The troublesome rhetoric of the Young Americans for Freedom
By Isabel Gibson Penrose, Opinions Editor
UPDATE 9/25 11am: YAF’s Communications Director has submitted a response to this article. Read it in the comments.
By now almost everyone at Gettysburg has either seen or heard about the Young Americans for Freedom posters that are displayed around campus. To recap, for those who have not, the red, white and blue posters read: “Calling all Conservatives? Do you enjoy hugging babies vs killing them? Obamacare not for you? Do you realize socialism doesn’t work? Can you manage your email account better than Hillary Clinton? Anchor babies…and you’re not afraid to say it #notpc Is fixing the country more important than your golf game?”
If you’re like me, reading this particular combination of words may have initially given you a small rage stroke or caused your eyes to fall out of your head as a precaution for never having to read something that ridiculous and gross again. Fortunately, I regained my composure (along with my eyes) and realized an article composed of only “??????” would not make for a very compelling read, so I calmed down before drafting this. I reread the posters a few times, first to make sure they were not some kind of sleep-deprived hallucination, and then to really think about what they were saying. I guess I get it: these posters were meant to spark strong reactions. I am absolutely playing into the hands of the Young Americans for Freedom by responding – but I am going to do it anyway.
Let us get a few things out of the way. First, on a mostly nitpicky level, why is every sentence but one a question? “Anchor babies…and you’re not afraid to say it #notpc” is not even really a sentence! It is a weird, racist fragment complete with a hashtag that Donald Trump probably uses on a regular basis. Second, and more importantly, I do not care if they are meant to “incite debate,” or if they are satire, or if they are using extreme rhetoric on purpose – these posters are awful.
I am not the first person to notice them; responses to the posters have been all over Yik Yak since they first appeared on campus. Some have been critical, while others have thrown their concurrent beliefs into the mix. “What if some women consider abortion to be morally and legally wrong?” one commenter asked. Well, then those women do not have to get abortions! The movement for safe and legal abortions is called pro-choice, not pro-abortion. I know it is hard for the pro-life (or more accurately anti-choice) set to grasp the idea of having a personal belief without trying to force it on someone else, but it is possible.
The official response of YAF on their Facebook page celebrates their success at sparking political debate, before going into full whiny mode. “We have also seen that this campus still has a ways to go before we will have constructive political debates; many of our posters have been destroyed, dismantled and disfigured. People are scared, because we’re bursting their liberal bubble surrounding this campus and blocking us out.”
Come on now – “constructive political debates?” In what world is putting up a poster asking if someone enjoys hugging babies versus killing them a constructive debate or a debate at all? In addition to Facebook posts, the Vice President of YAF wrote about the behavior of some attendants of the actual YAF meeting, which took place September 22, in a blog post. “The intolerance [of YAF] is unnecessary and cruel,” she lamented. Good to know the intolerance of a group of college students is unnecessary and cruel, but the intolerance of women who get abortions (because yes, referring to abortions as “killing babies” is an intolerant statement) or children of immigrants (“anchor babies” is a racist and hateful term) is apparently both necessary and acceptable.
These responses show some expert employment of delusion. No one is scared of these posters or of YAF as a whole. They are not bursting anyone’s liberal bubble, and they are surely not breaking any new ground. YAF are not revolutionaries, they are not heroes, they are not soldiers and they are not justified in their whining just because the majority of campus happens to vocally disagree with them.
“Freedom of speech! We get freedom of speech,” summarizes a good majority of YAF’s defense of their actions. I have got news for you, YAF: nobody is trying to take away your freedom of speech. Consider that the opposition to your posters, your meeting, your social media posts, the drivel you scrawled on the sidewalk early Thursday morning and your very existence is not anyone trying to attack your constitutional rights – it is simply us exercising ours. If you are going to continue spreading your poisonous rhetoric around campus, as you can, people are going to keep fighting back. “We will not be silenced,” is another commonly employed YAF phrase, and it cuts both ways.
Additionally, freedom of speech does not protect you from the social consequences of your actions. God forbid you live in a world where your actions have consequences, instead of a bizarre conservative vacuum where you get patted on the back for taking the millionth cheap shot at Hillary Clinton’s emails. Really groundbreaking stuff. Complaining about people responding to your detestable claims is equivalent to kicking a hornets’ nest and getting mad when the hornets come swarm you. “Stupid hornets, how dare you fight back, get back in your liberal bubble nest and be still while I harm you!”
Please note this analogy is not a call for violence, threats or personal attacks against any members of YAF. Criticizing the President and Vice President for dating is as annoying as it is irrelevant. Violence and threats are not acceptable. However, questioning views and beliefs are only seen as threatening by groups that thrive on ignorance. To those who have joined me in speaking out against the way YAF have been acting, remember: we will not be silenced.