by Robert Gelfand
American Reporter Correspondent
San Pedro, Calif
December 29, 2003
FRONT PAGE MAGAZINE: THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE MEDIA
LOS ANGELES -- Front Page Magazine is the creation of David Horowitz, a one-time hard-Left activist who converted to the conservative cause and is now one of its chief spokesmen. FrontPageMag.com is simultaneously Horowitz' revenge on his former comrades, a sometimes overly shrill attack on all things liberal, and generally a pretty good read.
It is available on the Internet at www.FrontPageMag.com. An example of the shrill side of Front Page Magazine can be found at http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=6679, which begins "We have long warned on these pages that the peace movement is not about peace, that it is a fifth column communist movement to destroy America and give victory to our totalitarian enemies. Now this Fifth Column is preparing to move into action to attempt to defeat America in its war against Saddam."
The article, titled "The Fifth Column Left Declares War" was written by David Horowitz and appeared in the March 17, 2003 issue of Front Page Magazine. Written in the days prior to the opening of the Iraq war, the article describes actions promised by various antiwar activists in the event of an American invasion of Iraq, including a promised attack on Vandenberg Air Force Base, quoting from Salon.com (http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2003/03/14/war/index_np.html). The reader is invited to compare the differences in tone and in particular the different world-views expressed by Salon and Horowitz.
I remember reading the Salon piece and I assume that most of the other people who read it reacted much as I did, with distaste for the idea of our fellow citizens, however few, attacking our own air base, but also with a sort of grim amusement as to what would happen to anyone who tried. Considering the announced threat and the FrontPageMag column in retrospect, I am not aware that massed hordes of saboteurs invaded Vandenberg AFB and brought it to its knees. Neither am I aware that any other domestic action significantly impacted the progress of the war.
In other words, I treated the threats of domestic sabotage as just so much bleating by a micro-minority who had little in the way of troops, assets, or combat experience. David Horowitz reacted to the threat a little differently.
Here is how he concluded: "Congress should also look to reactivating sedition laws that would meet the threat posed by the deadly seriousness of the anti-American Fifth Column. These activists are not playing games. They have dedicated their lives to the service of Communist regimes and anti-American causes. They are the fruit of more than thirty years of leftist attacks on this country. Now the international terrorists have provided them with their dream: the war has finally come home."
That was the next to the last paragraph. Here is the final paragraph: "The attempt to sabotage America's war effort is not dissent and should be a wake-up call to all those critics of the Justice Department's efforts to protect us by surveilling anti-American groups. Clearly, both the FBI and our security laws are well behind the curve, since these saboteurs have not been deterred from their deadly ambitions. Criminal subversion and sedition are not protected by the Bill Rights and the perpetrators should be punished harshly enough to remove them from the field of battle."
This is David Horowitz at his best or at his worst, depending on how you look at it. I think it is his worst. At his best, Horowitz provides some useful insights to the Right and the Left both.
Consider Horowitz' August 6, 2002 essay Alienation in a Time of War (http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/Printable.asp?ID=2199) which builds on his own political evolution as it provides an inspired defense of the U.S. Constitution and, furthermore, explains the American federal system as a conservative attempt by the founders to prevent a tyranny of the masses.
The history of David Horowitz - his communist upbringing, his new-leftist middle years, and his dramatic conversion to the Right Wing - are important to the understanding of FrontPageMag.com because FrontPageMag is, more than anything else, about David Horowitz. One might exaggerate only a little perhaps by saying that it is David Horowitz.
It is, among other things, intellectual, analytical, concerned with the lessons of history, and terribly, terribly wordy. The above mentioned Alienation in a Time of War comes in at just under 3000 words (American Reporter pieces are generally under 1500 words).
Even that column is short in comparison to a two-part exchange between Horowitz and Michael Albert (editor of Z Magazine) which ran in August, 2001. Together, the two pieces ran slightly over 13,800 words, almost long enough for a short book and almost too long for a long magazine article.
What emerged was a debate between a strong proponent of leftist views (Albert) and a one-time comrade who left the fold (Horowitz). The exchange began when Horowitz chose to criticize a piece Albert had published elsewhere, which suggested that some sort of enlightened socialism is possible (essay with link to Albert piece at www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=4529).
Albert chose to respond, and Horowitz printed the response (www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/Printable.asp?ID=4528). They continued the back and forth for almost 9000 more words (www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/Printable.asp?ID=4527).
I offer these links as evidence that it is possible for there to be an intense, engaged, yet civil argument between the Left and Right in this country, and, moreover, to point out that it occurred on the Web pages of FrontPage Magazine. In fact, after disposing with Albert's arguments to his own satisfaction, Horowitz concludes the discussion on a friendly note: "I will say this for you; you have shown a greater capacity for civility and a more genuine intellectual passion in these emails than I would have expected would be possible from an editor of Z. Would that there were more leftists like you."
Another exchange well worth reading is the interview FrontPage Magazine editor Jamie Glazov conducted with Christopher Hitchens (www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=11241). Hitchens has recently been celebrated as a pro-Iraq-war former leftist who has written extensively for the Nation and also contributed to Salon.com. The interview is particularly distinguished by Hitchens' continued defense of liberal principles even as he finds fault with the antiwar Left.
In allowing for a deeper exploration of the political arguments and undercurrents of the twentieth century, David Horowitz and FrontPage Magazine have contributed to our political culture. This is the serious intellectual side of David Horowitz.
There is also another side, which allows for columns in FrontPageMag by Republican shills such as Ann Coulter, Lowell Ponte and Tammy Bruce.
Ann Coulter is by now well known. I commend to the reader a Coulter column about Rush Limbaugh's recent problems (http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=10366). She trots out the old Republican targets Bill Clinton and Teddy Kennedy as counter-examples of vice and depredation, even as she swallows hook, line and sinker the claim that Rush has only had his drug problem recently and only because he had an operation that didn't turn out well.
Coulter, as many will recall, lost her position at another conservative publication when she suggested that we should force Muslims to convert to Christianity, a position that is not "PC" even on the Right. David Horowitz thereupon accepted her as a FrontPageMag columnist. Even Horowitz was provoked by her recent book Treason and devoted 3700 well crafted words to debunking some of her wilder extremes.
FrontPageMag has been running columns by Lowell Ponte, a name I had never heard before. In a column about the Fox News lawsuit against Al Franken (Fox protested Franken using the term "fair and balanced" as part of the title of his book), Ponte uses the following terms to describe Franken: an ardent leftist, nasty, spiteful, hateful, a crank, a ranting aging demagogue, a parasite and a mosquito (all citations are from http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=9384).
Ponte's supreme moment comes with this paragraph: "As the luminous P.J. O'Rourke has said, 'Liberalism is just Communism sold by the drink.' Because Al Franken's socialist politics different only in degree from those of the late Soviet Union, he took delight in praising Communism repeatedly in his skits on 'Saturday Night Live.' Laugh it up, folks. Sooner or later, you'll be a Communist."
If this sort of rhetorical excess were coming from the Left, Horowitz would point it out and deftly skewer it.
Tammy Bruce has contributed a column "Teaching Old Europe a Lesson" (about whether France and Germany get to share in the spoils of the Iraq war ) which begins, "Old Europe's head has exploded with rage, and *I say good!"
Or try this Bruce-ism: "Every bomb that goes off, every missile that is shot, is made possible in part by the emotional support the scum of the earth receives from Frenchman who sit and chew on their croissants and maintain their Red Wine stupor on the Left Bank." It is hard to imagine how anyone can be expected to take these latter contributors seriously, unlike other more worthy elements in Front Page Magazine.