Friday, May 13, 2005

A Rant on David Horowitz / Political Documentaries

I've just finished reading David Horowitz's Radical Son. Radical Son is an immensely satisfying read that documents his change from a committed Marxist to a classical liberal. This autobiography covers his political transformation from his days as a Marxist political activist in the 1960s, to his role in the New Left throughout the 1970s to 1984 when he cast his vote in favor of Ronald Reagan.
I wont borther to review the book, which has been done by plently of other people. Instead I'll present a few insights and criticisms:
Matt Welch writes that Horowitz has made "made grave errors of judgment in the past. And yet many apparently believe that the best way of paying penance is not to quietly look inward, but to noisily accuse most anyone on the chunk of spectrum they just vacated of being anti-American, objectively pro-whateverist, and worse". Yet another Reason writer notes that the book is "intensely personal. To a greater extent than any other ex-revolutionary narrative, Horowitz's book includes confession, introspection, and embarrassing detail". Nevertheless, I still agree with Welch's criticism that "if I had ever been a Trotskyite, I'd spend one hell of a long time dwelling privately on my own character defects and terrible judgment, instead of immediately joining some other troupe & screeching out the same old insults to an appreciative (and forgetful) new audience."
Another criticism I have of Horowitz is that his transformation into a conservative isn't a fully-fledged ideological transformation. This reminds me of Christopher Hitchens, another writer I admire. Horowitz writes that "despite Chistopher Hitchens’ fluid and interesting new politics, he seems to still share many of the social illusions of his progressive mentors" which he argues is manifested in his nostalgia for the Allende regime in Chile. You can also see it in his relucance to criticise certain figures of the Left, his belief in the power of Marxist philosophy (e.g. dialectical materalism) and his skepticism towards the power of free-markets to reduce and eliminate poverty. Yet Horowitz never considers that he may be guilty of the crime. Welch echos this as he "firmly believes that Trotskyites rarely change their warped mental and rhetorical habits". Horowitz believes that the best way of challenging the Left is "to speak in the voice of the New Left--outraged, aggressive, morally certain". That tactic may work for Ayn Rand - because she WAS right - but it won't work for someone who doesn't have a coherent & comprehensive philosophy. Indeed, as the Reason review notes, Horowitz is largely thought of as a man against the left, rather than a man for conservatism. Horowitz needs to remember that in order to fight against something one must fight FOR something. The battle is primarily intellectual (philosophical) not political. As Ayn Rand wrote "You cannot fight or change the consequences without fighting and changing the cause; nor can you attempt any practical implementation without knowing what you want to implement". A consequence of this is that he's prepared to accept a wide variety of 'conservatives'. Example: His hiring of Ann Coulter after she was fired from National Review. Horowitz does freedom little help by organising a vague and contradictory (he's an agonistic (i.e. atheist) and yet he aids religious right voices) movement that sells out fundamental principles (i.e. secularism) for the "sake of some superficial political action which is bound to fail".

On another note, this Liberty Film Festival sounds cool, pity they don't have one here. This documentary 'Is It True What They Say About Ann?' seems mildy interesting if only because it might explain why Ann is so hysterical towards those who don't share her agenda. These two documentaries also look promising:
Gaza Strip
Control Room
Anyone seen either?

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