Tonight's talk featuring author David Horowitz gives a stage for an inflammatory demagogue.
It will mark an encore appearance for Horowitz, who came to Page Auditorium in March 2006 with a speech sponsored by Students for Academic Freedom amid general hoopla and audience antics from his opponents and supporters.
Inviting Horowitz as a speaker so soon after his SAF-sponsored appearance signals a preference on the part of Duke Conservative Union for inciting belligerent dispute rather than encouraging intelligent discourse.
The two are not always mutually exclusive, but in this case, there seems to be little reason to expect a second dose of Horowitz to provide anything more substantial than the rather unconstructive first.
This is largely because Horowitz's approach is an indiscriminate, scattershot attack on the left. His proposed Academic Bill of Rights calls for professors to cleanse their lectures of politics or opinion-a dangerously restrictive and laughably impossible task for any professor in all but the most strictly science-based courses. His proposal, rather than protecting the rights of politically conservative students, would impoverish the curriculum of the nation's universities.
He seeks to severely curtail faculty freedom in the classroom, and his overblown, hyperbolic criticisms of certain ideas as "dangerous" are haphazard at best. Moreover, he espouses political views that can only be described as bigoted-his proposal to combat so-called "Islamofascism" is for Muslims to do away with chunks of the Quran. Where are his calls for Jews and Christians to do the same for offensive portions of their holy books?
Finally, Horowitz's motivations for coming to Duke are questionable. He seems to be making an appearance expressly to incite anger among students. Bridge-building across ideological divides is not at the top of his priority list, nor does it have to be.
But it's unclear what new insight, or insight at all, a repeat visit from Horowitz will contribute to sensible discourse when even the fliers announcing his arrival are big on shock value and small on substance.