Kassy Dillon, a Middle Eastern studies and International Relations junior at Mount Holyoke College, has founded a new website called the Lone Conservative, a conservative blog for right-of-center millennials. Dillon is an ardent activist on college campuses for the principles of liberty and limited government, serving as president of the College Republicans at her school and state chair of the Massachusetts Young Americans for Liberty.
Below is the Daily Wire's conversation with Dillon about the Lone Conservative and the current climate on college campuses.
Why don't you tell me a little bit about your new website, the Lone Conservative?
Sure. I thought about this, creating this website back in early May, when I was first got to DC for an internship and I started writing for Campus Reform. Campus Reform is based on–they tend to only focus on news and don't really have many opinion pieces or editorial pieces. I thought that we needed to do something to get more conservative voices out there; it's not just, you know, newspapers at their schools, I wanted something more nationwide. So I thought of the Lone Conservative. I posted on Facebook asking if any of my friends knew how to build websites or anything like that, and I found Micah Messer...and he told me that he was good at, you know, making websites, and so Micah and I worked together and we started making Lone Conservative. It was an idea that started on a piece of paper while sitting on the Metro.
Was it the internship that inspired the idea for the site?
I don't think it was specifically my internship, because my internship had nothing to do with journalism. I was working for a nonprofit. I think it was more working for Campus Reform and really wanting to put some ideas out there rather than just what's going on at campuses. I started writing different articles and editorials about how conservatives on campus think, and a lot of people were very interested. I just posted on Twitter, "Hey, who would be interested in writing opinion pieces if you're in college about conservatism on campus?" And the response I got was incredible; so many people just wanted to get involved. Now, a couple months later we have about 30 to 40 people writing for me regularly. We probably get around five applications a day of people wanting to join the team.
So what's the process for finding authors and selecting articles to publish?
We have a process of how we pick people. We take applications from everybody. I ask them usually to pitch me two articles because I want to know what kind of things they're interested in writing, and then what we'll do is they'll send us some articles and we'll review and see...because I do have some people who don't have the best writing skills. I think it's important to help them develop more, so we have a bunch of editors that will help. We'll look at the articles and see if they have good writing skills, that they're writing about topics that align with our message–because we want to write about more millennial issues and not just politics in general. So if they align with our message and they seem like they're dedicated and have good skills, then usually we take them on board. And writing for us isn't just writing essays. We actually have a Slack chat; we're all very close, a lot of us go to conferences together, we're all starting to finally meet each other face to face. I'm sending Micah and a bunch of other authors–I think four other authors–to a conference in San Francisco this weekend.
You talked about how your site focuses on millennial issues rather than just politics in general, so what are some of those issues?
Well, being in college, a lot of my authors really like writing about free speech on campus. We have so many articles about that, and then we have a lot of emails they write to us, and they like to talk about feminism and how feminism's being talked about in gender studies departments on campus, so some people talk about that. We have a big variety. Sometimes we'll cover the current news and give a millennial perspective on it, so a lot of people talk about Black Lives Matter; you see articles about that. We have people that are very passionate about guns, so we have some articles about guns, and we're working on something about campus carry right now. That's starting to get really big in Alabama, and Micah is from Alabama, so I think there are a variety of issues that we talk about...whatever they pitch me, usually I let them write about it, with some exceptions. Sometimes we get authors that get a little, little too crazy and let them know that's not what we want to talk about.
How would you say that Lone Conservative is different from other conservative sites?
That's a good question...I'd say we're different because we have a really big group of people that write for us. We now have authors from, I think, 25 different states. I don't want my authors to just be writers. So I encourage them to be involved in activism; a lot of them have YAL chapters or YAF chapters or get involved in the College Republicans or Students for Concealed Carry. It's not only just writing for us, it's also getting involved in the movement, too. I think students get sick of tabling all day, because that's what all the bigger organizations ask them to do. So when they write for us, they are contributing to the movement by publishing, getting their ideas out there, but you know it's also about getting students more active on campus too.
So would you say that the people on the site tend to be solely conservative, or are there some libertarians and conservatarians as well?
That is a great question because Micah is actually a Gary Johnson supporter, and I'm voting for Trump. I guess I'm not the hugest supporter of him right now, but he still has my vote, and so it's really funny, because of half us are libertarians and half of us are conservatives, and some of us identify as conservatarian. That's more what I am, because I'm also the YAL State Chair of Massachusetts, but we definitely get into some crazy arguments about that. And we have articles that are from the YAL students that are pro-Gary, and we have a ton of Trump articles already out there, so it's definitely a really awesome dynamic fusing together libertarians and conservatives, and I also think it's kind of representative of what's going on through the party. Because with the millennials moving up, so many libertarian values are now getting infused into the Republican Party.
Moving onto college campuses now, would you say that the climate on college campuses has improved, worsened or remained about the same from last year?
I just want to throw one thing out there, and then I'll answer your questions so I won't want to forget it–we also just incorporated into an LLC too. We're now an LLC, which is really exciting. It happened a month ago; I just wanted to get that out there. To answer your question, I'm actually the girl who videotaped Trigglypuff...I got the video of Trigglypuff, yes, for Campus Reform. So I'd say after that video came out, I feel it kind of opened people's eyes because they heard that these liberals were crazy and they saw some videos, and they're like, that one was just over the top. When I first recorded that, I did not think it was going to go viral. I was thinking, "I see them do this all the time". So now that it's being exposed to the older generation and parents are seeing how their children are acting, I'm starting to see a turnaround the other way. I just wrote an article about cultural libertarianism that was published in Heat Street this summer...a lot of people are starting to change. Here's a representative example of this: I just became my school's College Republican president...last year we had three members and I was one of them, but this year...30 people signed up, so it was pretty amazing. I mean, only 10 people are active right now, but we had 30 people sign up and that's something we haven't done since the early 2000s at my school, because our club has been around for over 100 years now.
What are some ways that conservatives can fight back against the snowflakes on college campuses other than just bringing speakers?
One thing I see that's wrong with a lot of students on campus getting involved with activism, especially with conservative activism, is them not having the motivation to get involved. So this weekend, I went to a student activism conference in Boston and we had a good turnout. There were about 28 of us, which is actually quite good, to get students to go sit in training all day long on their weekend off. The more and more that you have them, the more things they're going to do on campus. So we bring them to these conferences with really good speakers or just people who are teaching how to get involved and offer them internships and a career. That is how we get these students to start getting active.
And then there are other things you can do on your campus, because some activism that they've been starting to do has been fun and really successful. The free speech ball, this ginormous ball you just roll around campus and you write on it, that's fun. And Young Americans Liberty, they're having an event this month where you're playing dodgeball, and you start with both sides out playing dodgeball with each other, and then at one point you give all the dodgeballs to one side and not the other side...and it's supposed to be representative of your life, your right. You should be able to have the right to defend yourself. We're doing something with that on my campus and with another campus in the area where our schools banned pepper spray. I go to an all-female school that empowers women, but we are not allowed to have pepper-spray on campus, even though the state of Massachusetts just legalized it. We still cannot have pepper-spray on campus...why can't I, at a female campus that's supposed to empower women, have a right to protect myself? That's just insane to me.
What are some activism methods for dealing with some of the more hard-core leftist professors on campus?
Well I'm very fortunate on my campus. I'm actually [an] International Relations and Middle Eastern studies major, so I'm not in the American politics classes and I have a constitutional law class this semester; I definitely argue the entire time. But I'm very fortunate; my professors really welcome my opinion because Holyoke has a great classroom experience, and they love having me in there to start a debate, because if I weren't there, there would be a professor preaching to the choir. Because I'm there, it makes it possible to debate; those leftist students should appreciate me, because I'm helping them get prepared for the real world. If I weren't there, they would have no idea how to debate, even though they don't really have an idea when I'm there anyway but it's still a good time.
But there are other campuses I've covered where these professors don't get this, and so what these students need to do is to let people know. They need to give their story to Campus Reform so they can get it exposed, because intellectual diversity matters and the only way you're going to get more intellectual diversity is to stand up for yourself and tell other people about it. You can't just sit back and write a very progressive essay or a liberal essay on prompts that are supposed to make it be liberal. If you don't agree with what they're asking you, you should stand up for yourself and not appease what your professors want you to do.
Just to play devil's advocate here: Ben Shapiro likes to say that you can pretend to have the views of Lenin or Marx in your essays so you can get a good grade and then later kind of co-op them and expose your professors for who they are.
Exactly, and actually I was talking to a student in Boston College the other day, and he was taking a quiz on a map of the Middle East, and he is a student that's very involved in activism for Israel and travels to Israel a lot, and the quiz was asking him to give the name of–well you can call it Palestine–the areas in Israel and he didn't label it Palestine. He labeled it the West Bank and then he labeled it the Gaza Strip, and the professor told him he was wrong. That question doesn't have a definite answer because it depends on who you're talking to, but him being an activist for Israel, he's calling it the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and he's getting it marked wrong; his grade suffers.
He's staying true to what he believes in and didn't appease the professor; you have to really weigh it: what's more important, staying true to your values or writing down what your professor wants to hear? It's up to the student. I definitely write down what my values are and then sometimes I'll have to go outside and do my own research and not use readings that professors want us to use so I can defend my point.
What are some things that you've done on your campus in particular in terms of conservative activism?
Well, I haven't been too heavily involved in it on my college campus. I wasn't so involved last year because I worked a lot, but this year I am super involved and I have many things planned, and the first thing I'm doing is fighting the pepper-spray ban. I'm going to team up with Smith College, which is the female sister school right next to mine. The second thing I'm going to do is definitely do some more–I'm probably going to do the free speech ball event, but as the YAL state chair I've been going to other campuses and helping them. At the University of Massachusetts Amherst we actually held a memorial service for Harambe after one of the RA's told the students they shouldn't speak of Harambe or post a meme because it was a Title IX violation. So what we did was get a bunch of little battery candles; we had a picture of Harambe and we had a bunch of roses and bananas we were handing out. It was awesome.
Of all the universities you've visited, which was the worst when it came to hostility to free speech and so forth?
The answer I should be giving is UMass Amherst, but that's not fair for me to say because definitely, the time where I've dealt with people really trying to suppress free speech was the event at UMass where I captured Trigglypuff on camera. But she's not from UMass, she's from Hampshire College, so I'm sure that going to Hampshire College, which is a very extremely liberal school, if I went there I would feel the lack of free speech. I'd say right now, as a whole, Massachusetts schools really suffer with it. II'm definitely working hard as the YAL state chair to identify schools that need to have this broken.
And even at my school, we put up a table at an org fair for Young Americans Liberty, and we weren't a registered org at the time; we're now almost registered. And so they actually kicked us off, they said you guys need to leave, you can't have this table here. I thought that was crazy because why not have this table here? We don't have a free speech zone on my campus, but they still kicked us out because the space was reserved, which makes it even harder to get my org registered, because...they let me table eventually, but they kicked me off that night.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
When we first started, I told you we had some excitement, some of my friends were really excited, a lot of the students that were involved in the nonprofits and YAL and YAF were really excited, but now we're doing really well. We get thousands of page views, and we have articles coming in all the time, and new people applying, so we're growing and it's really exciting. We're starting a podcast which will probably be up in the next month, so that's really exciting. We did our first podcast last night before the debate. It was a good time but I want to make it more regular and more structured.
Also, we introduced this thing called The Pack, so our logo is a wolf–the Lone Conservative–we're saying lone because it started with me, and I started out the only conservative on campus; the other people in my club were more libertarian leaning. The Lone Conservative is representative of a lot of conservatives who feel alone on their campuses, even though there might be one or two of them on their campus, but overall there are less of them than there are liberals. So that's where the "lone" part comes from. Let me turn to The Pack: The Pack is a premium membership where people will get an email subscription. It's not just for college students, as a lot of people in it are older, but they'll have a chance to come speak with us so a lot of the deals are for people who want to get involved. So what we do is to have public calls; they all talk to us, and a lot of times they just ask me, where do I send my children to college? They're asking for my advice because they're so terrified of what's gonna happen when their kids grow up and go to college. So we talk to them a lot, give them a lot of advice...also a lot of people in it are getting involved in activism where they don't want to write but they want to help Lone Conservative so they'll give us a monthly contribution. Then they have the opportunity to have our consent for helping their student organization, because I do help all around the country with people's stories or whatever they need...also we're doing merchandise...we're going to offer some cool laptop stickers. I think of these crazy puns all the time and now I need to write them down and make cool laptop stickers.