In 1950, Red Channels: The Report of Communist Influence in Radio and Television was published by Counterattack, a “journal” produced by a group of anti-communists including a number of ex-FBI agents. Red Channels listed over 200 people considered dangerous, along with organizations they had been affiliated with. It can be argued that this was the start of the infamous blacklist of the McCarthy era.
David Horowitz is trying to generate something similar, through generation of his own list, The Professors: The 100 Most Dangerous Academics in America. If he is successful, then fifty years of movement to protect freedom of expression and freedom of thought will have amounted to very little.
Let me give just one parallel between the attitudes towards the two lists by their creators. In the Introduction to Red Channels the compilers write:
In indoctrinating the masses of the people with Communist ideology and the pro-Soviet interpretation of current events, the Communist Part, with set purpose, uses not only Party members, but also fellow-travelers and members of Communist adjuncts and periphery organizations. It is the Party’s boats that for every Party member there are at least 10 “reliables,” dupes or innocents who, for one reason or another will support its fronts. Our so-called “intellectual” classes–members of the arts, the sciences and the professions–have furnished the Communist Party USA with the greatest number of these classifications.
Horowitz, in writing about an appearance of his on a TV show, says:
I devote an entire chapter to explaining “Why The Professors Profiled In This Volume Are Representative.” I inform readers that I could just as easily have written a book about 1001 or 10,001 professors who abuse their classrooms, turning them into political soap boxes. In my book I estimate that there are 30,000 professors nationally who fit the profile of the professors included, which is a very conservative estimate. The figure is probably closer to 60,000.
In both cases, the purpose is to scare people, to make them regard the people listed as dangerous but–and this is important–also to make them suspicious of anyone involved in intellectual activity.
Red Channels included names such as Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, Ruth Gordon, Dashiell Hammett, Lena Horne, Langston Hughes, Arthur Miller, Dorothy Parker, Pete Seeger, and Orson Welles.
The Horowitz book includes Derrick Bell, Noam Chomsky, Juan Cole, Michael Eric Dyson, Todd Gitlin, bell hooks, Frederic Jameson, Victor Navasky, and Howard Zinn.
Horowitz is lifting this new group into very distinguished company. I hope its members don’t have to go through anything like the vilification that was heaped upon the earlier. And I hope that Horowitz fails in his attempt to stir up fear of intellectuals and artists well beyond the names on his list.
What happened in the fifties was horrible. We don’t need a repeat.