Columbia University College Republicans have reached a new low. I said about as much in a Spectator op-ed last year, when my peers and I decried the sinking morality of CUCR for its silence on then-candidate Donald Trump. Since the election, “a new low” has almost become a meaningless cliché, as Trump decimates basic standards of human decency like clockwork. With that being said, I must say that CUCR has, once again, truly sunk to a new low by inviting Mike Cernovich to our campus.
Before I go any further, I will clarify what I am not saying. I am not trying to say that the University should ban Cernovich from speaking on campus. There is an important and ongoing debate about how colleges should handle political provocateurs, but I do not aim to write the millionth think piece on that subject.
Nor am I claiming that the board members and club participants of CUCR are reprehensible as individuals. In my former role as a Columbia University College Democrats board member, I worked alongside CUCR members on multiple occasions at cooperative events like an annual Veterans Day panel, as well as more competitive events like public debates. I have known CUCR members to be friendly and intelligent peers. Moreover, it is possible that many of them opposed the Cernovich event in the planning stages, so I cannot blame each member for the event’s realization.
However, as a former board member of a partisan political organization, I also know that it isn’t easy to organize and host this sort of event. Resources like money, time, and—especially at Columbia—space are not unlimited, so the speakers that a club invites to campus say a lot about that club’s values and goals. If Mike Cernovich reflects what the up-and-coming generation of Republicans is all about, then we should be seriously concerned.
Cernovich is a YouTuber, a conspiracy theorist, a self-help guru, and, alarmingly, a political commentator with the ear of people like Donald Trump, Jr. and Kellyanne Conway. “Alarmingly” is used here because a man who argues that date rape is a hoax and falsely claims that Hillary Clinton ran a pedophilia ring out of a D.C. pizza joint should not have the implicit endorsement of CUCR, let alone that of top advisers to the president.
Cernovich has a strange obsession with accusing public figures of pedophilia. People he has attempted, without evidence, to “expose” as pedophiles or participants in pedophilic rings include United States Senator Ben Sasse and alternative comedy video editor Vic Berger IV. He has also maintained that the BBC—yes, the British Broadcasting Corporation—plays a major role in an international pedophilia conspiracy.
Perhaps even more disturbing, especially in light of recent events, is Cernovich’s open flirtation with racist politics. Though he claims to reject the “alt-right” label for its white nationalist connotations, he nonetheless shares that movement’s proclivity for hate. He has used Twitter to make disgusting jokes about Trayvon Martin’s death and appalling remarks about women of color that are not worth quoting in the pages of this newspaper. He posted anti-Semitic cartoons to oppose National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, drawing sharp criticism from the Anti-Defamation League. He still writes about the supposed “criminal proclivities of certain ethnic groups.” Is this really CUCR’s best response to accusations that the Republican Party has embraced white nationalism?
Cernovich’s outlandish theories on the internet have tragic real-life consequences. His readers, wholeheartedly believing his most extreme theories, have attempted to carry out a warped version of vigilante justice. Inspired by Cernovich and fellow “Pizzagate” obsessives, an armed man fired bullets inside Comet Ping Pong Pizza. Cernovich and his trolls also caused Berger, the video editor, to receive multiple death threats. Why welcome a figure who has caused needless violence?
Considering that he has proven himself to be a dangerous loon, the Columbia community deserves a thoughtful explanation as to why CUCR is bringing Mike Cernovich to campus. And no, a generic argument about offering a “different” perspective to our “closed-minded” left-wing bubble of a campus won’t cut it. There are dozens of credible conservative activists, intellectuals, journalists, candidates, and elected officials CUCR could have invited to provide alternative and contentious points of view, but they chose the author of Gorilla Mindset instead.
Ultimately, I don’t think CUCR made this choice because its membership wants to know the truth about perverted pizzerias, clamors for tips on how to be better “alpha males,” or defines “diversity” as “white genocide.” Rather, the club reflects what Charlie Sykes, who spent decades hosting an archconservative talk show in Wisconsin, says about the Trump-era Republican Party: It is “a party dedicated to liberal tears,” not “a movement based on ideas or centered on principles.” Modern Republicans do whatever it takes to aggravate their progressive political opponents, even if it means throwing aside once-shared standards of respect. Shouldn’t young members of the party in control of the White House, Congress, and most state legislatures have more important priorities?
If CUCR’s objective in inviting Mike Cernovich to campus was simply to anger campus progressives, then hats off to you, college Republicans. You sure ticked off this college Dem. Way to go. I’m sure Sean Hannity and Alex Jones would be proud. Your certificates are in the mail. But no matter what comes of this event, whether it is crowded, protested, canceled, applauded, interrupted, or unattended, CUCR can count on the fact that I won’t show up. Not even if they’re serving free pizza.
The author is a Columbia College senior majoring in urban studies. He is a former lead activist with Columbia University College Democrats. He has also been a part of several political campaigns and causes both at Columbia and in his hometown of Los Angeles.
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