Democracy Under Assault
Theopolitics, Incivility and Violence on the Right

Michele Swenson

David Horowitz: 'Academic Bill of Rights,' 'Students for Academic Freedom' & Other Attempts to Censor Liberals on Campus


Self-described former "red diaper" baby and product of a "leftist" upbringing, David Horowitz (Radical Son, 1997), asserted, "The radical ’60s was a movement of secular humanists to remake the world in their own image." Gender and race wars resulting in "quotas which balkanize America," and crime, poverty, out-of-wedlock births and "increasing numbers of abortions," he ascribes to the ’60s war on culture and traditional institutions of authority, such as the family. A further legacy of the failed ’60s, he maintains, is the difficulty of convicting "a black murderer of whites" like O.J. Simpson. Characterizing himself as a "true liberal [dedicated to] fairness, equity and inclusion," Horowitz has scorned social justice as "code for totalitarianism." Founder and president of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, he publishes Frontpagemag.com and "Commint," a newsletter "dedicated to ferreting out the Marxist/Leninists that control public radio and TV." Accusing the Public Broadcasting System of programming that "regularly attack whites," he asserts that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting "has been run by Democrats and liberals. It needs to change or go down." Among other crusades, Horowitz has taken aim at the slavery- reparations movement, asserting that blacks owe a debt to "white Christians" for initiating the "anti-slavery movement," and had, in fact, already been repaid "in the form of welfare benefits."

In 2004, Horowitz promoted his Academic Bill of Rights to protect students against alleged liberal bias on campus. He has encouraged members of his network of conservative students in campus-based Students for Academic Freedom to research and report the political affiliation of faculty members. A University of North Carolina SAF chapter has sought to censor from the freshman reading list Barbara Ehrenreich’s "left-wing screed," Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. Ehrenreich’s chronicle of struggles of the working poor to survive on unskilled wages in the wake of welfare reform was indicted by conservative UNC students and Republican legislators as "anti-Christian" for its allusion to anti-poverty liberation theology, and anti-capitalist because it "blames corporations" for the the plight of the poor. Horowitz characterized the book as "crackpot Marxism" and a "piece of trash" at a 2003 Denver campus appearance promoting his Academic Bill of Rights.

Horowitz’s defines his targets as "ultra left-wing groups," e.g., "those devoted to social justice, gay-lesbian-transgendered-bisexual activism, gun control, anti-war activism, anti-capitalism and anti-globalization, and environmental extremism." Casting a wide net, he has created a website database to track "leftist" individuals and organizations that include "abortion groups…anti-nuke groups, civil liberties groups, Muslim groups, anti-Israel groups and immigration groups….government legislators…and the funding sources that underpin them." Terming his database "opposition research," he denies that his goal is censorship of anyone. Ultraconservative Colorado legislators whose 2004 proposed draft resolution was modeled on Horowitz’s ABOR, condemned "diversity training"—called liberal indoctrination in disguise—and any college policy limiting conservatives’ right to speak against "certain sexual behaviors," including homosexuality.

In his latest project to silence non-conservative voices on campus, David Horowitz has published a book titled, "The Professors: 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America." Horowitz names University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill "an emblem of what’s wrong with universities in Colorado and across the country." Colorado professors profiled by Horowitz have called the book distorted, out of context, inconsistent, full of errors and erratic in style. Consistent with his past efforts, of six Colorado professors targeted by Horowitz, four are associated with ethnic or women’s studies.

Political Science professor and creator of a Native Americans Program, Oneida Meranto also made Horowtiz’s blacklist. Meranto says she has been the designated poster-girl for liberal-leaning professors at Metropolitan State College in Denver, and was compelled to tape her classes in self-defense after a student filed a grievance alleging bias. She has written of the McCarthy-era tactics, now censoring liberals instead of Communists, in an article titled "The Third Wave of McCarthyism: Co-opting the Language of Inclusivity." Meranto describes the push by conservative groups to encourage student participation in campus witch hunts identifying professors who critically discuss topics such as guns, God, gays and war. The American Council of Trustees and Alumni, a conservative academic watchdog group founded by Lynn Cheney, also reportedly compiles names of scholars and students defined as "unpatriotic" based on opposition to conservative policy on war, etc.