The troublesome rhetoric of the Young Americans for Freedom

YAF poster hanging in Glatfelter Hall. Photo courtesy of Annika Jensen.

YAF poster hanging in Glatfelter Hall. Photo courtesy of Annika Jensen.

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.

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3 Comments

  1. Dear Isabel,

    I am responding to your post because you have taken the time to write to us, and therefore deserve the same pleasantry. It’s a beautiful thing, that you were able to voice your opinion on a school news outlet! I used to write for the Gettysburgian, too. I even tried writing for Surge before, but because what I had to say was not ultimately up-to-par with Gettysburg’s ideals–I was silenced.

    However, I found Young Americans for Freedom, an outlet where–just like you–I finally have a voice. YAF gives volume to students who have been muted from campus discourse, as they are often so quickly shut down. Ironically, I am now their Communications Director, as I certainly know how they feel.

    Judging by the first couple paragraphs of your post, it is clear that you were impacted by our posters–they got you thinking. I will now address your post point-by-point on behalf of our chapter.

    1. How is “anchor baby” a racist term? Maybe you are too quick to associate it with a particular race–food for thought. Also, how can it be hateful against a race if the term is used to express our disagreement with any family would use their own baby as a tool or shortcut for the parents to get into a country other than their own. A country that families with children have been waiting years to get into legally.

    2. #notpc is used by anyone who has been silenced by the rather ridiculous idea that we cannot voice our ideals because someone else is “offended” or disagrees with us. In a country of free speech, we do not need to censor ourselves, no matter how much others wish we would. As quoted by American University, “unfettered discourse, no matter how controversial, inconvenient, or uncomfortable, is a condition necessary to [pursue knowledge].”

    3. Just because you find our posters to be “awful,” by no means should we be silent. We, amongst others, do not find them awful.

    4. If “some women consider abortion to be morally/legally wrong,” not only do they have the right to not get an abortion, they also have the right to voice that they find it morally and legally wrong. Unless, of course, you support denying a woman the right to freely express herself. Also, many women are often forced to have abortions, simply because “abortion is legal.” Again, more food for thought.

    5. Pro-choice does not give room for the unborn baby to have a voice (yet many liberals support “giving a voice to the trees and animals” when it comes to environmental issues–why should a “fetus” be any different?). Pro-life acknowledges this dilemma and provides a voice stating that killing babies is morally wrong–they have a right to live. Other students, who were almost aborted, have shared support on this very topic.

    6. The constructive political debates would be a lot more constructive if this campus would stop silencing us. We can handle blatant disrespect, we just expressed the irony on our communications page and our VP’s personal blog.

    7. People try to take away our freedom of speech when they quite literally steal our posters and water away the vocalization of our ideals. If you would truly like to express your own free speech, please come to Glat 303 at 8:30PM on Tuesdays to join our constructive debates–leave your bubble and do not be silent!

    Thank you again for your time!

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    • “How is “anchor baby” a racist term? Maybe you are too quick to associate it with a particular race–food for thought”

      I don’t much like the term “race” or “racism” since it suggests there is some sort of meaningful difference between peoples who are considered of difference races. That said, the term “anchor baby” is demeaning and intentionally meant to elicit an emotional response. Emotional triggers have very little place in a sensible discussion. Anyway, the use of the 14th Amendment to establish citizenship is extremely important, both today and when it was first ratified. Why should we care who wishes to join us in our country? The point of our system (both then and now) is to bring in those who are in need of what our country can offer them. Some do this by using the 14th Amendment in a way the circumvents secondary Congressionally passed laws. It may be a cheat around other immigration laws, but those other laws are secondary to the Constitution for a reason. Much like the 1st and 2nd Amendments, it doesn’t matter why a right is established, it only matters that the right is established. We have a birthright in this country. Any person born here has that same right, regardless to the circumstances that brought them here.

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      • Since some people say that we cannot deport illegal aliens because we will break up families, then the term anchor babies sounds appropriate if that is why we cannot deport mom and dad. And If you think the point of our system is to bring in people in need of what we have to offer, that is in stark contrast to immigration policy that historically attempted to limit immigration to those who would not be a burden to society and that could take care of themselves. If we enacted your simplistic outlook, then we should immediately begin importing the billion people who live under the poverty line throughout the world and I think most would gladly come here if they could. I am sure countries throughout the world would happily (and forcefully) empty out their poor and their prisons and we would have to take them all since you think we should not care who joins us in our country.

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