I had the privilege of hearing Charlie Kirk speak today. Oh. My. God. Charlie is a human dynamo: incredible intelligence and moral decency wrapped up in pure energy and passion, presented through the medium of a riveting presence.
Some of you may already have gotten a taste of what Charlie offers if you saw him speak at the Republican National Convention or have caught him on Fox. Here’s a video of him speaking at the Western Conservative Summit this past summer:
That video is only 10 minutes long. We got to hear Charlie speak for almost an hour. Much of that time was spent with him speaking off the cuff, answering questions like the most seasoned speaker on the circuit. It’s hard to believe that this dynamic, focused, poised young man is only 22 years old. He’s an old soul, that’s for sure.
Charlie’s passion for getting America’s youth to embrace such traditional values as free speech and the free market began when he was in high school, looking at American colleges. After touring several of them, he was so dismayed by what he found there that, rather than entering college himself, he elected to dedicate six months challenging the hard Left mindset that dominates America’s institutes of higher education, after which he would begin college himself. (I’ve written several posts about the insanity on America’s campuses, with my agonies at my child’s Obscenely Expensive Liberal Arts College described here and here. I also did some disheartening forays into college course catalogs from Smith, Macalester, Oberlin, Scripps, and Williams. The only moment of light was Hillsdale.)
Charlie’s six-month experiment turned into an organization called Turning Point USA which, four years later, has an impressive operating budget (all from donations, which you can make here) and is present on 1,100 high schools and college campuses nationwide, with over 75 full-time field staffers. Moreover, Charlie just hit the Amazon best seller lists for political freedom and economy with his new book, Time for a Turning Point: Setting a Course Toward Free Markets and Limited Government for Future Generations. Although the hard copies are currently sold out, you can pre-order one for shipping. You can also order the Kindle version of Charlie’s book.
I didn’t take notes (I was too busy listening), but I think I can remember a few of the high points from Charlie’s speech, which I present here in no particular order.
1. While many people find laughable such notions as safe spaces, free speech zones, microaggressions, and trigger warnings, the fact is that these four ideas are being used to stifle not just conservative students but also pro-American ideas. Things have gotten so insane that students have successfully (and apparently seriously) claimed to be triggered by the word “triggered,” because it reminds them of guns, which are scary.
Nor are these speech-suppressing tactics living only on hard Left campuses such as Oberlin. Instead, they’ve spread from campus to campus, where their application is strictly a one-way street. You can be triggered by a pro-life person showing a picture of a soon-to-be-aborted fetus, justifying banning that speaker or idea from campus, but you cannot be triggered by a pro-abortion person promoting the procedure, even if you argue credibly that your best friend died or was terribly injured due to an abortion.
Turning Point, USA, working with the inestimably valuable FIRE, has successfully sued several colleges. Even better, the colleges have settled without even reaching the painful and expensive discovery and trial phases of litigation. Nevertheless, lawsuits are slow and unwieldy. Turning Points’ real energy is directed at hard ideological fighting, on the ground. It’s there that Turning Point gives freedom-loving students the tools with which to challenge campus censorship.
Charlie makes the correct point that if you censor speech, you censor ideas. I realized this was true looking at my past. I knew something was deeply wrong with Cal when I was there more than 30 years ago, but I didn’t have the vocabulary or ideas to challenge the Marxism that underlay most of my class instruction. All I could do was mutter that it was “stupid” and complain that “I hate Berkeley” — but neither of those is a persuasive argument or an intellectual foundation on which one can build. Sadly, nothing existed then to steer me away from my knee-jerk Democratic affiliation. Charlie is working to change that for the current generation of college students who know something is wrong, but don’t know how to change or escape from it.
2. For many of us older conservatives, the new media seemed like a perfect weapon to break through the stranglehold that the mainstream media has on the spread of information and ideas in America. Sadly, according to Charlie, things are worse than before. The old media at least had to comply with FCC regulations about fair use and it was talking to an older audience that remembered traditional American values and practices. The new social media on which young people rely to get their news is run by hard-Left graduates of the same colleges that are working overtime to stifle free speech and independent thought.
For example, Instagram isn’t just about sharing pictures. Instead, it has a “news” feed which is relentlessly dedicated to savaging Trump and sanctifying Hillary. The same is true for Facebook, which was recently exposed for gaming its “trending articles” segment. (Incidentally, despite a promise to fix the problem, Facebook is still relentlessly gaming its “trending articles” section.) Twitter, as we conservatives know, provides a huge forum for the worst kind of Islamic antisemitism, but routinely shuts down conservative accounts. Social media isn’t just social; it’s an arm of the Left dedicated to controlling ideas by using carefully limited data to indoctrinate rather than inform.
3. It is possible to reach millennials. As the above video shows, most of them aren’t doctrinaire socialists (they’re too ill-informed to be). They’re just people who are disgusted by government corruption and control. Because they’ve been indoctrinated to hate and fear conservatives — who are continually calling for smaller government — Bernie seemed to throw them a life line, because he presented himself as “sea-green incorruptible.” Of course, Bernie wasn’t and isn’t. Bernie is a lazy crank who’s fed off the government teat for his entire career and who coincidentally bought a nice third home right about the time he threw his much-vaunted principles out the window and endorsed Hillary.
The way to reach millennials, Charlie said, is to get them to express their dissatisfaction with government (“it’s corrupt; it’s too controlling; it’s scary”) and then ask them one simple question: “Why do you want to vote for the party that has as its goal making government even bigger?”) Little Leftist minds blown.
The other point Charlie made, which I loved because I’ve been making it for years, is that millennials are the most passive generation ever. As he’s pointed out to his age cohort, they’re Progressives, their teachers are Progressives, their parents are Progressives, their music and movies are Progressive, and they think they’re rebels — but what the heck are they rebelling against?
I have one answer, based on looking at the kids in my region. Their idea of rebellion is limited to sex, drink, and drugs. In all other ways, they are sheep, passively accepted the Leftist ideology that pours down on them from all corners of their lives.
4. Trump’s locker room tapes hurt him with millennials for a reason that wouldn’t have occurred to any of us: While millennials truly dislike Hillary, the tapes stuck a label on her that they readily recognize from their lifetime of indoctrination. Hillary is now a victim of the patriarchy in the form of Donald Trump, the misogynistic woman hater.
Bill’s rapes, assaults, and harassment, as well as Hillary’s vicious attacks against his accusers, are irrelevant. Not only did they happen a long time ago and in a galaxy far, far away (from a millenialist viewpoint), the women involved are old now. Youngsters look at them and (a) can’t imagine that these grim-looking, heavyset women were ever “babes” that Bill would attack and (b) are unable to feel empathy for women separated from them by so much time.
5. The Rolling Stone attack against the fraternity at UVA was not random. Leftists relentlessly attack fraternities and sororities because they are the last bastion of quality and the right to free association on American campuses. Students at Greeks tend to have better grades than their peers and do more community service than their non-Greek peers. When they graduate, the Greek network helps them find good jobs. All of this is unfair. Leftists, rather than creating their own organizations of excellence instead banish Greeks from their campuses or impose so many restrictions on them that they cease to fulfill their function. At Harvard, for example, if you belong to a Greek, you are barred from participating in other aspects of campus life. In addition (and I can’t remember if this was at Harvard or elsewhere), the campuses impose race, sexuality, and financial quotas on the Greeks. You simply can’t have excellence in these Socialist bastions of American life.
6. Charlie believes, as I do, that we are at a hinge point election from which there is no return. Trump and Hillary are just figureheads for two diametrically different views of America:
Trump’s is a view consistent with America in the second half of the 20th century, with traditional values, including such things as free speech, freedom of worship, and a population that is judged by the content of its character, rather than the color of its skin; a market-based economy; and a strong defensive presence in the world.
Hillary’s vision is of a fully-globalized America, one with open borders (which essentially means no America), no state governments, a nominal federal government, and actual control over America coming from the UN. Islam will be a protected religion, unlike all others. The economy will be managed from the top down. The population will be highly balkanized, with different victim sectors fighting for scraps from the UN table. Ultimately, despite being clothed in Hillary’s motherly terms about niceness and togetherness, it is a fundamentally dystopian future that she dreams of for America.
If you have the chance to attend a Charlie Kirk speech — take it. He is a genuine phenomenon. Even if you don’t get that chance, perhaps after reading my post, watching his videos, and checking out his website, you will be moved to dig out a few dollars to make a tax-deductible donation to an organization that is fighting for America’s future.