David Horowitz

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David Horowitz (10 January 1939—) was a New Left activist in the 1960s, the son of radical parents, who underwent a political conversion and became an conservative activist. He started what is now the David Horowitz Freedom Center, originally targeted at popular culture. Activities of the foundation are argued, from the right, as preserving academic freedom, and from the left, as attacking academic freedom. One coalition, Free Exchange on Campus, has gone to the extent of building a "Horowitz Checker" into its webpage.

Activities on the Left

Horowitz was an assistant to Bertrand Russell, and wrote several books of political theory, such as The Free World Colossus: A Critique of American Foreign Policy in the Cold War, which attempted to examine the origin of the Cold War and define the conflict through the lens of the New Left. With Peter Collier, he wrote three biographies of dynasties, on the Rockefellers, Kennedys and Fords.


His views began to change in December 1974, however, when his friend Betty Van Patter, a bookkeeper for the original Black Panther Party, was killed. Horowitz, who had supported Panther leader Huey Newton and had recruited Van Patter, contends that she was killed by the Panthers to prevent her from disclosing financial corruption. [1] He subsequently came to revile the left, which he felt had protected the Panthers from being brought to justice. [2]

He was an editor of Ramparts magazine. After the end of the Vietnam War and the rise of the extreme leftist Khmer Rouge, he lost faith in leftism. But then, in a "Second Thoughts" project, "looking back in anger at their days in the New Left", he and Collier wrote Destructive Generation (1989), a chronicle of their second thoughts about the 60s.[3] He wrote an individual book in 1996 book Radical Son: A Generational Odyssey.

Frontpage Magazine quotes Norman Podhoretz as saying of Horowitz:

He differs from some of the other ‘second-thoughts’ generation in having pulled no punches and in having broken more decisively than some of them with left-wing pieties -- whether liberal or socialist. . . . David Horowitz is hated by the Left because he is not only an apostate but has been even more relentless and aggressive in attacking his former political allies than some of us who preceded him in what I once called ‘breaking ranks’ with that world. He has also taken the polemical and organizational techniques he learned in his days on the left, and figured out how to use them against the Left, whose vulnerabilities he knows in his bones. (That he is such a good writer and speaker doesn't hurt, either.) In fact, he has done so much, and in so many different ways, that one might be justified in suspecting that ‘David Horowitz’ is actually more than one person.[3]

Campus issues

In 2003, he launched what he termed an academic freedom campaign to return the American university to "traditional principles of open inquiry and to halt indoctrination in the classroom. To further these goals he devised an Academic Bill of Rights to protect students from abusive professors." He founded Students for Academic Freedom (SAF), which now has chapters on 200 college campuses. Asserting that, “You can’t get a good education if they’re only telling you half the story,” Horowitz called for inquiries into political bias in the hiring of faculty and the appointment of commencement speakers. [3]

One response came from Henry Farrell of George Washington University.

In order successfully to argue against him, it’s necessary to recognize that the battle Horowitz is fighting is political rather than strictly academic. He’s not acting as an academic interlocutor (some conservatives and other critics are, and they should be treated very differently). He’s acting as a politician and looking to win political changes outside the academy that would radically reshape its internal practices. Indeed, he’s entirely right. The argument over whether or not the university will survive as a place where people of different political points of view can teach, debate and carry out research without being hauled up before state legislatures is a political argument in the Weberian sense; it’s an argument about the extent to which a particular set of values (the academic vocation that Weber describes) should hold sway over a limited area of social life.[4]

The Open Society Institute, an organization founded by George Soros, launched the Free Exchange on Campus coalition "as a joint effort to counter David Horowitz and other conservative activists' ideological assault on higher education. Free Exchange, which is made up of a number of OSI grantees and others, has begun to organize students and faculty in key states and to roll out a public communications strategy. With OSI support, Free Exchange has been able to hire dedicated coalition staff and organizers."[5]


  • Columbia University: BA (1959)
  • University of California-Berkeley: MA, English (1961)


  1. "Who Killed Betty Van Patter?" Salon.com, December 13, 1999
  2. David Horowitz, Right Web
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Learn More about David Horowitz, Frontpage Magazine
  4. Henry Farrell (11 June 2007), "Why We Shouldn't Play Nice with David Horowitz: A Response to What's Liberal with Liberal Arts", Crooked Timber
  5. Academic Freedom, Open Society Institute