unConstitutional, please enlighten me. Meanwhile, isn't it bad form to be obsessed with the perceived mote in another's eye while ignoring the beam in your own?"
My response: of course, it would be quite reasonable if Horowitz was angry at people tearing down flyers and interrupting speakers (although I haven't seen any evidence that MSA did this); I'm angry at that, too. But the letter from Horowitz's lawyer was talking about the cartoon as a violation of Horowitz's rights, and that's dead wrong.
Consider this: on Friday, Horowitz was on Hannity and Colmes, and Hannity declared: “This cartoon, it’s what you see in Nazi Germany....Why aren’t these kids being thrown out of school?” Horowitz offered no objection to this view, and said, "They should be put on probation to say the least." So, does Horowitz think that students (or a student group) should be punished for a cartoon? And why won't he answer this question?

THIRD UPDATE: Horowitz has finally written to me and said what I asked him to: "John, it's very clear what I said. I did not say the cartoon should be cause for punishment. I said the obstruction of other people's speech should be subject to some disciplinary action to discourage it. Do you disagree? Also if you're so passionate about free speech and since you are connected with the AAUP, why don't you write a letter of protest about the 80 Santa Barbara professors who asked the Daily Nexus not to print 'inflammatory' ads." While Horowitz has not ruled out punishing people for cartoons, and hasn't explained why his lawyer would bring this up, at least it's a start. As for UCSB, I strongly disagree with anyone who thinks that student newspapers should act like the corporate press and censor controversial ads. I also disagree with Horowitz's disgusting behavior at the speech, where he interrupted a questioner to declare, “Why are you wearing a terrorist’s headscarf?”

David Horowitz responds today to my recent blog post about him, and he's wrong on so many levels.

Horowitz begins, "John K. Wilson is a leftist professor and flak for the American Association of University Professors...." All of this is wrong. I'm not a leftist (I'm a liberal/progressive, and I'm very much opposed to the left-wing idiots who seek to disrupt speeches such as Horowitz's), I'm not a professor, and I'm not a flak for anyone. I edit the newsletter for the Illinois AAUP (which is separate from the national group), but I'm often very critical of the AAUP.

Horowitz writes, "A typical leftist, Wilson supports the right of fascists to spread anti-Semitic bigotry but doesn't have enough respect for the speech rights of conservatives to report what they say accurately." Of course, I do support the right of fascists (or anyone else) to spread anti-Semitic bigotry (or anything else). Even if I did misreport Horowitz's views, I can't imagine why that would violate his "speech rights."

But I did accurately report what Horowitz said. He argues once again about MSA's free speech, "the university wasn't obligated to underwrite it." In other words, Horowitz is arguing that a student group should have its funding cut off and be banned from putting flyers on a bulletin board "by virtue of the cartoon and comments" against Horowitz, as his lawyer put it.

If Horowitz wanted "information" only, he could have asked for it. Instead, he had his lawyer write a letter, which anyone would read as a threat of legal action unless the university punishes the MSA. The fact that Horowitz only wants to have their funding and access cut off, rather than a total ban on their speech, makes him perhaps a half-hearted censor, but he is a censor nonetheless.

Perhaps Horowitz has a very limited notion of free speech. So let's test this. A few years ago, his website ran an article objecting to the defunding of a conservative newspaper. Does Horowitz think (as I do) that defunding a newspaper because someone found it offensive is a violation of students' free speech rights? If so, then he is a hypocrite if he thinks MSA should be punished for offending him. If not, then Horowitz is merely someone who misunderstands free speech and the First Amendment. Cutting off funding for a student group is certainly an attack on free speech.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

MSAs have repeatedly stated they are NOT associated with the Muslim Brotherhood and even co-signed a Fatwa against Terrorism which was presented and accepted by the Cardinal of DC at the National Press Club. Funny Horrawitz never mentions that in his speeches.

The groups the Professor is talking about regularly work with Jewish Students Associations (JSAs) and Christian groups. Heck MSAs even met with the Pope and Former President Clinton to talk about their interfaith and community work.