Political correctness, hate speech, multiculturalism, microaggressions, safe spaces, cultural appropriation, colonialism, white privilege – all loaded terms that have come to dominate our national discourse, particularly in the universities indoctrinating wave after wave of our youth in such concepts. The rise of identity politics, the growing acceptance of socialism, the urgent demands for social justice – these too have sprung up relatively recently to dominate our political landscape. What is happening? How has all this come about? The answers lie in the title of an essay by former radical leftists David Horowitz and Peter Collier: “It’s the Culture, Stupid!”
That essay is the first in Culture Wars, the newly-released fifth volume of the collected conservative writings of David Horowitz, a series titled The Black Book of the American Left. “The culture war is this generation’s Cold War,” he declares, and this book compiles over 45 essays by Horowitz (five of them co-written), which focus on that cultural offensive waged against American values by progressives over the last fifty years.
It was an assault that first gained momentum in the 1960s, but which was inspired decades earlier by the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci. Gramsci’s inventive strategy was to put cultural institutions at the center of the revolutionary agenda in order to make radical ideas the ruling ideas, thereby making radicals the political ruling class. The result is that our academics, artists, and news media today almost all lean hard left and have worked assiduously and successfully to transform our nation’s political and social consciousness.
In this volume of Horowitz’s work, these essays written from the ‘90s into the early 2000s are arranged into five sections that focus on political correctness, media culture, sexual politics, feminism, and the government’s left-wing propaganda arm – PBS and NPR. On topics ranging from feminism and the military to Warren Beatty’s agitprop movie Bulworth to the AIDS epidemic, Horowitz explores, exposes and comments upon how the left has used culture as a battleground in which to subvert American institutions and values and to further the progressive agenda.
Political correctness, of course, has become the new intellectual orthodoxy. In a section of three essays co-written with Collier, Horowitz addresses the degree to which the “empire of political correctitude” has empowered the left’s totalitarian impulses and stifled dissenting thought, especially on campus, where one can almost hear “the muffled sounds of free inquiry being strangled and destructive ideologies jammed into place.” In “The PC Cover-Up,” the two former leftists muse on the Modern Language Association’s annual convention and the spread of political correctness “like an airborne toxic event through the groves of academe.” Horowitz and Collier conclude that the war over political correctness
must be fought to a conclusion. If the radicals succeed, they will use their version of history to determine what kind of a country America was and their version of politics to determine what kind of a country it will become. If they are defeated, they will lose their last redoubt.
In the next section, fifteen essays by Horowitz run the gamut of media culture subjects, from a call to Hollywood to lift its “longstanding blacklist” on the great director Elia Kazan, who named names in the McCarthy era; to the un-self-critical radicals who waxed nostalgic in their documentary 1968: The Year That Shaped a Generation; to Media Matters founder David Brock and “the progressive myth machine”; to the exclusion of conservative writers from book review publications.
The fourteen essays of “Sexual Politics” and the seven more in “Feminist Assaults” focus on the left’s ambition to transform not only the political order but the men and women of the social order themselves – or in Horowitz’s words, “to reshape human nature to fit the utopian program.” Much of the former section is devoted to the left’s responsibility for sparking and exacerbating the AIDS epidemic; other essays cover such issues as gay marriage, the military’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy, and GLAAD’s bullying tactics in Hollywood.
In the section on feminism, Horowitz takes on such topics as the “Godmother of Feminism” Betty Freidan, Jane Fonda and the feminist left’s war on Valentine’s Day, the bogus Navy scandal (the “Tailhook Witch-Hunt”) that left careers and lives shattered, and the feminist assault on the military. Even to question the role of women in the military is today a sexist offense, and to accommodate them, “our newly sensitized military has moved into the realm of the utterly surreal,” writes Horowitz. For example, after being pressured to respond faster to feminist demands that women be included in combat units, the Air Force created a program to desensitize male recruits to refrain from acting protectively if female comrades-in-arms are being tortured – in other words, to brainwash men not to act like men.
The final section of the book returns to a discussion of the media culture, in particular the government’s creation of a billion-dollar media platform for progressive propaganda in the form of the public broadcasting networks PBS and NPR. Despite the lip service it pays to fairness and balance, “[f]rom its inception,” Horowitz writes, “public broadcasting has been managed and run almost exclusively by individuals of the left.” He castigates PBS for serving as a Democratic party mouthpiece and for running programs that celebrated the murderous Black Panthers. He decries NPR for its function as “a political weapon” against Clarence Thomas. The section and the book end with a reflection on “The Future of Public Broadcasting,” in which Horowitz pleads for a balanced broadcasting service that encourages respectful dialogue and emphasizes America’s pluralistic tolerance.
Culture Wars: Volume V of The Black Book of the American Left is an indispensable read for understanding how the left positioned itself to gain the upper hand in a war that the right has neglected for too long, with the dire result being that the world’s preeminent superpower is not merely in decline, but in freefall. To turn the tide, we conservatives must realize that, as Horowitz writes, we “are now the real counter-culture, and we had better start acting like it.”
Mark Tapson is the editor of TruthRevolt.com and a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.