J.B. Sivanich

(Brent Schwert)

Wednesday, Feb. 21 the Viking Conservatives brought in conservative pundit David Horowitz to give a lecture on “Academic Freedom and the War on Terror.”
If an audience member did not know the name of the lecture, they might have been hard-pressed to infer exactly what the speech was about: Horowitz started out defending the firing of his communist parents during the McCarthy era, said JFK would be considered a Republican if he was alive now, blamed national security problems on the Democrats, got in a shouting match with a townie who blamed the Middle East’s ills on Israel, criticized Lawrence’s condom distribution, personally attacked six or so leading liberals, gave a five-minute history of women’s studies, praised conservative students (personally standing up for Viking Conservatives president Steven Swedberg), and ended his speech with the bumpersticker-esque, “If you can’t be proud of your country, you can’t defend it!”
Horowitz came to speak on Academic Freedom, mentioning that the 1950s-era Columbia University which he attended served as his model because he never heard one of his professors utter a political opinion in the classroom. This is an opinion I agree with and I think most would also. But his biggest complaint was that liberal arts colleges need more conservative professors. Well, why should the political affiliation matter if professors should not express their beliefs, if unrelated to the topic at hand, in the classroom? In an e-mail concerning Lawrence’s hiring policy, Provost David Burrows clarified, “[When hiring,] we look at [applicant’s] accomplishments in teaching, scholarship or creative activity and service. Political opinion or affiliation is not considered at all.” Through all his bemoaning of liberal professors who “indoctrinate” their students, Horowitz reasserted that it was not a “witch hunt,” though the title of his 2006 book is “The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America.”
He questioned the standard of teaching qualifications, personally attacking controversial activist Ward Churchill who has a degree in painting but is a professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado-Boulder. This was odd because, as Lawrence student Julian Hector pointed out, Mr. Horowitz has a M.A. in English Literature but lectured at length about women’s studies and many non-English related subjects.
Though Horowitz is a supporter of same-sex civil unions, he accused gay rights activists of being insensitive to those who value the sanctity of marriage. This came from the man whose lecture was put on by the Viking Conservatives, the group which specifically targeted the Gay, Lesbian, Other or Whatever (GLOW) house on the morning of the referendum on gay marriage with posters comparing homosexuality to bestiality and pedophilia, both crimes punishable by law.
He did, however, have a few on-topic things to say: He mentioned that the Union had to wait until the South attacked Fort Sumter to end slavery and that America had to wait until Pearl Harbor to defeat Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. Hs said this in reference to Iran, arguing that we should not wait until we are attacked before we defeat extremist Islam. These are both pertinent historical references, but he failed to mention that it took no military action to dispel communism. He also did not mention that the attack that gave us license to confront radical Islam was Sept. 11, and we were doing just that in Afghanistan – even Iran thought so. But we missed that opportunity with President Bush’s “Axis of Evil” speech and the unjustifiable invasion of Iraq, which had nothing to do with radical Islam.
Also, he complained about the state of modern politics, where critics “always go after the person first, not the policy.” But he kept coming back to taking personal attacks at leading liberals; one could say that these jabs were the only things that connected his disjointed speech. His most personal was the lengthy detailing of liberal Northwestern law professor Bernadine Dohrn’s history with the Charles Manson family– a topic totally unrelated to “Academic Freedom and the War on Terror.”
I am quickly losing patience with the Viking Conservatives. Their only public actions have been the harassment of the GLOW house and the bringing in of this speaker who is better suited writing for “The Drudge Report” than lecturing in the realms of academia. The Viking Conservatives need to start contributing to political discussion and the diversity of views on campus, instead of merely attacking other groups and bringing in strongmen to defend those attacks, if they want to have credibility on this campus. A credible minority opinion is imperative to any learning environment, just as Mr. Horowitz argued, which is why I hope the Viking Conservatives will change their ways.