At last Thursday’s “Say NO to Ben Shapiro” rally, speakers and attendees alike jeered at the mention of the Daily Trojan, dismayed by a relentless barrage of inaccurate, often tone-deaf coverage. The lead-up to Ben Shapiro’s appearance on campus had been rife with controversy, both from the event and the protest that materialized to oppose it.
The complaints ranged from underreported protest numbers to a nauseating display of the “angry black woman” stereotype against black student leaders. In another instance, the newspaper’s coverage went so far as to erase a student organizer, Stephanie Solis, from the Solidarity Rally she had organized and hosted one week before, on Sept. 27. Meanwhile, Young Americans for Freedom chairman Maxwell Brandon was given seemingly infinite opportunities to bat his eyelashes, insist that all he wanted was open dialogue and step into the role of a responsible conservative dad amid a sea of screaming leftist children.
Whatever the intent of the DT’s writers, the impact has been unmistakable. Marginalized voices were demonized, the malice of bad actors was sanitized and everyone walked away feeling a little used. The entire affair reeked of false balance, the type of saccharine “objectivity” that tends to occur when journalists take people’s words at face value rather than examining their actions.
It does not take much digging to conclude that Shapiro is not who he says he is. He claims to value debate, but he seems incapable of conducting himself in one. His book, “How to Debate Leftists and Destroy Them,” is less of a treatise on the virtues of open discussion and more of a handbook on showboating and humiliation. In his one-on-one debate with transgender rights activist Zoey Tur, he misgendered her incessantly within the first few minutes, causing her to lose her temper and attack him. He has since shied away from such level playing fields, preferring to snipe at college students in his audience from the comfort of a podium. Far from “standing up to leftist bullies,” Shapiro himself is the bully. He’s made a career out of being the bully in news media, from Breitbart News and Truth Revolt to the Daily Wire and Fox News.
So if Shapiro was not interested in a genuine exchange of ideas, then bringing him to campus was a moot point. There is seemingly no value in using USC’s good name to elevate a talking head who distorts the facts to mislead people and legitimize hatred — at least, so long as this story is told in a vacuum.
Ask yourself who stands to gain from this farce. It certainly isn’t us pesky leftists, who are taking time out of our busy leftist schedules, leftist classes and leftist work-study jobs to defend ourselves against hate speech for free. But listen, YAF is heavily funded by the Mercer clan, the DeVos family’s foundations and at least one Koch brother. And yes, I mean that Mercer clan, the one that gave Breitbart News a blank check to bring young people to the far right by any means necessary. That DeVos family, with its one member who is leading our Department of Education. And yes, it’s those Koch brothers, the ones who breathed life into the Tea Party and supplied the bulk of cash that propelled our political climate into hopeless gridlock even before it plunged straight over the edge of insanity.
These are people with well-documented political agendas and even deeper pockets, whose darlings are in charge right now. Their intentions — and what they stand to gain from these campus controversies — must also be addressed. They give YAF millions of dollars every year for campus events just like this one, after all. That agenda must be scrutinized, particularly since it has used our students as its playthings, exploiting our trauma just to simply that they could.
It’s a shame that the Daily Trojan didn’t write on any of this, because they missed an opportunity to help the public understand why we we’re so angry. When journalists acting in good faith perpetuate the myth that marginalized students are angry for no reason, they leave room for others to demonize and dismiss us.
Meanwhile, the root causes of our anger — brutality, dispossession and abuses of power from the Engemann Student Health Center to Washington, D.C. — go ignored. This was never a story about free speech and controversial ideas; it was about the cruel indifference of people in power. And in decontextualizing our anger, the Daily Trojan wound up missing the point.
Lynn Wang ’18
Director of Programming,
Students for Justice in Palestine