By Alex Kingsbury
U-WIRE Washington Bureau
March 19, 2001
The campus of the University of California at Berkeley, once the epicenter of protest movements and civil unrest in the 1960s, has again become a hotspot for debate over columnist and UC Berkley alumn David Horowitz’s “10 Reasons Why Reparations For Slavery Is A Bad Idea And Racist Too” advertisement.
Last Thursday, Horowitz spoke at a forum sponsored by the UC Berkeley College Republicans and an on-campus publication. The forum ended unexpectedly when a question-and-answer session grew out of control, microphones were turned off, and Horowitz surrendered the stage flanked by bodyguards.
The Daily Californian reported Friday that campus groups had been planning a year ago to invite Horowitz to speak an effort that was renewed by the recent uproar. The purpose of the forum was to address the “firestorm” of controversy that the article and subsequent newspaper reactions have caused.
The ad, according to the Horowitz Web site (www.frontpagemagazine.com) was sent to 47 different papers across the country from Connecticut to California. Of those 47 papers, nine ran the ad, and four of those later printed apologies.
The Daily Californian printed an apology to its readers saying, “we realize that the ad allowed the Daily Cal to become an inadvertent vehicle for bigotry.” But this apology, too, has drawn criticism and called into question the bounds of free speech in campus newspapers.
In his article “Racial McCarthyism on College Campuses,” (rejected for publication by the Los Angeles Times) Horowitz explains his ad as a reaction to events on college campuses for Black History Month. The “events,” Horowitz claims, were intended to support the idea that reparations are owed to descendants of American slaves. Horowitz wrote that these events were one-sided, a situation that he is working to change.
“To rectify a situation, which seemed to me both a violation of the spirit of historical inquiry (black or otherwise) and of the responsibility of educational institutions to present more than one side of an issue, I attempted to place an ad on the subject in several college newspapers,” said Horowitz in the article.
In an open letter to Daily Californian readers, Editor in Chief Daniel Hernandez wrote that the freedom of speech arguments were not applicable.
“In my view at least, freedom of speech is compromised when it is bought,” wrote Hernandez. “Ads are for selling something, not preaching. And buying space to preach a viewpoint is unfair in that it does not allow an opposing view to directly answer.”
Horowitz, now the president of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, graduated from Columbia in 1959 and UC-Berkley in 1961. He served as the editor in chief for the liberal Ramparts magazine and was a member of the Black Panthers.
Growing dissatisfied with radical nature of the activist movements, he co-wrote the 1989 book “Destructive Generation: Second Thoughts about the Sixties.” In it Horowitz chronicled the legacy of the New Left and its effects on American politics and culture. He has also written several history books including “The Rockefellers: An American Dynasty,” “The Kennedys: An American Drama,” “The Fords: An American Epic” and “The Roosevelts: An American Saga.”
The debate continues as 19 campus editors around the nation are considering whether they will run the advertisement in their newspapers.