By Kate Minium, AU SPA ’20
Editor’s Note: Kate Minium represents the American University chapter of Young Americans for Freedom and is writing in response to Tom Lebert’s post about YAF’s event with Dinesh D’Souza.
I will begin by addressing Tom Lebert’s accusation that a member of our board used expletives and names and demanded that Lebert leave the event. What Lebert failed to mention was that he accused the individual of being homophobic, to which the individual responded by saying that he “was raised by two gay dads” and asking Lebert to leave. These accusations become a he-said/she-said scenario which we addressed and labelled as largely untrue in our statement released last week. I am confident in saying that our board member is only being put under such scrutiny because he was involved in hosting the Dinesh D’Souza lecture. If anything unjust had occurred, I would not stand for it. However, I have no reason to believe that is the case. Lebert’s credibility in criticizing the event was tarnished when he made his criticisms personal, such as when he claimed that hosting D’Souza was “an insult to [my] intelligence” in a Facebook post the morning it was announced. There is no gain in giving this further attention, as this is not what the lecture was about.
I agree with Lebert that American society does place debate on a high pedestal, claiming that a marketplace of ideas will allow the best ideas to succeed. As conservatives, we love our free markets and debate is no exception. A problem arises when what are considered to be the “best” ideas are, in fact, not ideas based on truth.
While D’Souza is being put under the utmost scrutiny (which I take no issue with), I would argue that rather than D’Souza going out of his way to avoid the use of verifiable facts, the opposition is going out of their way to find faults in his arguments. Again, I take no issue with the latter– it is even encouraged. I am simply arguing that D’Souza did not go out of his way to avoid using evidentiary support.
This event was also not advertised as a debate, but as a lecture with a Q&A session. The event hosted the following night, which no one from the opposition attended, was intended to deepen the discussion. D’Souza has no lack of credibility and his speech was not of malicious intent. His perceived inflammation would not be enough to justify us rescinding our invitation for him to speak without sacrificing our principles.
I am not going to defend D’Souza’s Twitter feed or Dinesh D’Souza himself, as we are not a “Dinesh D’Souza” club. I am going to defend conservatism, because we are a conservative club and D’Souza is a conservative. Based on the content of Lebert’s article and the criticism vocalized at the event, I feel comfortable assuming that the disagreement here is on truth. Is what D’Souza said true? The answer is yes.
To support this, I’ll address one of D’Souza’s primary claims during his speech which seemed to receive the most criticism. D’Souza claimed that fascism is predominantly found on the left. This is not a game of “who is more fascist,” but a response to conservatives being called fascists on a regular basis (a popular one that we get is “Young Americans for Fascism”). D’Souza was saying that if one side of the political spectrum is going to be fascist, it is certainly not going to be the right. The claims of conservatives being fascists are painfully ironic, and I will explain why.
Merriam-Webster defines fascism as “a political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.”
Most importantly, the implementation of any of the ideas in that definition requires big government.
The essence of conservatism is it’s focus on the individual, with a very slight, but necessary, attention to their role in society. The individual is what matters. That is in direct contradiction to the definition of fascism. Being a conservative means believing in natural rights. If you ask a conservative where their rights come from, you will get a response along the lines of “a higher power” or “they are ever-existing.” YAF is not a religious organization, but for argument’s sake, government is not God and it doesn’t get to pretend to be. Government should be as small as is possible, safe, and feasible while still fulfilling its duty of protecting its citizens and ensuring their rights can be exercised freely.
In contrast, many individuals do not believe in natural rights. If questioned where their rights come from, they will likely respond along the lines of “they come from the state” or “they are given by the government.” These individuals would fall on the left side of the political spectrum. This is where one of the lines between right and left is actually drawn. If the state is believed to be the endower of rights, this gives them the authority to grant and take away rights as they please. This opens the door to big government.
These are two very different ideas: the state as the ensurer of rights versus the state as the endowed of rights. The concept of big government can only exist when the state has dominion over what is considered to be a right. As conservatives, not only do we believe it to simply be untrue, but we see a huge danger in that. D’Souza was correct when he said that if fascism is going to exist today then it would have to be on the left, as right-of-center ideologies are, by definition, mutually exclusive with the essence of fascism.
It’s time to consider that some mainstream ideas might be illogical, not the ‘best,’ or not based on truth. I used to be on the left and I got to where I am today through questioning myself. On the bright side, it seems evident today that fascism is a movement that nobody at American University wants to be a part of and I think we are all on the right page there.
There are many events on campus that right-of-center students don’t believe promote good conversation or discourse. The D’Souza event is being treated differently purely due to its political alignment. The bottom line is that first and foremost, we are a conservative organization whose primary purpose is to empower and encourage fellow conservatives. Any debate or discussion that arises out of that is a wonderful thing. However, our primary interests do not lie in appeasing or even appealing to the other side.
Kate Minium is a Justice and Law: Counterterrorism and Home major and Computer Science minor at American University. Kate is chair of the American University chapter of Young Americans for Freedom.