Uncivil Wars That Can’t Maim a Warrior
A review of Uncivil Wars, which chronicles David Horowitz’ attempts to initiate genuine debate on the dangers of the slavery reparations movement and the U.S. academia’s hostility to any such debate.
THE CONTEMPORARY CONTROVERSY over reparations for slavery lies at the heart of the culture war in America today. David Horowitz, the former Leftwing radical-turned Conservative, has just struck another stunning blow against the Left in his new book, Uncivil Wars. The Controversy Over Reparations For Slavery. He effectively dismantles the arguments for reparations, exposes the totalitarian mindset of the politically correct university campus that bolsters them, and provides a robust defense of American society and institutions.
Today, nowhere is support for reparations stronger than in American institutions of higher learning, where tenured radical academic elites literally control free thought and expression. Indeed, the campus thought police has shut down debate on the reparations issue, demonizing and marginalizing those who dare to trespass the correct political line.
Enter David Horowitz.
In Uncivil Wars, the Conservative intellectual exposes the pitiful state of tolerance in American academia. The book provides a detailed account of how the fascist Left has attempted – unsuccessfully — to prevent Horowitz’s cunning presentation of anti-reparations ideas to university students.
Because Horowitz’s ideas are anti-Left — and therefore not permitted on American campuses or in the curricula of academic courses –- the author realized that he had to try a different tactic (other than writing scholarly work) to get his ideas into American universities. In the winter and spring of 2001, he tried to initiate a dialogue by airing his anti-reparations arguments in an advertisement, titled “Ten Reasons Why Reparations for Blacks Is a Bad Idea for Blacks — and Racist Too,” in college newspapers. This effort resulted in a violent attack on Horowitz and his character, as storm trooper and character assassination tactics were inflicted against him, as well as against the newspapers that carried his ad.
Uncivil Wars provides an account of how many student newspapers refused to carry Horowitz’s ad, while others that did run it quickly caved into the Left’s intimidation tactics, pulled the ad and even denounced themselves Maoist-style. At Berkeley, students stormed the offices of The Daily Californian to demand an apology after the newspaper ran the ad. They got one. At Brown, student protesters threw away thousands of free copies of The Brown Daily Herald, after the paper printed the ad.
In light of this madness, Horowitz decided to go on what he termed his “Freedom Tour,” in which he risked his personal safety by going to college campuses (who would dare have him) to defend his ad. “It was a way,” he writes, “of going `in your face’ to my accusers and emphasizing the issue, free speech, which had now become the heart of the debate.”
Horowitz’s visit to Berkeley epitomized best the Stalinization of the American university campus. He describes his eerie experience:
“I was whisked in through a back entrance to a `holding room’ where I was to stay until my speech. All hallways were secured by uniformed officers so that no stray students might stumble across my path. When I had to leave the holding room briefly to go to the bathroom, I was accompanied by six armed guards who checked the stalls before I was allowed to enter. The experience was surreal. The bracing Berkeley campus of my youth had been replaced in the forty years since I studied there by an atmosphere lacking only bomb-sniffing dogs to complete the sense of menace conveyed to `the Other.’ The only comparison that came to mind was that of a neighborhood once habitable and inviting for evening strollers, which had become occupied by roving thugs.”
The Left’s objective was not just to censor Horowitz’s ideas, but, in the tradition of totalitarians, to erase the individual behind them. Horowitz notes,“My opponents’ agenda in this controversy was not to refute the ideas the ad contained, but to obliterate the individual who was responsible for them. This had been a classic tactic of twentieth-century totalitarians.”This explains why opponents spent no time addressing the ad on an intellectual level and concentrated only on slandering its author’s character. Horowitz writes,“Despite the ruckus that that the ad had caused, its `Ten Reasons’ had not really been answered, or even addressed. Instead, its opponents had launched a vitriolic attack on the character of those who stood in their path.”The vitriolic attack, which included the typical Leftist accusations of Horowitz being a “racist” and a “fascist”, was made against an individual who had a long public history as an activist for civil rights. He marched in his first civil rights protest before many of his slanderers were even born — more than fifty years ago on behalf of President Truman’s Fair Employment Practices Commission, which outlawed discrimination against blacks in the civil service. He also spent much of his adult life in similar battles for black Americans. Today, he has family that is black, which includes his grandchildren. And yet, because he believes that reparations for slavery will divide America and harm black Americans rather than help them, he is censored and vilified by his political opponents.
Horowitz did, of course, have his many defenders in the reparations controversy. They included the distinguished black scholar Thomas Sowell and the editors of the USA Today, the Boston Globe, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Chicago Tribune, the Arizona Republic, and many other papers. In other words, when it came to the real world outside of academia, sanity and tolerance still prevailed.
After chronicling the Leftist attempt to smother his voice and defame his character, Horowitz goes on to outline meticulously the flaws of the reparations claim. The last chapter, “Reparations and the American Idea,” is a literary masterpiece that belongs in the curriculum of every American History course in the country. In just 32 pages, the author gives a profound and robust defense of America and its institutions. Providing a fresh and shrewd perspective of American history, he de-legitimizes reparations claims for the speciousness and flawed historical perspective on which he shows they are based. He presents us with the facts about the history of world slavery and emphasizes what the reparations proponents consistently ignore: “America’s role in the global tragedy of slave systems involving Africans, while bad enough, was relatively minor compared with the roles of Arabs, Europeans and Africans themselves.”
In making this vital point, Horowitz gets to the core of the matter: the reparations idea is a product of a historical revisionism that seeks to paint America in its most evil light. Thus, the author detects that “The reparations claim is a hostile assault on America and its history.” This is precisely why, as Horowitz shows, reparations advocates always demonize the American Founding Fathers and the framework they created. Horowitz, therefore comes to the defense of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln, protecting them from their slanderers and praising the values and institutions they molded. He reminds us that,“The present government of the United States, which the reparations lawyers propose to hold culpable for the crime of slavery, is lineally descended from the government that fought and bore the costs of the war that ended slavery.”Horowitz follows this point by emphasizing that America has already engaged in massive efforts of compensation to the descendants of slaves. Because of what President Lyndon Johnson initiated in the 1960s, “trillions of dollars were spent in means-tested poverty programs under the Great Society welfare programs. These monies represented a net transfer of more than 1.3 trillion to African-Americans.”
The crucial point to stress here is that these reparations to descendants of slaves, which were designed to compensate African-Americans and to uplift them, ultimately hurt the very people they were designed to help. Horowitz notes,“The welfare programs devised by well-intentioned social reformers not only did not reduce black poverty, but exacerbated and deepened it. This reality poses questions that the reparations claimants do not even begin to address.”The reparations claimants do not address these questions because, unlike some of the social reformers of the previous generation, they are not “well-intentioned.” They are very much aware that reparations will not make things better for the African-Americans for whom they purport to speak. So why do they support reparations? Although Horowitz himself does not specifically say it, his arguments make it clear: because their agenda is ultimately a destructive one that seeks to tear down civil society, not to better it.
It is by no means a surprise, therefore, that Horowitz finds Marxist ideology -– and all the class and racial hatred that comes along with it -– to be the crucial underpinning of the reparations agenda. He writes:“Academic leftists have created a vast corpus of social theory that recasts old Marxist ideas in new `postmodern’ molds and reinterprets the narrative of American freedom as a chronicle of race and class oppression.”In order to dismantle this oppression, therefore, reparations activists work for the destruction of America.
Horowitz looks deep into the reparations argument to isolate and discredit its Marxist lies. He shows that, by trying to blame “discrimination” for the achievement gaps between blacks and other ethnic groups, the Left is spouting only a false ideology — and no kind of science. He reveals that, if anything, the whole Marxist/reparations charade is founded on the belief in the inferiority of the black race, since it robs African-Americans of their own free will. The whole reparations claim, therefore,“Is based on a Marxist race model that divides society into race victimizers and race victims. In this model, the accountable individual disappears into the group, and the members of victim groups are regarded as lacking either the free will or the ability to function as subjects. They are perceived, instead, as the objects of historical forces over which they can have no control. This is a social elitism that denies the equal humanity of those it labels victims. But if three-quarters of all black families in America have managed to raise themselves above the poverty line, then what has prevented the other quarter from doing the same? The answer certainly can’t be racism, because all the parties in question are black.”Horowitz goes on to successfully demonstrate that it is not racial and class oppression that hurts African-Americans, but the breakdown of the black family and the policy of welfare that has encouraged it. This is a truth that instills terror in every Leftist, because it represents a facet of human life that the socialist must stridently deny for the sake of holding on to the progressive faith. By emphasizing the tragedy of the normalization of the single-parent family in the black underclass, the author reveals the crucial importance of individuals making and paying for their own ethical and social decisions. But the Left must run from this basic given about human nature, because otherwise it would have to abandon the fairy tale that holds its vision in place: that social structures, especially those rooted in capitalism, are responsible for all human suffering. The radical utopian dream ultimately cannot accept that humans are incapable of being their own redeemers; it cannot digest the reality that human tragedy, alienation and inequality might be rooted in the human condition –- and in the heart of man.
It becomes understandable, therefore, why the reparations proponents seek to divide and harm America, and intend to do so by instilling class and racial antagonism where it doesn’t exist. Horowitz crystallizes this Leftist objective by demonstrating the incompatibility between pro-reparations arguments and real-life realities. For instance, he shows that only a tiny minority of Americans ever owned slaves and that the majority of Americans today are descended from post-Civil War immigrants who have no relationship to slavery at all. The GNP of black America, meanwhile, is so large that it makes the African-American community the tenth most prosperous “nation” in the world. Thus, he asks the crucial question:“How can you explain to José Martinez, who may have come to this country in the last ten years, and who is struggling to put bread on the table for his family, that he has to pay reparations for an institution that has been dead for more than a hundred years, and which neither he nor his ancestors were ever a part of? How will you tell him that he has to pay those reparations to people like Johnny Cochran and Jesse Jackson who are multimillionaires, or to others who are doing better than he is, simply because they are black?The answer is that you won’t be able to tell José anything of this nature without destroying his faith in America and breeding his resentment against blacks. And that is why Horowitz affirms that, “Anyone should be able to see that the reparations claim is really a prescription for racial division and ethnic strife.”
In the end, Horowitz’s attack on the reparations claim blends with his defense of the American idea and democracy itself. He emphasizes that,“Americans generally do not think of themselves as racists or oppressors, and there is no reason they should. America was a pioneer in the fight against slavery, and in establishing the first multiracial society in human history. During the last half-century, Americans have voted equal rights to African-American citizens and supported massive compensation to African-Americans and others who have lagged behind. To be indicted after such efforts, and in these unrelenting terms, is offensive and insulting. The political logic of the reparations claim itself defies reason.”In presenting these arguments, Uncivil Wars distinguishes itself as a monumentally important work. In coming to the defense of American history and institutions, it crystallizes the urgency of deciphering not only the destructiveness of the reparations campaign, but the nightmarish crisis that exists in American academia. It becomes clear that because the Left is unable to tolerate ideas that are anathema to its own, it has vehemently and ruthlessly worked to dominate and politicize the university campus. In that effort, it has succeeded, and it explains why Conservatives have been virtually driven out of academia. It also explains why, at this present moment, Uncivil Wars will not find itself into the curricula of any academic American history courses in the country.
Uncivil Wars forces all Americans to confront the pathological illness that resides in their institutions of higher learning. While in the 1950s the university saw itself as having the mission of facilitating a diverse pursuit of knowledge, today it serves solely as the Left’s vehicle for political indoctrination and social change. It is here that lies Horowitz’s vital and ominous warning.
Uncivil Wars is also clearly very much a personal story. It is about one man’s decision to become a warrior in a war that, by necessity, exacts a large personal sacrifice. But as an individual who comes from the Left’s former ranks, and who has witnessed the violence and death that the progressive ideology inflicts, Horowitz has clearly discerned that standing on the sidelines in the culture war is a luxury he cannot afford. It is for this reason that, in this work, as in his previous ones, he comes out swinging with the gloves off. The fight for America is on, and, as Uncivil Wars reveals, it is being lost on the university campus. Unlike many of his Conservative contemporaries, the author is ready and willing to go down fighting alone — alongside the American virtues and principles that are now under vicious attack.
Despite its attempt to wipe its arch-rival out of reality, the American Left continues to face its ultimate nightmare: David Horowitz is still standing -– and talking. More troubling to the Left yet: he doesn’t seem like he’s going anywhere anytime soon. On a smaller scale, Horowitz represents to the academic Left what Alexander Solzhenitsyn represented to the Soviet regime; he exemplifies the irritating and threatening reminder to tyranny that human freedom, and the triumph of the human spirit, can ultimately never be suffocated or suppressed.
Uncivil Wars is a remarkable achievement — written by an intellectual heavyweight who has been barred from academia. Tragically, tens of thousands of young minds in American universities will be robbed of the essential necessity of reading this scholarly gem. But the history of totalitarian regimes offers hope. Who could have guessed, after all, during Joseph Stalin’s reign, that, within one generation, for a brief moment in time, Russians would be able to read freely One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich? If that miracle occurred in the midst of the Soviet monstrosity, then who can say that, one day, there may not be a thaw in the Left’s despotic control of thought in American academia? The hope remains that maybe even within a generation, a miracle might occur inside the classrooms of academic indoctrination — and the eyes of university students will, perhaps even for a precious and magical moment, be allowed to fall on the forbidden pages of Uncivil Wars.
Jamie Glazov is Frontpage Magazine’s editor. He holds a Ph.D. in History with a specialty in Russian, U.S. and Canadian foreign policy. He is the author of Canadian Policy Toward Khrushchev’s Soviet Union and is the co-editor (with David Horowitz) of The Hate America Left. He edited and wrote the introduction to David Horowitz’s Left Illusions. His new book is United in Hate: The Left’s Romance with Tyranny and Terror. To see his previous symposiums, interviews and articles Click Here.