News & Politics

Report from the Trenches of the Culture War

Forty years ago, a much younger Sarah stood outside a language arts classroom where the teacher had stopped her to tell her that she was getting a B+, but if she would only sign up for the Communist Party, she’d have an A.

I believe back then, being myself and rather uncouth, I told her what she could do with her A. But I knew why she thought I’d sign. I’d started the course with one certainty: communism was evil. The teacher, who was a member of the Communist Party, had deployed mockery, berating, and faux facts and made the class – normally a favorite – a living hell.  Then when I started crying (she didn’t know that when I cry I’m holding back the berserker) she turned faux nice and started telling me how she admired my passion, and we weren’t so different, and we were both “passionate” (and I was just wrong).  I was fourteen. I wasn’t a hero. I figured out it was easier to pretend to go along. And so she thought her tactic had worked and I was ripe for the “conversion.” Which is why my response at the end of the year shocked her so much.

However, I’d learned one of the tactics of the left when they’re in power—and why they fool many into thinking that they’re the “nice guy” and also why many people believe there is no discrimination against anyone to the right of Lenin in fields the left controls.

People with perfectly good heads will not use them and will instead assume that the fact the leftists play “good cop” once they think they’ve scared the dissident enough means these leftists were always good people and more concerned about ideas than fact.

I didn’t think of any of this for many years until I found myself reading this article about an incident at the University of Nebraska.

For those who don’t want to go into it, what happened was this: A student, Kaitlyn Mullen, a 19-year-old sophomore, volunteered to represent Turning Point USA on campus. And by represent, I mean she had a little folding table and called out to people about whether they believed in liberty or whether they thought the government was too large.

You know, I’ve put one kid through undergrad, and another almost, and I couldn’t step foot in their college and not be hailed by some in-your-face political cause or other, whether it was the so-called rape crisis or outright campaigning for a political candidate. A leftist candidate, of course. Now, granted, neither of my kids even went near the University of Nebraska. Nor have I. On the other hand, this has been my experience at just about every institution of higher education I did go near for all the decades of my life.  If you go onto a university campus as a conservative or a libertarian, or anyone, in fact, to the right of Lenin (perhaps these days Stalin or maybe even Mao) you know you are in enemy territory because all the signs and symbols referring to politics or society are leftist ones, and you’re made to feel under siege.

My generation by and large kept our heads down and did nothing to antagonize the left, not the least because the zeitgeist was that the USSR would eventually win (it was so much more efficient, you know? Ah!)  — and in retrospect, that was a very bad move.  On the other hand, I can’t ask the young conservatives to do what we didn’t do, when it might mean the destruction of their lives and future livelihoods. In fact, many of the readers of my blog are undercover conservative professors who don’t have the nerve/know what the reprisals would be, and so they comment under false names or don’t even comment and just email me their comments as an alternative to bursting.

So, I admire Kaitlyn’s stand. The article linked does its best to paint her as simple-minded, saying that “Mullen thought of her organization as a booster of bedrock American values: freedom, capitalism, small government. She had met some great friends at Turning Point conferences.” They try, in fact, to make you think of her as naïve and just wanting a cause that sounds “nice.”  It’s twaddle. I know better, and so do most of you out there. Anyone who goes against the liberal zeitgeist and heavy indoctrination is very aware he/she is taking a stand for something that is despised by many people with power over his/her education. Because of that, our beliefs on the right tend to be very well defined, and we’re aware it’s not just a matter of being “nice.” It’s a matter of doing what’s right in the face of overwhelming and unprincipled opposition. We’re also aware that doing what’s right will cost us—in education opportunities, in earnings, and even in social standing. Leftism is, after all, a positional good which is why the left engages in endless “virtue signaling” that amounts to repeating leftist talking points.

Kaitlyn’s stand was answered the way one would expect. A leftist graduate student/instructor immediately devoted herself to making Kaitlyn’s life miserable.

Lawton, a 46-year-old graduate student in the English department, had heard of Turning Point. The group ran a “Professor Watchlist,” a sort of most-wanted list with the names of professors who have offended Turning Point by saying mean things about Republicans, speaking ill of capitalism, or teaching about white privilege — a concept that Charlie Kirk, the founder of Turning Point, has called “a myth and a lie.”

The watchlist struck Lawton as McCarthyism. Some of the professors on the list had been harassed and threatened. Who was this young woman hawking Turning Point swag on her campus? Lawton sized her up: Blond. Mid-20s, maybe. No Nebraska logos on her clothing, no lanyard clipped to a student ID. Lawton decided the young woman must be an interloper — a paid staffer for Turning Point.

“Oh, hell no,” Lawton remembers thinking. This group could not get a toehold on the Nebraska campus. She wouldn’t let it.

The graduate student left to make a sign: “Just say NO! to neo-Fascism.” She was so agitated that she misspelled “fascism” and had to start over. Sign in hand, she returned to the plaza and stood a few feet from Mullen’s table, facing the union.

Mullen took out her camera to record what was happening, as Turning Point encourages its activists to do. She walked out from behind her table to get a clear shot of Lawton and her sign. Lawton set her jaw and stuck out her middle finger.

“Tabling for Turning Point USA,” narrated Mullen, “Got some — ”

“Neo-fascist Becky, right here,” Lawton interrupted.

Her voice echoed across the mostly empty plaza.

Lawton persisted, pacing and calling out to an imagined audience in the style of a carnival barker: “Becky the neo-fascist, right here. Wants to destroy public schools, public universities. Hates DACA kids.

Note that Lawton decided that Turning Point USA was neo-fascist out of clear nothing. She adduced “white nationalism” to the fact that Turning Point’s founder disputes the idea of white privilege. (I do too, honestly. Compare one of Obama’s daughters to the white son of a drug-addicted mother and tell me who has privilege. Most of the theories of white privilege amount to racial hatred of whites, and “shut up, she explained.”)

Note also that she went on to call Kaitlyn “Becky,” which is apparently all kinds of nasty according to the Urban Dictionary. And then she stood there, middle finger aloft.

All because this kid, her inferior in power and social status, was manning a table for an organization that Lawton didn’t like. She thought that keeping a list of toxic professors was McCarthyism. Well, Miz Lawton, a lot of us here on the ground, looking at the freak shows in our universities, our entertainment industries, and our government’s bureaucracy have started wondering if Senator McCarthy’s biggest sin wasn’t being an oaf who didn’t make a near-enough good thing of hunting for what amounted to agents of the USSR in our institutions.

As for keeping a list that allows kids to avoid the most toxic of the left’s plants in education, well… I think she’d find that many parents shelling out the big bucks for education would gladly endorse this. As for the “threats” and “being attacked,” every time – every single time – a conservative organization lists leftists and says the opinions and ideas that they are quite proud to proclaim in public are wrong, the leftists scream “threats.”  Or claim to have been attacked. These attacks usually turn out to be self-inflicted. I know there must be one or two authentic ones somewhere, but every time I’ve been involved in this, the leftist was then unable to actually show any threats or even bad language. So I beg leave to doubt Lawton on that.

And honestly, if the professors are going to proclaim leftism from the classroom every day, shouldn’t the parents financing them and their institutions know?  If the professors are proud leftists, why wouldn’t they want it known? Or are they only proud around people they know approve of their virtue signaling?

But for whatever reason, Lawton couldn’t let it stand and was joined by two other idiots of the same persuasion who made the kid – again remember, their inferior in age, power and experience – so uncomfortable she started crying. It was so bad a college worker stepped between them.

This, in turn, gave Lawton the ability to “call for a timeout” and be all false caring, the tactic I described above. She then made a date to “discuss it” with Kaitlyn, no doubt thinking to complete the brainwashing.

At which point Kaitlyn sent her photos and film to Turning Point USA.

You can go read the rest of the story at the link.  It goes on about how Lawton could not retain her job and how she cared so much about students.

I want to say right here that her care for her students would be more believable if she hadn’t used Komissar tactics against Kaitlyn, who was, after all, not doing anything to her. (I liked the touch of Lawton being offended at someone distributing Turning Point swag on “her campus.” Did she buy the campus? Is it supposed to be her own, personal safe space?) Or if she had taken time to discuss Kaitlyn’s beliefs and ideas before starting to call her things like “white nationalist.” Which she did, she admits, based on the girl’s coloration. (Turn that around. Imagine a professor who thought a black student was, of course, an undesirable. How would that play?)

But what concerns me more is how sympathetic the Chronicle of Higher Education is to Lawton and how it subtly casts aspersions towards Mullen because she continued campaigning for Turing Point USA and wouldn’t back down. It was like a documentary on the Revolutionary War that I had the misfortune of sitting through, which kept reminding us that Washington was vain and proud, somehow managing to cast the entire revolution under the color of “he thought he would go further this way.” As though someone led what looked like a desperate cause for the sake of implausible glory.

In the same way, the article in CHE (ah!) seems to subtly imply that Kaitlyn Mullen set this whole thing up for political notoriety. Which speaks of nothing so clearly as the fact that they don’t have a single conservative on staff. Because a conservative (or libertarian) would laugh him/herself hoarse at the idea of taking any stand in accord with his/her ideas for the sake of any reward. Most of what we can expect when we speak out in left-dominated industries is being reviled, called vile things like “white nationalist” and having our reputations cut to ribbons.

CHE also represents Turning Point USA as: “Mullen had volunteered as a foot soldier for Turning Point USA, a right-wing group with an ambitious goal of seizing the levers of power on college campuses. Today was recruitment day.”

Apparently, being out of the closet as conservatives or proselytizing for a non-left-wing cause is “seizing the levers of power.” And note “foot soldier” implying she is at war/an aggressor. Lawton is not a foot soldier for leftist ideas, but Mullen is. No bias there.

CHE is all too tender and concerned for Lawton’s character, though. It explains away what can only be called brat behavior by a full-grown woman, a graduate student, and an instructor by telling us how her father was also a fierce political fighter (and a right-winger, according to Lawton, whom I wouldn’t trust on this further than I could throw her, and my upper body strength isn’t what it used to be).  She really cares for her students. And she spoke up because she was afraid of that boogeyman McCarthyism—even though now that we know how communism really operated, it would make more sense to be afraid of communists. And this whole incident made it difficult for her to stay employed. (Frankly, given not even her manners, but her deductive ability in jumping to conclusions, I wouldn’t want her anywhere near a young person for whose education I was responsible.)

In fact, this article in the Chronicle of Higher Education amounts to a white (ah) washing of very bad behavior by leftists in power, while casting aspersions on a young woman of unusual courage and an organization trying to make it possible to be a conservative on campus.

In fact, the leftists continue doing their best to speak power to truth and keep the young people cowed and as silent as we were in the bad old days.

Fortunately, the times they are a-changing and there are organizations and people willing to challenge leftist orthodoxy.

Against which the left can apparently bring nothing but a desire to continue spreading their poison unmolested, an unwillingness to let other opinions be heard, and a certainty that anyone to the right of Lenin is racistsexisthomophobic. Oh, and a fear of the phantom of McCarthyism.

Ride right through them. They’re unarmed. And frankly not very bright.

And the times, they are a-changing.