Phi Beta Cons

Debating the Left: Is it Worth It?

David Horowitz’s debate with Cary Nelson at Horowitz’s own recent academic-freedom conference was carried on C-Span this weekend. Nelson is the current president of the American Association of University Professors. It is noble of Horowitz to invite the opposition to free and open debate, but I wonder how often the academic left reurns the compliment to conservatives. And I wonder, too, if the effort is really worthwhile in the long run. The National Association of Scholars invited Cary Nelson to speak at one of its conferences years ago and treated him royally. In return, he wrote an entry in his book Academic Keywords: A Devil’s Dictionary for Higher Education (modeled on Ambrose Bierce) that was a scurrilous and dishonest screed full of generalizations, nasty condescension, and assumed superiority. For the left, morality is, as Lenin dictated, whatever advances the revolution.