The Politics of Bad Faith - The Radical Assault on America's Future by David Horowitz, Touchstone Books, 2000, Paperback 224 pages, ISBN: 0684856794, $13

Review by Del Meyer, MD

David Horowitz, one of the radical leftists of the sixties, spoke at the 56th annual meeting of the AAPS in October 1999. His message had many medical references. His comments on medical practice (a difficult public discussion), immunization (the left will force 100,000 to be immunized even if only one can be shown to benefit), medical savings accounts (not a politically viable sound bite), and school vouchers (too cerebral for the average American to comprehend), are of value to physicians and their patients. His book, The Politics of Bad Faith, helps us to understand our own and society’s predicament in the post "Cold War" era.

This book addresses a conflict that for two hundred years has dominated the political history of the West. It has its origins in the French Revolution, when radicals sat to the left in the National Assembly, and their opponents sat to the right. Horowitz references numerous books and articles in which it is widely accepted that we have entered a "post-ideological" age. However, he feels the Left itself has become all but invisible and this has made them dangerous. The Right does not fully comprehend that we are at war. Even though the Cold War is over and the Left lost, the "cultural war" is in full swing. If we don’t understand the games of war, the Left will win this one, which may be more important than the Cold War.

He feels the Democrats have ruined the bottom rung of the ladder to success. Their catch phrases, such as "tax breaks for the wealthy on the backs of the poor," have hurt the very people that provide jobs and the growth for the poor to succeed. However, the Republicans are individualists, all have different messages; therefore, they have no message. They are too cerebral and are unable to say anything in the nine-second attention span of our television era. The Libertarians may understand the agenda the best, but their message will never catch on with the masses. He tells us how to play the politics of the leftists; otherwise, we won’t play our own agenda. The next holocaust may be even worse than the one during the 20th Century that killed 100 million people when trying to force its cause on the citizenry at large. He feels that the Left think they can establish the Kingdom of Heaven on earth through the power of the CDC, the FDA, the health system, and government control in general.

This was demonstrated recently at our own University of California, Davis, Medical Center at the Medical Grand Rounds. Risa Lavissa-Mourney, MD, MBA, from the University of Pennsylvania gave a very complete Power Point lecture on Clinical Perspectives of Health Policy. She had excellent graphs on the lack of public acceptance of single-payer national healthcare. Since all the profits have already been rung out of healthcare, the government would face disastrous increases in costs, and there would be no adequate monitoring system capable of determining actual costs and fair reimbursements. Furthermore, medicine progresses rapidly and government rules and regulations, once in place, are nearly impossible to change. A professor asked, "Why don’t we just implement national healthcare and allow the costs to progress upward?" It was amazing to me that this question was really taken seriously since the debate of the last decade focused on the need for single-payer national healthcare to decrease costs that already exceed those of all other developed countries. Leaders in our community were ridiculed for their statements that healthcare is 15% or even 20% of our GDP. This demonstrated again that the leftist agenda bears no relevance to perceived costs or even to healthcare, but rather to socialistic control of our most private affairs.

The book has six distinct essays which Horowitz states should best be read in sequence. After reviewing the fall of the Communist, a Russian remarked that it was a pity Marxists had not triumphed in a smaller country because "we would not have had to kill so many people to demonstrate that utopia does not work." Horowitz asks, "What more is there to say?" However, mankind is incapable of closing the book on this long, sorry episode of human folly and evil. The lessons were not learned.

Today the people who identify with the Left and call themselves "progressive" often ask, "How is it possible for decent human beings not to be progressive like us? How can they not share our concern for social justice or the better world we are attempting to create?" The Left (or progressives) feels that their’s alone is the vocation of reason and compassion.

The Right has questions also. "How is it possible for progressives to remain so blind to the grim realities their efforts have produced? How can they overlook the crimes they have committed against the poor and oppressed, the very people they set out to defend? How can they have learned so little from the history their ideas have engendered?" Why don’t they feel any responsibility for the 100 million lives that Horowitz estimates have been sacrificed by the Marxists in forcing their ideas on the world?

The second essay continues the evaluation of Marxist ideas and how they continue to flourish in American universities. Meanwhile the works of von Mises, Hayek, Aron, Popper, Oakeshott, Sowell, Strauss, Bloom, Kirk, Kristol and others are virtually unknown to the Left on our campuses. In 1922, Ludwig von Mises wrote a 500-page treatise predicting that socialism would not work. He recognized that socialist theories would bankrupt the future they were creating. They showed no inclination of even trying to understand the indispensability of markets for allocation resources and of private property for providing the incentives that drive the engines of social wealth. The Kremlin rulers were unable to allocate resources rationally, or to promote technological innovation, or to replace the profit motive with a viable system of non-monetary "social" incentives. As a result, the socialist economy was unable to keep abreast of the technological changes that would catapult the West into the post-industrial era, or to even create sufficient growth to feed its own people. The former bread basket of Europe became the importers of grain.

In the third essay, "The religious roots of radicalism," Horowitz traces his own Jewish roots and describes how, on May Day in 1948, he became a radical for the political Left for the next 25 years. As he was chanting, "One, two, three, four / We don’t want another war," during his march in New York City that day, some Irish kids leaned over the police barriers and began to chant, "Down with the Communist! Up with the Irish!" Horowitz wanted to cry back. "You don’t understand! We’re doing this for you. For Irish and non-Irish alike. For the day when there won’t be any wars and there won’t be any nations. Just one human family." He didn’t identify himself as a Jew. He was revolutionary and an internationalist. To identify himself as a Jew – a member of a real community in all its human limits, with all its human faults – would have been a betrayal of the revolutionary Idea. When he did leave the Left, he first understood "the importance of boundaries–the religious boundary that separates the holy from the profane; the secular boundaries that separate the uncharted from the familiar, the apocalyptic from the mundane. Among the conservative lessons my heretical life has taught me about boundaries are the costs incurred in crossing them."

The fourth essay, "The meaning of left and right," begins with Boris Yeltsin’s speech delivered in Moscow on June 1, 1991, a year after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. In describing the catastrophe that had befallen his nation, he said, "Our country has not been lucky. It was decided to carry out this Marxist experiment on us. It has simply pushed us off the path the world’s civilized countries have taken. . . In the end, we proved that there is no place for this idea."

Horowitz states, "For the Left outside the former Soviet Union, this verdict is still inconceivable. To embrace it would be to make peace with the enemy, the democracies of the west. It would mean the dissolution of its own identity as a Left. . . the idea that this history should culminate in disenchantment with the utopian project. . . [and] should lead finally, to conservative conclusions: to reconciliation to the finite parameters of the human condition–the unavoidable conflicts and inevitable insufficiencies that make up ordinary social unhappiness. . . acceptance of who and what we are." How can a bankrupt idea be called "progressive?" For two centuries, the socialist idea – the future promise that justifies the present sacrifice – has functioned as a blank check for the violence and injustice associated with efforts to achieve it. It is no longer possible to justify the assaults on societies. The crusades of the Left must now be seen for what they are: bloody exercises in civil nihilism, violent pursuits of empty hopes, revolutionary actes gratuites that were doomed to fail from the start.

In the fifth essay, "A radical holocaust," Horowitz takes on the last refuge of the Marxists Left, one that he feels is haunting the American university. It is the specter of "queer theory," the latest version of the radical "identity politics" that have replaced economic struggles in the schema of revolution. Catherine MacKinnon proclaimed, "As work is to Marxism, sexuality is to feminism," in a logically absurd call to overthrow gender categories and the "patriarchal’ order. Gay radicals aspire to no less. "Queer politics is no longer content to carve out a buffer zone for a minoritized and protected subculture." Michael Warner in his academic manifesto, "Fear of a Queer Planet," declares his goal is to challenge the pervasive and oppressive structure of normality that divides humanity into two sexes. Horowitz feels that these dichotomies are what feeds radical thought, the oppressor and oppressed, victimizer and victim. For the new revolutionaries, the enemy is no longer a ruling class but the sexual order of nature itself.

Horowitz lays the tragedy of the AIDS epidemic at the source. Who but a sexual radical would have failed to realize in 1969, the year of "Gay Liberation," that promiscuous anal sex, conducted with strangers, was unsanitary and dangerous, and a threat to public health? Yet, gay liberation was so defined, that sex was transformative and challenged the heterosexual and monogamous norms of the Judaeo-Christian culture. Like the black radicals before them, gay activists rejected the idea of integration into a normal functioning civil order, but instead maintained a defiant promiscuity in order to overthrow bourgeois morals and sexual restraints and, consequently, bourgeois standards of public hygiene.

The effect of this radical agenda was immediate and unmistakable. In the last three years of the Sixties, during the flowering of the sexual revolution, the incidence of amoebiasis increased fifty times in San Francisco because of promiscuous oral-anal sex among gays, a practice known as "rimming." Liberal politicians loosened the legal restraints on sexual encounters between consenting adults, and public officials proceeded to license sexual gymnasia called ‘bathhouses," where hundreds of gay males could indulge nightly in sexual free-for-alls with as many partners as possible. Public health officials also turned a blind eye toward the orgiastic activity in bookstore backrooms, bars and "glory hole’ establishments that gay radicals had dedicated to anonymous public sex.

"One effect of gay liberation," a prominent gay doctor noted, "is that sex has been institutionalized and franchised. Twenty years ago, there may have been a thousand men on any one night having sex in New York. Now there are ten or twenty thousand. . ." By the end of the Seventies, a $100 million public sex industry was flourishing in the gay districts of urban centers across the nation, regularly attended by over 60% of their gay populations. These establishments were not viewed by gay activists as threats to community morals and health, but as homosexual "liberated zones."

As a society without women, the gay male community lacked the restraint normally imposed by the less sexually promiscuous gender on heterosexual encounters. In 1978, a survey of gay men revealed that only 14% were in a monogamous relationship, while 43% had 500 lifetime sex partners and 33% had 1,000. The increase in sexual infections was predictably – and astronomically – greater among gays than among heterosexuals. By the early Eighties, when AIDS was first identified, the prevalence of syphilis and gonorrhea among gay men was several hundred times that among comparable groups of heterosexuals. Easy treatment for these diseases, as well as the cooperation of public health officials, imbued the gay men with a cavalier attitude toward venereal diseases. Gay men made up about 80% of the visits to San Francisco’s VD clinics where they could get a shot, and a date.

Edmund White, coauthor of The Joy of Gay Sex, proposed that "gay men should wear their sexually transmitted diseases like red badges of courage in a war against a sex-negative society." When Michael Callen heard White’s triumphant defiance of nature’s law, he thought, "Every time I get the clap I’m striking a blow for the sexual revolution." In his book Surviving AIDS, Callen, (who died of the disease in 1996) recounted his medical history:

"I calculated that since becoming sexually active in 1973, I had racked up more than three thousand different sex partners . . . I had also had the following sexually transmitted diseases, many more than once: hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis non-A/non-B; herpes simplex types I and II; venereal warts; amoebiasis and salmonella; syphilis; gonorrhea; nonspecific arthritis; chlamydia; cytomegalovirus and Epstein-Barr virus mononucleosis; and eventually cryptosporidiosis."

When Dr. Dan William, a gay specialist, publicly warned of the danger of continued promiscuity, he was denounced as a ‘monogamist" in the gay press. When playwright Larry Kramer sounded a similar alarm, he was accused of "gay homophobia and anti-eroticism" in the New York Native.

Where were the public health officials? Don Francis of the Centers for Disease Control, a leading figure in the battle against AIDS, admitted: "We didn’t intervene because we felt that it would be interfering with an alternative lifestyle." Horowitz observes that the defense of "gay culture" by radical activists was so successful that it made traditional public health practices, either contact tracing and testing or closing the sources, primarily the public bath houses, politically impossible. Although the disease called AIDS must be reported in all fifty states, most states do not even classify AIDS as a "sexually transmitted disease," to avoid reporting HIV infections.

Gay journalist Gabriel Rotello, drawing the connection between the political culture of gay liberation of the 1970s and the epidemic metastasizing in the 1980s, analyzed the deadly equation of social revolution and disease: "Multiple concurrent partners, versatile anal sex. . . repeated waves of STDs and constant intake of antibiotics, sexual tourism . . . core group behavior in baths and sex clubs . . .analingus . . . the champagne of gay sex . . formed a sexual ecology of almost incalculably catastrophic dimensions . . . proved a trapdoor to hell on earth." In an article in 1997, Larry Kramer, founder of the Gay Men’s Health Crises, summed up this equation in an epigraph: "We have made sex the cornerstone of gay liberation and gay culture, and it has killed us."

The gay liberationists not only thwarted measures to control the epidemic in their own community where 95% of the AIDS was found, but denounced the screening of blood given to blood banks as infringing on the "right" of gays to give blood. Thus AIDS was allowed to spread among hemophiliacs and drug-using heterosexuals so that the black and Hispanic populations soon accounted for more than 50% of the infected.

As leaders of the gay movement realized the crucial breeding ground their liberated zones created, they began to appeal directly to public health authorities to monitor and if necessary close the public sources of infection as Horowitz believes they should have done at the beginning of the epidemic. Now a new group called Sex Panic appeared to oppose such measures. They argue that individuals possessed a "right to unsafe sex" and sex clubs were institutions of gay liberation. They are still dreaming of a magic bullet.

Horowitz summarizes that "the war against civilization and nature . . . the radical enterprise, inevitably produces monsters like AIDS. The epidemic has now killed 300,000 Americans, with three times as many infected. But who knows how many have actually been stricken, since even at this late date there is still no systematic testing or scientific reporting. . . even as the ashes of the Communist empire grow cold, the moral and political lessons of its disasters have not been learned. The nihilism that rejects nature and the idea of the normal as it sets out to create a radical new world, though predictable in its consequences, is as blindly destructive as ever. Once in power, as the entire history of our bloody century attests, the radical impulse embraces radical evil in the never-ending attempt to enforce its mandate and realize its impossible ideal.

In the final chapter, Horowitz gives us a conservative hope and challenge. Conservatives "must think of themselves as heirs to Locke and Burke and Madison, who faced a similar challenge from the Left of their time. Conservatives are, in fact, reformers demanding a universalistic standard of one right, one law, one nation for all. They should be champions of tolerance, and the opponents of group privilege and communal division. They must be proponents of a common ground that is color-blind, gender – equitable and ethnically inclusive – of a government of laws that is neutral between its citizens, and against the destructive claims of the socialist agenda, and the conservers of the constitutional covenant against the forces of tyranny and the guardian state."