When I heard about Horowitz being brought to Knox by the Knox College Republicans, the Intellectual Diversity Foundation and the Young America's Foundation, I knew I had to attend his talk, even though it might very well be difficult to hear.
Horowitz is most recently the author of a book called One-Party Classroom: How Radical Professors at America's Top Colleges Indoctrinate Students and Undermine Our Democracy. The title says it all, really.
Throughout his talk, Horowitz did not do a good job at trying to foster respect for his ideas on a campus that has, not infrequently, been noted for strong liberalism among its student and its faculty populations. He made numerous disparaging remarks about past events on the Knox campus. Toward the beginning of his talk he said, "I think it's disgraceful when speakers are protested at University campuses," in regard to the widespread student protests that Kate and I blogged about when John Ashcroft spoke here last year. By beginning his talk with insults about our campus, and offering no concrete ideas about addressing the issues he brought up, how exactly did he expect to make an impact here? Immediately it was as if we had to be on the defensive, when something as easy as trying a bit of constructive criticism could have helped create a more productive and less inflammatory atmosphere that would have been much more conducive to change.
Next, to address to other major themes in his talk.
Theme One: Women's Studies - Where students are presented "with controversial opinions as if they were scientific facts."
Horowitz actually dedicated a whole section of his talk specifically to women's studies, claiming it was "not an academic study." He went on to explain. "Women's Studies professors are part of a political movement within universities [meant to] recruit people to [believe that we live in] a racist, sexist, homophobic society that deserves to be attacked," he said, expounding upon his apparently unmoving belief that Women's Studies programs were meant only to indoctrinate students into feminist ideals.
When Horowitz asked a rhetorical question about who in the room had been taught that gender was a social construction, numerous hands went up (including mine). From there he went on to demonstrate that he did not quite know the difference between sex and gender when he said that empirical studies show that men and women are different and that "gender is hardwired, it's in the genome." Well, Mr. Horowitz, I'll leave out the idea that gender is displayed and acted out differently around the world because, I'm sure there's a genetic explanation, right?
Theme Two: Ism's (mainly sexism and racism) - "This is the most tolerant nation...on the face of the Earth."A: "...anti-white racism...is epidemic on university campuses." After talking about how bad it is for whites these days, he went on to say that the only way to deal with racism on college campuses was to make one standard of consequences for all people, regardless of skin color. But instead of ending it there, he went on to challenge that notion that groups such as blacks and women are marginalized in our society because we have a black president and a female Secretary of State. That, of course, means perfect equality and access to resources/power for these groups. Clearly.
During the question and answer section of his talk, Horowitz's true colors seemed to shine at their brightest. The following are questions [mostly paraphrased] submitted by the audience via note cards that were read aloud, followed by the most interesting parts of Horowitz's not-always-coherent responses:
Q: How can colleges deal with racism?
Q: How can colleges deal with racism?
Q: If we're surrounded by people like you [white, male]...you run the government...
A: [cuts off question] "BARACK OBAMA! BARACK OBAMA! BARACK OBAMA!" As if that was all he needed to prove his controversial point that white males do not still run the government and most of American life. He then said the question was stupid, although it had not been completely asked.
Q: How can you, as a white male, say race and gender are not issues?
A: "...nobody is oppressed in America...except children [with abusive parents]." Why is that so? Because "white people don't come around thinking of ways to oppress blacks." And of course, "Sixty three million people voted for a black man...IT [racism] IS OVER."
Q: What do you think about the bias in the media?
A: He started with the familiar talking point about how the media is ruled by the Left. Then he described a "neocommunist" as someone who thinks that the USA is racist, sexist, and homophobic and that corporations are evil. Not quite sure how he related this to the media, but there you have it.
I think most of this post can speak for itself. Although his talk was masked with good ideas, Horowitz spent most of his time at the podium spewing hatred, even when he had to revert to unrelated tangents to try to drive his points home. All I have to say is that for someone who claims to want to promote intellectual diversity on campuses in America, he doesn't seem to have the best grasp of ideas that oppose his own, and he seems to be mistaken in the belief that attacking people will somehow make them want to listen to him.
EDIT 4/7/09: Here's a link to Knox's school newspaper website that contains video of the talk. You'll probably need to turn up the volume.
*All direct quotes were collected by Amelia at the time of Horowitz's talk, approx. 7:00-8:30pm on Monday, April 6, 2009.