- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 28, 2001

David Horowitz, the gadfly editor of Heterodoxy, a magazine out to give the political correctness crowd fits, has struck again this time with a paid ad to college newspapers that offers up 10 reasons why reparations for slavery is a bad idea.
Mr. Horowitz believes (not incorrectly) that certain ideas are not welcome on our ultra-liberal campuses, and any suggestion that the reparations question is worthy of serious debate is one of them. But even he must have been surprised by the ugly responses that the ad has kicked up.
At the University of Wisconsins Madison Campus, hundreds of copies of the Badger Herald were stolen and 100 noisy protesters demanded that the newspapers editor, Julie Bosman, resign; at Brown University, stacks of the Brown Daily Herald also mysteriously disappeared from campus distribution points. To have the temerity to suggest that there is another side to the reparations questions as Mr. Horowitzs paid ad clearly does is cause enough for outrage, angry demonstrations and confiscating the newspapers that bear this unwelcome news.
Did Mr. Horowitz consciously intend to be so provocative? Probably, but that is rather beside the point. Why so? Because the issues that his paid ad raise go well beyond his in-your-face insistence that the reparations bandwagon is part of the victimology left-wing black leaders love to advance. Nor are the thornier matters of who will get these reparations and who will pay for them (vexing details that college students prefer to ignore as they lug their self-righteousness to the barricades) any longer at center stage. What the flap about the Horowitz ad points up is just how confused many college journalists are about what constitutes free speech as the First Amendment defines the term.
No book publisher is obliged to publish every manuscript submitted to him, just as no magazine is required by law to print every article heaved over their transom. Editors, in short, are allowed to make editorial decisions.
The same thing applies to college newspaper editors. They would not, I think, want to run ads by sleazy term paper services, and they would surely not want to run ads urging a debate about whether slavery or lynchings actually occurred. The latter are a version of what Bradley Smith and his San Diego-based Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust do when they ask college newspapers to run paid ads suggesting a "revisionist" view of the Holocaust. Under the guise of "open debate" (who could be against that?) they seek to give Holocaust deniers a patina of academic respectability. College editors are dead right to refuse a platform for such dangerous foolishness. But to raise questions about reparations for slavery is a horse of a very different color. It falls into the category of genuine debate, however much some prefer to call Mr. Horowitz a racist and leave the matter at that.
College campuses ought to be places where debates about important issues happen all the time. Granted, what John Stuart Mill called the "marketplace of ideas" is hardly a walk in the park, nor should it be. Debates about affirmative action, academic feminism, pro-choice vs. pro-life, and, yes, reparations for slavery often have a rough-and-tumble quality about them because ideas that matter are always in contention and because they have social consequences. Granted, participants are expected to be civil and to listen carefully to what their antagonists are saying, but they are also enjoined, indeed, required, to fashion the best arguments of which they are capable. That is what Mr. Horowitz, disagree with him as one will, has done.
It is now up to those students who find his views reprehensible to respond not only with passion but also with evidence, logic and a convincing argument of their own. That they have not done this proves what Mr. Horowitz has long been saying about how entrenched political correctness alas is.


Sanford Pinsker is a professor of humanities at Franklin and Marshall College.


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