Reading about Rider after having left it has become an exhausting process. While this should bring me nostalgic feelings, it instead provokes my patience — though this is, of course, not the fault of its messenger, The Rider News. Rather, it is because of the incorrigible propagandism espoused by Turning Point USA and its Rider chapter which threatens the fraying thread that our community already struggles to hang onto thanks to the university’s incompetent president and complacent administration: in a word, our integrity.
I won’t waste time reiterating the pithy words of my friend Sam Sawh, her view on Turning Point’s “White Privilege is a Myth” event (which is being held on April 2, a day too late if you ask me) is mine exactly. What I want to encourage the community to reflect on is the role it is preparing to allow this thinly veiled extremism to play at 2083 Lawrenceville Road.
In my mind, there are three reactions we might have to this problem, we could welcome it as the liveliness long absent on this campus, or we could ignore it as the passing craze many think it to be. But we could also resist it and I argue that this is actually both the easiest and most appropriate response available.
To welcome it would be dangerous for a number of reasons, despite the temptation to indulge in a more lively campus dialogue in whatever form it may take, chief among them being the impact doing so would have on our dialogue. Let me be clear: this is a question of naked lies being clandestinely offered as valid, but simply alternative viewpoints.
To illustrate, let’s look at an example. In an interview with this newspaper, Rider Turning Point USA President Joshua Aminov said there is “no relationship” between Turning Point and his employer, Campus Reform, after casually admitting that the latter group has floated his club’s invited speaker fees in the past. However, a quick sweep through the propaganda site’s list of contributors reveals four current and former Turning Point chapter presidents other than Aminov, at least two chapter leadership members and other admitted supporters.
Therefore, to claim there is no relationship between the two organizations is like saying that coworkers who go out to eat after work are in no way doing so because of connections formed on the job. Perhaps there’s no explicit link between work and play, but it’s no coincidence that the same people are in the same two places.
To ignore this threat is to say that it will pass or that the risk it poses isn’t great enough. The present threat, though, is not simply one of a belligerent ideology bullying the discourse; the influence of such phenomena waxes and wanes. It’s tempting for that reason to let things be as they may, like leaving litter on the ground since, after all, it won’t be there forever. That would be an easy way to go about this, and I can understand why, with all else that’s going on in this moment, many are tempted to do just that.
However, I hold that it is just as easy — if not easier — to resist this problem. To quote the great debater and essayist Christopher Hitchens: “That which has been asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.” The “Hitchens razor,” as this charming maxim has come to be known, practically falls on me from its place in the cabinet as I think about our dilemma. After all, why should we permit grandstanding organizations’ ostentatious concern for cool-headed, pluralistic conversation to level our judgment of their events which commit philosophical kidnapping to win the ransom of our acceptance? The only way I could see that happening is if the figure heads were especially persuasive —however, they lie through their teeth without a prayer of being believed. Hitchens’ razor instructs us to evict those who blatantly lie and distort the truth.
And the truth is this: Turning Point USA is not, nor has it ever been, interested in earnest debate or enlightened exchange. It has two goals — to radicalize high school and college students far past the coherent goalposts of the political right and to provoke liberals, centrists, and conservatives alike into positions designed for carefully crafted character assassination. What is happening to Barbara Franz is only the latest maddening example — and likely one of many to come. They accomplish this by working with media outlets like Campus Reform, Tucker Carlson’s Daily Caller and Ben Shapiro’s Daily Wire.
None of it is news — it’s propaganda.
The fundamental way to resist this radicalization effort is simple: ruthlessly interrogate it. Don’t take any of the messaging as it is presented. Propagandists do not like questions because their narratives do not hold up to scrutiny. Turning Point USA is no different. From questions come answers, which in this case make plain the worth of this disreputable organization.
So let me pitch you a simple question, while any feverish proselytizer who may have started reading this is likely still busy thumbing through the thesaurus to try and follow along:
What place does the truth have here?