David Horowitz sells itDavid Hoppe

A couple of weeks ago, David Horowitz took a pie in the face at Butler University. Horowitz is a right-wing con man, a guy who has found a lucrative career testing the boundaries of politically acceptable thought. Horowitz's job in the political scheme of things is to find out how gullible we are. Karl Rove, President Bush's so-called "brain," is an open admirer of Horowitz's work. Ties between big corporations and universities are stronger than ever.

Horowitz was at Butler pushing what he calls an Academic Bill of Rights. For the past couple of years, Horowitz has been working hard to do for the world of colleges and universities what he and his cronies have successfully managed in the world of media. That is, convince people that a hierarchical, tradition-bound institution is a leftist hotbed of anti-American radicalism.

Horowitz, who uses something called the Center for the Study of Popular Culture as a front, has been campaigning in person and via the Web to expose what he calls a "corruption of academic integrity." He cites "recent studies" by "independent researchers" that purport to show "that on any given university faculty in America, professors to the left of the political center outnumber professors to the right of the political center by a factor of 10-1 and more." Horowitz says that college students today are being oppressed by the liberal bias of their professors. On the one hand, he says that he wants to depoliticize the campus: "We do not go to our doctors' offices and expect to see partisan propaganda posted on the doors, or go to hospital operating rooms and expect to hear political lectures from our surgeons. The same should be true of our classrooms and professors, yet it is not."

But then, in the name of "diversity," Horowitz advocates ideologically polarized, right-left litmus tests that would affect virtually all areas of academic life including grading, curriculum development, selection of invited speakers, allocation of funds, hiring, firing and tenure review. What's more, Horowitz is encouraging legislators in a number of states, including Indiana, to link funding for state schools to the implementation of the Academic Bill of Rights.

Horowitz has used his Center for the Study of Popular Culture as a vehicle for the creation of a supposedly grass-roots and conveniently Web-based student movement called Students for Academic Freedom. SAF, it turns out, is linked to the American Legislative Exchange Council, a right-wing group founded by Paul Weyrich and funded by corporations like Coors, Phillip Morris and Exxon, that works to develop and pass special interest legislation.

Horowitz knows from experience that if you rant about something long enough, people will believe it's true. For example, he continues to complain about the "liberal media." Yet Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard, himself hit with a pie at Earlham not long ago, has said, "I admit it, the liberal media were never that powerful ... "

Or Rush Limbaugh: "There's been a massive change in the media in this country over the last 15 years. Now it's 2002 and the traditional liberal media monopoly doesn't exist anymore."

In the 2000 elections, American newspapers endorsed Bush over Gore by a 2-1 margin and, according to a survey in Editor and Publisher magazine, a large majority of the nation's newspaper editors and publishers said they voted for Bush themselves. As Adam Meyerson of the Heritage Foundation has noted, "Today, op-ed pages are dominated by conservatives ... "

Ironically, at the same time that Horowitz is leading a charge to redefine the meaning of academic freedom from a right-wing perspective, ties between big corporations and universities are stronger than ever. Corporate funding for university research has seen a seven-fold growth since 1970. As that anarchist bomb-thrower Alan Greenspan has said of corporate-university partnerships: "The payoffs, in terms of the flow of expertise, new products and startup companies ... have been impressive."

This research covers a wide variety of disciplines and has raised serious concerns about academic independence and conflicts of interest. A Tufts study of 800 scientific papers published in major biology and medical journals found that in one out of three cases the chief author of the paper had a financial interest in the company for which the research was being done. Another study by the Center for Biomedical Ethics at Stanford found that 98 percent of university studies of new drug therapies funded by the pharmaceutical industry reported that those therapies were more effective than standard drugs. But just 79 percent of studies without industry financing found the new drugs to be more effective.

So at the same moment that David Horowitz would have us believe that our campuses are in the grip of leftist fiends, these same campuses are also becoming research and development centers for the world's biggest corporations. And, by the way, tuition everywhere is going up - making a college education less available to regular folks than ever.

Does that sound like creeping socialism to you? If your answer is yes, David Horowitz has a bridge to sell you.


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