Who would have thought someone teaching peace studies could make anyone's "most dangerous" list?
Such is the fate of University of Washington psychology professor David Barash, who's profiled in a new book called "The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America" by conservative commentator David Horowitz.
The book's jacket warns: "We all know that left-wing radicals from the 1960s have hung around academia and hired people like themselves. But if you thought they were all harmless, antiquated hippies, you'd be wrong."
Conservative David Horowitz authored a book on the "most dangerous" academics in the U.S. (Photo: The Seattle Times)
In an interview, Horowitz said some professors are introducing political opinion into what should be a disinterested pursuit of knowledge, endangering the entire academic enterprise. Some professors even endanger the safety of Americans by claiming that terrorists are freedom fighters, he added.
Barash is taking the listing in good humor:
"I was too young and inconsequential to make it to Nixon's enemy list 30 years ago, so I feel like I've arrived," he said.
Barash, a biologist by training, has taught at the UW for 33 years. As well as peace studies, he teaches animal behavior and evolutionary psychology. He said he felt honored to be mentioned alongside notable academics like Noam Chomsky, Paul Ehrlich, Michael Eric Dyson and Howard Zinn.
He says he's taken to signing his e-mails "Dangerous David." His family's calling him "Dangerous Dude" or just plain "Dangerous," and students think it's a hoot.
Horowitz said he included Barash because of a book Barash co-wrote called "Peace and Conflict Studies." Horowitz said the book defends violent revolution and incorrectly points to Cuba as a place where people's lives have been improved through such violence.
Barash said his profile in the book is full of misrepresentations and inaccuracies. For instance, it claims he blames the Cuban missile crisis on the psychology of President Kennedy — when in fact his book mentions many factors, including the Soviet Union's missile buildup.
David Barash (L) and Western Washington professor Larry J. Estrada are two of 101 academics listed in Horowitz's book. (Photos: The Seattle Times)
"It's just a lie. He either didn't read the book or look it up," Barash said. "The whole thing is just a cartoon."
Horowitz said the immediate impetus for the book was the controversial comments made by University of Colorado Professor Ward Churchill last year.
In an essay, Churchill argued that some of those who died in the World Trade Center attacks weren't innocent victims because of their role in furthering American interests. Churchill went so far as to compare victims to a prominent Nazi.
One other academic from this state makes the list: associate professor Larry J. Estrada, director of American Cultural Studies at Western Washington University. Horowitz describes Estrada, who has written about U.S.-Mexican relations and border issues, as a "radical ethnic separatist."
Estrada said he thinks it's because he defended Churchill's right to free speech. Estrada described Horowitz as a "polemicist and pamphleteer" and not a serious scholar.
Barash said the book implies that academics like himself should be muzzled and exerts a subtle pressure on colleagues, donors and administrators to rein in faculty. He adds that he feels safe enough to say what he wants but wonders whether junior colleagues without tenure would feel the same.
"It should have a chilling effect," responds Horowitz. "They should behave as professionals."
The university with the most professors on the list, nine in all, is Horowitz's alma mater, Columbia University. When Horowitz was a student there he considered himself a Marxist. He said he lost confidence in liberal politics after a colleague was mysteriously killed — he suspects by the Black Panther organization.
Horowitz has more recently written several books and launched FrontPageMag.com, a conservative online magazine. This month the Fox News show "Hannity & Colmes" featured different professor profiles from his book every day for a week. None of the professors appeared on the show.
Horowitz said it's not the professors' political leanings that land them on the list, but the fact that they bring politics into the discussion at all. Asked why no conservatives made the list, Horowitz said most have been run out from liberal-leaning academia or are forced to lie low.
"I don't know of any conservatives who use the classroom for political agendas," he said. "The obvious reason is because they are too scared."
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company