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David Horowitz - Columnist

David Horowitz is a noted author, commentator and columnist. His is the founder of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture and his opinions can be found at Front Page Magazine. [go to Horowitz index]


Defining the Left
DiscoverTheNetwork unravels contemporary socialists...

[David Horowitz]

If you visit the Individuals search page at the Center for the Study of Popular Culture's DiscoverTheNetwork, you will see that we have separated the individuals into five columns, which we identify as “totalitarian radicals,” “anti-American radicals,” “leftists,” “moderate leftists” and “affective leftists.” (The latter includes mostly entertainment figures whose politics are emotionally rather than intellectually based in a way I will get to below.) We have arranged the grid this way, even though we think it feeds certain illusions, to accommodate those who  expressed anguish over the grid in its original format where there were no such distinctions made.

This anguish has focused on the fact that the original grid contained radicals who held a spectrum of views from the totalitarian left to the democratic left, and that it included Islamic radicals along with Hollywood entertainers, Democratic Party legislators and academics. It is particularly ironic that among the most outraged critics of this aspect of the site was a professor named Michael Berube whose blogs can be found here. For among academics the links are the clearest, since the university is the most obvious political base of the hard left.


Sami al-Arian ran Palestinian Islamic Jihad (whose most recent feat was the assassination of the former premier of Lebanon) from a faculty position at the University of South Florida, where he was a professor of engineering. After his terrorist activities were exposed by the Miami Herald and while he was being pursued by the FBI, Dr. al-Arian was defended by the American Association of University Professors as a persecuted Palestinian. (Venerable leftist institutions like and The Nation,  the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights joined in his defense). Just before his arrest, Al-Arian was the featured speaker at a Duke-sponsored symposium on “Terrorism and Civil Liberties.” (He was featured as an expert on civil liberties.) More recently, the AAUP and academic leftists have joined in protesting the State Department’s decision to bar Tariq Ramadan from joining the “Peace Studies” faculty at Notre Dame. “Peace Studies” itself is an academic field devoted to teaching that “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” and that ­ to quote academics like Noam Chomsky and Robert Jensen ­ America is the world’s “greatest terrorist state.” And this is just the tip of the iceberg of relationships between leftist professors on American faculties and Islamic radicals conducting a jihad against the West.


On the other hand, there was an element in the criticisms that could not be so easily dismissed. Moderate leftists ­ Barack Obama was singled out ­ who were also included in the grid are obviously patriotic Americans with no relation to Islamic radicals. It did seem unfair to include him for this reason. On the other hand, we were trying to make a point that politicians who are usually referred to as “liberal” or “populist” are left. They are redistributionists and statists, and their networks of support extend into the heart of the so-called “progressive” movement.


The answer to these dilemmas came to me in a conversation with John Gorenfeld, a writer assigned to cover DiscoverTheNetwork by his editors at Salon, despite its lamentable defense of Sami al-Arian and similar lapses, is part of what we describe in the new grid as the “left” sans the adjectives “totalitarian” and “anti-American.” Not quite moderate, but not quite radical either. The editors of Salon, in other words, according to our taxonomy, are leftists who are patriotic and democratic in intent.  I used to write a column for Salon for two years (and would do so again if invited). I assure you such a relationship would not be possible with hard left venues like,, The Progressive, or The Nation.


In the convention political lexicon of today, the term “moderate leftist” is equivalent to “liberal.” We have not used this designation because part of the agenda of DiscoverTheNetwork is to challenge the use of the word “liberal” in this way, a way that obscures the network of the left. Redistributionism, support for racial preferences, and a complacent acceptance of the existing political monolith on academic faculties are not attitudes that can reasonably be called liberal. They are the product of a successful campaign by leftists to conduct “a long march through the institutions” ­ to assume the political coloration of liberalism in order to escape accountability for the leftist past and in order to more easily advance their radical agendas in the American mainstream.


The leftist lurch of the Democratic Party, which has set up alarm bells in circles that actually are liberal (e.g., The New Republic) is a by-product of this campaign. Another ambition of the DiscoverTheNetwork website is to unmask the radical agendas of faux liberal organizations and individuals like the misnamed Center for Constitutional Rights.  This organization was founded by totalitarian radicals, and has since merged with the National Emergency Civil Liberties Committee, communist fellow-traveler whose politics are aligned with Castro’s Cuba and Islamic radicals. The convicted terrorist lawyer Lynne Stewart is a protégé and icon of the Center, as is Stanley Cohen, the lawyer for Hamas.)


The term “affective leftist” requires some explanation, and I am grateful to my comrade-in-arms Peter Collier for the description that follows. “These are people who are often in positions of influence, the media in particular, who are bien pensant in the extreme.  In spite of their social status, they see themselves ‘in opposition’ ­ a legacy from the 60s when the notion of ‘The System’ as a malign code word for America ­ was born. They are also involved in post-radical chic, glorifying people who ‘authentically’ represent oppositional ideas in a way they would not have the courage or really even the political inclination to do themselves. To these people, as opposed to serious leftists, political ‘ideas’ are the intellectual equivalent of a fashion statement, always adjusting to meet current trends, always meant as a sort of code to tell the world that they are good people.  Obviously, I’m talking here about people like Katie Couric and Robin Williams and almost all of Hollywood. (Some Hollywood people like Sean Penn with his Communist lineage are harder core and should be distinguished from this category; but there aren’t that many of them, and in any case as actors their politics are largely emotion-based as well.) These affective liberals have as their bottom-line definition the fact that they want to feel that they are on the right side rather than any real commitment to a vision (or anti-vision) for the country.  They are for ‘freedom’ when it is freedom to kill third-term fetuses or engage in same-sex marriages or stuff blow up their noses; they do not define freedom as having anything to do with captive peoples around the world having the chance to escape the tyrannies that constrain them. They like Fidel because he is a thorn in America’s side and a sort of dime-store existentialist, and they rhapsodize about his spreading of literacy in Cuba without considering the fact that at the same time that he teaches people to read he tortures writers like Armando Valladares whose books he doesn’t like.”


Those who are now still unconvinced about the principle of inclusion that governs this database are invited to read my book, Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left, which was written alongside the construction of this database, whose political taxonomy reflects its perspective. Unholy Alliance describes the “mind of the left” in its evolution from Stalinism to the present day. It sets this analysis within the frame of 9/11 and the war in Iraq, and shows how the “anti-war” left, was formed, how it came to form “solidarity” links to Islamic radicalism, how it shaped the Democratic Party 2004 election campaigns and how it determined the unprecedented defection of mainstream “liberalism” from the war itself.


The purpose of DiscoverTheNetwork is informational ­ not polemical, it seeks to illuminate and describe the political left, and to clarify the terms of the political debate. For example, it is impossible to understand the recent leftward turn of the Democratic Party if entire left from Noam Chomsky to Jimmy Carter is subsumed by the term “liberal,” which is the way the culture’s arbiters ­ e.g., the New York Times and the network news bureaus ­ currently frame this subject. If Noam Chomsky and Angela Davis are referred to as liberals ­ as they are in these media outlets ­ how does one understand the politics of Joe Lieberman or John Kerry or Howard Dean? This conflation of liberal and radical agendas, of leftwing politics and liberal dispositions, is a tall order of obfuscation that makes clarity on crucial political issues and developments impossible. There is a battle raging in the Democratic Party between a moderate left and a radical left, between an authentic centrism and impostor “progressivism,” which cannot be detected, let alone understood, when viewed through a lens as undefined and differentiated as “liberalism” in its current perception. Joseph Lieberman is a liberal; is not.


Having revised our database to reflect the variegated spectrum of the left, we welcome further comments and observations. On the other hand, there is an aspect of this revision that may lead to results that are not entirely positive and that may even support familiar delusions of the left, which function as fail-safe mechanisms for its complacency in the fact its regrettable record of the last fifty years.


The progressive left supported freedom’s Communist enemies in the Cold War, and did so for more than forty years. Many progressives did so “critically,” deploring the lack of freedoms in the Soviet bloc countries, while explaining this lack of freedom as the result of America’s Cold War “aggressions” against the socialist world. The same explanations are offered for the Cuban dictatorship’s domestic failures and repressions: The American blockade did it. These same leftists, while rhetorically critical of the Soviet bloc, were busily applauding the totalitarian camp for “restraining” American “imperialism,” and dedicating all their political efforts to weakening America’s Cold War efforts with campaigns for unilateral disarmament and the like. Yet when the Soviet system collapsed, they pretended not to have done what they had done or felt what they had felt. They washed their hands of “actually existing socialism” altogether, and accepted no responsibility for their complicity in its crimes.


We have some concern that the attitudes reflected in this false innocence are encouraged by descriptions that distinguish factions of the left as in our new grid. We have created the categories of leftists who are neither anti-American radicals nor totalitarians as though this might absolve those who are not from their responsibilities for the consequences of their actions when they work in coalitions with radicals who are anti-American and totalitarian, and when they fail to reject them.


The left in other words is not only a movement and perspective formed by its ideals and political hopes, but also by its oppositions. Anti-war leftists of the Sixties may have described themselves as “anarchists” and democratic socialists, but the effect of their anti-war activities was to establish brutal police states in Cambodia and Vietnam that slaughtered masses of innocents.


One of the conclusions reached in Unholy Alliance is that contemporary leftism is, in fact, largely a nihilism. Since the collapse of socialism ­ and really since the collapse of the international Communist monolith after the Khrushchev Report ­ the left hasn’t had a coherent unifying agenda. It has been split into many protesting factions with no common remedies for the ills they see, a left balkanized by “identity politics.” This is a consequence of the decline of Marxist class politics, which subsumed all radical agendas in regard to race, gender and ethnicity, into universal formula of socialist revolution. The elimination of private property and the rule of the working class would create a universal brotherhood of man that would resolve also serious social conflicts. Few leftists, even, believe this destructive illusion anymore.


What is left is nihilism ­ anti-globalization, anti-racism, anti-sexism, anti-homophobia form the legions of the left in our time. As a result, as a recent article on the devolution of the left by an academic Marxist concludes, the “twin pillars” of leftwing unity now are its hostility to Israel and the United States. It is negative inspiration that explains the unholy alliance between American and Islamic radicals, despite all their obvious differences. The enemy of my enemies is my friend.


The importance of the negative in understanding the construction of the left can be seen most clearly in regard to the war in Iraq. Most leftists who are not of a totalitarian persuasion deplored the Saddam regime. Nonetheless they acted to save it. But the bottom-line in politics is not what your good intentions are, but what are the consequences of your actions. Opposition to the war, if it persists through the war, and despite the fact that it is a liberating war, links leftwing critics of Saddam with Islamic radicals who supported him. As Osama bin Laden himself put it in a fatwa on al-Jazeera TV just before American and British troops entered Iraq: “The interests of Muslims and the interests of the socialists coincide in the war against the crusaders.”


In sum, the current revision to the Individuals grid on DiscoverTheNetwork stresses the intentions of leftists, which, as this example shows, can be misleading. In the war for democracy in the Middle East so far, the left ­ and this means the entire left, totalitarian, anti-American, sans adjective and “moderate,” ­ has either been AWOL or pulling for the wrong side. Against the liberation of Iraq, and therefore against the establishment of democracies in the Middle East. There are some exceptions. Christopher Hitchens  and  Richard Gephardt both qualify as moderate leftists who supported the war against Saddam and thus the war to make the Iraqi elections possible. There were many others. But the majority of leftists ­ the majority of the Democratic Party ­ were on the wrong side of this battle. In politics, it is the side you’re on that matters. That is why even though we have provided a grid that shows these important distinctions, we have not considered it necessary to remove from the database any of the individuals we originally included. tOR

This opinion piece first appeared at reprinted by permission of David Horowitz. Copyright 2005




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Applicable copyrights indicated. All other material copyright 2003-2005