Longform

David Horowitz Has Made Taunting College Students a Spectator Sport

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"These people are very deliberate in how they do things," says Tarin. "Some of them focus on college campuses. Some of them focus on law enforcement. Some of them focus on churches and Rotary clubs and senior-citizen homes. It's an industry."

Horowitz swats down any talk about his role in spreading Islamophobia. Because his work is mainly focused on campuses, he can wrap himself snugly in the First Amendment and claim he's just offering up another academic perspective. "If you use the words 'Muslim' and 'terrorist' in a sentence or a paragraph, you're an Islamophobe," he says. "That's just an attempt to silence critics, which is what I am. I am not a person who is hostile to Muslims."

But when you start retailing these ideas outside that campus bubble, the chances increase that you'll not only reach a touchy college liberal, but also that panhandle crazy the FBI feared at Florida State. And Horowitz still has an active hand in such wider messaging. Two high-profile names sharing his brainwaves and support are Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller.

As the guy behind Jihad Watch, Spencer is on the Freedom Center payroll. Geller runs a blog called Atlas Shrugs and was a recipient of a Freedom Center award for courage. Together they founded Stop the Islamization of America (SIOA). Both are full-throttled in their excoriation of all things Muslim — so much so that the SIOA has landed on the Southern Poverty Law Center's list of hate groups, along with the Ku Klux Klan and the Aryan Brotherhood.

"I think Horowitz is just coming up to the line of Islamophobia and not stepping over it," says Heidi Beirich, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project. "But he's perfectly happy to fund it."

And the rhetoric leaking from Geller and Spencer has found sympathetic ears. After Anders Breivik launched an attack on a Norway youth camp that left 77 dead last year, police found a manifesto he penned on the "Islamic Colonization of Europe." Spencer was cited 162 times; Geller was mentioned in 12 instances.

"Geller and Spencer are probably the most important propagandizing Islamophobes in the world," Beirich says. "These people's voices speak very loudly — not just here in the United States, but overseas. And what they do is make Muslim populations susceptible to hate violence."

Yet despite the link between slash-and-burn rhetoric and Norwegian body counts, conservative activists continue to agitate — pushing even beyond Horowitz's comfort zone.

This summer, while protestors rioted in Egypt, Yemen and Tunisia over the film Innocence of Muslims, Geller was prepping a series of ads for New York City and Washington, D.C., subway cars. The text read: "In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad."

"Pam, I think she's a very brave woman," Horowitz says. "But she goes over the edge a little bit. The word 'savages' . . . I would have used the word 'barbarians.'"

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Kyle Swenson
Contact: Kyle Swenson