[sixties-l] David Horowitz, professional teeth-gnasher, is at it again

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: Sun Mar 18 2001 - 16:57:25 EST

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    when david horowitz attacks! are reparations racist?

    by Nick Mamatas (laddertrick@gvny.com) - March 15, 2001

    David Horowitz, professional teeth-gnasher, is at it again.

    Horowitz first entered the public consciousness in the 1960s, when, as a
    member of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and writer for
    Ramparts, his explosive rhetoric against the Vietnam War did little to end
    the conflict. Decades later, Horowitz has repudiated the cartoony left of
    his youth and has become an ideologue for the parodic right. A thoughtful
    conservative, the man is not.

    There is no right-wing ideal or position too wacky for Horowitz. Was the
    movie The Patriot historically inaccurate? No, screams Horowitz, because it
    made the British look bad and the Americans look good. Yes, mention the
    historians of earth idly, as they tick off error after error, and indeed,
    historical fabrication after historical fabrication. Is there a vast
    left-wing conspiracy against the right? Of course there is! Hororwitz
    insists. His proof: some readers gave his books negative reviews on
    Amazon.com. I cashed my check from Moscow (uhm . . . Communism is dead,
    better make that Berkeley) today, and I never even wrote my commissioned
    review of Horowitz’s work, but I'll make up for that now.

    Horowitz recently scribbled a poison pen letter to blacks, seekers of
    social justice and history itself. This little number, called Ten Reasons
    Why Reparations for Blacks is a Bad Idea for Blacks - and Racist Too (gee,
    thanks for caring David!) has caused quite a stir in California. Opponents
    of Horowitz have been smeared as being "politically correct" as usual, and
    the many members of the myopic news media have squinted at the text of
    Horowitz's piece and have declared it "not racist." (So much for the vast
    left-wing conspiracy against Horowitz).

    Of course, since the media could look at a sentence reading "All niggers
    are motherfuckers," and, under the guise of objectivity, declare that
    sentence non-racist -- after all, a pity op-ed writer might opine, some
    white people have been described as niggers as recently as a week ago by
    Governor Byrd -- I've decided to take a look at Horowitz's ten claims
    myself. Here they are, from FrontPageMagazine.com:

    1. There Is No Single Group Clearly Responsible For The Crime Of Slavery.

    Horowitz punts here. He mentions that black Africans were involved in the
    slave trade, and that some free blacks owned black slaves. Of course, he
    stops short of explaining why this is a reason why reparations would be bad
    for blacks. The implicit argument he is making is that reparations are
    conceived as a payment by whites that benefited from slavery, and that such
    a conception is racist, since whites are not exclusively responsible. His
    claim would be accurate if black Americans had filed a class action suit
    against the descendents of slaveholders, but they have not. The US
    government is clearly responsible for slavery, since it allowed slavery to
    exist legally.

    It is also worth noting that, even if Horowitz is right, this doesn’t
    mean that reparations would be bad for blacks. A check in the mail is
    nearly always a good thing.

    2. There Is No One Group That Benefited Exclusively From Its Fruits.

    Here, Horowitz gets explicit and says that reparations are based on the
    notions that only whites benefited from slavery. Such a claim would be a
    surprise from many of those supporting reparations. Building a rhetorical
    strawmen and shoving it in the mouth of hundreds of thousands of blacks is
    certainly the action of a racist.

    Horowitz further claims that black Americans benefited from slavery, since
    slave-built wealth exists in the US and since blacks in Africa are worse
    off then blacks in the US. If their ancestors hadn't been kidnapped,
    current claimants would be stuck in Somalia, suffering from absolute poverty.

    Of course, Horowitz doesn't demonstrate that slavery was the mechanism for
    building up the US economy as a whole - in fact most historical economists
    who study its impact would suggest that slavery was a drag on the economy
    throughout much of the 19th century. Further, blacks in the "black belt" of
    former slave states and territories are the dead last poorest group in this
    country, even though they are the closest to the "wealth" built by slavery.
    Horowitz ignores this inconvenient fact and adds, willy-nilly, the income
    of the descendents of free blacks in the North to those of slaves in the
    South, and claims that all blacks benefited from the existence of slavery.

    He also ignores the probability that blacks are better of in the US in
    spite of slavery. Since most of the black middle class emerged in the 20th
    century and in the North where neither slavery nor Jim Crow has as
    significant an impact on the economy, Horowitz's supposition that blacks
    benefited from slavery is incorrect.

    He's also wrong on Africa. While Africa is clearly an economic basket case,
    that is also partially the fault of slavery. The need for cheap labor,
    cheap raw materials and new markets fueled what is frequently called "New
    Imperialism." Africa went from terra incognita to fully colonized by
    European merchant powers in a matter of decades. The extractive economy of
    imperialism kept local capital and civil society from developing, and the
    US, as one of the largest market for slaves, and later for raw materials
    and finished goods, fueled this.

    Even today, nations with immense natural wealth, such as the Congo, are
    impoverished because of the political and economic manipulations by the US
    during the colonial era, and also in the post-colonial era. Far from being
    an argument against reparations, the state of Africa suggests that African
    nations should sue for reparations based on the terrible impact slavery had
    on their economies as well.

    3. Only A Tiny Minority Of White Americans Ever Owned Slaves, And Others
    Gave Their Lives To Free Them.

    Horowitz plays the race card. He asks, rhetorically, what moral principle
    exists that would allow for millions of whites who had nothing to do with
    slavery to pay reparations through taxes? There need be none, of course,
    since Horowitz is asking the wrong question. The moral principle at work is
    that the US government is an institution, and one responsible for its
    actions. Since the US government had allowed for and encouraged slavery,
    and since slavery would not have existed in the US had it been illegal and
    fought against, the US is responsible.

    It is clear that non-whites also pay taxes, and they would pay for
    reparations as well. In other news, millions of people who have no use for
    nuclear weapons and who never get to ride in Air Force One have to pay for
    these things, because the government claims a responsibility to supply
    these things.

    It is also worth noting that this point contradicts point 2. If the US
    benefited economically from slavery, and if black Americans even benefited
    from slavery, then clearly non-slaveholding whites did as well. Horowitz is
    so muttonheaded that he can’t even retain consistency across
    sentences. In either case, both points are incorrect, and in no case can
    both points be correct.

    4. America Today Is A Multi-Ethnic Nation and Most Americans Have No
    Connection (Direct Or Indirect) To Slavery.

    Another non-sequitur. Most Americans today have no direct connection to any
    practice of the US government in the 19th century. But most people on earth
    live with the historical fallout of the US in the 19th century. The
    reservation system for Native Americans? Check. The enormous amount of
    money poured into the Panama Canal, including Operation: Just Cause? Check.
    The very existence of any states other than the original thirteen colonies?
    Check. And once again, this point contradicts point 2. If the US economy
    was built on slavery, it is clearly part of what made the US such an
    attractive destination for immigrants.

    5. The Historical Precedents Used To Justify The Reparations Claim Do Not
    Apply, And The Claim Itself Is Based On Race Not Injury.

    Now, Horowitz suggests that blacks in America were not harmed by slavery,
    even though Jim Crow laws, most of the stereotypes of the American black,
    and much of the ideology of blacks as inferior and distinct from whites on
    a social level can be directly traced to slavery. Slavery and Jim Crow
    necessarily impacted the growth of unions in the US, to the point where the
    average black worker in the North makes more money than the average white
    worker in the South - the black southern worker is even further behind --
    according to studies by Syzmanski and others. Blacks have had immense
    systematic difficulty exercising the voting franchise in the South as
    recently as November 2000 ("Hi Jeb!"). The socio-economic impact of slavery
    is felt by all blacks, not just the direct descendents of slaves. Indeed,
    Horowitz admits this himself in point 2. How is it that everyone in the US
    benefits from slavery, but nobody is harmed by it?

    Horowitz also asks, "Randall Robinson's book on reparations, The Debt,
    which is the manifesto of the reparations movement is pointedly sub-titled
    'What America Owes To Blacks.' If this is not racism, what is?" Well,
    Robinson's subtitle isn't racism. Claiming that American blacks, regardless
    of their socioeconomic status, benefited from slavery while claiming that
    they could not possibly be impacted negatively by slavery, is. Glad to have
    cleared that up for you, David.

    6. The Reparations Argument Is Based On The Unfounded Claim That All
    African-American Descendants of Slaves Suffer From The Economic
    Consequences Of Slavery And Discrimination.

    This is not a sixth reason, really, but simply an explicit repetition of an
    implicit claim in other points. Again, this point runs headlong into point
    2 and could thus be tossed our right away. However, just because Horowitz
    makes such a great punching bag, I'll point out that the reparations
    argument isn't based on an unfounded claim. Horowitz contends that the rise
    of the black middle class demonstrates that slavery didn't have a negative
    impact on black America. This is false.

    What the rise of the black middle class demonstrates is that people can
    surmount difficulties, that Affirmative Action works and that the impact of
    slavery and the direct fallout of Reconstruction and Jim Crow impacted the
    South more heavily than it impacted the North. Horowitz has confused the
    word "unfounded" with the term "disliked by David Horowitz."

    Further, studies by the Urban Institute show that racism (and modern racist
    ideologies were born of the slave trade) still impacts the black middle
    class. Blacks and whites seeded in job interviews, given the same exact
    suits, resumes, and scripts show that whites are still more likely to get jobs.

    7. The Reparations Claim Is One More Attempt To Turn African-Americans Into
    Victims. It Sends A Damaging Message To The African-American Community.

    Horowitz finds common cause with the most reactionary black leaders, like
    those of the Nation Of Islam, who claim that black capitalism, black
    separatism and up-by-the-bootstraps hard work, spiced up with
    anti-Semitism, cultism and the occasional political assassination of one of
    their own, is all the black community needs.

    Horowitz is being disingenuous here as well. He claims to be concerned
    about the social psychology of the black community, but then explains that
    reparations would be "extravagant new handout that is only necessary
    because some blacks can't seem to locate the ladder of opportunity within
    reach of others." Hardly the rhetoric of a concerned citizen.

    Horowitz offers no proof that reparations are an attempt to turn blacks
    into victims. He offers not a single quote from a black leader to that
    effect, and offers no common pro-reparation argument that demonstrates this
    claim. Rather, he just desperately makes it and hopes that off-handedly
    mentioning the "extravagance" of reparations will scare Whitey into
    reactionary action.

    8. Reparations To African Americans Have Already Been Paid.

    Horowitz gets desperate. He claims that welfare benefits have been paid to
    lacks "under the rationale of redressing historic racial grievances." Of
    course welfare payments, which he incorrectly dates to the time of Lyndon
    Johnson's Great Society, have been paid to people of all races for most of
    the 20th century, in one form or another. If Horowitz means the now defunct
    AFDC, home of the loathed "welfare mother," (a program Horowitz is
    against), then it is worth pointing out that AFDC was also open to people
    of all races, including relatively recent immigrants to the US. In no way
    was it designed to redress historical racial grievances. Horowitz suggests
    that welfare was a transfer payment (from whom?) to blacks on the level of
    trillions of dollars. This figure is both vague and would not be accurate
    even if every dollar from every Johnson-era federal welfare program --
    excluding old age benefits from Social Security -- went only to blacks.

    Horowitz also claims that Affirmative Action programs are a form of
    reparation. Here too, he is wrong. AA/EEOC was designed to redress current
    racial preferences for whites, regardless of black qualifications, not as a
    "make good" for slavery. Horowitz also fumes over the wholesale rewriting
    of federal law for the benefit of blacks. One is led to wonder how he feels
    about the Constitutional amendments giving blacks citizenship and the laws
    allowing them to vote.

    9. What About The Debt Blacks Owe To America?

    Boy howdy! Horowitz claims that slavery existed for thousands of years, and
    that there was never an anti-slavery movement until "white Christians -
    Englishmen and Americans - created one." We will forgive Horowitz, who as a
    Jew, is a descendent of slaves himself, for ignoring Moses, or for
    mistakenly thinking that Moses was a British Christian. I'm sure Horowitz
    burned his copy of the Torah back when he joined SDS. We will also ignore
    Spartacus and any number of slave revolts in the antebellum South. We will
    also forgive him for conflating slavery under antiquity, which did not have
    a racist component, with slavery under capitalism, which did.

    We will also ignore the unfortunate fact that, for most of the last
    thousand years, slavery was an economic footnote, as serfdom was the most
    popular and efficient way of organizing labor for the feudal middle class.
    Slavery re-emerged under capitalism in a form very different than the way
    it existing in Egypt, Greece, Rome and Africa.

    We will ignore all of these things, because it would distract us from
    pointing and laughing at Horowitz for the following: "If not for the
    sacrifices of white soldiers and a white American president who gave his
    life to sign the Emancipation Proclamation, blacks in America would still
    be slaves." All together now, my friends in fourth grade:
    Abraham Lincoln did not give his life to sign the Emancipation Proclamation!

    Does Horowitz have some vision of Lincoln from the movies, where old Abe is
    dodging poison darts, hopping over deadfalls, rolling under ceiling-spike
    traps, swinging over cliffs with nothing but the help of a whip, and
    finally, outrunning a giant boulder, to sign the Emancipation Proclamation?
    Oh wait, that was Indiana Jones, not Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln signed the
    Proclamation years before he was assassinated. In no way could it be said
    that he gave his life to do something he had already done years before he
    died. Further, here is a complete list of slaves freed by the Proclamation:

    That's right. None. Moving on.

    Horowitz makes the hysterical claim that blacks in America would still be
    slaves if not for the Civil War. Most historians, even the most credulous
    members of the Great Man school of thought, would spill tea on their laps
    if they read such a claim in a historical journal. Slavery was clearly on
    the way out throughout the world, as labor could be more efficiently
    organized by freeing people from land (serfs) chattel status (slaves) and
    freeing them from the burdens of owning their own property (small scale
    artisans). Mass industrial production eliminated the economic power of slavery.

    But even if Horowitz is right and everyone else is wrong about history, and
    Lincoln was essential, he would still be wrong. The Confederate states
    seceded from the United States. "America" wouldn't have slaves because the
    Confederacy was another country. If there was no Civil War and no Lincoln,
    and nothing else changed in history (Horowitz doesn't specify) the US would
    be a free country, and the Confederacy – a foreign power –
    would be a slave country. Horowitz goes beyond racism and beyond right-wing
    bombast to semiliterate stupidity with this "point."

    10. The Reparations Claim Is A Separatist Idea That Sets African-Americans
    Against The Nation That Gave Them Freedom.

    Horowitz claims that the black community is being suckered by black
    nationalists, black separatists and the political left. Apparently,
    Horowitz forgot his lessons from SDS: black nationalism is a right-wing
    movement, not a left-wing movement. Most black nationalists are against
    Affirmative Action and reparations, they want a black nation or see blacks
    and blacks alone (not the white government) as the agent of political and
    economic change.

    Horowitz also asks, "Who is more American than the descendents of African
    slaves?" to which one can only answer, "Indians." The question is a
    rhetorical one; Horowitz sees the reparations claim as one that would
    alienate blacks from the US. The opposite is true, few people are alienated
    from institutions who give them money to make up for egregious treatment.
    Horowitz also claims, in the point itself, that the US gave blacks freedom.
    Sure, it did. After enslaving them in the first place. And the freedom the
    average black person in the US has is qualitatively different than the
    freedom everyone else in the US has, even other people of color and recent
    immigrants. Racism isn't just a historical artifact, it is an institution
    today, one informed by the institutions of the past.

    Since Horowitz sees slavery as something that blacks benefited from (see
    point 2), and racism as the passe whine of the overprivileged minority that
    stops stuffing itself with government surplus cheese only long enough to
    have bastard children and cash their welfare checks, it isn't surprising
    that he would be equally confused on the facts of history, the actual
    claims of the reparation movement and his own arguments.

    Racism has always been a muddle, and Horowitz is the clearest demonstration
    of that since... well, since last week.

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