Thursday, October 25, 2007

On David Horowitz and Islamo-Fascist Awareness Week

Not being a student or faculty member at the UW these days I was forced to sneak into the David Horowitz lecture Monday night. After a few moments of cloak and dagger I found a seat dead center amongst the Campus Antiwar Network (CAN) activists.

Most of the folks seated around me were wearing green to show their solidarity against Islamo-Fascism Awareness week. After I started getting high from permanent marker fumes I realized that most also had posters with friendly hippie slogans on them. I spent a few minutes listening to the CAN kids discuss their plans to disrupt the lecture but that conversation came to a halt when the communications director for the UW College Democrats, Gerald Cox, joined them.

For whatever reason unkown to me Cox seemed to have the respect of a number of the CAN kids, people who generally have very little respect for anything. At many points during the lecture Mr. Cox and other CD officers would play a large roll at maintaining decorum amongst the CAN kids. I see a bright political future for that young man.

After saying the pledge, to which only a handful of CAN kids vocally objected, Sara Mikolajczak of the College Republicans welcomed the audience. At this point, my count put the 9 out of 10 members of the audience squarely in the court of Mr. Horowitz's detractors. Eric West of the Dane County GOP followed up with a brief introduction and then David Horowitz arrived on the scene while a couple of CRs donned posters of an Afghan woman being shot on a soccer field by the Taliban.

The CAN kids began coughing and clearing their throats but the CMs miraculously kept them from elevating the level of disruption further. Already I was disappointed.

Several years ago I attended two lectures in the same theater dealing with slavery reparations. Mr. Horowitz was the speaker at the second lecture. I fondly recall several liberal students at that lecture attempting to shout down Mr. Horowitz. They failed but then turned their back on him while slipping on Noam Chomsky masks. The entire episode was quite theatrical and very entertaining. At the same lecture, Mr. Horowitz was organized and poignant. Unfortunately, the Islamo-Fascist lecture would be neither entertaining, save the brief Kevin Barrett episode that I will get to later, nor was it organized or well done.

Uncle Jimbo over at Black Five said that Horowitz sucked Hoover. He wasn't far off the mark.

Horowitz began by quoting a couple of shockingly true statistics about women and gays in the Muslim world, namely:

• 138 million Muslim women have been the victims of clitorectamies
• 4,000 Muslim homosexuals have been brutally murdered by the Iranian regime
• 52,000 Muslim women have been victims of honor killings

The effect of these statistics was, as intended, to calm and silence Mr. Horowitz's retractors. His plan worked well but no sooner had he actually gotten the dirty hippies to start listening then he started to go off on tangents.

Then Barrett showed up. Upon the first mention of 9/11, Barrett was on the scene ranting and raving. The CDs and CRs, in near unison began to ask him to sit down and wait for the question and answer period.

A CAN kid seated immediately behind me asked, "Who is that guy?"

Another responded, "Only the most controversial professor ever to teach on this campus."

The first responded, "Lets applaud him," to which several dozen CAN kids began clapping and cheering the man who defines the term "Ass-hat," Kevin Barrett.

Much to my amazement, not a moment passed before both the communications director and the chair of the CDs were both berating the CAN kids with lines like, "You do not applaud THAT man!" The CDs really treated the CAN kids like children and the CAN kids responded in kind, quickly quieting down.

About this time a few guys in the front rows of stage left started the Asshole chant. It quickly spread until about a fifth of the audience was participating in the UW tradition. Even a few Libs were joining in. It was a riot of a good time.

Then Kevin Barrett left and after one of his cronies attempted to follow his example, Horowitz got back to the business of defining Islamo-Fascism. He did a fine job explaining that Islamo-Fascism is the merger of a church with a totalitarian state, i.e., Iran. He had the audience's attention once again but being David Horowitz he set about offending them with ultra-right wing drivel about the connection between 1930s Nazism and historical and modern Islamo-Fascists.

I am fully aware of the historical connections between Hitler and the Muslim Brotherhood and 1930s Palestinian leaders. I know that the founders of the Syrian and Iraqi Baathist parties were admirers of Hitler and that they based their regimes in many respects on Nazi Germany. I accept that. Still, something in my core does not appreciate when people use comparison or links to Nazis to get their point across and Mr. Horowitz's leaps between a few historical facts and some pretty serious conclusions the modern Islamic world set of my bullshit-o-meter. If it affected me in such a way, imagine how liberal responded?

To make matters worse, Mr. Horowitz began getting his historical facts all wrong. The Otoman Empire was not founded in 1552 Dave. For crying out loud, they conquered Constantinople a century earlier and the Battle of Kosovo, an event paramount to any discussion on the Balkans, an area that Mr. Horowitz writes about frequently happened in the 14 th century. Misstating facts like this, a consequence of Mr. Horowitz's ill prepared and disorganized style, destroyed his credibility with an already skeptical audience. To make matters worse, during the question and answer portion of the evening, Mr. Horowitz attacked a student who attempted to correct his Ottoman mistake, more-or-less calling him a moron.

Note to speakers: When you have no credibility with an audience, don't bother trying to explain the Arab-Israeli conflict. Not only will you fail but you will reinforce your opponents beliefs. Discussion on the history of that conflict is as touchy a topic as they come. Nearly all people are under informed about it yet just as many feel completely secure and confident about the few facts they do know, no matter how questionable those facts are.

Horowitz rambled on for another 30 minutes or so. Occasionally he received applause and occasionally a dirty hippie in the audience would shout out an obscenity or call him a fascist but for the most part things were calm. His lecture was followed by a question and answer that went like this:

Questioner # 1: Mr. Horowitz, I am a Muslim professor and I regretfully must agree with many of the things you say about the Muslim world, however, I feel that your tone and choice of language insults many moderate Muslims and give cannon fodder to the radicals. How do you respond?

David Horowitz: You sir are a moron. Shut up and sit down. (10 minutes of ranting and raving with arms flailing) Again, you're an idiot.

Questioner # 2: …A dirty white male hippie stands up and spouts off a lot of bullshit before asking, how do you as a white man know anything about Afghan women?

David Horowitz: You are a Nazi and supported Hitler during WWII. (10 minutes of ranting and raving) Again, you are a Nazi, please keep your questions shorter next time.

This went on and on until I started to fall asleep and had to get up and walk around for a while. Over the course of the next half hour or so, Horowitz made the following points:
• I am a genius.
• You are all idiots.
• Fuck you, I'm going home.

Now I realize that I make some radical statements on this blog and in my life and I know that my arguments aren't always that well put together but sheesh! David Horowitz writes 200,000 words plus a year, his own claim, and most of them are on this and similar subjects. The man should be able to put together a cohesive argument on this stuff. He utterly failed.

Still, at the end of the evening I walked away feeling good for three reasons:
1. Most people think that Kevin Barrett is an Ass Hole.
2. There are some young Democrats out there who still respect free speech and public discourse. Kudos to the UW College Dems and for that matter, the MSA, for behaving like dignified adults. I've even got to give props to CAN for not being too disruptive.
3. I was on my way to a cold pint of Lake Louie at the Harmony bar.

Final Thought: Horowitz appears to perform best under fire. He seemed disappointed that he wasn't shouted down. I can't say why for certain. Perhaps he was disappointed that he wouldn't get a chance to rip the UW on O'Reilly like he did last time he came and was shouted down or maybe he just likes a good old fashioned fight. Looking through the lens of history I tend to think that he is a man who has changed far less from his days as a white black panther radical in the 60s than most think. Horowitz is still a radical and he still loves the attention that a good controversy brings. Watching his body language during the question and answer session, I couldn't help but draw comparisons to the way Barrett had acted...

Other comments on this event can be found at Althouse and on the College Democrats' blog .

The Badger Herald Muckrakers have some humorous video up including a clip of Barrett.

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