Letter to the Editor: UConn Campus Antifascist Network Statement on Ben Shapiro

Dear Editor,

The UConn branch of the Campus Antifascist Network unequivocally condemns the politics of Ben Shapiro, who is scheduled to speak at UConn on January 24th. However, while our organization called upon our members and the community at large to come out to directly confront Lucian Wintrich, we have decided to protest Shapiro’s message in other forums. We fully stand by our decision to confront Wintrich, whose presentation was laden with the symbolism of the white supremacist alt right. Shapiro, while racist, is not part of the alt right and is somewhat critical of Trump. He is an extreme conservative who thrives on the media attention of his campus opposition. So, rather than getting people out to fill the auditorium, we decided at our general meeting last Friday to support students pushing for alternative programming to counter his toxic politics.  

What are those toxic politics? While nominally libertarian and focused on economic issues, Shapiro’s attack on college cultures isn’t just driven by an abstract desire for free speech or for a simple wish to see ideological diversity on campuses. It’s driven, in part, by white identity politics, a noxious sludge shared with the very alt-right that he condemns. Shapiro feels that transgender people are mentally ill and apparently believes that indigenous peoples were savages before the arrival of Christopher Columbus. Though mildly critical of Trump, his newsfeed, The Daily Wire, currently participates in the dehumanization of undocumented immigrants and even people in the DACA program through the Trumpian myth that they are endemically criminal. He also dismisses the Black Lives Matter movement with the same cultural racism as his predecessor Dinesh D’Souza, who claimed that black and white income inequality is due to the pathological failings of black culture. These beliefs naturally cause him to overlook the need for ethnic studies and diversity-related education in the United States, and to ignore the student protests that brought such programming into being at UConn and elsewhere. They also sadly cause him to see white conservatives like himself as oppressed minorities deserving of the same sympathy on college campuses as people actually facing systemic injustice on account of their race, class, gender, or sexuality. Sadly, this is standard conservative fare in today’s United States.

It is not surprising to us that the recently radicalized College Republicans – the same people who invited the openly racist Lucian Wintrich –  have invited Ben Shapiro as well. In this particular case, however, we have decided to fight for social justice in our own forums in which we frame the message. To this end, our organization is participating in coalitions with other campus organizations in advance of this event and beyond to create our own programming.  

Steering Committee

UConn Campus Antifascist Network