Friday, October 26, 2007

Report on David Horowitz Speaking Event at Emory University October 24th

National Project to Defend Dissent & Critical Thinking in Academia

David Horowitz stopped his own speech mid-way through his event at Emory University, and in typical fashion is claiming to be the victim of the “fascist left.” The headline on is already screaming "Leftists Force Horowitz from Stage "Shut Down Free Speech at Emory!!!" Let's be honest: he walked off the stage himself and decided not to return, due to the overwhelming opposition being expressed in the auditorium.

Tuesday's edition of the Emory Wheel published a half-page ad announcing Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week and inviting the public to attend David Horowitz's speech Wednesday night. In a previous edition of the Wheel, College Republicans stated that they hadn't invited Horowitz to speak at Emory, but he had actually invited himself.

When people arrived at the auditorium, there were flyers and orange armbands being passed out, but many people had already gotten flyers earlier in the week on campus and were already wearing orange. Some people also wore green based on the Facebook campaign to show solidarity with Muslims that day. The College Republicans had a table at the entrance and were informing people that if they wanted to ask questions, they were to write them down on index cards and turn them in - that people would not be allowed to directly pose questions after the speech.

The lecture hall was filled with at least 200 people, about 80% of whom were in opposition to Horowitz. Most were wearing orange armbands, creating a visible presence of opposition in the room. A member of Veterans for Peace had 2 large posters with pictures of Iraqi children killed by the U.S. war and occupation. A couple of other people had posters, one saying "Dissent Free Zone, Brought to You by David Horowitz," and another with pictures from Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo with the caption, "Islamo-Fascism??" The crowd was a mix of mostly undergraduate and graduate students from Emory with some from other colleges, faculty, political activists, Black Muslims from a local Mosque, and the general public. There was a large presence of Muslim students.

When Horowitz came onto the stage, he was met with a combination of applause and loud booing. As he started his speech, several people sequentially stood up and turned their backs to the speaker. Signs pinned on their backs had the international no symbol over the words IFAW. As he continued his speech, different people in the audience interjected questions and corrections. More people stood up and turned their backs, and this emboldened others in the audience to continue to challenge Horowitz as he spoke. Horowitz was visibly taken aback by the opposition and stopped his speech several times, having difficulty getting back on track. His retorts to the audience consisted of childish name calling, disparaging the IQ of the audience. Some people in the crowd vocally opposed the disruptions and called for silence.

This went on for about 20 minutes, at which point there were about 25 people standing with their backs turned. The campus security then stopped the program and announced that if people didn’t sit down or move to the back of the auditorium, they would be escorted out. At that point, one person shouted “Everyone stand up – they can’t haul us all out!” Others echoed the same sentiment, and several people said, "Don't Taser Me, Bro." About 20 or 30 more people stood up and turned their backs. This created a lot of turmoil and heated discussion throughout the room. During this period, Horowitz walked off the stage. A chant broke out, "Racist, Sexist, Anti-Gay, David Horowitz Go Away." After a few minutes, a College Republican came on stage and announced that David Horowitz decided that he would not continue his speech, and they ended the event.

Horowitz could have continued despite the vocal opposition, as other speakers on the IFAW tour apparently have done this week under similar circumstances. It was clear that the majority of the audience was determined to continue interacting with him throughout his speech, since there was not going to be an open question and answer period at the end.

Many small group debates broke out at that point, with the main question being whether it was good or bad that people weren't able to hear Horowitz's entire speech. People with a deep understanding of who Horowitz is and his agenda of playing the victim while organizing attacks on dissent and critical thinking on campuses, creating a pogromist atmosphere against Muslims, and preparing the groundwork for war on Iran, argued that it was crucial to expose his lies and demand that he answer to what the United States is doing to people here and around the world. Others, while opposed to Horowitz's position, argued that they still had wanted to hear what he had to say in person, and were very upset that they were prevented from doing so. Some thought that his right to free speech had been violated, and that this would taint Emory's reputation. Others were overjoyed and inspired by the strength of the opposition.

In one group discussion, someone summed up that “I think what happened was fine, because if Horowitz continued his speech he would have told more lies, selectively chosen the questions to answer, and then instead of this controversy, people would have been outside in the hallway complaining about the fact that their voices weren't heard.'

David Horowitz's immediate blog on concluded, "Universities like Emory are paying the price of not taking care of the important task of establishing a campus decorum appropriate to civilized discussion. As I have said many times, there should be zero tolerance for disrupters at campus events, and that means a sufficient police presence to eject the barbarians when they enter the gates."

Just as with everything David Horowitz puts out, this statement must be critically dissected. There are 3 things to say about this:

1. The required “campus decorum for civilized discussion,” in the world according to Horowitz, includes free reign for his claims that Blacks owe a debt to white America for slavery and that the Muslim Student Association is a front for Islamo-Fascist Jihad; Ann Coulter's statements that in the 'œwar on terror' we should 'invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity;" and Rick Santorum's calls to eliminate birth control and keep women out of the workforce. And of course, "civilized discussion" cannot include critiques of the official history of this country and its current role in the world, or Israel's treatment of the Palestinians, as expressed by Ward Churchill and Norm Finkelstein or any of the other "dangerous" professors targeted for removal from their universities.
2. The policy of “zero tolerance for disrupters,” in the world according to Horowitz, does not extend to College Republicans who answer his call to sit in at Women's Studies departments during IFAW.
3. "Sufficient police presence to eject the barbarians when they enter the gates" amounts to nothing less than a call for pre-emptive police powers to clamp down on any potential dissent.

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