Of interest, perhaps, given the recent flap.
Published on Sunday, March 18, 2001 in The Progressive
Horowitz Flap Makes Left Look Bad
by Matthew Rothschild
With increasing dismay, I've been following the controversy about
the anti-reparations ad
that conservative author David Horowitz has been trying to place
in campus newspapers
around the country.
The ad, "Ten Reasons Why Reparations for Slavery Is a Bad Idea and
Racist Too," has
prompted exercises in censorship by many of the papers and acts of
papers that did run the ad.
These responses show what little respect there is for the free
exchange of ideas on
campus--and, I'm sorry to say, among segments of the left.
At least eighteen college papers have simply refused to run the
ad, including the Harvard
Crimson, the Columbia Daily Spectator, and the Daily Collegian at
according to the A.P.
Some papers that did run the ad quickly apologized for it,
including the Daily Californian at
U.C.-Berkeley. "I think the ad is inflammatory and inappropriate,
and we should not have run
it," said Daniel Hernandez, the editor of the Daily Californian.
These editors were wrong.
It's not up to them to shield their readers from ideas that may be
"inflammatory" or to set up
shop as censors who are empowered to make decisions on which ads
are "appropriate" and
which are "inappropriate."
They should not discriminate against advertisers on the basis of
their political beliefs. This
Our tradition of free speech in this country is to protect the
expression not only of views we
agree with, but also those we abhor.
And whether abhorrent speech inflames or not is really besides the
"A function of free speech under our system of government is to
invite dispute," wrote
William O. Douglas in 1948. "It may indeed best serve its purposes
when it induces a
condition of unrest."
But the editors who censored the ad would not take a risk on free
And many student groups were even more intolerant.
Conservative columnist John Leo reports that students at Berkeley
"fanned out around the
campus to steal the remaining copies of the offending edition from
At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, staffers at the Badger
Herald, which did run the ad,
reported that protesters were burning copies of the newspaper
containing the ad (though the
police did not confirm this), according to the Wisconsin State
And at Brown University, leaders of the minority student
associations "removed the papers
from their distribution bins and replaced them with fliers that
accused the paper of
insensitivity," according to the A.P.
Now I can understand why people disagree with Horowitz's position
on reparations and with
the specifics of his ad (to say nothing of his self-promotion as
But the proper response to bad speech is good speech.
To resort to intimidation, to engage in gang suppression of
speech, is an old and discredited
tactic of brownshirts everywhere.
It's a tactic that ill fits the left and does our cause no good.
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