National Communication Association to Horowitz: Come on Down?
The leadership of the NCA Forum (see list below) are considering paying
David Horowitz up to $3000 to head up the Forum at NCA 2008. Somehow I was
let in on the conversation last week and I and several others posted some
commentary arguing against inviting him–and certainly against paying him.
(As I put it, if he wants to engage in witch-hunting, he can do it on his
My initial post was spurred by Robert Hariman’s post in which he claimed that protests at an appearance by Horowitz would be “incredibly stupid” and that he would find such behavior “disgusting.”
See what you make of the arguments. If you are so inclined, you could
communicate with members of the NCAF committee regarding your thoughts,
whatever they may be. Herb Simons basically told me (see below) not to go to
CRTNET with it until they are farther along in the deliberations–but I wonder, at
that point, what would be the point? A decision will have been made without
the membership being involved.
I have indicated to Herb that I would likely spearhead a registration boycott for NCA 2008 should Horowitz be invited, and that I would protest at any appearance by Horowitz.
It might be productive to discuss this issue informally with others, blog about it, and spread the word as you see fit.
Meanwhile, I hope you are having or will soon begin a terrific holiday break.
Dana L. Cloud
Department of Communication Studies
University of Texas
1 Longhorn Station A1105
Austin, TX 78712
—— Forwarded Message
From: “Herbert W. Simons” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Sat, 15 Dec 2007 15:49:07 -0500
To: Dana <email@example.com>
Cc: Lisa Belicka Keranen <Lisa.Keranen@Colorado.EDU>, Stephen Hartnett
<firstname.lastname@example.org>, Art Bochner <email@example.com>, Dawn O Braithwaite
<Martin.Carcasson@ColoState.EDU>, ‘Betsy Bach’ <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
Michael Hogan <email@example.com>, Cindy Spurlock <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Tracey
Weiss <email@example.com>, “Herbert W. Simons” <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Robert
Subject: Moving Forward
Herb Simons wrote:
Thanks for your posts. I agree: the issues are of considerable
importance. Your perspective has been helpful.
NCA-F Advisory Board will go to work on the issues in-house, over the
vacation period. I’m hoping we can arrive at our decision by early January,
at which point we’ll share the news.
If you wish to launch a CRTNET discussion, feel free. Any NCA member may
do so. It could prove helpful, although I’d rather postpone any public
discussion until the NCA-F AB has deliberated on ithe issues more fully
as a group.
Herbert W. Simons, Ph.D.
Professor of Communication
Director of NCA Forum
Dep’t of Strategic and Organizational Comm.(STOC)
Office 218 Weiss Hall 13th St and Moore Ave
Temple University, Philadelphia PA 19122
215 204 1880 (O); 215 204 8543 (F)
—— End of Forwarded Message
Here is some of the prior discussion:
My original reaction:
Thanks for this productive discussion. I believe that perhaps it should
reach more NCA members, perhaps on CRTNET? This decision is very serious.
I am entirely against giving Horowitz any money whatsoever, knowing that if
we did so, it would support his efforts to witch-hunt progressive faculty.
He wants me (not just me, of course, but my point is he’d like to see at
least one NCA member fired) to lose my job. He sets minions after me on
email and students to spy and report back on my classes. He is the author of
the culture war bible “The Art of Political War,” which was adopted by Karl
Rove as good strategy (
Students in his spinoff organization Students for Academic Freedom keep a
watch list, encouraging other students to “report” professors who exhibit
bias (which could mean anything from telling a Bush joke to encouraging
students to think critically about gender; but NEVER means talking about
capitalism in the business school or celebrating corporate culture in the
He has a staff of 15 and makes $300,000 a year. According to the AAUP, his
various operations have taken in millions from an interconnected network of
far-right foundations, including the Olin (a principle funder of the
neocons’ Project for a New American Century), Bradley (whose founder was an
early supporter of the John Birch Society), Castle Rock (previously the
Adolph Coors Foundation) and Scaife Foundations. In addition, he has tens of
thousands of small donors solicited via e-mail.
Horowitz is a demagogue organic to the ruling class. He is part of a national conservative movement to purge liberal/leftists from one of the few remaining agonistic, deliberative spaces we have remaining to us–the university. I have written extensively on this subject and refer you to one of the
longer pieces at http://www.counterpunch.org/cloud03082007.html .
On the question of confronting him, I respectfully suggest that his sort of
cynical, opportunistic claiming of the “academic freedom” mantle does not
deserve a decorous reception. I would prefer to challenge him as a
participant on the dais, but also see reason in actually standing up to him
in the form of a protest. I don’t think that doing so is “incredibly
stupid,” since such challenges, successfully undertaken here at U.T., are
what have kept him away from Texas in his latest round of campus events
against what he calls (cynically protesting Women’s and Gender Studies in
the name of liberating women) “Islamofascism.” What would be “incredibly
stupid” would be to pretend that he is about anything resembling “academic
Along with many others among the “dangerous 101″ professors he identified in
a book three years ago, I have been researching and documenting his
resources and activities. I have felt the consequences of his activities
personally in the form of nasty hate mail, physical threats, and constant
letters to my Chair, Dean, and Regents calling for my head. If NCA pays this
operative a penny to have a platform at our convention, you bet there will
be a protest even if I alone constitute it. I shall embrace the risk of
causing Professor Hariman personal disgust, and invite others to disgust him
As the abolitionist Frederick Douglass said, “Those who profess to favor
freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, want crops without plowing the
ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean
without the awful roar of its many waters.”
What Horowitz is about is nothing short of a new McCarthyism (including the
list-waving). Please read the article at the link above if you think this
claim is hyperbolic.
When Herb first floated this idea, I could see the merit in a debate/forum
that allowed for controversy and contestation. But as far as I am concerned
giving this influential bully money to talk trash about every endeavor we
hold dear (and some that some of you hold less dear)–teaching critical
thinking, discovering and employing the resources of publics and
counterpublics, recognizing both the theoretical and practical meanings of
the word “rhetoric”, and (not least) standing in solidarity with colleagues
inside and outside of the field who know the “culture war” has an ugly
material edge–that would be incredibly stupid.
One more thought:
The appeal to decorum is actually part of Horowitz’s and the right’s
deliberate strategy to get us not to fight back for fear of seeming rude,
immature, childish, or undemocratic. It is amazing to me how they get away
with it, even among my liberal friends, when it is plain to see that his
organizations meet mere noise with the coercive power of the police.
Engaging in unruly protest does not play into their hands. By caving into
the right’s alleged logic of non-confrontation, we actually give ground to
their actually censorious motives and to a limited definition of protest
that has, frankly, been an impediment to the rebuilding of a powerful and
On 12/13/07 5:30 PM, “Cindy Spurlock” <email@example.com>
As the least senior member of the group, I’ve stayed clear of this
because there are simply too many land mines to negotiate here. However, I
believe that Dana’s points are too important and too valid not to take
seriously. As others have echoed here and there, giving Horowitz a platform
NCA may likely hijack and do irreparable damage to both the organization’s
professional reputation, as well as to the at-best tenuous harmony that
betwixt and between the diverse subdisciplines that rub elbows at the
convention. Horowitz is a polarizing, divisive figure for good reason.
Regardless of where you stand politically, I think one can make a pretty
(perhaps even non-partisan) case that Horowitz’s agenda is fundamentally at
odds with so many of the principles and practices that we (if, indeed, there
is a cohesive “we” that could be generalized from the NCA membership) hold
dear. I’ll put one on the line that’s important to me: social justice. While
cannot speak for “all” of NCA, I can attest to the fact that Horowitz’s
publicly-declared positions could not be more anathema to the work that so
many of us do as engaged scholars, researchers, teachers, “citizens”, etc.
Regardless of intent, the act of bringing him to NCA sends an ambiguously
unwelcoming message to many of us — especially younger scholars — that
the most polished of PR campaigns may never completely massage away.
Of course, this would make an interesting case study for “free” speech, but
I’ll save that for another debate as I’m not entirely convinced that
Horowitz’s “motives” align as neatly with those ideals as he and others have
claimed — in his defense — in the past. To be sure, I have no problem with
controversy. However, I can’t think of a single good reason to bring
There are simply too many unintended consequences of such a tragic choice.
the NCA-F is after controversy and spectacle, in addition to provocative
discussion that “moves the social” at the same time, then we need to have a
serious discussion about what’s at stake in the power dynamics of
where (and upon whom) that spotlight shines. Although I did not experience
them personally, I wonder if we really want to rehash the so-called culture
wars of the 1980s.
Although there are obviously no guarantees of knowing what the outcome of
bringing Horowitz to NCA might be — in the short and long term — with any
degree of certainty, I strongly believe that it will do more harm than good.
Cindy M. Spurlock
Department of Communication Studies
University of North Carolina
303 Bingham Hall, CB # 3285
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3285
firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
—– Original Message —–
From: “Robert Hariman” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: “Dana Cloud” <email@example.com>, “Herbert W. Simons”
Cc: “Lisa Belicka Keranen” <Lisa.Keranen@colorado.edu>, “Stephen Hartnett”
<firstname.lastname@example.org>, “Art Bochner” <email@example.com>, “Dawn O
Braithwaite” <firstname.lastname@example.org>, “Martin Carcasson”
<Martin.Carcasson@colostate.edu>, “Betsy Bach” <email@example.com>,
“Michael Hogan” <firstname.lastname@example.org>, “Cindy Spurlock” <email@example.com>,
“Tracey Weiss” <firstname.lastname@example.org>, “Robert Hariman”
<email@example.com>, “Jim Aune” <firstname.lastname@example.org>, “Adria
<email@example.com>, “bryan mccann” <firstname.lastname@example.org>, “Katie
Feyh” <email@example.com>, “josh gunn” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Thursday, December 13, 2007 5:55:45 PM (GMT-0500) America/New_York
Subject: Re: Pay Horowitz $3000 to speak at NCA?
Dana: I’m not going back and forth on this, but I must make one point clear:
I don’t think all protests are stupid or all decorousness appropriate; far
from it. I do think that if a hunter lays a trap, it is not smart to put
your hand in it. There is nothing that would please Horowitz and his gang
more than a protest at an academic convention. By contrast, there might be
public value in seeing him dismantled by someone who had the rare
opportunity to have five uninterrupted minutes to expose him for what he is.