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 Another Bum Rap For David Horowitz

David Horowitz — one of this country’s staunchest defenders of free speech — has yet again become a victim of the Political Correctness crowd. In the past, Horowitz has been attacked for his well-reasoned conservative positions on race. This time — because of the recently renewed plea that some black Americans receive "reparations" for ante-bellum Negro slavery — Horowitz sought to publish a political statement entitled "Ten Reasons Why Reparations for Slavery is a Bad Idea — and Racist Too."

Did any of Horowitz’s ten reasons even hint at racism? Did any of them conceivably constitute an attack on black Americans? Did any even imply that today’s Afro-Ameicans are lazy, stupid, dishonest? Not by any stretch of the imagination! Indeed, Horowitz’s ten reasons — explained, defended, and substantiated in two single-spaced pages — were the following: "I. There is no single group responsible for the crime of slavery"; "II. There is no single group that benefited exclusively from slavery"; "III. Only a minority of white Americans owned slaves, while others gave their lives to free them"; "IV. Most living Americans have no connection (direct or indirect) to slavery"; "V. The historical precedents used to justify the reparations claim do not apply, and the claim itself is based on race not injury"; "VI. The reparations argument is based on the unsubstantiated claim that all African Americans suffer from the economic consequences of slavery and discrimination"; "VII. The reparations claim is one more attempt to turn African Americans into victims. It sends a damaging message to the African-American community and to others"; "VIII. Reparations to African Americans have already been paid"; "IX. What about the debt blacks owe to America?"; "X. The reparations claim is a separatist idea that sets African-Americans against the nation that gave them freedom."

These ten reasons are not racist. They are — even were they racist — political speech protected by the First Amendment.

What was the reaction to Horowitz’s non-racist, First Amendment-protected, political speech? Predictably, the PC crowd viciously attacked him, together with some of the newspapers that had the integrity to print his "Ten Reasons." Newsweek (April 2, 2001) has reported that "At Berkeley," a bastion of free speech for the Left, "students stormed the offices of The Daily Californian to demand an apology after the newspaper ran the ad. They got one. At Brown, student protesters threw away thousands of free copies of The Brown Daily Herald issue containing the ad. At Duke, hundreds demonstrated. * * * At a Brown faculty meeting . . . [the] chair of the Afro-American Studies program suggested the seizure of the Daily Herald copies could be seen as valid civil disobedience against Horowitz’s ‘hate speech’."

With that speech-smashing epithet, "hate speech," here yet again was the Left — defenders of pornography, silencers of abortion protesters, foes of so-called "commercial speech" — trying to shut down rational free speech discourse on the subject of race. This tactic is not new. Nearly twenty years ago, the "Hate Speech Movement" was born in the legal academy, and since then its partisans have tried in the name of some undefined and non-definable "public interest" to silence so-called "words that wound" on subjects that embrace race, religion, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, multiculturalism, and more. As I have written in my book Speaking Freely: The Case Against Speech Codes, "It was bad enough when obeisance to the god of ‘public interest’ was invoked to silence discrete, perhaps even marginal, groups such as anarchists and Communists, pornographers, and pacifists. It is much more dangerous when a movement seeks to silence not some definable and limited category of speakers, but everyone who dares make an ‘unacceptable’ statement concerning any class which the movement deigns to certify as ‘victim’."

Beyond the public service that Horowitz has performed by advancing his "Ten Reasons," and his willingness to be a lightening rod for the ire of the speech-smashing Left by practicing the free political speech that they claim to revere, there is an even more important lesson to be learned from this episode. It transcends the issue of reparations, even the subject of race in America. The lesson is that there remain in our country hypocritical Leftists who seek to silence those who propound political ideas anathema to their own. There are more than ten reasons why this is anti-American.