There is something dishonest about David Horowitz, and something insidious about his politics. Aside from the fact that Horowitz and his allies thrive more on political aura and vitriol than substance (this is also afflicting certain national election campaigns) the former Marxist’s tactics shed light on what is really at stake in his right-wing crusade. It’s not what he would have you believe.

The David Horowitz Freedom Center’s post-Sept. 11 brainchild, Terrorism Awareness Program, dubbed October 22 through 26 of last year “Islamo-Fascist Awareness Week,” and followed with a series of nationwide university campus talks and protests.

The term “awareness,” so casually paired with “terrorism” and “Islamo-Fascist,” draws attention to itself and registers as a non sequitur. Surely, we are familiar with AIDS awareness, multicultural awareness and even the upcoming Palestinian awareness week. But what exactly about “Islamo-Fascists” and “terrorists” should we be aware of?

This isn’t about semantics or splitting hairs to butt heads with the veritable neo-conservatives. Something much more serious is going on here.

Speaking to the media, Horowitz adamantly supported “Islamo-Fascist Awareness Week,” adding that it was partly driven to condemn the oppression of women under Islam. In one Fox News interview he said, “It’s a week to make people aware that our enemies are Islamo-Fascists, that they are oppressing women and that campus faculties are not talking about this.” Evincing less tact, he was quoted by UC Santa Barbara’s Daily Nexus as saying, “One hundred and forty million Muslim girls in Muslim countries have their genitals sliced off every year so they can’t enjoy sex. Where is the women’s studies department on this?” What’s more, students partaking in the events were urged to stage sit-ins “in various women’s studies departments and campus women’s centers to protest their silence about the oppression of women in Islam.’

Here Horowitz is touting causes championed by the liberal left for his own hyper-conservative ends. The word “awareness” returns, and one can imagine that Horowitz shudders with disdain but nods conspiratorially at its appropriation. Talk of defending women’s rights and sit-ins harkens back to the American civil rights era, during which the feminist movement burgeoned with force and racial injustices were protested at segregated lunch counters across the nation. But in posturing concern for Muslim women and falsely conjuring images of Martin Luther King, Jr. and prominent feminists, Horowitz does nothing more than sully their names and historical relevance.

It’s very unlikely that Horowitz has any real concern for Muslim women anywhere, but more importantly, whether he does or not is besides the point. He has called Muslim Student Associations at numerous American universities “Jihadists” and extensions of terrorist networks. An October 2, 2007 New York Observer blog quotes the conservative political commentator Ann Coulter, Horowitz’s de facto ally and an Islamo-Fascist Awareness Week speaker.

“If we took away women’s right to vote, we’d never have to worry about another Democrat president,” Coulter quipped. “It’s kind of a pipe dream; it’s a personal fantasy of mine.”

The real goal here is a calculated attack on liberal politics. In a self-congratulatory section of FrontPage, Horowitz’s own conservative Internet magazine, former editor of Commentary Magazine Norman Podhoretz praises Horowitz for being “relentless and aggressive in attacking his former political allies … He has also taken the polemical and organizational techniques he learned in his days on the left, and figured out how to use them against the left, whose vulnerabilities he knows in his bones.”

Podhoretz’s comments ring with double-edged irony. Horowitz’s tenured association with the ultra-liberal politics of ’60s and ’70s and his Marxist and Black Panther ties are as well-documented as they are surprising. But the utmost praise given for Horowitz’s polemical machinations really points to his campaign’s inbred dishonesty. The Horowitz Freedom Program is not concerned with women’s rights, with civil rights, with awareness, diversity or academic freedom of any kind.

So that embedded lie, pregnant with vicious ambition and made under the guise of personal freedom and pluralism — tenets so self-evidently dear — taints anything else that his party stands for with a sickly, scrupulous odor.