Ben Shapiro, a conservative activist and editor-in-chief for Daily Wire, spoke to a capacity crowd in Campbell Hall Tuesday evening. The event, titled “A Legacy of Lies: The Regressive Left & #BlackLivesMatter,” consisted of a speech from Shapiro, followed by an extensive Q&A open to the audience.
Shapiro, who’s critical of what he says are leftist-leanings on American college campuses, encouraged those who disagreed with his views to challenge him.
“I tend to think of politics sort of like two lines that are not parallel, and where they intersect sometimes you can find some facts you can agree on,” he said.
Shapiro’s supporters made up most of the crowd, and there weren’t visible confrontations among the students in attendance. “I lean (politically) more towards independent-conservative,” said Alex Astrella, a third year film and media studies major. “I was interested and his whole spiel with Black Lives Matter, I’m just interested to see his views and what he brings to the table.”
Students were turned away at the door as the 860-seat hall filled to capacity, with some of the patrons dawning red MAGA hats and others wearing American flag-print clothing.
“I was expecting there to be more protesters,” said Asterella.
Referencing the controversy his event sparked, Shapiro stated, “If you disagree with what I have to say, maybe you should argue with what I have to say as to simply calling it hate speech.”
Shapiro began with a speech outlining what he felt were issues between “diversifying politics” and freedom of speech, claiming people associate virtue with victimized identities, and that this virtue has a heavier emphasis in society than speech content.
Shapiro went on to describe a “hierarchy of victimhood,” with victimizers such as white males at the bottom and LGBT and black communities more towards the top. He also explained that speech privileges were included in this stratification. Claiming the purpose of his speech was the truth about America, he made various arguments to debunk claims and statistics used in leftist rhetoric.
“The idea that the institutional society as a whole is out to get you is just plain false, and not only is it false, it’s counter productive and destroys your chances at success,” Shapiro said.
The speech lasted approximately a half hour, after which he fielded questions, requesting those who opposed him the most go first. The first student drew on the subject of hate speech, using an example of speech constraint laws in European countries regarding Nazism. The student asked where the right of the individual to speak begins in relation to harming another.
“My argument is that in open debate, the Nazi party will lose,” said Shapiro regarding the student’s example. “I oppose a lot of the hate speech laws, because once you give the government the power to decide which views are acceptable and which views are not acceptable, than that gun can turn on you in a real hurry.”
“How can you say that there’s no institutional racism when these institutions themselves are saying they’re doing these things?” a student asked afterward. In the question, he cited a 2006 FBI report which warned of white supremacists in police enforcement, as well the Supreme Court’s refusal to review a voting rights act that critics said targeted minority voters.
In response, Shapiro said, “Here’s my general view about institutional racism … I’m not saying individuals don’t exist inside departments, I’m sure there are some cops who are racist. The question is, how do we fight racism.” Shapiro drew on how he believed incompetency or bad policing within institutions are more prevalent than motivated racism by the institutions.
When asked about President Trump’s war on the media, Shapiro claimed that it was less of a totalitarian ploy and more a narcissistic reaction. The trouble he had with the president was with a different aspect of his treatment of the media.
“Trump thinks that the media are the enemy of him and that therefore they’re an enemy of the American people,” Shapiro said. “There’s something disturbing about his philosophy, which is, ‘if you oppose me then you oppose the American people,’ that’s not something I want to hear from any president.”
An unedited video of the event is available on the Daily Wire.
UPDATE: A previous version of the article incorrectly transcribed a quote from Ben Shapiro. The article has been updated for accuracy.