Horowitz Responds . . . Sort Of

David Horowitz e-mails to chide me for a January blog post, “California Professor Flunks (Awful) Pro-U.S. Essay,” that was picked up by the folks at Media Matters. Horowitz’ response is at FrontPage Magazine in a post entitled, “A new Brock slander goes round the web.”

Students at Foothills College were assigned to write an essay on why the US Constitution is a ruling class document and not a milestone in the creation of government of, by and for the people, as one misguided American put it. A 17-year old Kuwaiti in the class wrote that actually the US Constitution was a milestone in the creation of government of, by and for the people. He was given an “F” and sent to the school psychologist on the grounds that no rational person could believe that the US Constitution was in fact a milestone in the creation of government, of, by and for the people. I have met this young man and published an article by him, which is as articulate and well-written as any I have encountered by a seventeen-year-old (let alone by one for whom English is not a first language and who had been in this country only five months when the incident occurred. I’m not going to bother with the fatuous attacks on this brave young man by S.S.M. or the bloggers he cites. This is just a another shameful incident in the shameful saga of David Brock and the bottom-feeders he attracts.

Horowitz is an incredibly articulate spokesman for the causes he champions and I’m rather surprised to see him reduced to ad hominem here. The “attacks” cited in the Media Matters piece were mine and that of former colleague Steven Taylor. Readers can judge for themselves whether they qualify as “fatuous.” But simply dismissing them as such is unhelpful in advancing the debate.

Media Matters cited our analyses, presumably, because Taylor and I are both political scientists who have graded hundreds of student essays and because we’re generally supportive of the political stance the student in question was advocating. Further, the pieces were written in response to an inquiry by Paul at Wizbang, another popular conservative blogger, not at the behest of S.S.M. or anyone at Media Matters. Nor did they even contact us about including excerpts in their pieces (I first learned of it by following my site logs). They’re published for anyone’s fair use and have attracted quite a bit of discussion, critical and otherwise, around the blogosphere.

I would note, too, that Steven and I both relegated our defense of the professor in question to the grade on the paper. We both deplored his allegedly telling the student to get psychological help and so forth as abusive.

Whether the second essay that Horowitz published was especially articulate and well written (it is) is a separate issue, entirely. As a general rule, I’m not interested in making public assessments of the writing of teenagers, native born or otherwise. My interest in this particular instance was based entirely on that fact that the student used the case to generate immense publicity for himself that fed into a general conception of many that liberal professors discriminate against conservative students. While there’s no doubt it happens, it was not the case in this particular instance.

As a side note, Horowitz and others who have commented on my post seem to believe I’m being unfair in holding a university student for whom English is not a first language to the same standards as I would an American student. Many professors make allowances in those instances. I always believed that to be a bad practice. Not only is it insulting–the soft bigotry of low expectations and all that–but it lowers the standards of the university and undermines the grading system. How are students, of whatever background, with poor English skills going to improve if they’re patted on the head and given an “A” for subpar performance?


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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Jim Henley says:

    What’s “S.S.M.” Secondary Stream Media? Serruptitious Scholarly Marxism? Senescent Symbionese Malcontents?

    Come to think of it, what did “Symbionese” mean in the first place?

  2. James Joyner says:

    S.S.M. was the author of the Media Matters piece. No clue on the words behind the initials.

    As to “Symbionese,” I also had no clue other than vague recollection of the Patty Hearst affair. Via Google, I see:

    “The name ‘symbionese’ is taken from the word symbiosis and we define its meaning as a body of dissimilar bodies and organisms living in deep and loving harmony and partnership in the best interest of all within the body.”

  3. Mark says:

    My guess is S.S.M. is Simon Maloy, but all I did was match the initials to the people mentioned in the About page.

  4. praktike says:

    There’s no way the same person wrote both pieces.

  5. Paul says:

    I’m “popular” now???

    Your credibility is now officially questionable.