David Horowitz, a controversial writer and pundit known for his shrill right-wing and anti-Islamic rhetoric, is the founder and CEO of the David Horowitz Freedom Center (DHFC), an umbrella organization that operates a number of far-right websites and blogs.
An erstwhile leftist activist who edited the radical magazine Ramparts in the 1960s, Horowitz is one of a handful of public intellectuals—including neoconservative trailblazers Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz—who migrated to the right in the years following the Vietnam War and the rise of the New Left.
Horowitz's bio on the Freedom Center website quotes Podhoretz as saying: "[Horowitz] differs from some of the other 'second-thoughts' generation in having pulled no punches and in having broken more decisively than some of them with left-wing pieties—whether liberal or socialist. … David Horowitz is hated by the Left because he is not only an apostate but has been even more relentless and aggressive in attacking his former political allies than some of us who preceded him in what I once called 'breaking ranks' with that world. He has also taken the polemical and organizational techniques he learned in his days on the left, and figured out how to use them against the Left, whose vulnerabilities he knows in his bones."
Horowitz frequently champions the idea that "Islamo-fascism" represents the next great evil confronting United States. In 2007, for example, Horowitz designated the week of October 22-26 as "Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week" on U.S. college campuses in an effort to "break through the barrier of politically correct doublespeak that prevails on American campuses [and support those] who are fighting the Islamo-Fascists abroad."
Horowitz's acerbic anti-Muslim rhetoric also frequently dovetails with one-sided support for the state of Israel and contempt for Palestinians.
In a 2011 appearance at Brooklyn College, for example, Horowitz said, "No people has shown itself so morally sick as the Palestinians have. … Not only are they sick, nasty terrorists, but they're racists. They can't live alongside anybody who's not … Muslim." He added, "When you're surrounded by Nazis who want to blow up their own children to kill you, you need territory. You need space."
In October 2014, Horowitz penned a controversial article for National Review titled "Thank you, ISIS," in which he suggested that beheadings by Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq benefited conservatives by accomplishing "what our small contingent of beleaguered conservatives could never have achieved by ourselves." He complained that "for more than a decade" he and a "handful of conservatives" had been "ridiculed, smeared as bigots, and marginalized as Islamophobes" for their warnings about Islam and thanked ISIS for enabling the terms "savages and "barbarians" to "roll of the tongues of evening-news anchors and commentators who never would have dreamed of crossing that line before, for fear of offending the politically correct."
"We cannot fight a war effectively when we cannot name the enemy or describe his methods or examine his influence on our policy," Horowitz wrote in the National Review piece, wildly lumping together all American Muslim groups into the enemy category. "Virtually every major Muslim organization in America is an arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, the fountainhead of Islamic terror." Horowitz went on to accuse the Muslim Students Association university club of being a "recruiting organization for the Muslim Brotherhood" and the activist Students for Justice in Palestine a "front for the terrorist party Hamas."
In a response to the National Review article, Joshua De Leon of the progressive radio show Ring of Fire criticized Horowitz for piggybacking "his agenda on the images of someone's murder."
David Horowitz Freedom Center
Horowitz is the cofounder and director of the David Horowitz Freedom Center (DHFC), which claims to combat "the efforts of the radical left and its Islamist allies to destroy American values and disarm this country as it attempts to defend itself in a time of terror." Southern Poverty Law Center has described DHFC as a far-right organization.
Through DHFC, Horowitz operates a number of rightist and Islamophobic websites. Chief among these is Frontpage Magazine, a journal that serves as a forum for right-wing writers. Horowitz, editor-in-chief of the site, often posts on the site's blog, praising views such as Sen. Joe Lieberman's (I-CT) defense of the Iraq War and calling President Jimmy Carter a "well-paid shill for the Saudis and rationalizer of Islamic Jew-hatred."
Horowitz focuses much of his right-wing advocacy efforts on academia and on what he perceives as the imposition of liberal ideas on students. One of DHFC's earliest efforts was creating the Discover the Networks website, which "monitored" academics critical of Israel and was inspired by the launch of Daniel Pipes' Campus Watch in 2002.
Jihadwatch, the notorious anti-Muslim website run by Robert Spencer, is also a program of DHFC, which describes Jihadwatch's mission as tracing "the efforts of Islamic radicals to subvert Western institutions and civic life and ultimately to subordinate the West."
Other websites operated through DHFC include: Truth Revolt, a site run by conservative commentator Ben Shapiro that seeks to "unmask leftists in the media for who they are"; Freedom Center Students, which claims to promote "academic freedom" and bolster "conservative student groups"; Students for Academic Freedom, a "national coalition of student organizations with chapters on over 150 campuses whose goal is to end the political abuse of the university"; Wednesday Morning Club, which seeks to establish a "conservative presence in Hollywood"; and the Israel Security Project (as of late 2014 simply titled "Caroline Glick"), a site run by Caroline Glick, a former captain of the Israel Defense Forces and onetime Foreign Policy Advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Center for American Progress Exposé of Islamophobia Network
After the 9/11 attacks, Horowitz became a leading member of a network of well-funded organizations and public figures who helped drive so-called Islamophobic discourse in the United States. In a widely noted 2011 report about this network titled Fear Inc: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in the United States, the Center for American Progress (CAP) included Horowitz on a short-list of individuals who have been instrumental in demonizing Islam and generating fear about the purported existential threat this religion poses to the West. Others of his ilk, according to CAP, include Steven Emerson, Daniel Pipes, Frank Gaffney, Brigitte Gabriel, Pamela Geller, and Zuhdi Jasser.
After Fear Inc. was published in August 2011, Horowitz employed his characteristically inflated rhetoric to criticize CAP, saying that the liberal-leaning think tank had "joined the Muslim Brotherhood."
Fear Inc. indentified seven major donors that have been key financial bankers of the Islamophobic network:
• Donors Capital Fund
• Richard Mellon Scaife foundations
• Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation
• Newton D. & Rochelle F. Becker foundations and charitable trust
• Russell Berrie Foundation
• Anchorage Charitable Fund and William Rosenwald Family Fund
• Fairbrook Foundation
Based on tax records, CAP estimates that during the period 2001-2009 these foundations collectively (though not including Russell Berrie) donated nearly $8.5 million to the Freedom Center. The top donors were the Scaife Foundations ($3,400,000) and the Bradley Foundation ($4,250,000).
"War on Terror"
Horowitz was also a vocal supporter of the George W. Bush administration's post-9/11 "war on terror," including the decision to invade Iraq.
Horowitz said in a piece for FrontPage Magazine in April 2003, "Baghdad is liberated. In the days to come let us not forget that if it were not for one man, and one man alone—George Bush—the people of Iraq would not be celebrating in the streets and pulling down Saddam's statues today. ... We have entered the era of a new civil war between the forces of freedom and the powers of Islamo-fascist and communist darkness, and once again the left is clearly determined to take its stand on the other side. The good news is that America is back. Our military has performed superlatively. Our leadership has stood tall. We ourselves can celebrate over this and look confidently toward what lies ahead."
In June 2006, Horowitz signed an open letter to President George W. Bush along with numerous other conservative figures that encouraged the "enforcement first" approach to immigration. "We are in the middle of a global war on terror. 2006 is not 1986. Today, we need proof that enforcement (both at the border and in the interior) is successful before anything else happens. As Ronald Reagan used to say 'trust, but verify,'" the letter stated. Organized by the Hudson Institute, the letter was signed by Bennett, Gingrich, Robert Bork, Daniel Pipes, David Frum, Frank Gaffney, Fred Ikle, and Phyllis Schlafly, among many others.
During the late 1950s and early 1960s, Horowitz studied at Columbia University and University of California-Berkeley, where he became an outspoken proponent of radical Marxism and the "New Left."
After a period in the 1960s serving as Bertrand Russell's political aid, Horowitz wrote several books, including The Free World Colossus: A Critique of American Foreign Policy in the Cold War, which attempted to examine the origin of the Cold War and define the conflict through the lens of the New Left.
Horowitz "came out" as a member of the right in the 1980s with the "Second Thought" project, a joint endeavor with Peter Collier that culminated in a 1987 conference in Washington, D.C., and a coauthored book, Destructive Generation: Second Thoughts about the Sixties (1989). Horowitz's shift to the right and his reflections on the left were documented again in his 1996 book Radical Son: A Generational Odyssey.
By the late 1980s, Horowitz and Collier were being feted by Republican Party elites. In 1988 they reportedly wrote speeches for Bob Dole and dined with Ronald Reagan, William Bennett, and Newt Gingrich.
Horowitz eventually set his targets on what he perceived as the left-leaning bias of baby-boomer academics and the supposed discrimination faced by conservative students at the university level. His soapbox was the now-defunct magazine Heterodoxy, which he founded in 1992 with Collier.
The publication of Horowitz's 2006 book, The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America, caused a commotion in academia when it purported to reveal the "most dangerous" professors on U.S. campuses, with "dangerous" apparently meaning espousing liberal or non-conservative views.
In a scathing review published in the American Association of University Professors' (AAUP) journal Academe, AAUP President Cary Nelson wrote, "The well-funded industry that is David Horowitz would like the book's biased, shoddy imitation of scholarship to enter the national consciousness as doxa. ... Like right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh on the air or right-wing cultural critic Ann Coulter in print, Horowitz preaches to the converted. They come to have their convictions not only reinforced but applauded. Horowitz is the claque, celebrating those who agree with him. That said, The Professors is certainly one of the most depressing books I have ever tried to read. That such unbridled malice toward progressive faculty exists in the world is depressing enough, but the shallow, casual, purely opportunistic character of what it offers as scholarship may be still more disheartening."
Apparently in reaction to the publication of The Professors, several groups came together to form the Free Exchange on Campus, "to protect the free exchange of speech and ideas on campus." Comprised of well-respected entities such as the ACLU, the AAUP, the American Library Association, the American Federation of Teachers, and others, the coalition released a press release condemning Horowitz's book, criticizing it on several levels.
Another of Horowitz's high-profile efforts has been the so-called Academic Bill of Rights. The "bill" is a project of Students for Academic Freedom (motto: "You can't get a good education if they're only telling you half the story"), which was founded by Horowitz and is affiliated with the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
"The bill's purposes are to codify that tradition; to emphasize the value of 'intellectual diversity,' already implicit in the concept of academic freedom; and, most important, to enumerate the rights of students to not be indoctrinated or otherwise assaulted by political propagandists in the classroom or any educational setting," Horowitz has said.
On the blog Crooked Timber, George Washington University political science professor Henry Farrell wrote that Horowitz's "main line of attack is that of the standard political hack, concocting a farrago of innuendoes, half-truths, and out-and-out lies in order to beat down those whom he sees as his political opponents. However, when he's attacked in the same terms as those he himself engages in, he's perfectly happy to appeal to academic norms of reasoned debate in order to accuse his accusers of themselves being politicized."
Farrell added, "Because Horowitz is able to use the low standards of political debate, while demanding that his intellectual opponents adhere to the high ones of academic argument, he wins either way. In order successfully to argue against him, it's necessary to recognize that the battle Horowitz is fighting is political rather than strictly academic. He's not acting as an academic interlocutor (some conservatives and other critics are, and they should be treated very differently). He's acting as a politician and looking to win political changes outside the academy that would radically reshape its internal practices."