On the heels of his well-received George Washington University speech on Tuesday, conservative icon and Daily Wire editor-in-chief Ben Shapiro spoke Wednesday to scores of students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, or UNC.
The event was spearheaded by the school’s college Republican group. Shapiro’s speech was live-streamed via Periscope by the Young America’s Foundation, or YAF, the conservative group that has been at forefront of the battle for free speech advocacy and ideological diversity on college campuses nationwide.
Unlike the GW event, which ran smoothly, the speech at UNC was disrupted by a spontaneous walkout. A few minutes into Shapiro’s talk, a cadre of students decided to get up out of their seats and loudly exit the room in an act of protest. A few of them mumbled sweet nothings under their breath. Presciently, in the very first line of his opening remarks, Shapiro anticipated some sort of juvenile meltdown. “Quick note to all the folks in the room: I hope nobody walks out or shouts down,” stated Shapiro. Like clockwork, several students did so anyway.
Ironically, the disruptive student-walk out proved Shapiro’s main argument better than anything else could: The Left is intolerant of dissenting viewpoints. As one flank of students exited the room, a single social justice warrior decided to stay behind and martyr herself on the cross of gelastic “resistance.” “You’re being intolerant of people’s feelings,” she wailed, her vocal fry compounding the choleric cacophony. Calm and measured, Shapiro responded, “We live in a safe space called America” where freedom of speech is permitted. Failing to register Shapiro’s facetious tone, the female student bleated, confident that she had pigeon-holded the speaker into accepting the legitimacy of "safe spaces." Without missing a beat, Shapiro quipped, “It’s called irony.” The crowd erupted into applause and laughter.
Unsurprisingly, the shout-down didn’t go as planned. Self-immolation on the pyre of “call out” culture takes a certain finesse. She didn’t have it. Defeated and dejected, the student-activist faded away , disappearing into the abyss of students eager to hear Shapiro speak without inane interjections.
In a matter of seconds, the students that walked out were replaced by new students waiting for a seat outside and enthusiastic to hear the conservative icon speak. Shapiro then continued unfazed. Echoing the theme of his GW speech, Shapiro argued “Since the 1960s, the Left’s ideological forebearers took over administrative buildings” paving the way for today’s modern social justice warriors.
The speech’s main focus, however, was on debunking a set of seemingly ubiquitous buzzwords plaguing today’s college campuses. These included:
- White privilege
- Trigger warnings
- Safe spaces
First, Shapiro tackled the Left’s superficial conception of “diversity.” “Diversity in this view is basically what you see on the admissions brochure,” he stated. It’s a bunch of people with different skin tones frolicking in utopian bliss.
Drawing a distinction between ideological and looks-based diversity, Shapiro celebrated the virtues of the former, while deconstructing the inherent bigotry of the latter.“Diversity of thought doesn’t matter to the Left, in fact, it’s counterproductive to the Left,” he noted. The Left “shuts down” anybody that opposes their viewpoints. “This is why you see protesters blocking doors.”
Bluntly, Shapiro asserted, “Unfortunately, the Left is racist. For the Left behavior is irrelevant...diversity of skin color” is all that matters.
Recalling the egalitarian sentiments of the early Civil Rights movement, Shapiro stressed “I don’t care if you’re black, white, or green. I just care if you’re a good person.”
The problem with the Left, Shapiro noted, is that it’s resistance to the “philosophy of individualism.” He then posed a rhetorical question to the audience to shed light on the “logic” of modern-day Leftism “What happens if members of an arbitrarily defined racial group tend to less wealthy?” he asked. “Well, according to the left, this means something unfair has happened.”
To the Left, “equality of outcome is the only thing that matters,” rather than what should matter: equality of opportunity. “Bernie Sanders' philosophy of money also applies to the Left’s philosophy” of racial discrepancies, Shapiro added.
Next, Shapiro went after the phantom of "white privilege." “In modern day America, white privilege is a ghost,” he asserted. “I’m not a ghost buster...Show me a racist piece of legislation, and I will stand alongside you and oppose it,” he affirmed. Otherwise, throwing out claims of “institutional racism” without hard evidence is just an exercise in futility. “That is a cop out,” reiterated Shapiro.
Celebrating the merits of American democracy, Shapiro explained, “In a free country like the United States, the decisions you make are going to impact your level of success.”
“This has nothing to do with race,” he added as another batch of students stood up and walked out of the room. While it’s unclear whether these students walked out as a gesture of protest or some other reason, the intermittent ebb and flow of students into the lecture hall affected the ability of some students to hear Shapiro clearly.
Moreover, throughout the course of the speech, sounds of shouting could be heard outside. Call it a weak attempt at the Heckler’s Veto.
After detailing relevant statistics seemingly disproving the concept of "white privilege," including the fact the poverty rate for single parent white families is 22%, while it’s only 7% for two-parent black families, Shapiro concluded that the greatest privilege in this country is “two-parent privilege,” a subset of “values privilege.”
The next topic that needed debunking was “trigger warnings,” the New Left’s favorite tool of censorship. “If you can’t get rid of inequality of outcome, you come up with a new metric: ‘feeling success,” Shapiro argued. This "feelings success" is enforced through trigger warnings, which cause “all spice taken out of life.”
Citing an anecdote from Harvard (posted below), Shapiro blasted what he deemed to be the erosion of intellectual freedom and tolerance in today’s academic institutions.
He used the example of the students walking out on his own speech as a felix culpa, a "happy fault" that ended up having beneficial consequences. Here, Shapiro used the incident to edify his audience about the pitfalls of Leftist myopia. “This is why people walk out of seminars...which by the way is pathetic,” he noted, highlighting the stunted emotional response to “offensive” ideas.
Then, Shapiro targeted microaggressions. “Once you move beyond trigger warnings, the next step is microaggressions,” he noted. According to Shapiro, equating words with physical “aggression” is “dicey territory.” If words constitute violence, then “aggression is to be met with aggression.”
“Actual acts of physical violence to prevent people from hearing people you don’t like” is the essence of microaggression culture, he declared, adding that feelings of “offense” are so subjective that nearly “half the things people” say can be considered microaggressions.
“Get over it,” Shapiro told students concerned about microaggressions. “You’re an adult. if you can't you're going to have a much harder life.”
Finally, Shapiro addressed the idiocy of “safe spaces.” “ A safe space is an austere space,” explained Shapiro. “In order for a space to be ‘safe,’ it can't be free.”
In ardent defense of open inquiry and free speech, Shapiro underscored the dangers of totalitarian censorship. “You’re all being made insane by this stuff!,” he argued. Safe-spacers are “making for a lot of anxious and really upset people.” The entire premise of shielding students from “harmful” ideas is antithetical to psychological well being, stressed Shapiro. It’s the “opposite of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy” (the most widely accepted tool in the psychologist’s playbook for addressing emotional distress).
Unequivocally, Shapiro asserted, “self-appointed victimhood which all this stuff boils down to...is very dangerous.”
He then contrasted “victim culture” with the distinctly American culture of free inquiry and open discussion. “America is the greatest place on the planet because we can still have discussions that offend each other!” said Shapiro, drawing the largest applause of the evening.
SHAPIRO: "America is the greatest place on the planet because we can still have discussions that offend each other."— YAF (@yaf) March 30, 2016
Shapiro continued, “America has a lot of problems” but “America for most of my life has been the closest thing to utopia on earth."
With that, Shapiro closed his speech, opening up the forum for the Q & A sessions.
Before Shapiro was asked any questions, the College Republicans’ moderator made a public statement announcement: “Please actually ask questions. Don’t pontificate for five minutes.”
The Q & A session featured an eclectic blend of questions, demonstrating the sheer breadth and fluidity of Shapiro’s knowledge. Students asked about everything the distinction between liberalism and Leftism to eminent domain.
The highlight of the Q & A session, however, was Shapiro’s comments on GOP frontrunner Donald Trump. Acknowledging the similarities between the unsavory tactics used by the Left and the Trump campaign, Shapiro clarified his position on the ascendency of Trump. “Donald Trump is a smoking garbage heap of human debris,” Shapiro noted, adding that the real estate mogul also happened to be a “bloviating sack of crap.”
Despite a few minor disruptions, Shapiro’s speech at UNC Chapel Hill drew major applause, as many students thanked Shapiro for introducing a wealth of intellectual diversity to the college campus.