May 26, 2017

EDITORIAL: Don’t feed the trolls

(Illustration by Pierce Grohosky)

Conservatives on campus deserve better representation than the childish trolling that the Sacramento State College Republicans have had to offer over the past several weeks.

This all started on Feb. 2 when about 10 members of the College Republicans decided several times — with a phone video in hand — to stand in the way of hundreds of students marching against President Donald Trump’s travel ban, which was still in effect at that time.

“It was our right for free speech as well,” said Mason Daniels, the president of the College Republicans. “We should be heard as well.”

Of course, Daniels has the right to freedom of speech. But the fact that he and his comrades stood right in front of the oncoming marchers led some to question why they chose to exercise their rights in this way.

Most of the protesters “broke upon them like the river upon a rock,” as Amer Tere, the vice president of the Muslim Student Association, put it.

However, there were outliers. One man attempted to walk through the counter-protesters. College Republican Floyd Johnson, who is black, was referred to with racial epithets and pushed. At one point, a woman used her umbrella handle to rip the College Republicans banner out of his hands.

This violence is unacceptable, and many protesters acted in the moment to cool the tension. Unfortunately, Daniels upped the ante by asking Sac State President Robert Nelsen and ASI President Patrick Dorsey to resign if they didn’t condemn the violence.

Not the violence against Johnson on campus, however, but the violence that prevented so-called “alt-right” provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking at UC Berkeley on Feb. 1.

Furthermore, the College Republicans posted a potentially defamatory Old West-style “wanted” poster on its Facebook page offering a $100 reward for the man — who is pictured in it — they believe to have been the one who shoved Johnson.

“Obviously, the ‘reward’ and the term ‘wanted’ have nothing to do with the Sac State Police Department, but was put forth by the author of this poster,” Sac State Police Chief Mark Iwasa said.

An article on the right-wing website is spreading fake news about the whole thing as well, implying that someone from the president’s office leaked Daniels’ letter to Nelsen to The State Hornet, which published it without authorization.

In reality, Daniels emailed the letter to The State Hornet himself, along with other correspondence between him and Nelsen, and expressed his desire that it be published.

Daniels later said that after a Feb. 17 meeting with Nelsen and Dorsey, he would decide whether or not to invite Yiannopoulos to Sac State.

Daniels has not returned phone calls and text messages from State Hornet reporters since Feb. 17, and so we do not know if he is still planning to invite Yiannopoulos — whose book deal was rescinded on Monday after a video surfaced in which he defended sexual relationships between teenage boys and older men and thanked a Catholic priest for teaching him how to perform oral sex.

Of course, Yiannopoulos had said plenty of outrageous things before Daniels floated the idea of bringing him here, such as “feminism is cancer,” to pick just one example.

Daniels also recently claimed that Republicans were victims of discrimination on campus and that professors have been known to lower the grades of conservative students, but when pressed he could not give a single example of when this occurred.

Now, it is certainly true that conservative opinions are often not given a fair hearing in academia and that the number of conservatives among faculty nationally has been in decline for some time.

Many millennials don’t understand conservative arguments and haven’t been exposed to people who can defend them articulately. The modern American conservative movement, spearheaded by William F. Buckley, was primarily an intellectual movement before Ronald Reagan brought it to the federal government with his 1980 victory.

James Wilson writes in his book “The Vision of The Soul,” “traditional conservatism strikes the contemporary beast … when he senses that the heart’s deepest longing is for a permanent happiness, and that happiness is possible only in an extended natural community with ties that bind but ties that uphold as well.”

Agree or disagree with the conservatives, but the questions of what is the natural order versus what is socially constructed, where the limits of the state lie, and what ideas about morality should be instantiated in law deserve legitimate debate.

But this isn’t what Daniels is doing. He is trying to raise the stakes and heighten the contradictions on a campus that needs more empathy and understanding on both sides of the divide.

And like the black bloc who prevented Yiannopoulos from speaking in Berkeley, this behavior only provokes outrage from the other side and only detracts from reasoned discourse. People only end up hating one another more than they did before.

Annoying one side or the other for the fun of it is not an ideology or an argument.

And so, until this stops, Daniels and College Republicans joining him should stop calling themselves conservatives. They’ve become trolls.

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