Discourse / Editorials / April 9, 2009

Thoughts from the Embers: Intellectual diversity

This week, the Knox Republicans brought another controversial speaker to the campus to shake up our comfortable, Kumbaya-singing liberal existences: author, conservative activist, and all-around culture warrior David Horowitz.

A former Marxist, the son of two communists, and a political aide to pacifist and reformer Bertrand Russell in the 60’s, one wonders what traumatic experience caused Horowitz to jump from the New Left in the 60’s and 70’s to steady Fox appearances now (kicked by a donkey, maybe?). Be that as it may, we agree with Sue Hulett’s statement that if his controversial claims “provoke us into discourse on the value of wider intellectual diversity at Knox—great.”

But did they? As far as we could tell, his strategy to provoke intelligent debate matched the strategy Republican pundits like party darling Rush Limbaugh have stuck to for years: shouting over people and interrupting them until they give up and go away. Screaming your values so that the values of others cannot be heard doesn’t foster intellectual diversity. The possibility that the overrepresentation of liberal viewpoints among the faculty skews our views is certainly worth exploring and discussing, but the bullying tactics of Bill O’Reilly and his colleagues only serve to isolate people and stifle debate. Maybe that’s why Brady Myers and others have begun to call Republicans “an endangered species.”

But enough about Horowitz. He’s made a good career out of shocking people, and we aren’t out to stop his gravy train.

What concerns us most is his audience. Horowitz got a significant ovation at the end of his speech from Galesburg residents as well as Knox students, and we wonder if they really considered what they were applauding.

Do the Knox Republicans really think that racism is over? That the single event of electing a mixed-race, somewhat-African-looking man President instantaneously erases hundreds of years of systematic oppression? And sexism? A very few women make it into the top ranks of the government, and suddenly the millions and millions of women making .75* for every dollar a man earns for the same work don’t exist? Horowitz said, “Nobody is oppressed in America except children who happen to choose the wrong parents.”** Is that what the people in that audience were cheering for?

Since before the election that apparently ended racism, journalists and politicians have been foretelling the fall of the Republican empire. We hope that selecting David Horowitz as a beacon of conservatism represents a lack of research on the part of the Knox Republicans, and not evidence of the fact that we might actually be headed toward the one-party system they fear as a result of their own self-destruction. There have to be sensible conservatives out there. Please find one.

* U.S. Census Bureau, 2004.

** See “Video, David Horowitz.” Quote occurs at 1:06:50.

TKS Staff

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