9/11 and the Universities: The Academic Right Strikes Back – Postscript

Over a year after 9/11, and exactly a year after the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act, Kristine McNeil in The Nation Magazine (1) reported that it had brought “an ever-growing enemies list from our nation’s thought police.” It started with the ACTA report, which purported “to advocate the preservation of academic freedom and dissent while being all about suppressing both when the views expressed conflict with blind support for US foreign policy.” The ACTA report was just the start of organized attacks on the Left and the anti-war movement in the universities by these organizations of the Academic Right. Another target of this was solidarity with Palestine.

One blacklisting project that started in the post-9/11 era was Campus Watch, a part of the right wing Middle East Forum. It is led by Daniel Pipes, a prominent anti-Arab propagandist. It first listed names of professors and their quotes of professors who were critical of Israel, similar to the Defending Civilization report from ACTA. After it received criticism it changed its format. Some feared that it would use its information to invoke the USA Patriot Act to charge some of its opponents with terrorism.

The purpose again was to stifle debate on foreign policy in Iraq and in the Israel-Palestine conflict. With the growth of the anti-war movement, the issue of Israel and Palestine was becoming prominent. Also, Pipes and his ilk, in their attacks on the studies of Islamist movements, attempted to direct them into a more pro-Bush administration agenda.

A main target was Middle East Studies, intending to turn these programs int a tool to be used by the American military. Edward Said came under attack. Others had their patriotism attacked.

The project still exists today. You can go to the site yourself at campus-watch.org to read its hysterics. They have also directed their attacks at students and others in the campus community for supporting the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestine.

The Zionists have long targeted their enemies. In the 1970’s the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) formed the Political Leadership Development Program, enlisting students to collect information on pro-Palestinian professors.

In the years to come, more attacks on campus happened. David Horowitz continued his blitzkrieg on American campuses, releasing a book about 101 professors he deemed treasonous.  Ward Churchill was forced from his job for critical words on US foreign policy right after 9/11, but attacked years later.

Another group that formed was founded by William Bennett, the Americans for Victory Over Terrorism. The did a survey of college students on terrorism, war, and Americanism.

These were all part of the broader right wing agenda. The Project for a New American Century rose to prominence. The Heritage Foundation has always been a driver of the conservative movement. Others include the Defense Policy Board and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs. All promoted the expansion of the American empire. The universities were targeted because of its potential for dissent and also for the resources used for official policy for state and corporate power.

For every defeat we have victories in the struggle. To get enemies shows that the movements were being effective. These reactionary attacks on the community of higher education will continue. Having a sense of history will make progressive better prepared to fight them.

Sources:

  1. McNeil, Kristine . “The War on Academic Freedom.” The Nation. November 11, 2002. https://www.thenation.com/article/war-academic-freedom/.
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9/11 and the Universities: The Ideology of ACTA

The mission of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, published on their website, is as “a nonprofit educational organization committed to academic freedom, excellence and accountability on college and university campuses. It supports programs and policies that encourage high academic standards, strong curricula, and the free exchange of ideas.” (1) Yet this free exchange of ideas does not extend to criticism of the United States history or its foreign policy. Nor to any studies that are not that of western civilization.

ACTA on paper encourages colleges and universities to adopt strong, liberal arts based core curricula. Their writings encourage the teaching of American history and Western civilization. It claims that instruction in Western Civilization has suffered due to the increased influence of multiculturalism. In their Defending Civilization report and other writings, they also bemoan the increase in courses after 9/11 on Islam. Their view is a precursor to the Islamophobia that became prevalent after the attacks, blaming Islam itself for it. To bring a better understanding of the religion that many Americans were ignorant about and see it in an objective way did not feed into the hate that ACTA promoted against Muslims. It would seem for an organization that would promote better standards in education, they would be in favor of educated people having more knowledge of many cultures not their own. Of course ACTA’s and the American Right’s bigotry was contrasted to the mood in general in American society as a whole. The bestseller lists became stacked with book titles about Islam itself and the situation in Central Asia. It is also good to reflect on ones own culture and society, point out the wrong in it, and work to make it right. ACTA does not only want Western civilization taught but to have it emphasized as superior.But yet ACTA’s agenda was to preach the superiority and blind acceptance of their version of Western Civilization. It also wants the histories of non-white peoples erased too.

ACTA, in its McCarthyist state of mind, sees its academic foes as internal enemies within the United States to fight. They state “…the threat to academic freedom comes from within. The barbarians are not at the gates; they are inside the walls.” (2)

It brought up the bogeyman of political correctness on college campuses, and states “ACTA is working to engage alumni and donors, trustees and state leaders in this fight,” further explaining “[T]rustees set policy and have a fiduciary obligation for the academic, as well as financial, well-being of their institutions.” (2) So while it warns about decline of standards, it accepts the hierarchical model of the corporate university, where trustees use their power to bring the rest of the campus in line.

If their ideology is the promotion of the superiority of Western civilization, the strategy is using the undemocratic means of university governance for their own aims. ACTA is in favor of trustees taking a more active role in university governance, including on things like curricula and core requirements. They have the power to but usually do not. ACTA wants to use trustees to shape its reactionary agenda for education.

Their own writings show that ACTA accepts the model of the corporate university. In their statement on Higher Education Accountability they state:

“The president of a college or university, as the chief executive officer, has two principal duties: to ensure that the institutions product is a good one, namely a strong education for the students, and to manage the institutions resources as effectively as possible. Trustees, as the board of directors, cannot take for granted that these results are being achieved. They must hold the administration accountable for results, thus answering to the shareholders of the higher education enterprise – students, parents, alumni, and taxpayers who deserve the best possible education at the lowest possible cost.” (3)

For this, ACTA has set up programs specifically for university trustees. With the problems of higher education being internal, ACTA believes that outside help is necessary in solving them, and their organization is it. They state, “[T]rustees are the key. Exercising final responsibility, trustees are in a position to provide a fresh perspective, a healthy balance, and an openness to new solutions.”(4). Thus, ACTA offered many resources to trustees in American universities, hoping to spread right wing power in these institutions. They include the following:

*Institute for Effective Governance: launched in 2001, IEG is an alternative membership organization for active trustees, operating under the auspices of ACTA. A quote from their founding statement gives their pro-corporate stance:

“In recent years corporate boards have become less beholden to management. By demanding increased accountability, productivity and efficiency these trustees have helped spur America’s renewed competitiveness in the world economy. The time is ripe for a similar revolution in higher education governance.” (5)

*ATHENA Roundtable: standing for Alumni and Trustees for Higher Education Accountability. They hosted a conference in Washington DC titled “Can This Nation Long Endure: Strengthening History and the Core Curriculum.” They see a threat to the United States itself from a lack of Western Civilization taught in education.

*Trustees for Better Teachers: set up to have trustees influence teacher education “so that teachers receive an education that is content-based, grounded in the liberal arts, and emphasizes knowledge and learning rather than ideology and attitude manipulation.”

As stated before, ACTA conducts trainings for trustees, before in New York, and then in Florida. In 2001, ACTA was chosen by then governor Jeb Bush (then-President George W. Bush’s brother) to train 145 of his newly appointed college and university trustees in that state. There are 11 universities in the state of Florida, and the new laws made each school’s board of trustees autonomous, with a seven-member “superboard”, which would oversee all state education from kindergarten to grad school, “and requires a governance system that enforces system-wide accountability.” Training for new trustees was mandated, and ACTA was chosen to do that. (6) The ramifications of the change, which many observers termed both unnecessary and unwarranted, was not yet felt then, it was feared it would when contracts would come up between university employees and their Boards of Trustees. The new system would force unions on campus to bargain with each autonomous Board of Trustees separately, undermining their bargaining power.

ACTA’s calls for “accountability” in terms of curriculum and governance was only to serve to cut access and redesign curriculum along right wing and corporate lines. Along with their recent attacks on dissent of the Bush Administration and academic freedom more broadly, their final goals were to be the reconstruction of universities to further roll back democracy on campus.

As Annette Fuentes states in The Nation in 1998,

“With the authority to hire and fire chancellors and college presidents, as well as to set educational policy, the boards wield enormous power. Across the country, conservative Republican governos have appointed trustees who are their political allies rather than independent advocates for the university system. These political proxies – often backed by the National Association of Scholars and the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, groups that oppose affirmative action and multicultural studies – are enacting sweeping changes in the mission of public higher education to provide wide access.” (7)

The problems with campus governance were not limited to the right wing takeovers of their governing boards. It was part of the system of university governance itself, which I have written about here extensively. With a governance system that rests all important decision-making power in Boards of Regents and Trustees that are unelected and unaccountable to the people it governs, it feeds the strategy of groups like ACTA to regress higher education. This is why many pushed for campus democracy before.

Sources:

  1. http://www.goacta.org/
  2. http://www.goacta.org/freedom.htm (accessed December 1, 2001)
  3. http://www.goacta.org/accountability.htm (accessed December 1, 2001)
  4. http://www.goacta.org/trusteeprograms.htm (accessed December 1, 2001)
  5. Founders, Institute for Effective Governance, quote from http://www.goacta.org/accountability.htm
  6. “Florida Joins Accountability Movement.” Inside Academe (ACTA Newsletter). Spring/Summer 2001. Vol. VI, No. 3.
  7. Fuentes, Annette. “Trustees of the Right’s Agenda.” The Nation. October 5, 1998.
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9/11 and the Universities: The Origins of ACTA

Who is ACTA?

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni was one of the leading conservative groups waging attacks on the universities. It had ties to powerful right wing ideologues and funded by their foundations. With their money and power built up in the years before 9/11, they were in an opportune spot to take advantage of the tragedy to further their attacks on higher education.

The main figure in ACTA was Lynne Cheney. Wife of Dick Cheney, who before becoming vice president was secretary of defense and a congressperson in the 1980’s. Lynne Cheney was appointed to the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1986 under the Reagan administration, and stayed there through the Bush administration, resigning in 1993. She used her position to lead the right wing assault against the broad Left and ”perfected a method of attack that depends more on hyperbole than accuracy.” The Nation magazine described her as a “right wing warrior who used her post at the NEH to fight the Republican culture wars of the eighties.” (1). Cheney was an ideological warrior for the right, with William Bennett, who served before her in the NEH, saying she would be “hard to muzzle.” She resigned after Clinton’s election, served at the American Enterprise Institute, where she wrote op-ed hit pieces and later co-hosted on the defunct CNN show Crossfire Sunday (she on the right). In 1994 she led the attack against the National History Standards, which would have given more emphasis on history that was often overlooked in the patriotic correctness of before, even got the Senate to vote to defund the project 99 to 1. This was a model of what her attacks on education would bring in the future.

In 1995, through the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, the National Alumni Forum was founded, with the help of Cheney and Jerry Martin (who worked in the NEH with Cheney, and became acting chairman when she left in 1993, through 1995). The mission of the NAF was to “organize alumni support for academic freedom and challenge practices and policies that threaten intellectual freedom and undermine academic standards.” (2) Its purpose was to organize conservative alumni to influence university agendas and curriculum through their donations to their alma maters. They had a model in Lee Bass, who withdrew a $20 million gift from Yale University in 1995 when it did not expand its Western Civilization curriculum as he wanted.

In 1998 the NAF changed its name to the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. ACTA’s founders also included many conservative Democrats like Joe Lieberman and former Colorado governor Richard Lamm, but it’s board consisted of a who’s who of right wing intellectuals and activists. (3) It continued to attempt to get alumni to influence university policies, and published materials to help them in that. (4) But as its name change showed, they also realized the power of trustees to wield power on universities. They wanted trustees to insert themselves more into the political affairs of campus, and Mr. Martin initiated a training program for activist trustees in 20 states. (5) They had much success in New York, where they got a conservative governor to appoint conservative trustees, who used their positions to promote right wing agendas. That state suffered attacks at CUNY and SUNY by the chapter of ACTA there. (6). Annette Fuentes, an adjunct professor at Columbia University School of Journalism , said at the time “conservative appointees hold increasing sway over public higher education.” This model spread to other states too, who had similar means of appointing trustees through the state governor. In Virginia, Gordon Davies, the director of the state Council on Higher Education from 1977 to 1997, said that appointments got more ideological under governor George Allen, with more ultra right and religious right appointments. This was part of the broader right wing attacks on higher education. Ward Connerly appointed by Republican governor Pete Wilson in California to the Board of Regents, led the campaign to abolish affirmative action in the state universities there in 1995. Connerly sat on the ACTA board in 1998.

Money Talks

The rise of ACTA was the result not just of its people with power and ideology, but of the money from well-funded network of right wing foundations dedicated to transforming the political climate of the United States. There has been many studies done in the late 90’s by progressive researchers on the right wing foundations and their influence in public policy. (7)

After the 1960’s the right wing realized that their movement would be a war of ideas, and they mobilized their resources accordingly, using their foundation networks to pour millions of dollars into a broad range of conservative political organizations. Their sheer size and concentration, and their willingness to promote a highly politicized agenda, are remarkable, and far surpass comparable funding from liberal and progressive foundation, especially since the latter funding is less toward ideological battles. Funding is especially focused on battles in education, as the organizations they fund have long promoted the “political correctness” hysteria as a cover for their attacks on democratic education.

Five foundations stand out: the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Koch Family Foundation, the John M. Olin Foundation, the Scaife Family Foundation, and the Adolph Coors Foundation. The Bradley Foundation is the most influential and most ideological. With a half a billion dollars in assets, the Bradley Foundation is the richest right wing foundation in the country. While being the 51st largest foundation overall, it focused its funding specifically to right wing groups to transform the political agenda, especially in education. In Wisconsin, groups it funded succeeded in making the state a battleground over public education, attempting to turn the school to a voucher program to privatize education. (8)

For ACTA and the NAF before it, it got start-up money and general operating support from the Olin and Bradley Foundations. The Olin Foundation gave $100,000 to start up NAF in 1994, and gave a total of $450,000 to the NAF from 1994 to 1998. The Bradley Foundation contributed $50,000 each year to NAF each year from 1995 to 1997, $150,000 in total. After ACTA was formed, it got a total of $870,000 in grants from 1997 to 2000. (9).

The money and power that ACTA acquired was used to wage a war on higher education in the United States, and institutionalized it in the wake of 9/11 to wage an offensive against dissent. It’s policies were not changed after 9/11, only magnified. In the next post, I will explore ACTA’s ideology, especially in terms of campus governance.

Sources:

  1. Wiener, John. “Hard to Muzzle: The Return of Lynne Cheney.” The Nation. October 2, 2000.
  2. https://www.goacta.org/news/alumni_organize_to_preserve_free_speech_and_free_thought_at_colleges_and_un
  3. In 2000, a presidential election year, it had the unique position of having connections to both parties in the race through Cheney and Vice Presidential candidate Lieberman.
  4. In 1998 they first published an instruction manual “The Intelligent Donor’s Guide to College Giving,” which gave instructions such as the following: Step 1, Define Your Goals; Step 7: State your instructions in no uncertain terms; and Step 12: Get what you paid for. It advised against long term gifts because donors would not be around to control them. They stated “If you spelled out clear conditions and the university does not abide by them, get your money back. You should be prepared to go to court if necessary,” and “The best protection is to make only short-term gifts.” They also quoted Yale Provost Frank Turner as saying, “The much-maligned ‘strings’ attached to restricted funds are in truth the lifelines that link colleges and universities to the marketplace of ideas within a democratic society.”
  5. Arenson, Karen W. “Group Fighting Political Correctness on Campus Delights in Ties to Both Parties.” New York Times. August 24, 2000.
  6. Fuentes, Annette. “Trustees of the Right’s Agenda.” The Nation. October 5, 1998.
  7. These include the following: Stefancic, Jean and Delgado, Richard. No Mercy: How Conservative Think Tanks and Foundations Changed America’s Social Agenda. Temple University Press. Philadelphia. 1996. Campus Wars section pp. 108-135.; Covington, Sally. “How Conservative Philanthropies and Think Tanks Transform US Policy.” Covert Action Quarterly. Issue 63. Winter 1998. available at http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Democracy/ConservThinkTanks.html; Covington, Sally. Moving a Public Policy Agenda: The Strategic Philanthropy of Conservative Foundations, prepared for the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, 2001 S Street, NW, Suite 620, Washington, DC 20009, 202/387-9177. It covers the three-year period from 1992-94. http://www.desmogblog.com/sites/beta.desmogblog.com/files/clearreport00004.pdf;  and “Buying a Movement: Right-Wing Foundations and American Politics.” Executive Summary. People for the American Way. At http://www.pfaw.org/media-center/publications/buying-movement.
  8. “Anatomy of a Movement: Wisconsin Vouchers and the Bradley Foundation.” October 8, 1998. http://www.weac.org/resource/1998-99/nov98/anatomy.htm [accessed May 25, 2000]; and Wilayto, Phil. The Feeding Trough : the Bradley Foundation, “The Bell Curve” & the Real Story behind W-2, Wisconsin’s National Model for Welfare Reform : an Investigative Report. A Job Is a Right Campaign, Milwaukee, WI. 1997.
  9. from www.mediatransparency.org: Olin Foundation: $310,000 from 1997 to 2000; Bradley Foundation: $410,000 from 1997 to 2000; Sarah Scaife Foundation: $100,000 from 1999 to 2000; Earhart Foundation: $50,000 from 1999 to 2000
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9/11 and the Universities: The ACTA Blacklist – Bringing the War Home

Another group to denounce the crack of dissent emerging on college campuses in the aftermath of September 11th was the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, or ACTA. Founded by right wing culture warrior Lynne Cheney, the wife of then Vice-President, Dick Cheney, ACTA was already a leading part of the culture wars waged by the right. ACTA’s specialization was the universities, it expanded on the attacks on campus waged by the likes of Horowitz. It put out a report in November 2001, two months after the attacks, entitled “Defending Civilization: How Our Universities are Failing American and What Can be Done About It” (1). It was part of the launch of the Defense of Civilization Fund, and they stated “It was not only America that was attacked, but civilization” (2). ACTA was known before 9/11 for attacking supposed political correctness on campus, and with this situation it took the opportunity to impose patriotic correctness.

 I will write about ACTA itself more in the next article. First we will take a close look at the report they issued, Defending Civilization. It is credited to Jerry Martin and Anne Neal.. Lynne Cheney is not an author, but is quoted extensively, and was reportedly close to the authors.

Here are some of the statements in the report from ACTA itself:

“Even as many institutions enhanced security and many students exhibited American flags, college and university faculty have been the weak link in America’s response to the attack. Proving a shocking divide between academe and the public at large, professors across the country sponsored teach-ins that typically ranged from moral equivocation to explicit condemnations of America.”

“Some refused to make judgments. Many invoked tolerance and diversity as antidotes to evil.”

“Rarely did professors publicly mention heroism, rarely did they discuss the difference between good and evil, the nature of Western political order or the virtue of a free society. Their public messages were short on patriotism and long on self-flagellation. Indeed, the message of much of academe was clear: BLAME AMERICA FIRST”

“Although most faculty presumable shared America’s horror and condemnation of the terrorist attacks, some did not.”

“The fact remains that academe is the only sector of American society that is distinctly divided in its response. Indeed, expressions of pervasive moral relativism are a staple of academic life in this country and an apparent symptom of an educational system that has increasingly suggested that Western civilization is the primary source of the world’s ills – even though it gave us the ideals of democracy, human rights, individual liberty, and mutual tolerance.”

The original version that was put out, now at (https://pantherfile.uwm.edu/sands/www/defciv.pdf), listed 117 quotes and citations of quotes of people connected to the universities that attempted to show that those institutions were not sufficiently patriotic or behind the consensus supporting the Bush Administration and the new “War on Terrorism.” A newer version was later put up, now at (https://web.archive.org/web/20020914060739/http://www.goacta.org/Reports/defciv.pdf), that took out two of the quotes, and some sentences in the introduction above (3). This was all part of their quest to prove that academia was a fifth column in the new Amerika. Yet their own methodology proves them wrong.

Lets take a closer look at the quotes. Of the quotes, only 40 come from actual faculty members. From the faculty, many are in fields such as physics or psychology, where their political views would rarely come up in classrooms. Others are from students, campus workers, and speakers invited from off campus to teach-ins. Others are protest signs and protest chants. (Such as “our grief is not a cry for war”) And overall, the majority of the citations speak of coming to an understanding of the events that just happened recently, and calls for a restrained and rational response (4). To supposedly live up to those American ideals that ACTA values so much. And others did have a logical response to the history of US imperialism. But those views were a minority of views even on the university. The fact that universities were not emitters of blind patriotism and jingoistic calls for blood, and was a place for dissent, is what really angered ACTA.

By their own data, support for the war was high, even on college campuses. In the report they printed polls taken on September 25th, 2001 to show the disconnect with academe and the general population. While it showed 92 percent of the general public saying that “Americans should take military action even if casualties occur, it was slightly different on some campuses. In a poll taken of Harvard students, 69 percent said “Americans should take military action, then at 28 percent when asked “America should take military action even if casualties occur.” For college students generally, 79 percent said “America Should Undertake Air Strikes,” while 68 percent said “America Should Use Ground Troops.” These polls show firm support for war on college campuses, but the higher percentage against on college campuses in contrast to the general public at the time showed a dangerous amount of dissent present, even if in a minority of popular opinion (5). ACTA attacked this divided consensus as not being conforming enough.

Many faculty, including those who were listed in the report, spoke out against the implications of it (6).

Michael Rothschild, dean of Woodrow Wilson School of Public and Unternational Affairs at Princeton University: “many of the comments and questions being raised by professor are actually healthy for the country.” He was quoted in report saying () and said it was accurate, that “I was worried about a rush to judgment.”

Walter Daum, professor of mathematics at City University of New York’s City College: found it odd that a quote by him would be an example of academe’s response, as most of his colleagues in academy disagree with his critiques of US foreign policy, and saying he wasn’t trying to justify the attacks, just explain them.

Kevin Lourie: professor at Brown University School of Medicine, said “these kinds of attacks will only discourage professors from speaking out and opening up dialogues about what’s happening overseas, and why.” Said from the quote in the report that he was attempting to explain how other nations and societies may view the United States (7).

Douglas Bennett, president of Wesleyen, named for a letter Sept. 14, complained that the report’s authors took his comments out of context. He said he strongly supports the Bush administration’s response to the terrorist attacks and that an American flag has hung on the door of his house since Sept. 11. “I don’t know where this group gets off extracting language from my statement. They’re trying to perpetuate cliches that belong to an earlier era. I don’t think it’ll wash – we all have important, real work to do as a nation.”

Hugh, Gusterson, professor of anthropology at MIT, gave a fuller critique. He said, “At this particular moment in time, it seems there is a crying need to understand the culture and history of the people who attacked us.” He also said it is not anti-American to know about the rest of the world. He knew of other professors who have received hate mail for their views, and wondered if the council’s listing of him in the report was meant as a form of intimidation.

Many critics mentioned the term blacklist to describe the list, and compared it to the McCarthy era. Gusterson also compared it to a Soviet mentality, stating “It’s a little too reminiscent of McCarthyism. This kind of document reminds me of the Soviet Union, where officials weren’t satisfied until 98 or 99 percent of people voted with them.” He also called ACTA “belligerant nannies” who want to restrict what people can learn. Also said he wonders why they are so worried about professors, as “all my students are conservative.” David Price also saw similarities to the McCarthy era, but said it was not a surprise, for the Right has been attempting to rehabilitate McCarthy.(8) Gonzalez saw the doublespeak inherent in ACTA’s calls for academic freedom while putting out what was essentially a blacklist, saying “The targeting of scholars who participate in civic debates might signal the emergence of a new McCarthyism directed at the academy. Before it escalates into a full-blown witch hunt in the name of ‘defending civilization,’ faculty, students and citizens should speak out against these acts of academic terrorism” (9)

Many of the critics also had a different vision than ACTA of what the university is in reality and what it should be in a democratic society. Again from Gusterson:

“But also more generally I’d like to make a point that universities are not adjuncts of the American government. The role and the purpose of the university in America is not to cheer-ead for whatever the chosen policy of the American government is. The role and purpose of the university is to pursue knowledge and to encourage people to think critically. And in my speech at the peace rally I was encouraging students and anyone who was listening to think critically about American foreign policy, about the fact that Americans have not only been victims of violence, but that Americans have often inflicted violence on people in other countries – in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, Vietnam, for example – and the people in those other countries might see US actions as being terrorist actions in their own way.”

He also comments on the political correctness myth reigning supreme on American campuses, and pro-US government opinions being intimidated, saying that people who’ve criticized military action are a minority of the recorded statements from this time. (10)

And from Gonzalez, who reported that ACTA claimed that it contributed $3.4 billion to colleges and universities last year, making ot “the largest private source of support for higher education,” that it “condemns those who have attempted to give context to Sept. 11, encourage critical thinking, or share knowledge about other cultures. Faculty are accused of being ‘short on patriotism’ for attempting to give students the analytical tools they need to become informed citizens.” Furthermore, he states that it functions “to extend control over sites of democratic debate – our universities – where freedom of expression is not only permitted but encouraged,” and that as “a microcosm of society, the university is a place where people of different ethnicities, religions, generations, and class backgrounds exchange ideas and opinions.” The accusations of anti-Americanism to intimidate and silence some voices is not patriotism, according to Gonzalez, but fascism. ACTA was “inaccurate and irresponsible” and that“critique, debate and exchange – not blind consensus or self-censorship – have characterized America since its inception.” Furthermore he states “our universities are not failing America…they are among the few institutions offering alternatives to canned mainstream media reports,” and called for action against a full-blown witch hunt (11).

Other academics took ACTA in jest. The group Tattletales for an Open Society started on the pages of The Nation for those not on the ACTA list but wanted to be included (12).

ACTA was reported to announce that they would send the list to 3,000 trustees at colleges and universities. (13)

The blacklist attempted by ACTA was a sign of the growth of the right wing, especially in academia. But the history of dissent in universities was not something that was forgotten or given up easily, as this report was resisted on many fronts. It only went to show how an organization that was grown out of right wing battles on the intellectual front came to use the opportunity of the tragedy to put forward their agenda. In the next article I will explore the history of ACTA.

Sources:

  1. “Defending Civilization: How Our Universities are Failing American and What Can be Done About It.” The report was also co-sponsored by the Randolph Foundation, the William and Karen Tell Foundation, and Jane H. Fraser.
  2. Inside Academe (ACTA newsletter). Fall 2001. Vol. VI, No. 4.
  3. Two of the quotes taken out included these gems: George Borts, professor of economics, Brown University:“If people have some patriotic fervor, they are going to have to work for the CIA, slitting throats in dark alleys; and Wasima Alikhan, Islamic Academy of Las Vegas:“[I]gnorance breeds hate.”)
  4. Some of the criticism right afterward: “most of the quotes are moderate in their view and tenor. In fact, one of the remarkable things about this pamphlet is how relatively tame or even common-sensical many of the quotes are.” Price, David. “Sketches for a New Blacklist.” Counterpunch. November 21, 2001. http://www.counterpunch.org/2001/11/21/sketches-for-a-new-blacklist/; and “…comments taken out of context and culled from secondary sources, are presented as examples of an unpatriotic academy.” Gonzalez, Roberto J. “Lynne Cheney-Joe Lieberman Group Puts Out a Blacklist.” San Jose Mercury News. December 13, 2001. posted at http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/GON112A.html; and from Hugh Gusterson: “What the authors of the report did is that they very carefully selected only those comments that were critical of American foreign policy, and tried to pretend that those comments reprsented the entire range of debate at MIT. This is a complete distortion and fabrication.”
  5. ACTA turned out wrong. As the war expanded into Iraq, the anti-war movement grew, and the invasion by 2003 resulted in mass protests around the world, even by those it would have considered sufficiently patriotic.
  6. Blumenstyk, Goldie. “Group Denounces ‘Blame America First’ Response to September 11 Attacks.” Chronicle of Higher Education. November 12, 2001. www.chronicle.com/free/2001/11/2001111202n.htm (accessed December 7, 2001)
  7. Healy, Patrick. “On Campus, Conservatives Denounce Dissent.” Boston Globe. November 13, 2001.
  8. Price said of previous eras of repression “the names of these individuals who’s lives were invaded and altered appeared somewhere, sometime on a list of subversives, and the FBI read these lists and opened investigatory files (or added to existing files) on these individuals…these individuals had taken public stands on unpopular issues such as peace, racial, economic or gender equality.” Price, ibid.

  9. Gonzalez, ibid.
  10. “And I have to say, looking around me at MIT, this is just complete junk. In their report, they cite five different quotes from people at MIT. Four of those quotes come from the peace rally where I spoke. There’s a fifth quote frm Noam Chomsky, from a public lecture he gave. And you would think from reading their report that these are the only public statements that have been made about September 11th here at MIT. But it’s just not true. There was a whole series of panel discussions organized by the university administration. So, for example, the Center for International Studies did a panel within a few days of September 11th. There were four panelists, only one of those panelists in any way criticized American foreign policy. Two of the others called for assassinating Osama bin Laden, or for declaring war on Afghanistan. When that panel was repeated on two subsequent occasions, the person who had criticized US foreign policy was dropped from the panel. There was another panel discussion called “Technology and Terror.” there were six panelists including myself. I was the only one of the panelists on that panel who said anything critical about American foreign policy.”    -“Q & A, Lynne Cheney’s Free Speech Blacklist.” Interview with Hugh Gusterson, conducted by Sharon Basco www.tompaine.com/features/2001/11/15/2.html (Accessed December 6, 2001).
  11. Gonzalez, ibid.
  12. https://www.thenation.com/article/tattletales-open-society/; https://www.thenation.com/article/tattletales-open-society-0/
  13. Scigliano, Eric. “Naming – and Un-naming – Names.” The Nation. December 13, 2001. https://www.thenation.com/article/naming-and-un-naming-names/
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9/11 and the Universities: The Sick Mind of David Horowitz

Right after 9/11 many social justice minded people conducted teach-ins on hundreds of campuses across the United States. David Horowitz got really riled about this. For David Horowitz, an ex-left wing activist turned ultra-right attack dog, it was his chance to go after the Left and its legacy from the sixties.

Horowitz was well known as a prominent intellectual of the New Left, who later denounced the left and turned to the far right. Back in the 60’s he was the editor of Ramparts magazine, an influential leftist publication, being a red diaper baby before that. He became a close ally to the Black Panther Party. After he authorized his secretary to do work for the Panthers, she was found murdered. The murder remained unsolved but he blamed her murder on the Panthers, and describes as his descent to the political Right. He built a career on his god that failed story, and used his former position to now attack the Left in a hyperbolic form.

In the 80’s he founded a foundation, the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, and put out a magazine Heterodoxy, which attacked so-called political correctness on campuses. His diatribes of the American Left as a traitorous fifth column, out to destroy civilization, has earned him much prominence in right wing circles and the college lecture circuit. He has made a career as a professional anti-Leftist, with his Center for the Study of Popular Culture, now the David Horowitz Freedom Center, receiving much funding from right wing foundations. He also had the online magazine Frontpagemag.com, posting his and other over the top articles. He emphasizes that since the Left fights dirty, the Right should fight dirty too.

Horowitz received great publicity in 2001 when he attempted to put an ad in campus newspapers, funded by the CSPC, criticizing the growing movement demanding reparations for slavery. Many of the arguments used were rightly considered by many to be racist. These ads, often full page, said things such as Black Americans do not deserve compensation for slavery because White Christians ended slavery years ago; and Blacks already have a form of reparations because they already received redresses through welfare and affirmative action. These arguments were rightly seen as racist. Refusals of many newspapers to run the ad, and the reactions of many students to papers that did run the ad, turned the issue into a free speech fight, giving Horowitz more platforms to spread his twisted reactionary views. It is not surprising that Horowitz would see an opportunity in 9/11 and a nascent anti-war movement.

The aftermath of September 11th, and the subsequent peace rallies and teach-ins on campuses, gave Horowitz another opportunity to spew his hate against the Left. He attempted to place another ad in campus newspapers against anti-war activism. Controversy over these ads too raised questions about free speech, even though Horowitz did not want antiwar students to use theirs. The ad was in the form of a pamphlet that he had his followers distribute. Horowitz said he was trying to reach students who “hate America so much, they are willing to weaken the country.”, for students “full of your own self-righteousness, but who one day might also live to regret what you have done.” Talk about self-righteousness.

The pamphlet is entitled, “Think Twice Before Bringing the War Home.” The slogan Bring the War Home was associated with the more militant wings of the anti-war movement, especially the Weathermen. He saw the anti-war movement as a whole as a treasonous fifth column that was against America as well as the war. He spoke as a former anti-war activist appealing to college students not to join the anti-war movement. Horowitz was quoted as saying that the US was “too tolerant of treason from its enemies within the country (1), while also claiming that leftists were rejoicing in the attacks of September 11th.

“If I have one regret from my radical years, it is that this country was too tolerant towards the treason of its enemies within. If patriotic Americans had been more vigilant in the defense of their country, if they had called things by their right names, if they had confronted us with the seriousness of our attacks, they might have caught the attention of those of us who were well meaning, if utterly misguided. And they might have stopped us in our tracks.”

He bemoaned his own activism in the Vietnam War, saying that their protests helped prolong the war and gave South Vietnam to the communists. (2) The rightness of the war has long been discredited, even by many proponents of it at the time, but Horowitz wants to change the narrative on it. Most established opinion is that the war was unwinnable no matter what, and his idea that the US was not allowed to win has a place only on the fringes of the right wing.

The pamphlet is divided into three parts, the first part titled “The Sick Mind of Noam Chomsky.” Chomsky being one of the main critics of US foreign policy and popular among the nominal left, Horowitz went after him and his anti-imperialist politics. The pamphlet even has a picture of Chomsky on the front cover. He cites in this diatribe one short pamphlet of Chomsky’s many works to call the dissident intellectual “the ayatollah of anti-American hate.” (That year on frontpagemag.com, he had an image of Chomsky and Palestinian intellectual Edward Said skewed to make them look like Bin Laden). Some of the other adjectives he uses to describe Chomsky are “natural mendacity,” “anti-American dementia,” “vile teachings,” “pathological hatred of his country,” making “offensive and preposterous claims,” and having “rancid works.” Chomsky is to him part of the “Fifth Column Left.” It’s clear he does not like Chomsky.

Then there is “A Menace in the House, which targeted Barbara Lee, the sole congressperson who voted against authorization for war. Even that little dissent was too much for Horowitz. He goes to classic redbaiting by bringing up Lee’s previous support for the socialist government of Grenada that was overthrown by the United States in 1983, accusing her of treason.

Then there is Allies in War, targeting Bill Ayers, former Weather Underground leader who is now a professor. Since he was featured in the New York Times the same day as the attacks promoting his memoir, Horowitz used him to describe everyone who is a critic of US foreign policy. He linked the terrorism of the radical left before with the Islamist terrorism of today, even saying that Leftists and Islamists were allies.

Horowitz’s other resources were put to use in just as vile a way. Scott Rubush, an associate editor of Frontpage Magazine, used the website to campaign against four faculty members at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, where he was an alma mater, for participating in a teach-in criticizing US foreign policy. He said on radio that “they’re using state resources to the practical effect of aiding and abetting the Taliban,” and called on people at UNC-Chapel Hill to pressure UNC administrators and trustees to go after them. This caused some of the professors to get death threats. (3)

Later in 2006, Horowitz came out with a book, “The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America.” It made a dossier of professors he considered anti-American. He even admits that he was using the tactics of Joseph McCarthy, a blacklist, in his war in academia.

The deranged rantings of David Horowitz is just by another right wing attack dog who wants to roll back the gains made by modern progressive movements that peaked in the sixties. Horowitz’s previous stances on the Vietnam War were right, and he took a wrong position on it with his turn to the Right. He has been proven wrong with his support for the nascent War on Terror. With the quagmire that became the Iraq War and the costs and effects of them now present, his and the rest of the right wing support for increased militarism has come back on them. The wars have continued under Obama, and the instability of the region led to the creation of ISIS.

The fact is that David Horowitz in his present form was the effect of a concerted effort by right wing foundations to use their money to shape and change the social agenda of the United States to a more reactionary one. And universities became a major area of struggle in this fight. One way Horowitz fought that war was in spreading the myth that universities are hotbeds of radicalism.

Robert Jensen on David Horowitz and the Myth of the Radical Campus

After David Horowitz did a lecture at the University of Texas at Austin in early 2001, professor Robert Jensen wrote a column disputing Horowitz’s claim that universities are nests of left wing radicals. This has been a common right wing trope, but it has remained a prevalent myth that university faculty as a whole leans to the left. This was a surprise to Jensen, who wrote that “more company would be nice.” (4)

In contrast, Jensen says that American universities are actually centrist to right wing institutions, saying that “the typical American university is dominated by centrist to moderate conservative faculty members and administrators, with steady movement to the right in the past two decades.” The process of corporatization in the universities is another factor that limits any potential radicalism coming from modern academia:

“More and more, universities are influenced by the wealthy donors and corporations that exercise increasing power as public funding for higher education shrinks. Professors, no matter what the nature of their research, are being told that attracting outside funding is increasingly a requirement for tenure and promotion.”

“That means that people doing work that critiques the fundamental assumptions of powerful institutions in this culture (one reasonable definition of a “leftist”) are becoming even more marginalized….squeezed out by a system that values conformity and subordination to power more than deep critique.”

“That should be a concern not just to aspiring academics but to a society that wants to call itself democratic. If higher education is not a place for critical self-reflection on the powerful, were all in trouble.”

Jensen continues in the column that he doesn’t expect an institution like a university that, like others dominant institutions, tend to reproduce similar relationships of power, to go out of their way to foster dissent. But Jensen sees a need for debate on whether universities should be maintained as places for independent critical inquiry. As a tenured professor, he acknowledged the privileges he gets because of that, but worries that these freedoms are being eroded because of the market influence of higher education.

Conclusion

David Horowitz was just one of the several right wing attacks that happened at the universities after 9/11. He himself says that they are at war with the Left, using the label of treason for dissent and critical inquiry. Other sectors of the Right also saw 9/11 as an opportunity to attack universities not just for the growth of anti-war sentiment from there, but as areas to put forward an agenda of economic and cultural chauvinism.

Sources:

  1. Hayasaki, Erica. “Conservative’s Ad Criticizing Antiwar Protests Angers Students.” Los Angeles Times. September 28, 2001.
  2.  Horowitz, David. “Think Twice, Before you Bring the War Home.” pamphlet.  Center for the Study of Popular Culture. 2001. Horowitz argued this in the more recent propaganda film by Andrew Brietbart, Occupy Unmasked (2012), where he gave the same spiel, more than 11 years after 9/11.
  3. Glenn, David. “The War on Campus.” The Nation. December 3, 2001.
  4. Jensen, Robert. “Horowitz and the Myth of the Radical Campus.” commondreams.org. March 24, 2001. Jensen mentions the McCombs School for Business, the business school at UT Austin, as an example of the real political bent of the university, well-funded and lacking of any leftists, for “they are a bastion of conservatism where no critique of the basic nature of corporate capitalism is voiced.”At the University of New Mexico, where I conducted my studies, the biggest funded school there is the Anderson School of Management, which received $5.54 million in 2001-02. Its purpose there is the same, to continue and justify the system of corporate capitalism.  Doubt any socialist or leftist economists there.
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9/11 and the Universities: Campus Responses and Reactions

Along with the attacks against foreign students, academics themselves became targets in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks by right wing forces.

Academics and activists at universities were not only being shouted down, but given a mantra about that moment not being the time to say anything that might offend or challenge other Americans.

“At a time when the country could most benefit from the diverse perspective that we depend on academe to provide, there will be immense pressure on those in the academic community to repress their view.”  – Paul McMasters, Freedom Forum

In one incident at California State University of Chico, a professor was heckled by students when he spoke out against US foreign policy at a campus vigil. After the incident got much press coverage, the school received hate messages emailed from all over the country. Manuel Esteban, president of the university, defended the professor but said “there is a time and a place for his position, and one needs to be careful when one speaks.”

The targeting of the campus community for opposing official policy is nothing new. During the Red Scare of the 1950’s and during the Vietnam War, tenured professors were dismissed and even jailed for holding views some considered anti-American. The extent of what happened on campuses after 9/11 was not as severe, but it created a new “chilling effect.” There were several other incidents of conflict on campuses for speaking out documented by the news media. Many incidents specifically targeted professors. The Chronicle of Higher Education said “professors across the country have found their freedom to speak out hemmed in by incensed students, alumni, and university officials” (1)

At the City University of New York, a teach-in held there was attacked by the trustees and in the New York Post, which had a headline “Once-Proud Campus Now a Breeding Ground for Idiots,” while also saying it was rethinking their support for increased funding at the school because of the teach-in. Barbara Bowen of the Professional Staff Council there noted that there was not the same reaction at other elite schools. “Our students are working class, immigrants, people of color, and there’s this idea out there that they have less right than elite students to be exposed to a wide range of opinions.”(2)

Another incident happened with professor of journalism Robert Jensen of the University of Texas at Austin. The day after the attacks, Jensen wrote an op-ed criticizing US foreign policy, saying “My anger on this day is directed not only at individuals who engineered the September 11 tragedy but at those who have held power in the United States and have engineered attacks on civilians every bit as tragic.”

Jensen immediately became a target of rightists. In response, UT president Larry Faulkner attacked Jensen’s intellect, but held off demands that he be fired. Jensen responded in an op-ed the next month (3):

“Many accuse me of being ‘anti-American,’ but ironically it is their call to limit political debate that is anti-American, for it abandons the core commitment of a democracy to the sovereignty of the people and the role of citizens in forming public policy.”

“So, my correspondent’s real objections cannot be that I am political, but instead that my political ideas are unacceptable to them. That means their actual argument is that in times of crisis, certain analysis and ideas are not acceptable and certain views should be purged from public universities, which sounds pretty anti-American.”

“…the foundation of the US system is (or should be) an active citizenry; being a citizen should mean more than just voting every few years. We have the right – maybe even the obligation – to involve ourselves in the formation of public policy, and in that process no one can claim that some proposals cannot be voiced.”

The university as a center for critical thought even in times of crisis was once again under attack. One of the main attack dogs was an ex-leftist turned rabid right winger David Horowitz, which I will explore in the next article.

Source:

  1. Wilson, Robin and Cox, Ana Marie. “Terrorist Attacks Put Academic Freedom to the Test.” Chronicle of Higher Education. October 5, 2001. http://www.chronicle.com/free/i06/06a01201.htm (accessed January 16, 2002).  All quotes and facts before this are from this article also.
  2. Glenn, David. “The War on Campus.” The Nation. December 3, 2001.
  3. Jensen, Robert. “The ‘Patriotic’ Attack on Democracy and Higher Education.” http://www.commondreams.org. October 22, 2001. I respected Robert Jensen for being serious about creating a radical analysis for organizing democratically, and his analyses of oppressive institutions of power, including the universities. Recently he has come under fire from the Left due to his lack of acceptance of the transgender movement, sharing a position with many radical feminists who have been labeled TERF’s, or Trans-Exclusive Radical Feminists. But hey, no one’s perfect, and I never was into his anti-porn feminism either, but everything else he said on race and foreign policy is solid.
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9/11 and the Universities: The Growth of the Right Wing

One thing that happened after the attacks of September 11th was that the political Right became more empowered. The Christian Right and the neoconservatives became more influential with George W. Bush and his ideological cabinet in power.

Let’s remember the outburst the day after 9/11 by religious right leader Jerry Falwell, on a television program hosted by Pat Robertson. Falwell blamed groups which “tried to secularize America” as partly to blame for the attacks. He blamed “pagans, abortionists, feminists, homosexuals, the ACLU and People for the American Way.” Falwell continued:

“All of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say ‘you helped this happen.’ God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us properly what we deserve.”

Pat Robertson said, “Jerry, that’s my feeling.”

One critic was Elizabeth Birch of the Human Rights Campaign, who criticized Falwell’s comments as “stunning, beyond comptempt, irresponsible, and a deliberate attempt to manipulate the nation’s anger at worst” (1).

Robertson and Falwell have been key leaders of since the late 1970’s of the section of the New Right known as the Religious Right. It is more accurately called the Christian Right, for they campaigned solely on perceived religious attacks on Christians. The New Right came about as a backlash to the social gains and excesses of the 1960’s. Another part of it was the neoconservatives, who advocated a more aggressive foreign policy through the Cold War. During the Reagan administration the right wing had a key ally in the presidency and through his cabinet and appointments, and had similar if less influence under Bush. During the Clinton administration the Right funded millions in the opposition to undermine Clinton. Now with George W. Bush, a fundamentalist christian himself, the Christian Right now had more power, and with his cabinet appointments and Dick Cheney as Vice President, the neoconservatives had major influence.

The end of the Cold War and the attack of September 11, 2001 was a period in a shift of foreign policy influenced by the neocons. In the wake of the Gulf War, on September 11, 1990 in a speech to congress, President George Bush Senior spoke of a “new world order” as a solution to the crisis in the Persian Gulf against Saddam Hussein in Iraq in what would be come to known as the Gulf War. Exactly 11 years later the attacks by Al Qaeda using hijacked airplanes put that world in more disorder. I don’t go by conspiracy theories, but it has been well documented about the growth of influence of the neocons in the Bush administration, with the history going back to Paul Wolfowitz in a foreign policy paper that advocated a more aggressive stance by the United States in the world. His and other ideas were put forward in position papers by the Project for a New American Century. 9/11 happened to be the opportunity to put those ideas into practice.

Along with that, domestic policy also changed since 9/11. A more militarized society domestically happened. What would become the Department of Homeland Security was established. Civil rights and liberties were being further quelled.

While the Right could say such things as above with impunity, the Left was being targeted in all sectors. One section of society that it affected was universities.

Source:
1. Kahn, Chris. “Robertson Defends Falwell.” Associated Press. September 14, 2001

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