On Monday evening, Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro returned to UCLA, his alma mater, where he graduated in 2004 before attending Harvard Law School. He spoke of the rise of campus fascism by the Left, using the theories of the famed 1950’s Marxist theorist Theodor Adorno culled from his book “The Authoritarian Personality.”
Shapiro noted that Adorno sprang from the so-called Frankfurt School, a group of Marxist philosophers from Germany who fled Hitler’s rise and came to the United States, and who believed that capitalism had infected the West with certain value systems that prevented true happiness and freedom from rising to the fore.
He pointed out that Adorno wanted to draw a distinction between Hitler and Marxism, and tried to obfuscate the fascism of the Left. But, Shapiro noted, Adorno’s theories described well the Marxist school of thought displayed by the Left on campuses across America.
He began his odyssey into the nine elements of the authoritarianism Adorno spoke of as laid out by Professor Adrian Furnham, professor of psychology at University College in London.
Shapiro started with conventionalism, which some have accused the Right of promulgating with an insistence on bourgeois middle class values. He said that the idea that conventionalism is a concept utilized by the Right was simply not true, adding that conventionalism is about adhering to the moral standard that is promulgated at the time. Ergo, on campuses, students’ obedience to the leftist standards that are prevalent is conventional. He stated, “Obedience to the Left, obedience to authority is key.”
Next came authoritarian submission: uncritical acceptance of authority. Shapiro stated, “On campus, the idea that you have to uncritically accept authority is obviously true. This is why you have speech codes, and conduct codes and every other kind of code . . . it’s why you have kangaroo courts where due process is not necessary.”
Third element: authoritarian aggression: a tendency to condemn anyone who violates conventional norms, the idea that a person who has bad manners, habits and breeding can hardly expect to get along with decent people. Shapiro stated that campus thought dictated, “All people who disagree with the prevailing leftist superstructure of thought, they must be cast out of society.” No cool-kid parties, no being accepted as a decent person.
Fourth: Anti-intraception: rejection of weakness or sentimentality, the idea that businessman and the manufacturer are much more important to society than the artist and professor. Shapiro said Adorno felt this was one of the keys to authoritarianism, but Adorno missed the underlying structure of thought: that the reason so many authoritarian societies don’t value the artist and the poet is that the artist and the poet spend so much time attempting to understand beyond boundaries of identity and job description. But the Left does that in terms of intersectionality.
The fifth element: Superstition and stereotypy: belief in mystical determinants of action and rigid, categorical thinking. Shapiro asked if there was anything more superstitious than gender theory, or environmentalist theory that suppressed dissenting questions.
On to the sixth element: Power and toughness: preoccupation with dominance over others. He pointed out Antifa is obsessed with dominance. Leftists chant mantras such as “The people united will never be divided!” “Whose campus? Our campus!” Shapiro stated, “For all the talk about pacifism, the least pacifistic people on campus are the ones who are out there beating up supporters of mine who want to come to my speeches.”
Seventh element backing authoritarianism: Destructiveness and cynicism: a generalized feeling of hostility and anger. He pointed out the Left believes all anger is justified, that their boundaries can never be crossed. He added, “This generalized feeling of hostility: it doesn’t have to be justified by statistics; it doesn’t have to be justified by evidence; it doesn’t even have to be justified by solid anecdotal evidence that can be backed up by evidence. If you’re angry, there must be a reason for it and therefore we have to kowtow to your anger. Subjectivity overrules objectivity.”
The eighth element: projectivity: a tendency to project inner emotions and impulses outward. Shapiro pointed out there is no more conspiratorial group in America today than leftists on college campuses who assert that the economy is rigged against them. The supposed “white privilege” mantra: Shapiro quipped, “People like me are getting together in our Protocol of the Elders of Zion meetings after davening (praying) on Fridays and we are figuring out how to keep the black man down. This is supremely stupid. And not only is it supremely stupid; it’s supremely counterproductive because it’s teaching individuals in the freest country in the history of the planet if they work hard, that if they abide by the standards of decency and reason, that they still can’t get ahead because some conspiracy’s out there to stop them.” Shapiro also deconstructed the idea that women are systemically underpaid.
And finally, the ninth element: an overfocus on sex. Shapiro pointed out that the Left that is obsessed with sex. He noted that the Left believes that religious people should be forced to accept leftists’ notions of sex.
Shapiro stated that all of these elements add up to a ripe field for recruitment when it comes to shutting down those who disagree, that intolerance is the ultimate outcome, that dissent has to be silenced.
The Founding Fathers thought differently from all of this; the Founding Fathers were right. They thought in terms of individualism; they thought that you had a right to speak freely. Not because all opinions are equal, they weren’t moral relativists; they didn’t think that all opinions were correct; they didn’t think that all perspectives were correct; they didn’t think any of that.
But what the founding fathers did believe is that we are all individually made in the image of God, and that came along with certain inalienable rights, and one of those inalienable rights is the right to exercise our free will and our reason in coming up with arguments. And to express those arguments in order to convince others.
This is something that Founders deeply believed; this is what the First Amendment is all about, and this is what undergirded all the ideas of free government. And they were certain, by the way, if left to our own devices, that social institutions, properly supported by the community, could fill the gap left by a non-tyrannical government. In order to force people to be virtuous, folks like Aristotle talked about having an overbearing government that would basically cause virtue. And the Founding Fathers disagreed with that; they said, “Well, that ignores the fact that virtue has to be an exercise of free will; that is why we need social institutions to fill those gaps but we need a government that doesn’t impede people in pursuing their own free will.”
That is the best way, and American conservatism is not authoritarian. American conservatism is not Hitlerian. American conservatism is not Marxist; it’s not Authoritarian Leftism. American conservatism is about individualism. It’s the opposite of the American Left and the campus Left. That’s why our campuses require hundreds of police officers every time I speak . . . whenever the Left authoritarian mindset predominates on campus it quashes the debate.
An hour-long Q&A followed. The speech and Q&A can be seen in their entirety below: