Who's afraid of the big bad Horowitz?

By Joan Walsh

Published March 12, 2001 12:00PM (EST)

Read the story.

It's sad that Joan Walsh has fallen into the No. 1 delight of conservatives who like to feel victimized by this "p.c." beastie -- a hatred and disdain for young people as they attempt to formulate their own morals and worldview and sometimes, unpleasantly, rebel against their parents. I've always thought that, in bashing the victimology they see in political correctness, conservatives betray the same desire to take the place of the victim.

On the subject of rejecting an ad in a publication, do you people know that publications do this every day, and that is what editorial boards are for? That right, in some ways, is why you start a publication in the process. It's a free will act where nobody is telling you what to do. If you choose to be one ad check poorer for pissing someone off, you make that decision proudly. That would not at all count as limiting freedom of speech. Rather, it's limiting advertising. I would tell Horowitz to write a bunch of letters to the editor and let the editors do their job. If he's not happy with that, he can start a zine (if he knows what one is).

For anyone not intimately acquainted with the purpose of a college publication, it may be difficult to understand all the anguish that goes on over which ads to print, what copy to run. I saw that many times as a teaching assistant at Ohio State University's lab paper, the Lantern. The student lab paper is fascinating because it's a place for learning. Bashing these students because their moral searchings and decisions do not have results that please us is mean-spirited and disrespectful to young people. Horowitz's glee at "making idiots of" these students betrays his fundamentally sadistic aim, as does Walsh's assent that these kids and their developing, passionate personalities can be summed up as "self-important" and "hormone-addled." Walsh's description of the campus left as "mostly dormant" only betrays the ignorance of someone out of touch with campus and youth culture -- and someone who has not bothered to carefully research a story.

With this kind of disdain -- and even hatred -- for young people and for those who rebel, the frightening rage that many young people feel becomes suddenly more understandable.

-- Sonya Huber

Joan Walsh's piece about the reparations ad was an incredible, finely nuanced and succinct way of summarizing how I feel about the anemic tolerance of the left. As a liberal myself, I find it disturbing that college leftists aren't made of sterner stuff. To be honest, as much as I despise Horowitz's columns, I would hate to miss the opportunity to read them. From William Buckley to Horowitz to Jonah Goldberg, I find no greater intellectual joy than poring over the words of someone who passionately disagrees with me, then gleefully bashing them for doing so. It's the greatest weakness of the left that delusional sanctimony prevents free exchange and consequently these people get crucified on their own reprehensibly stupid arguments.

Although I appreciate Horowitz as an ideological provocateur, the truth is, in a tit for tat debate on most issues, he can't carry his weight. It's just sad that in the rush to cloister people from having their sensibilities bruised, these student newspapers have given infinite ammunition to the new cult of conservative victimhood.

-- Terry Sawyer

As a former managing editor of the Badger Herald at the University of Wisconsin (in 1998), I feel obligated to correct a few misconceptions and mistakes in your article.

The advertisement proposed by the Multicultural Student Coalition was not a refutation of the Horowitz ad. It was an ad calling the Herald a "racist propaganda machine," a sentiment few newspapers would print about themselves. I doubt even your beloved Cardinal would support free speech to that extent.

Labeling the Badger Herald as a conservative paper is inaccurate. The days of the Karl Armstrong-defending Cardinal vs. the Nixon-supporting Herald are over. When I was on the staff, both papers leaned left, with the Cardinal possibly leaning a little more. Judging the Herald based on characteristics you knew a quarter-century ago is not fair to the current staff. I have read staff editorials from the late '70s and I was appalled by many of them. As an illustration of the changed ideology, I offer an editorial I helped to create, supporting the formation of the Multicultural Student Coalition two years ago. Times have changed since 1979, when a column titled "Can Africans Rule Themselves" was acceptable content for the editorial page.

I don't know that either paper is considered the "official" paper. However, since you left campus in the late '70s, the Herald has become the larger paper, surpassing the Cardinal in circulation, staff size and physical size (broadsheet vs. tabloid). I won't presume to judge quality because of the obvious self-interest involved.

-- Mike Schramm

Congratulations for a great piece. As a former lefty turned libertarian, I have been only mildly surprised but deeply disturbed by the p.c. response to the Horowitz ad. I sent off a stingingly frank e-mail to David Hernandez after reading his perverse apology to his readers. Calling him a wimp (which he is), I encouraged him to turn the paper over to real men and women, genuine newspaper people who are not afraid of controversy.

What is the purpose of journalism if not to expose readers to all sides of an issue? No matter what you think of the great Thomas Jefferson, a man who would more often than not side with Horowitz over the left, he put journalism on a pedestal. As you probably know, he felt it more important to have a free press than to have a government. I would agree. But not today's press. These little closed-minded babies running campus newspapers today will become the mainstream journalists of tomorrow, offering up leftist pablum for their numbed readers to digest on a daily basis. How sad ... how dangerous!

-- Don Sloan

I've been reading Horowitz's columns for years in Salon and have a clear idea of his character, so it struck me as de rigueur for him to cynically seek to build his reputation on the backs of college journalism majors. I agree that paying reparations for slavery is not a good idea. However, I'm certain Horowitz has from the beginning known exactly what he was doing with his ad submissions -- seeking rejection in order to further his own image and agenda. He was deliberately taking advantage of their youth, the pressures a college community can bring to bear, and their relatively low amount of experience in journalism. For that he's simply the self-aggrandizing little pig he's always been.

That said, these college newspaper editors should have sought ethical guidance from the editors of major news outlets on the issue of whether or not to run the ad, since they deal with such provocation much more often. They could have helped devise ways of presenting this provocative material that allowed opposing viewpoints on the same or facing pages, or included an editorial that didn't apologize but presented opposing arguments. Instead, the college papers ran from discussing the issue in the face of local pressures, playing directly into Horowitz's hand. The college paper is the place most budding journalists make their first and biggest mistakes. Let's hope Hernandez of the Daily Californian and others have learned something from it and choose to act more prudently next time.

-- Gregory Dyas

The events unfolding in the wake of Horowitz's attempt to place a controversial ad in campus papers, specifically how campus liberals have reacted, reminds me of events that occurred at my alma mater, Rutgers College, several years ago. One of the campus weeklies ran a cover story titled "Fry Mumia." It was, as you can guess, critical of the Free Mumia movement and listed various reasons why he should remain incarcerated.

Campus liberals reacted by storming the newspaper's office and attempting to destroy all of the "offending" copies. It was an eye-opener and revealed the innate hypocrisy of the so-called tolerance of the left. They are as guilty as their right-wing brethren when it comes to handling dissent.

-- Greg Scoblete

By Salon Staff

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