Reply to W. J. T. Mitchell’s “The Trolls of Academe”

February 3, 2018   •   By David Horowitz, W. J. T. Mitchell

A Letter to the Editor in response to W. J. T. Mitchell’s “The Trolls of Academe.” (This Letter is the opinion of Mr. Horowitz, and as we explained to him, the Editors of the Los Angeles Review of Books could not find a factual basis for many of his claims.)

I have been conducting a campaign at American colleges to oppose the efforts of Students for Justice in Palestine, an organization that is funded by the terrorist group Hamas, spreads Hamas propaganda lies, and supports Hamas-funded Boycott, Divest and Sanctions resolutions against the state of Israel. I have resorted to putting up posters, identifying campus activists who support SJP and BDS and by extension the Hamas war against the Jewish state. I rely on posters because our universities have become safe spaces which effectively exclude ideas and opinions that don’t conform to leftist orthodoxies. Thus, the pages of campus newspapers, which would be the natural venue for opposing views in a democracy, are closed to views like mine, while university faculties have already been purged of conservative voices. In this situation, individuals whom we try to hold to account for their actions, instead of defending them and arguing the case on its merits, accuse us of attempting to “blacklist” them — which is ludicrous since we have no power to deny them jobs or opportunities — and to “intimidate” them and suppress their views, which is even more ridiculous since we are the only ones without a voice on their campuses.

Professor W. J. T. Mitchell’s recent article in the Los Angeles Review of Books is a scurrilous case in point. Mitchell was placed on our posters at the University of Chicago, along with others, because he is a vocal supporter of the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement and its proposed legislation. BDS has been denounced by liberals like Hillary Clinton, Alan Dershowitz, and former Harvard president and Clinton cabinet member Larry Summers as “anti-Semitic” and destructive because that is what it is. The BDS campaign is funded by American Muslims for Palestine, a Hamas front, whose founder is also the founder of Students for Justice in Palestine, the student organization spear-heading campus BDS resolutions.

Professor Mitchell accuses me of “equating mere association” with groups like Students for Justice in Palestine with anti-Semitism. In addition to being funded by the terrorist group Hamas, Students for Justice in Palestine calls for the destruction of the Jewish state, a genocidal demand which also happens to be anti-Semitic. Mitchell accuses me of wanting “to suppress all criticism of the state of Israel,” which is a demonstrable lie since I have criticized Israel myself and in virtually all my campus speeches, which are available on YouTube, have explicitly stated that all governments, since they are run by human beings, are worthy of criticism, including the state of Israel. What I have criticized SJP and BDS supporters like Professor Mitchell for is spreading Hamas propaganda lies about Israel — i.e., that Israel “occupies” a fictional state called Palestine, or any Arab land, or that Israel is an “apartheid state” and so forth.

Contrary to Professor Mitchell’s slanders, I have never called for the blacklisting of anyone, or sought to deny any political opponent of mine a job. For example, I publicly opposed the firing of Ward Churchill who was accused of writing a deplorable internet article calling the victims of 9/11 Nazis. This fact is easily checked. Yet that doesn’t stop Professor Mitchell from conflating me with the Canary Mission and slandering me as someone who wants to prevent students and faculty from getting jobs: “His accusations have no foundation in logic or evidence. They are pure slander; they aim to harass, intimidate, and do harm to the job prospects of vulnerable students and faculty.” But of course I do provide evidence. I accused Professor Mitchell of supporting BDS, a terrorist campaign to strangle the Jewish state. How can this be slander if it is true? And if it is true — as it most assuredly is — why doesn’t Professor Mitchell attempt to defend his positions instead of slandering me as a witch-hunter with no basis in logic or evidence?

Professor Mitchell does attempt some form of defense, but it is a deceptive one. He presents himself as a moderate: “[I] have seen my role as that of someone trying to find a peaceful resolution, largely through cooperation between artists, intellectuals, and moderate political forces.” Yet he is a vocal advocate for a campaign that is funded by a terrorist, Jew-hating organization, and which even prominent liberals like Hillary Clinton and Alan Dershowitz have condemned. Mitchell speculates: “My prominent position on the posters may also be because during my editorship of Critical Inquiry, a respected peer-reviewed journal in the humanities.” This is pure fantasy since I had never heard of this magazine before his article appeared. Mitchell’s prominent position on the posters is because he is a supporter of a genocidal campaign to destroy the state of Israel. He obviously knows this and attempts to defend his support for a campaign designed and advanced by Jew-hating terrorists by defaming Gandhi and King: “My personal support for BDS is based in its adherence to the time-honored tactics of nonviolent protest pioneered by Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.” Since when is a call to economically strangle a sovereign state a “nonviolent protest”? Particularly when it is funded and orchestrated by an organization, Hamas, whose charter explicitly calls for the destruction of that state and the extermination of its inhabitants?

In an interview with American Thinker, Alan Dershowitz compared the BDS campaign that Mitchell supports to the Nazi boycott of Jewish goods in the 1930s. That is a far more accurate description of BDS and its supporters than the self-serving picture Mitchell presents, and it is the reason his image is on a poster in my campaign. Anyone interested in the facts can view them at

— David Horowitz


To the editor,

David Horowitz seems incapable of making two basic distinctions: 1) the difference between being critical of Israel’s government, which I am, and anti-Semitic, which I am not; 2) the difference between a movement to boycott Israeli institutions, which I support, and promoting terrorist violence, which I do not. A boycott is a time-honored tactic for nonviolent protest. It is an exercise of free political speech to declare opposition to an immoral and corrupt political regime. To equate it with terrorism is an abuse of common sense, logic, and the noble history of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.’s struggles with colonialism and racial discrimination.

I say that Horowitz “seems” incapable of making these distinctions, but I suspect that he is perfectly capable of understanding them, but chooses to ignore them in favor of abusive, defamatory accusations. This is in keeping with his declared intention not to engage in rational debate, but to use tactics whose only purpose is to silence others with harassment, insults, and intimidation. His behavior mirrors that of the Bully in Chief who now occupies the White House, and who encourages pathetic characters like Horowitz to emerge from the shadows.

W. J. T. Mitchell


Horowitz is founder of the David Horowitz Freedom Center (formerly the Center for the Study of Popular Culture) and author of many books and pamphlets published over the last 20 years. Among them: Hating WhiteyUnholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left; The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America; and The End of Time.

W. J. T. Mitchell is Gaylord Donnelley Distinguished Service Professor of English and Art History at the University of Chicago. He has been the editor of Critical Inquiry since 1978, and his latest book Image Science: Iconology, Media Aesthetics, and Visual Culture was published by Chicago University Press in 2015.