As we are sure people across campus are aware, the Knox College Conservatives are hosting two “Change My Mind” tables in Seymour Union this week. We, the chairs of the Knox College Young Democratic Socialists of America, have a bone to pick with this choice of tactic. Why is it that the Knox Conservatives would willingly co-opt a practice that is deliberately provocative and inflammatory, created by a man who regularly espouses bigoted and intolerant views?
In early 2018, Steven Crowder — a well known right-wing media personality — sat at a table on Texas Christian University’s campus that read, “Male Privilege is a Myth: Change My Mind.” His expressed objective was to provoke students of the college who felt strongly about the issue in order to record them — and his arguments with them — for release to his Internet fanbase in the name of “political comedy.” The photograph of the event that was posted to his Twitter quickly became the template for a popular Internet meme, which led to a spike in Crowder’s popularity, motivating him to continue the practice further. At subsequent Change My Mind events, Crowder willingly attached himself to and defended such blaringly toxic opinions as:
Our question, then, is why would the Knox College Conservatives willingly attach themselves to Crowder? His assertion that “rape culture isn’t real” becomes even more grossly unacceptable in light of how rape and sexual assault are real, proven and inarguably present on college campuses nationwide. Not only that, but colleges — and Knox is no exception — are home to many sexual assault survivors, their friends and their family members. What does it say to them when a group of people not only emulates the activities of a man who says that rape culture isn’t real, but adorns their posters with his face?
And of course, there is the simple fact that Crowder has used his significant following and online presence to reinforce the exclusionary argument that “there are only two genders.” Here at Knox, we welcome, respect and cherish all of our classmates and colleagues who fall outside the gender binary. But if we are to claim that we are true allies, then we simply cannot condone behaviors that are in line with the mockery or erasure of trans and non-binary people.
This week, the Knox College Conservatives show with their actions as well as their words that they do not share the sentiments of this community. If they truly wanted to contribute to a common dialogue, then they would not have evoked the image of a man and a movement that in the name of “satire” and “political comedy” would engage in such blatant disrespect of so many of our fellow students. This was out of no ignorance or misstep, we can assure you; they know perfectly well what they are doing and what it means. They have made their choice in engaging in an activity deliberately designed to place members of their own community under duress. They seek to upset and agitate their own peers, all in order to reaffirm their unfounded narrative of victimhood in a country where conservative opinions and policies govern society-at-large. In short, when they say they are holding this event to find “common ground,” they are acting in bad faith. They are being dishonest to us.
We have this to recommend to students who may come into contact with them during this event, or any future events that follow in the same vein: Do not engage. There is simply no need for you to even bother to give these provocateurs the time of day.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this letter stated that Knox Conservatives would be filming the participants. This portion was retracted since the club would only be filming their own members during the event.