David Horowitz and circular arguments…

Today I listened to an interview with the outspoken US commentator David Horrowittz. He is a self described moderate conservative – I am not sure what the moderate refers to. He considers his very vocal and forceful critic of the ‘left’, which encompasses, it seems, everyone espousing a semblance of progressive ideas, to be based on passion. The left is mistaken and he adopts the tactics of the radical left in attacking them. The left is ‘a religion and delusional’…

He was a member of the radical left in his youth, later converting to conservatism, apparently in response to political assassinations amongst other things. He has been described as potentially so despised (by the left) because he may be right. As such I listened to the interview to consider his perspectives and see what I could draw from them. I have drawn a number of ‘insights’…

The first thing I would comment on – and this charge should equally be labeled to many vocal on the ‘left’ – is that he very much undermines many of his arguments of implied objectivity through his non-reflexive criticism of his critics and targets of his opposition. He makes an interesting – for lack of a better word – claim that the left forcing troop withdrawal from Vietnam led to the death of hundreds of thousands of people in Cambodia. This type of argument typifies his skewed, generalised and very inadequately supported claims and criticisms.

Perhaps what was most indicative for me was that he blames people for effectively all the problems in the world. Apparently structural factors have no implications. For example, he claims the civil rights movement was about making the government colour blind – after that equality would eventuate… socio-economic systems reflect human nature. Is there some form of stasis in society? Perhaps he is arguing that the left is oppressing conservative folk – is it a majority or minority? Are they silent?

His attack on academia – and I was not surprised the hear Peace Studies as included in his list of departments – is both typical of conservative attacks and clearly highlights his very large blinkers, reactionism, bias and perhaps his only means to available to his fluff up his patriarchal conservative-Enlightenment zeal and make him feel better about himself and the lack of vocal support for his repressed majority views (apologies for the long sentence!).

I was a little surprised by his unsubstantiated claim that Women’s Studies is not an academic field, rather it is a political recruiting ground. A very clear – albeit not apparently to himself – indication of his lack of reflexivity, was that he claims much academia is inherently political (and of course leftist): politics has no place in the class room! To refer back to his critique of Peace Studies, he argued that war scientist accounts should be included in the course. I will not argue that Peace Studies is not partisan – it is unashamedly. What he clearly does not admit is that War Studies is also inherently political and to an extend partisan. Perhaps he would respond by saying that, given his espousal of human nature, the basis for war is self-apparent/evident (i.e. hegemonic/normative) and as such not political? Or is he unable to admit to himself that his views are inherently political? That the personal is political may have too much leftist stench to it for him? Or are only progressive views political as they diverge from the implied (i.e. conservative) status quo?

Corollary to his calls for war scientist accounts to be included in Peace Studies curriculum, he was described as attacking of groups that would not permit him to be invited to or included in discussions/forums (i.e. at leftist events). This directly ties to his belief that structural factors have no bearing in society. To deny him to be able to present his views in such forums is described as censorship, anti-free speech and anti-constitutional. He does not address that Fox and CNN are owned by conservatives, dominate the dissemination of information and that they provide only superficial attempts, if at all, to report on progressive ideas. With conservative ideas so prevalent and structurally favoured – they are the status quo – why should his views be actively sought out? Perhaps he would argue that this, again, reflects human nature and people have the choice to seek out perspectives other than that on Fox or CNN? Need I go into choice being a very much privileged and middle class (generally white) argument?

For the sake of argument, differing views could be included in such forums – yet if this was to take place why would a patriarchal, non-reflexive and aggressive to the extent of not affording equal opportunity to others (i.e. shouting over people) person be provided such an opportunity? His lack of reflexivity, very far from critical reflexivity, very much undermine his own arguments…

To return to the critique of the academy – which is insular, patriarchal and not free of multitude problems in itself (partly based on structural relations) – he made the claim that politics did not enter/shape the classroom in the 1950s. Such a claim is so skewed as almost not worthy of consideration. With this emanating from someone politically active and (seemingly) educated, cannot be considered as naïve. To claim that teaching is in no way political gets to the core of indicating his complete, overt, and broadly non-stated political aims. He supports the status quo. To expand on this requires reference back to his critique of the left as delusional and a religion.

As mentioned, he argues that structural factors have no bearing on society. Rather he lays sole blame for inequality, racism, oppression, war and hierarchy on human nature. He strongly supports the status quo in the sense that nothing will ever change. People will continue to kill people, wars will continue, relations of capital are merely extensions of this human nature. Does this not completely undermine all his arguments? If nothing will change, why does he feel the need to attack the ‘left’?

One last point I would like to address. It relates to his views on the status quo and the left as a religion. He refers to the left as without a belief in an afterlife (eg: Heaven) that is free of oppression and inequality in society. As such, he argues, its proponents cling to progressive ideals in the vein hope that an equal society can be achieved despite the persistence of human nature. We should all accept hierarchy and oppression and stop deluded ourselves – they are inevitable. Further, capitalism, individualism, hierarchy and oppression are the pinnacle of society. We should accept our fate and position within society – no matter how fucked up things are…

In all – and I could continue to highlight the unsound, uncritical and non-reflexive underpinnings of his views – there are so many holes and circular arguments upon which all he expresses are based. If he wants to be a champion of the status quo – which clearly is patriarchal… I must stop there, as patriarchy does not exist (apparently), or at least is worth respecting as central to human nature… To start again, if he wants to be a champion of the status quo it would be beneficial for him to have a sound and coherent base for his perspectives and one free of circular arguments. That said, as he represents the status quo and nothing will change – irrespective of the left as he argues – why does he continue as such??? His arguments lead to more questions, not any semblance of an answer despite his circular arguments…

To take a leaf out if David Horowitz status quo, why should I bother to argue?

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