By The BU News Service Editorial Board
BU News Service
BOSTON — As many Boston University students already know, the Boston University chapter of the conservative organization Young Americans for Freedom has petitioned for conservative commentator Ben Shapiro to speak at the university. Unsurprisingly, this motion has faced much backlash from other students, with a petition asking the university to deny this request popping up quickly after.
Before we evaluate whether Shapiro should or should not come to campus, we want to be totally transparent. Most of the editors at BU News Service are anything but fans of Shapiro’s. We do not agree with his views or rhetoric, so that is a bias that we bring to the table.
However, as journalists, we are eternally tasked with trying to put that bias aside when reporting, in an attempt to serve larger ideals such as truth, the public interest and education. This is what we have attempted to do in this piece.
According to reporting done by The Daily Free Press, Boston University believes it would have to spend quite a bit of money on security alone to have Shapiro speak on campus. We assert that when a speaker is invited to campus and the university must spend money hosting them, there should be justification for bringing them to campus that furthers the university’s mission.
The university’s mission statement reads as thus:
“Boston University is an international, comprehensive, private research university, committed to educating students to be reflective, resourceful individuals ready to live, adapt, and lead in an interconnected world. Boston University is committed to generating new knowledge to benefit society.”
What two goals can we discern from this statement? Firstly, the university seeks to educate students, and secondly, that it seeks to generate new knowledge. The question is now whether bringing Ben Shapiro to campus serves either of these goals.
The second goal is easy to dismiss in this case. Shapiro’s views are not new. His anti-gay, anti-abortion, pro-gun, anti-Palestinian and anti-Muslim stances are in no way cutting-edge.
Except that the style of his rhetoric isn’t new either. The poke-you-in-the-eye fiery conservative personality goes back at least as far as the late 1980s and early 90s with Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.
So how about educating students? Well, he’s not a journalist (nor does he pretend to be), as is evident from the fact that he has never been a reporter, only a columnist. He’s not an academic, as he doesn’t do any academic research. He’s not a politician, which might somewhat justify his partisanship.
Shapiro has written a dozen or so books (depending on which you count), none of which are about new research or even philosophy, which would at least have to be peer-reviewed and subject to academic restrictions that limit opinion and try to ensure fact-based writing. They are anti-leftist scribes meant to stoke the fire of partisanship and spread conservatism within the American youth. In sum, they are not revelatory but indoctrinating.
The irony of all this is that one of Shapiro’s books, “Brainwashed: How Universities Indoctrinate America’s Youth,” is supposedly about indoctrination, and reveals that he believes what the university is doing is antithetical to his beliefs and goals.
Is it not laughable that a university should be asked to spend money on a speaker that is hostile to the institution itself?
Then there is the fact that Shapiro doesn’t even follow his own Twitter-pinned creed: “facts don’t care about your feelings,”– a phrase journalists, who are legally bound to report only facts as best they can, should be able to get behind.
For example, on Friday Shapiro railed against the DNC on Twitter for asking Facebook to take down a Trump campaign ad that claimed former Vice President Joe Biden pushed for a Ukrainian prosecutor to be fired to protect his son, Hunter Biden, who at the time was on the board of directors for a Ukrainian energy company that had been investigated for corruption. The idea that Biden committed any intentional wrongdoing is a conspiracy theory that has been widely debunked.
And yet, Shapiro characterizes this action as “the latest attempt by Democrats to hijack the means of information distribution.” Shouldn’t someone who is purportedly such a slave to the truth, regardless of their feelings, support taking down misinformation?
Does he not realize that by characterizing this action as an attempt to “control the distribution of information,” instead of a legitimate call to stymie the spread of misinformation, a problem Facebook admits it has and that even conservative outlets have criticized it for, lends credence to the claim?
His reply to his original tweet further gives his claim legitimacy by acting as if the claim hasn’t already been debunked:
What’s even worse is that Shapiro knows that the Biden/Ukraine theory is a conspiracy, as evidenced by an earlier tweet. So, instead of praising efforts to combat disinformation, Shapiro uses a legitimate request as an opportunity to malign Democrats.
What this is an example of, is that truth is merely a brand Shapiro uses to levy legitimacy from people who already agree with him, not a value he actually holds near and dear. He uses it as a pretty veneer behind which to hide and then spouts hyper-partisan rhetoric and, more importantly, discriminatory stances.
Shapiro will throw in seemingly more level-headed opinions in an attempt to seem less biased, and yet he takes every opportunity to attack journalists while applying few journalistic standards of truth and objectivity to his own statements or platform.
It bears stressing that it is not a question of Shapiro’s political views. He is not an academic like Robert George or Jonathan Haidt, nor a journalist like Chris Wallace or Shep Smith or even a politician like Paul Ryan or Newt Gingrich. All of these people are conservative, but the key difference is that they didn’t make a career out of getting attention for being nasty towards minorities and spreading alarmist half-truths.
Thus, the question stands: what does a man who seeks to stoke political conflict, does not hold himself to facts and does not do anything new or innovative have to offer the students of Boston University?