Two weeks ago, I picked up a copy of the Record and began reading an article on “mission to the Jews” leaflets placed in Holocaust books in Sawyer. As the student who originally found these leaflets two weeks prior and as a Jew, I appreciated the campus anger at the leaflets. These leaflets were not conventional hate speech, but carried with them a ghost of other hatreds usually distant from Williams College but not distant from my identity as a Jew.
Lower on the page, I noticed the ad by David Horowitz. Its racism and anti-Semitism enraged me. Racism, in its binary essentializations, always implies anti-Semitism and vice versa; the reification of “one side” reifies “the other.” When Horowitz writes of “Islam’s war against the infidels, the Arabs’ hatred of Jews,” he implies anti-Semitic claims. Horowitz’s ad is akin to the leaflets, perhaps worse; though not conventional hate speech, it drips with hatred and targets Muslim and Arab students and masquerades as politics.
The discussion on campus since then has distressed me. It has fomented the same kind of binary essentializations and hatreds that stink in Horowitz’s ad. Students have not appreciated the endless and irreducible humanity of students “on the other side.” They have reduced each other to the simplistic hatreds that feed Horowitz. They have not understood the very serious claims that “each side” has made.
Presumably, the Record would not print just any adâ€”it would not, I think, print an ad seeking to proselytize Jews by bringing up the Holocaust, and it would not print an ad that is libelous. But it printed Horowitz’s ad, implying not that the Record agrees with Horowitz’s message but rather that it does not see his message as violating the Record’s standards of decency (such as the paper’s categorical rejection of pornography). I think the ad’s racist and anti-Semitic implications violate the newspaper’s standards of decency and it should not have been printed.
As a reader, I have the duty to criticize the Record when I think it errs; and as editors, the staff of the Record has the duty to print what it wants. I respect my fellow students’ freedom to make choices, especially on an organizational level. That is not to say I think the Record should have printed the adâ€”I think it should have rejected the ad and instead written a news story headlined, “Horowitz targets Williams.”
But now that the ad has been printed, we must remember that every student is both a student and a human, involved in constant and clumsy processes of self-development. We must respect each other’s passions, opinions, differences and mistakes. We must yearn to forgive.
We must consider the terrible situation Horowitz forced on the Record; he told them to choose between “censorship” and “hate speech.” We must consider the terrible situation Horowitz forced on Muslim and Arab students; he engaged in a racist polemic against them, and by implication against every student, and attempted to set them up as enemies of free speech. His sick goal is to create hatred among students, to foster fratricide and animosity. To quote a letter last week: “We will not play this game.” We students must remember the humanity of each other, the intimate otherness that caring interaction requires.
I propose a campus-wide letter to Horowitz’s magazine, accusing him of fomenting bigotry and hatred, a letter with a thousand signatures that represents the diversity of this school. I challenge Horowitz to print this letter that calls him on the hatred in his ad, hatred that is, to turn his language against him, “the Nazi virus revived.” If you want to be involved, e-mail me at 03esw.
Yet I do not think I will sleep easy. I am not certain that I have not just trampled over the humanity of even a fiend such as Horowitz.
If I hate Horowitz, if I see his repentance as impossible, then I ignore his humanity and become like him. I have little hope. But I have a plan for a letter.