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?
How has the Biden admission that he used political pressure to fire a prosecutor investigating his son been “widely debunked”? Facts would be nice. How is an add that uses the very claim of the Vice President disinformation? Perhaps it’s just too much trouble to bother citing debunkment. Oh, and your one statement that “Biden/Ukraine is a conspiracy” can be read opposite to your intent,
He supports the 2d Amendment, he believes that Islamic extremism is widespread (because it is), he believes that the freedom of religion should permit a person to say no to the labor of creation, and he believes that the Palestinian problem is largely a failure of Palestinians (because it is).
You have opinions. Perhaps you should try using some real facts to persuade readers and not other opinions such as your “debunked” claim.
Hi George. I really appreciate your comment because it alerted us to a back-end error we had missed. We absolutely do not expect readers to take us at our word, especially on an opinion piece, which is why in the original version there were links to all the subjects talked about. We apologize for this oversight. I have fixed this error, and you can now see the links in the post. There are actually four links on the reporting about the Biden issue for you to view.
Shepard Smith is a liberal not a conservative (not a secret).
The only reason that security is needed is due to the censorious, weak-minded, safe-space seeking leftist ideologues on your campus that want to shut down any speech that threatens their fragile world view. As a reporter, how can you support the hecklers veto?
Instead of calling for cancelation, why not decry the need to have security in the first place?
There is nothing new about the lefty view points expressed in your piece but that does’t mean they don’t have value and you certainly shouldn’t be prevented from sharing them. Just the opposite, I support your right to express your views.
What are you so afraid of?
Based on your article, you clearly didn’t bother to listen to Shapiro.
Be an adult. Go to his talk. Listen. Then decide.
Pop Quiz for the conscientious BU News Service deep thinkers here:
1. Are all “new” ideas inherently “good?” Explain.
2. Are all “old” ideas inherently “bad?” Explain.
3. Are all “new” ideas inherently somehow superior or more valid and more valuable to society? Explain.
4. Are all “old” ideas inherently somehow inferior or less valid and less valuable to society? Explain.
5. Is determination or examination of potential “bias” within an individual or organization striving to engage in “unbiased” journalism more likely or less likely to be valid and successful when conducted only through either “biased” or “unbiased” self-assessment? Explain.
6. Regarding the preceding question and response, is the degree of sincerity of intent or diligence of effort a determining factor in whether self-examination and self-determination of journalistic bias is valid and successful? Explain.
7. If or when the truth or freely expressed “old” or “new” idea ever hurts or may potentially hurt someone’s feelings, or if it offends or potentially may offend someone, should it ever be reported? Explain.
8. What is “Hate” speech? Explain.
9. Is “Hate” speech ever “free” speech? Explain.
10. Does Amendment One of the U.S. Constitution guarantee that Congress will make no law abridging the freedom of speech only when deemed by Congress or other authority to be not offensive, not hurtful to someone’s feelings, or not “hate” speech? Explain.
Ben Shapiro destroys people like yourself with facts and logic. The only reason for wanting to ban him is because of your inability to not look like a bunch of idiots standing there speechless after he just shut u down with logic and facts. To avoid looking ignorantly clueless and to save face? I guess I’d try and sway people away as well. SMH, you people are clueless. Get a grip.
Why even purport to be students even you are not interested in hearing from someone other than your own narrow ideology.
You reveal yourselves as being like the “Know Nothings” and you apparently want to force your fellow students to wallow only in your ideology.
I can’t think of an audience that needs to hear from Ben Shapiro than yourselves!
Have any of the editorial staff at BU delved into the timeline and history of the Ukraine/Biden story with impartiality? I think it would be excellent for a student, with admitted bias, to investigate the Ukraine/Biden affair with impartiality. I would enjoy reading how a young and passionate journalist dug into the subject, continually fighting their own bias, and actually found some truth to the actual events sans left or right leaning spin. I look forward to the day ‘we the people’ find a voice that reports the facts as they are, the players who they are and the net affects upon us. Thank you for divulging your bias at the beginning by the way.
I am 60 years old and started listening to Ben over a year ago. He is smart and has the innate ability to break issues down and present them in a logical and meaningful way. I enjoy his quickness and debate skills, because I’m deficient in all of those areas, and math too! For instance, it took me 15 minutes to compose this message. I encourage you to be different – don’t fall in line with all the other left leaning journalists.
Freedom of speech died years ago in Boston murders by the “ Liberal” academia and its totally in the tank media mouthpiece any opposition in Boston will be met by bullying and violence thankfully 1.1 million Massachusetts voters in the last election proved the light of Democracy is not entirely quashed and more power to them
I’ve given thousands and thousands of dollars to Boston University. Many of the students protesting don’t even pay tuition, I pay it for them to be educated and enlightened. They are still entitled to their opinion but they really shouldn’t be arguing the expense if they don’t contribute there. I’m ok with letting him come speak, use my money for all his expenses. Ask your students to behave like rational law abiding citizens and you won’t need to spend as much on security. Peaceful protest doesn’t require security. Freedom of speech means freedom of speech for everyone, not just people who agree with you and your speech. Listening to different viewpoints can change your mind or reinforce your original thoughts, it’s healthy and keeps you informed, first hand, of the world around you.
It takes a lot of time and effort to “hate”, it wears you down and eats you up. Ben does not seem like the type of person who would waste his energy hating anyone, he just has different views. If you don’t like him, just don’t go I’m sure there will be other things to do at BU.
The “Biden Conspiracy” isn’t a conspiracy. I mean it’s sad that you call yourself a journalist, one who is to share the truth, yet you continue to be ignorant to the truth. Biden’s hand are dirty with this sneaky Ukrainian move. The facts are all out there and you still choose not to share them. I think you should retire from your position and let someone who truly wants to share the facts, write these stories. Stop misinforming the public with your narrative.
I love how the writers of this piece got absolutely demolished in comment section. It was tough to read past the “look at how expensive it is for security to protect him!” Point you made. Maybe if students were so ANTI democracy, and allowed everyone to speak- including those with whom they disagreed with- we wouldn’t need security to begin with. Lame attempt to censor an opposing view point. Glad most people agreed!
I regret reading this article. I am dumber because I read this article. These will be 10 minutes of my life that I will never get back, 10 minutes that I could have used for something more productive like hitting my head against a wall, or insulting myself in the mirror. You are not good at this. Please Please Please I beg you, seek alternative employment and stay way from politics. If politics was baseball, this article represents you showing up with ice skates and a hockey stick. Try Uber, or starting a small business.
Just. Not. This.
I see a lot of conspiracy theories and people fawning over Ben Shapiro in the comments so I just wanted to say I agree with this article’s point that Ben isn’t worth listening to. I’d attend a talk from an individual who actually has a doctorate, has done academic research, and whose opinions are different than mine (don’t tell me I’m against “free speech,” it is the most amazing thing to have a heartfelt, calm conversation with a conservative, neo-liberal, libertarian, anti-Muslim, anti-gay, anti-trans, pro-life person. I am always interested in hearing where they come from because I myself used to identify with almost ALL of those labels) but Ben is just a talking head puppeted by politicians’ dirty money without ANY research under his own belt. Confronted with the “facts” he claims to love, he just says little smart-alec quips and creates a strawman to argue with instead. He should NOT be given the time of day.