n many respects, culture warriors who have converted from the radical left are the most fascinating. They have both perspectives by virtue of their experience on both sides of the struggle and are now on the “right” path. Some journeyed partway, like Christopher Hitchens, and some made a more thorough personal transformation.
David Horowitz is one of those people. His experience and discernment are sorely needed today, as moral relativism oozes from academia onto the wider culture. In short, Horowitz’s insights are desperately needed.
His new book, “Radicals: Portraits of a Destructive Passion,” is extraordinary. Horowitz even profiles the late (and undeniably brilliant) Hitchens – at times inspiring, at other times tragic.
Because Horowitz – now president of the David Horowitz Freedom Center – writes as only a former prominent member of the New Left can write: with searing honesty.
A series of awakenings led Horowitz in 1985 (along with his friend, Peter Collier) to announce that they had voted for Ronald Reagan. This was also the president that prominent former Democrats like Jeane Kirkpatrick had supported. Since then, Horowitz has continued to pull the mask off the totalitarian viciousness that dupes many leading Western intellectuals.
In “Radicals,” Horowitz examines the worldviews of such as Hitchens and Cornel West (oddly enough, a rising star and mentor of the religious left, including – astonishingly – leading evangelical leaders).
He starts with Hitchens, in “The Two Christophers”: “The man his friends called ‘Hitch’ was a figure of such unruly contradictions it may be said of him, as Dr. Johnson said of the metaphysical poets, that he had ‘the ability to yoke heterogeneous ideas by violence together.'”
Hitchens, for example, was a vigorous defender of President Bush’s intervention in Iraq. Yet he seemed enamored of Leon Trotsky.
Most of us are aware that a drunken Hitchens vs. any member of the left was a serious mismatch, such was the man’s ability to analyze and articulate. Yet again, Horowitz illustrates what happens when a person tries to keep one foot in the other ideological camp:
“Right to the end,” Horowitz writes, “Christopher’s political friends were still generously drawn from the Nation editorial board and the English Marxists grouped around the New Left Review, whom he gushingly refers to in an endnote to his memoir as ‘heroes and heroines of the first draft and of the work in progress.'”
Such is the valuable insight Horowitz offers the reader who, like so many enamored of Hitchens’ late-in-life “neo-orthodoxy,” is not so familiar with this nuance.
The profiles Horowitz writes of feminist Bettina Aptheker and, yes, Barack Obama are equally fascinating.
Yet the one most compelling to me is his account of the attention-loving Cornel West.
West, a graduate of Harvard and currently a professor at both Princeton and Union Theological Seminary, is a darling of not only the left, but centrists as well. It is probably more accurate to say that he is a project of the left, which understands the depth of his vacuousness.
Hear Horowitz expose the bombastic West, after citing a damning essay by Leon Wieseltier: “West was able to survive this attack because the liberal culture embraced him and his cause and could not bring itself to acknowledge that a leading intellectual ‘of color’ was an empty suit.”
In another section, Horowitz uncovers the silliness behind West’s alleged intellectualism.
The reader will snicker upon reading West’s self-description: “I’m a bluesman in the life of the mind, and a jazzman in the world of ideas.”
Now, full-blown laughter at Horowitz’s assessment of that line: “Like many sentences West writes, this catchy phrase is a substitute for thought that does not make any sense.”
Further, and this should give evangelical Christian leaders like those at Catalyst (which hosted West as a speaker at a 2011 conference) pause, Horowitz exposes some of West’s associations: a “celebrity sponsor of the 2012 ‘Global March to Jerusalem,’ an attack organized by Islamist Iran on the Jewish state.”
That’s the tip of the iceberg about West, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, self-described as “anti-anti-Communist.”
Why leaders of young people and new leadership would embrace such a radical is beyond many of us who recognize a societal transformation is underway in America. David Horowitz is an invaluable member of a fairly small task force that is willing to confront totalitarian ideology.
“Radicals: Portraits of a Destructive Passion” is an incredibly rich wealth of knowledge of some of the worst change-agents in America today. Highly, highly recommended.