Recently, I got back from a tedious session of discussion about left-wing philosophy at the library to find a flyer slipped under my door. In fact, the flyer was slipped under the doors of everyone on my floor. After picking it up, my eyes popped out of my head and onto the floor, as the event advertised that national college conservative group Turning Point USA’s “Campus Clash” tour comes to MSU today. You might remember TPUSA as a group that once dressed up as babies to protest “safe spaces”, or for producing the oft-mocked “gun girl” Kaitlin Bennett. Founder Charlie Kirk and Candace Owens are the headliners, with intellectual heavyweights like Tuscon cop Brandon Tatum, YouTube commentator Dave Rubin, America’s greatest failson Donald Trump Jr., and his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle relegated to special guest status. This promises to be the greatest act of lib-owning this campus has ever seen.
Fortunately, we can expect a more low-key event. There doesn’t appear to be any kind of organized protest against the CAMPUS CLASH. Perhaps anyone who might organize one looked at how seriously this was promoted and realized it wouldn’t draw a big crowd. The organizers dreamed big, booking a third floor lecture hall at the Natural Sciences Building for the event. That’s a whole 305 people. Faced with filling out such a massive space, it’s no surprise tickets for students and adults were offered for free. Even at that price, both were available as of late last night. Curiously, $50 VIP tickets were sold out, so at least their audience is committed.
This is not the first stop for the CAMPUS CLASH crew. Recently, they’ve done this same show at LSU, Penn State, Georgia, Utah Valley, and other colleges around the country. The formula is pretty simple – go to college campuses, where most students are liberal-leaning, DESTROY The Left with FACTS and LOGIC (while pretending they come for a good-faith debate), and then try to attract counter-protest attention to claim victimhood in as many media outlets as they can.
The first sign that this isn’t a good faith, intellectual event should be the name CAMPUS CLASH. If I wanted to be nice and talk to people I disagreed with, I wouldn’t ever frame it as a CLASH, a word that calls to mind violence and bloodshed. It’s kind of a letdown then that the only violence that’s happened at these events is being done on the minds of anyone who sits through them, through some of the bizarre takes at the event, such as when Owens proclaims that Democrats are “programming” children to want gun control and a lower voting age, or when Rubin says that John F. Kennedy was “against wars”. But if these people are supposed to be CLASHING with their ideological enemies, that doesn’t fit with the idea that they’re going to have a nice conversation instead of intentionally provoking people into fits of rage.
I watched the LSU CAMPUS CLASH, and in it Kirk and Owens brought up their encounters with the unfeeling campus libs often. Kirk jokingly said he and Owens are “the first conservative duo to speak at Berkeley and Stanford and live”. Owens mentioned Black Lives Matter protestors at an event who tried to drown them out by blasting Beyonce while they were talking. Kirk, after explaining how conservatives refuse to play the victim, talked about a time where a Turning Point volunteer at UC-Berkeley was punched by an angry liberal, neither of whom were Berkeley students. Because he’s not a victim, he immediately turned around and lobbied Donald Trump to pass an executive order that would strip federal funding from schools that wouldn’t book him or similar speakers. In fact, midway through the talk at LSU, someone starts yelling at Kirk and Owens.
Kirk and Owens’ reaction to this is very telling. Owens immediately tells the person not to bother since “The mic won’t pick this up…nobody’s gonna watch at home”. (I watched this on TPUSA’s own YouTube channel, where it was livestreamed.) This doesn’t stop the protester, who starts yelling things that you can almost hear on the mic that wasn’t going to pick it up. Owens then says “We’d like to have a conversation” about five times to the protester. When that fails, she and Kirk resort to repeatedly claiming they won’t misgender the protester as security throws them out. Kirk then leads the audience in a rapturous “U-S-A! U-S-A!” chant. They spent a few seconds trying to convince someone to talk to them, then immediately kicked them out and proclaimed cultural superiority.
Outside of that incident, the other time when the hosts made gestures of bipartisanship was when Rubin, who calls himself a “classical liberal”, came onstage. Rubin makes his name off of being a “reformed leftist” who’s willing to talk to anyone, though his partnership with a think tank connected to the conservative Koch brothers and a cursory look at his guest list will show you that he just can’t find a lot of left-leaning people to talk to. In that spirit, he spent some time talking about how we don’t talk to each other and need to talk to each other.
The hosts and Rubin then invited audience members to ask them questions, stressing that people who disagreed would come to the front and they wanted to hear disagreement. Though this sounds like a nice gesture, these are designed to appeal to the types of people who make YouTube compilations of times Turning Point owned the libs. A quick search turns up “Candace Owens GOES OFF on Liberal Snowflakes”, “Black Student CONFRONTS Smart Conservatives, Gets DESTROYED!”, “Charlie Kirk Smashes Socialism! Top 5 Takedowns of 2017”, and more. These Q&A sessions thus are turned into recruitment tools for TPUSA and conservative causes in general as they rack up hundreds of thousands of views.
The CAMPUS CLASH is an attempt by prominent conservatives to rile up campus liberals under the guise of a normal speaking event, just like when Richard Spencer came last year and Milo Yiannopoulous came in 2016. By all means, get riled up – Spencer cited the protest at MSU as a reason for retreating from the public spotlight. Just don’t expect a debate.