The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America

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The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America
The Professors - The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America (book cover).jpg
Author David Horowitz
Published 2006 (Regnery Publishing)
Media type Hardcover
Pages 450
ISBN 0-89526-003-4
OCLC 63171004
378.1/2 22
LC Class LB2331.72 .H67 2006

The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America is a 2006 book by conservative American author and policy advocate David Horowitz. The book contends that many academics in American colleges hold anti-American perspectives and lists one hundred examples whom Horowitz believes are sympathetic to terrorists and non-democratic governments.

Argument[edit]

Following the Ward Churchill September 11 attacks essay controversy, Horowitz argued that there were many "careers like Ward Churchill’s". He wrote that "Not all of the professors depicted in this volume hold views as extreme as Ward Churchill’s, but a disturbing number do" and "it would have been no problem to provide a thousand such profiles or even ten times the number." Horowitz uses quotes from the professors he names, and argues that two controversies involving former Harvard University President Lawrence Summers show that administrators refrain from challenging radicals. Horowitz devoted three pages to the defense of former Senator Joseph McCarthy, a defense that criticized Victor Navasky, the former longtime editor of The Nation and now professor of journalism at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

Free Exchange on Campus report[edit]

Horowitz's accusations were reviewed by Free Exchange on Campus, a coalition[1] of organizations that came together to "protect the free exchange of speech and ideas on campus." Disputing Horowitz's book, the report, Facts Count: An Analysis of David Horowitz’s The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America, states the following in a footnote to the executive summary.

Mr. Horowitz’s apologia for the tactics of Senator Joseph McCarthy appears in his chapter on Professor Victor Navasky (292–95). Mr. Horowitz writes, “It is now known, except for holdouts like Professor Navasky, that McCarthy underestimated the extent of Soviet infiltration in the American government and that virtually all individuals called before congressional committees were involved in a conspiratorial network controlled by the Kremlin” (294).

Mr. Horowitz bases this statement on a book on Soviet intelligence by historians Harvey Klehr, John Earl Haynes, and Kyrill M. Anderson (Yale University Press, 1998) which does not make this claim. The Venona intercepts are a set of secret Soviet cables that were declassified in the mid-1990s. Many mainstream historians agree that they appear to provide further evidence implicating Alger Hiss and Julius and Ethel Rosenberg as Soviet spies. However, Mr. Horowitz’s much broader claim that the intercepts implicate “virtually all individuals called before congressional committees” as being “involved in a conspiratorial network controlled by the Kremlin,” is false.[2]

Jacob Laksin, managing director at FrontPageMag, in turn made a series of detailed responses to this report. He concluded:[3]

In sum “Facts Counts” identifies a handful of trivial errors in a 112,000 word text, supplies many similar errors of its own, adds blatant falsehoods, misrepresents differences of opinion as matters of fact, and indulges in numerous ad hominem assaults on its author including the claim that he is “sloppy in the extreme” and that his work is characterized by inaccuracies, distortions, and manipulations of fact – including false statements, mischaracterizations of professors’ views, broad claims unsupported by facts and selective omissions of information that does not fit his argument.” On examination, none of these charges is sustained. Simply stated, “Facts Count” is an intellectually sleazy and inept attempt to discredit a book whose opinions the authors dislike.

Responses by persons mentioned[edit]

Horowitz accuses Eric Foner, former president of the American Historical Association of being an "apologist for American Communism." Foner said, "Mr. Horowitz's 'chapter' on me is full of errors, beginning with the long quote with which he opens, which was written by someone else, not me. This is a fair example of the reliability of his work. But to get into a debate about Horowitz is a waste of time, and accords his attacks a legitimacy they do not deserve."

Horowitz wrongly attributed to Foner a statement by the late author and journalist, Paul Foot.[4] In the introduction to his book, Horowitz said the profiles were written by 30 researchers he had hired. He wrote: "I have revised and edited all of the profiles contained in this text and rewritten many . . . I am ultimately responsible for their judgements and accuracy." On his blog, Horowitz admitted wrongly attributing material to Eric Foner, blamed the error on the 30 researchers, and went on to say that the errors in his book are "inconsequential."[5]

Horowitz accused Dana L. Cloud, associate professor of communication studies at the University of Texas at Austin, as an “anti-American radical” who “routinely repeats the propaganda of the Saddam regime” and, along with all of the 99 other professors in his book, Horowitz accuses her of the “explicit introduction of political agendas into the classroom.” (pp. 93, 377)

Cloud replied in Inside Higher Ed that her experience demonstrates that Horowitz does real damage to professors' lives – and that he needs to be viewed that way, not just as a political opponent.

Horowitz's attacks have been significant. People who read the book or his Web site regularly send letters to university officials asking for her to be fired. Personally, she has received – mostly via e-mail – "physical threats, threats of removing my daughter from my custody, threats of sexual assaults, horrible disgusting gendered things," she said. That Horowitz doesn't send these isn't the point, she said. "He builds a climate and culture that emboldens people," and as a result, shouldn't be seen as a defender of academic freedom, but as its enemy.[6]

Horowitz also alleged that professor Michael Bérubé's classes "often have little to do with literature," and that Bérubé believes "religious people were to be regarded as simply irrational."

Bérubé, who teaches at Penn State University and sits on the National Council of the American Association of University Professors, replied that Horowitz "knows nothing about my classroom demeanor or my record as a faculty member. If he were a college student and tried to get away with this garbage, he would indeed be flunked – not for his conservatism, but for his mendacity."[7] Bérubé was also invited to comment at Horowitz's magazine, and Bérubé wrote a response to questions provided by Horowitz's assistant. Horowitz published only an excerpted version of his response, prompting accusations of dishonesty from Bérubé.[8]

Reviews[edit]

The review in the industry news digest Publishers Weekly stated that Horowitz's "intention to expose the majority of these professors as 'dangerous' and undeserving of their coveted positions seems petty in some cases, as when he smugly mocks the proliferation of departments dedicated to peace studies or considers 'anti-war activist' as a character flaw... the most egregious crimes perpetrated by the majority of these academics is that their politics don't mesh with Horowitz's."[9]

Shortly after the book was released in January 2006, Neil Gross, assistant professor of sociology at Harvard University, wrote a review for the Boston Globe, saying in part:

Horowitz insists that the professors profiled in the book are "representative" of the American university as a whole, that liberal bias is "increasingly widespread throughout the academic profession," and that it's time conservatives did something about it.

The Professors, however, is no exemplar of careful scholarship. Despite his claims, the professors Horowitz discusses aren't representative in any statistical sense. The leading major in American colleges and universities these days is business. Nearly 22 percent of all bachelor's degrees nationwide are awarded in business and business-related fields whose professors tend to hold more moderate political views. By contrast, only about four percent of bachelor's degrees go to English majors, only two percent to history majors, and two percent to sociology majors. Yet professors from these three fields together comprise nearly a quarter of Horowitz's sample, while not a single business school professor graces his pages. Nor, except for Stanford biologist and environmentalist Paul Ehrlich, does any natural scientist, computer scientist, or professor of medicine.

The sample is skewed in other ways as well. Scholars Horowitz describes as giving aid and comfort to Islamic fundamentalists make up 16 percent of his sample. While there is no necessary correlation between being a scholar of the Mideast and supporting fundamentalist politics, it's worth noting that the Middle East Studies Association of North America only has about 2,600 members, representing less than one percent of all American college and university professors.

...Horowitz's individual profiles are a poor substitute for more solid data on professors and their politics. Nor are they really intended to be such a substitute. The Professors is not an objective account written from the standpoint of social science.

Horowitz's book is a one-sided screed that mimics in form the kind of knee-jerk politics he mocks. What really rankles Horowitz aren't professors who bring their politics into the classroom, but professors who hold political views different than his own. Marxists come in for particular attack, comprising 26 percent of his profiles. Needless to say, he doesn't bother to profile any conservative academic ideologues.[10]

In the Los Angeles Times columnist Rosa Brooks wrote:

The real agenda behind this so-called bill of rights has nothing to do with fostering intellectual pluralism and everything to do with marginalizing or eliminating academics who deviate from the right-wing party line.

...Horowitz and his ilk were able to start denouncing the academics they disliked as not merely liberal but pro-terrorist "sympathizers … of Osama bin Laden."

Last week, they insisted that universities be purged of liberals and "improved to serve national security," and they urged students to "strongly criticize … the continued presence of liberal and secular professors."

Oh, wait – whoops! Those quotes were from – respectively – Ayatollah Abbasali Amid Zanjani, the hard-line Islamist president of the University of Tehran, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Silly me, getting my militant conservative Islamic extremists mixed up with my militant conservative Judeo-Christian extremists! Though now that I think about it, they seem to have an awful lot in common.[11]

A USA Today article, citing the report by Free Exchange on Campus mentioned above, stated that "The book profiles faculty who Horowitz says represent the kind of disorder going on in college classrooms today. But professor by professor, the report cites errors, fabrications and misleading statements, and concludes that Horowitz's research is "manipulated to fit his arguments. Citing the report's findings, the newspaper said Horowitz accuses sociology senior lecturer Sam Richards of reinforcing class lessons "with 'out-of-class' assignments that include the viewing of left-wing propaganda films, such as "The Oil Factor", from which students learn that the 'war in Afghanistan has turned into a bloody quagmire,' ... and Occupation 101, about the horrors of Israel's 'occupation' of Palestinian terrorists,'" Richards responded, in the report, to the book's claims, saying Horowitz "disingenuously fails to note that students also receive credit for attending 'conservative' events, including a talk by none other than David Horowitz!"[7]

Charles McGrath, reviewing the book for the New York Times, wrote "you have to wonder what Mr. Horowitz is so worried about. If indeed there is a professorial cabal dedicated to converting American students to Marxism, or worse, it is manifestly failing. The country is more conservative than it has been in decades, and by far the most popular undergraduate major these days is business." McGrath wrote that Horowitz is concerned with "a pervasive liberal bias at American universities" and that "Academic freedom is being so abused by such people, Mr. Horowitz believes, that he has drawn up an Academic Bill of Rights that, if its conservative supporters have their way, would put the state, and not the university, in charge of reviewing what professors are entitled to say."[12]

In the National Review, Alston B. Ramsay wrote: "For anyone who has monitored higher education's pulse rate even cursorily during the last three decades, the central premise of The Professors will come as no surprise: Our universities have been hijacked by a band of rabid, anti-intellectual liberals more concerned with advancing ideological agendas – usually of the "social justice" variety – than with educating students. (Predictably, both the ACLU and the National Education Association have blasted the book.)"[13]

In its review,[14] the progressive group Media Matters for America stated that Horowitz mentioned "nothing but out-of-class activities" and speech in 52 of the 100 profiles in the book.[15] Media Matters also observed that the book title is misleading in that Horowitz attacks 100 and not 101 professors as dangerous.

Paul Weyrich of the conservative Free Congress Foundation commented that "Horowitz estimates that there are about 60,000 of these radical professors in every part of the nation... We are not talking about liberals here. Horowitz is clear that while he thinks liberals are wrong they are entitled to their opinions. Rather, we are talking about the most vile, America-hating Stalinist-style professors who will accept no dissent. They preach tolerance and then practice the opposite."[16]

References[edit]

External links[edit]