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On second thought

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I see from the mail that David Horowitz is headed our way again. Our old friends at the John Locke Foundation in Raleigh will be his hosts at lunch one day next week, and he's also due at UNC-Chapel Hill to rehearse his latest screed: "Why Campus Leftists Are a Threat to National Security." Campus leftists are expected to protest his presence, I'm told. Why?

Protesting Horowitz is about like what the House member did when, after being named the dumbest member of Congress by an obscure magazine, he called a press conference to deny it. Horowitz makes his living calling progressive people names, especially people who work in higher education. Question globalization policies and you are a "radical." Oppose isolating Cuba, and you are a "Marxist." Point out that trade sanctions against Iraq aren't hurting the regime there, only the people, and you are "giving aid and comfort to Saddam Hussein." Well, yes, I suppose Saddam can take comfort in such a view if he wants. You'll want to weigh that, though, against the certainty that children are dying for lack of food and medicine before you speak out.

But Horowitz isn't interested in weighing one idea against another. That's not what he does. Last spring, he ran ads in campus newspapers denouncing the idea that African Americans should be paid reparations by the United States. Reading these ads, no one would ever guess why some folks think reparations are a good idea, only that such folks must hate America. Now he's back with campus ads warning people to "Think Twice" before questioning Bush administration policies in the war against terrorists. Policies like the secret military tribunals? Warrant-less searches? Holding suspects without due process?

These would be good subjects for analysis; but no: Horowitz' ads are not meant to defend one policy against another. Instead, they recall that he himself protested the Vietnam War when he was a youth--at UC-Berkeley, back in the day--and now considers what he did to be treason. And anyone who questions "America's right to defend herself" might be guilty of treason too, the ads suggest. Better think twice.

Better think twice about raising a fuss over this stuff. (Yes, I know that's what I'm doing right now.) Because as soon as you do, Horowitz will accuse you of interfering with free speech, and an account of it will appear on his Web site, right next to the hyperlink where you can donate money so he can run more ads, stir up more protests and put more accounts of same up on the Net. The anti-reparations ads were of little interest to anyone, for example, until students on a few campuses (Duke and UNC-Chapel Hill among them) tried to stop their publication. That's what keeps the cash register going.

The Web site is www.cspc.org, by the way, which stands for Center for the Study of the Popular Culture. If you go there, the first thing you'll see are links to the following articles: "The Mind of Bill Clinton," by Ann Coulter; "Clinton's Inaction Led to Sept. 11," by Dick Morris; and "Another Clinton Outrage," by Thomas Sowell. I kid you not.

Visiting this Web site is a reminder why your mother told you never to call names, so let's just say that nuanced arguments about how to make the world a better place are not what the CSPC is all about. What it is about is throwing mud at you and me and hoping that we'll throw some back. Or at least notice.

It's hard not to notice when a man says of himself that, as a youth, he blocked out all evidence that his left-wing views about Vietnam might be arguable, and now, as an adult, he blocks out all evidence that his right-wing views about everything--from foreign policy to gun control--might be arguable too. This, in short, is not a person worth arguing with.

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