Why I won't pay the Daily Princetonian

Yes, the paper ran my anti-reparations ad, but the editorial printed alongside it was pure slander.


David Horowitz
April 16, 2001 6:12PM (UTC)

Not many individuals would begin a column for a liberal publication like Salon with a reference to the fact that they had been labeled "racist" by a journal bearing the imprimatur of Princeton University.

But that is exactly the reason I cannot in good conscience allow myself this luxury. Having spoken on more than 100 college campuses in the last 10 years, I am acutely aware that there are thousands of students and faculty on these campuses who are in the same position. For many more, the prospect of being labeled racist for reasonable ideas that are deemed politically incorrect inspires fear and a posture of prudent silence. They're potential targets of the same kind of reckless hate speech that Dan Stephens and the editors of the Daily Princetonian directed at me in the defamatory editorial statement they printed alongside my reparations ad earlier this month.

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Students and faculty targets of left-wing witch hunts are by no means exclusively conservative or white. But they do lack a national platform to fight back. Under normal circumstances, the national press is not focused on the excesses of political correctness, and campus targets of the left cannot count on a watchful media to defend their free speech. It's quite the contrary. As reactions to my ad have shown, campus media are willing accomplices to the witch hunters of the left. It is for the victims of their campaigns that my own is being fought, and that this column is written.

The Daily Princetonian was late on the list of college papers to whom the reparations ad was submitted. As a result, the Prince's editors were aware of the media commentaries already written about their censorious predecessors, and knew there were consequences for rejecting the ad. They knew, in particular, that the journalistic fraternity they hoped one day to join would be adversely impressed. To yield to the pressure of campus totalitarians and close down one side of the debate would not sit well on their future résumés.

As they put it in their editorial, for them to refuse to publish the ad would "just give Horowitz what he is looking for: another reason to cry 'censor.'" On the other hand, not to follow their natural inclination to do just that would jeopardize their membership in the club of the politically correct. It would antagonize the campus commissars and open the editors to the risk of being denounced as "racists" themselves.

How to resolve this agonizing dilemma? One way would have been to publish the ad and provide readers with a point-by-point refutation of its arguments. But this, apparently, was more of an intellectual challenge than the Prince's editors could handle. How about a public burning instead?

"In no way do we support Horowitz's argument," the editors began their auto da fe. "Printing this ad is the best way to allow our readers to fight against the racist aspects of its message." Thus did they seek to appease two gods and kill two birds with a single stone.

Exactly which aspects of the message were racist, Stephens and his fellow witch hunters naturally left to their readers' imaginations. There's no need for substance when the agenda is slander. Being Ivy Leaguers endowed with the genes of arrogance, the Prince's princes decided to up the ante. "Finally, in a gesture that we hope will demonstrate to our readers our commitment to open dialogue, but also our own integrity as a campus publication, we have decided not to keep the money that Horowitz's group paid for the ad. Instead, we will donate the proceeds from the ad to the Trenton chapter of the National Urban League, a non-profit, non-partisan group that works on civil rights and racial understanding. We do not want to profit from Horowitz's racism. Donating the money seems like the right thing to do." In other words, let's defame Horowitz and then make him pay reparations.

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I'm sorry to disappoint the editors of the Prince. After flaming me in public -- so easy for an irresponsible press where even the purchase of ad space merits an ad hominem attack -- the princes will not get to donate my money. The check has been stopped pending an apology. In the absence of this decency, I will donate it myself, but to a cause of my choosing.

Misplaced self-adoration aside, editor in chief Dan Stephens and his fellows are by no means atypical. Their failure to cite a single phrase or sentence from the offending ad that would justify their charge -- or to provide a refutation of even one of its 10 points -- is the hallmark of my campus critics. In the whole month-long temper tantrum that has erupted since the first ad was placed, there has actually been only one academic response. All the rest have been sound and fury, signifying only how desperately the left needs to demonize others in order to keep its appetite for self-righteousness fed.

What the Prince's editors and others have failed to produce, however, two black intellectuals, Ernest Allen Jr. and Robert Chrisman, have. Allen is a professor of African-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts (Amherst) and Chrisman is the long-time editor of the Black Scholar. Their April 4 response to the "10 Reasons Why Reparations Are A Bad Idea for Blacks" on a U-Mass Web site should have been a welcome departure from the mudslinging attacks and the beginning of a serious debate. In fact, it was only half that.

"It is our intention here," the authors state at the outset, "... to pave the way for an honest and forthright debate on reparations. ... To our knowledge only one of Horowitz's 10 'reasons' has been challenged by a black scholar as to source, accuracy, and validity."

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The body of their response -- the actual point-by-point argument Allen and Chrisman offer to refute the 10 reasons -- is refreshingly intellectual and civil. In my ad, for example, I argue that no single group is responsible for slavery, and consequently there is no one group to whom damages can be addressed. Allen and Chrisman respond: "While diverse groups on different continents certainly participated in the trade, the principal responsibility for internationalization of that trade and the institutionalization of slavery in the so-called New World rests with European and American individuals and institutions."

While admitting the point, they seek to make another that will serve their position. In their view, what is really important is the "internationalization" of the slave trade, for which only whites were responsible. This neatly avoids the fact that the only reason there were slaves to trade was that black Africans and Arabs had enslaved them. One may ask whether the slaves themselves would have so facilely exonerated their Arab and black African captors. Or whether we ourselves should make this distinction decisive. Nonetheless the point Allen and Chrisman make is a reasonable one, academically argued and respectfully made.

Allen and Chrisman employ the same admirable approach in responding to each of the 10 reasons. Even the claim in the ad that has been deemed most "offensive" is confronted without rancor: "Welfare benefits and racial preferences are not reparations [as the ad suggested]. The welfare system was set in place in the 1930s to alleviate the poverty of the Great Depression, and more whites than blacks received welfare. So-called 'racial preferences' come not from benevolence but from lawsuits by blacks against white businesses, government agencies and municipalities which practice racial discrimination."

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This is an intellectual contention that one can engage. Actually, affirmative action as racial preference was a policy first instituted by Richard Nixon in the so-called "Philadelphia Plan." From the beginning it was justified by its proponents as a policy to "redress past social injustice." It is true, on the other hand, that welfare payments were not designed as reparations, and have not been justified as such. But since their inception -- as the Heritage Foundation's Robert Rector points out -- means-tested welfare programs have transferred between $1.2 trillion and $1.6 trillion dollars net to African-Americans. Moreover, 47 percent of welfare recipients today are African-Americans, but African-Americans provide only 13 percent of the tax bill -- another net transfer. Finally, reparations proponents like Randall Robinson ascribe all black poverty to slavery and the legacies of slavery (segregation, discrimination and "institutional racism"). In these circumstances, it seems reasonable to call welfare transfers reparations too.

The intervention by Allen and Chrisman ought to have been the beginning of a civil debate over reparations -- possibly even an end to the torrent of hate directed at my ad and myself. Unhappily, the fanatical tides of the current witch hunt run very deep. In order to establish their political bona fides for their totalitarian peers, Allen and Chrisman introduce their 10 points with all the venom, lack of civility and offensive attack rhetoric that the academic left has made into a science.

"While Horowitz's article pretends to address the issues of reparations, it is not about reparations at all. It is, rather, a well-heeled, coordinated attack on Black Americans. ... Professor Lewis Gordon of Brown University put it very well, saying that 'what concerned me was that the ad was both hate speech and a solicitation for financial support to develop anti-black ad space.'" As though this were not enough defamation for one introduction, Allen and Chrisman continue: "As one examines the text of Horowitz's article, it becomes apparent that it is not a reasoned essay addressed to the topic of reparations: it is, rather, a racist polemic against African Americans and Africans that is neither responsible nor informed, relying heavily upon sophistry and a Hitlerian 'Big Lie' technique."

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And so we are back to the problem described in the beginning of this piece. The brute fact is that the intimidations and smears of the totalitarian left have exacted a price. For publishing a reasoned, dispassionate critique of reparations, I am now unable to speak at almost any college in the United States unless accompanied by armed guards. This situation is a disgrace, the consequence of my having attempted to articulate a position that 80 percent of the American people endorse. And not just the public at large. While writing this article, I was interviewed by a reporter from the Stanford Daily, one of the 39 papers that refused to run the ad. When I began to defend a particular point in the ad, he said, "You don't really need to. Most of the students I've talked to about the ad agree with it."

The students are not the problem. At Berkeley and in Boston, the mobs that tried to prevent me from speaking were organized by the Spartacist Youth League, a group of aging Trotskyites that split off from the Fourth International in 1956 over their support for the Soviet invasion of Hungary. At Brown University, 60 professors have signed a statement endorsing repression of ideas and defending the vandals who seized an entire issue of the Daily Herald with that as their purpose. The faculty statement uses the pretext of an alleged "escalating racist climate on our campus" -- how classic -- to back its demands that the administration investigate the editors of the Daily Herald for "harassment" of blacks because they published ideas that allegedly made some uncomfortable.

The problem at Brown is not "racism" but a totalitarian climate fomented by the very professors who signed this statement and their delinquent student protigis, whom they have taught that the suppression of ideas by criminal means is righteous if it serves a righteous cause. This was McCarthy's conception and method. The menace of Communism required extraordinary measures, like convicting people for their guilty ideas and defaming those who got in McCarthy's way.

The pretense that black students need to be protected from thoughts that make them uncomfortable is patronizing and actually qualifies as a form of racism itself. If parents take a child to a film that contains "offensive material," they cover the child's eyes and ears to shield it from the inappropriate material. The left evidently views black students as children who are too weak-minded or weak-kneed to respond to ideas they don't like. No self-respecting black people outside the hothouse of the politically correct university need sensitivity thought-police to defend them. They are perfectly capable of standing on their own two feet and defending themselves. But of course this would make their faculty protectors and the progressive vanguard entirely superfluous. It would expose the p.c. racket for what it really is -- an administrative defense of a left that is intellectually bankrupt and unable to defend itself.

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David Horowitz

David Horowitz is a conservative writer and activist.

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