Musings on Conservative Student Activism at Colleges and Universities
27 September 2004

I had great fun one evening in the spring of '03. It was the official inauguration day of the University of Michigan's new president, Mary Sue Coleman. I, being the crazy radical guy that I am, came to campus to pass out some fliers I had prepared protesting some of the shoddy "research" the University had sponsored on the subject of "diversity."

I positioned myself on a walkway going to the Power Center where a celebratory series of lectures was to be given and began passing out fliers when I was approached by two police officers.

"Do you have a permit to pass those out?" one of them asked.

"I don't believe I need one -- I'm simply exercising my rights guaranteed by the First Ammendment to the Constitution of the United States in order to contribute to a robust debate on issues of public concern." I don't recall my exact words, but that's close. I'll admit, it takes a bit of practice to develop the right knack for saying things like that.

It wasn't a particularly intense conversation -- nothing out of "Berkeley in the Sixties." One cop went to check the ordinance book. He came back and said that the permit requirement only applied to placing material on car windshields, so I was allowed to continue my solitary fliering.

One gentleman came out of the Power Center with a flier I'd handed him and gave it back to me. "This is useless!" he said, with barely suppressed emotion. Made my day -- if you can't even annoy a few people, why bother? ;)


In the course of my campus wanderings I discovered that David Horowitz was scheduled to speak that evening. What the heck, I thought, another opportunity to pass out fliers.

Now, I used to be somewhat of a neo-conservative in the '80s, then I went paleo in the '90s. Eventually, I gave that up as well when I developed a sort of progressive utopian philosophy which isn't indended for a mass audience. If you read that manifesto, you'll find that it's respectful of and friendly towards conservatives. As far as large political structures are concerned, I believe that the best societies will be conservative in many ways, but that the political culture of the U.S.A. is currently so screwed up, major reforms are necessary, and conservatives, by and large, are psychologically incapable of effecting those reforms.

Anyway, I had fun. One student asked me what I was passing out. "Radical literature," I said. A few people came out of the building and asked for copies of my flier. One young man came out and wadded up his copy and threw it down into a trash can right in front of me. He had the "college conservative" look about him -- well groomed, neatly dressed ectomorph -- so I guess I was annoying both sides of the spectrum.

The Horowitz talk was a dissapointment. He began by announcing to the assembled young conservatives, "You are victims!"

Wrong, wrong, wrong! The campus Left already has complete ownership of victimology mind-share. Much better would be something like, "You might think you are victims, but if you organize properly and stay active, you will become agents of change! And you will gain power!" That's the idea. (But you should improve the wording if you want to use it. ;) )

Horowitz also had some of his facts wrong. It was the Japanese who bombed Perl Harbor, not the Germans. And we were fighting the NLF in Viet Nam, not the NFL. Aside from that, he went on long digressions, mostly having to do with Iraq. He had very little to say about how students could organize and develop effective modes of political action. That's a really bad thing to say about an ex-Leftie!


The above reminiscing was set in motion by an article posted on "Cornell Defunds Conservative Paper" by Joseph J. Sabia. The basic situation, according to Sabia's article, is this:

Last week, the far left-wing Student Assembly Finance Commission (SAFC) unilaterally defunded The Cornell American, the campus sole outlet for socially conservative journalism.

Why does baloney like this keep happening? The same thing was going on 17 years ago, according to my actual experiences. I'm sure it's been going on much longer than that. A bunch of leftie twerps "sieze power" and then behave according to the status-quo conservatism of petty commissars.

If they were smart lefties, they would cherish the opportunity to sharpen their political and rhetorical skills against some real opposition. They would say, "You want two thousand for your magazine? Sorry, you'll take four thou or nothing!"

Ah, but the children of the famed '60s radicals are a bunch of pampered weenies who think they are speaking truth to power when they repeat establishment clichés and occasionally do some of its dirty work.

If the Right cannot effectively oppose the nonsense inflicted by pathetic lefties on their stupid power trips, I have to ask: What is wrong?

Well, being far removed from the situation, I don't know, but my guess is that peeps on the Right need some lessons in Elementary Political Activism. So...

The title of a slim pamphlet by Mao Zedong is: "It is not a bad thing to be attacked by the enemy, it is a good thing to be attacked by the enemy." Exactly! You build strength by talking to people, having meetings, developing ideas, studying, researching and taking public action, all in response to the attack. When one episode is over, whether you won or lost, you are stronger, if you understand the general principle and intelligently work according to it.

It is a little bit like playing nine-ball. You don't just try to pocket the ball, you try to pocket the ball and leave the cue ball in a good position for the next shot. So you're out by yourself handing out leaflets. You hope to make a point, but you also hope to strike up some conversations and maybe meet one or two other people who would also like to be politically active. When you have five people, you can hold little demonstrations, the immediate effects of which will be precisely nothing. But you learn to work politically with other people, build solidarity, learn the subject you're organizing around, and that's all positive.

I must point out: There are similarities between political activism and warfare. Both involve friends, enemies, tactics, strategies, objectives, long term goals, etc. If I mention anything "military," it is only because it illuminates a way of thinking that is applicable to peacefull politics in an open, relatively free society. Also, leftists tend to be more familiar with the nuts and bolts of activism than conservatives, so conservatives who want to play politics on campus will have to learn some lessons from the left. Thus, I hope no one is too put off by my mentioning the military writings of Mao.

One must always be cautious about adapting left wing ideas. For example, lefties frequently go into some moralistic high sanctimony mode and it does give them a bit of leverage with uncritical segments of the public. It's hard to make that work in reverse, because the lefties themselves are not similarly vulnerable. Was there any "deception" involved in the initial funding of The Cornell American? My guess is that there was. Had they said, "We're a bunch of conservatives," they would not have gotten any money. Rather than sanctimonious denials of "deception," why not an agressive counter-attack: "Sure, we pulled a trick. Big deal! But you people complaining about 'deception' is like pigs complaining about someone breaking wind in the pig sty!" And on and on, all in a spirit of thundering indignation: "How dare you deprive an active, productive student organization of funding that comes out of our own pockets!"

That would probably not win the day right then and there. But!! The few people who participate in such a presentation will be energized, they will be on the road to becoming comrades, and not just good buddies. And they will present an attractive prospect to others who might wish to become involved. Read this passage from Sabia's article:

Conservatives on campus are routinely kicked around by the liberal establishment, and are not permitted the same opportunities as leftists to engage in student-funded activities.
Umm.... Such words to not express the kind of fighting spirit that could lead to political success. To say the least.... ;)

A week or two of intense campaigning for funding could be followed by four or five months of behind the scenes organizing. You would need to get some allegiance from as many other student organizations as possible -- conservative religious groups, etc. Plus line up potential active workers and sympathizers. Then put up a slate and run a heavy campaign for student government. Convince weaker rivals on the right that if they splinter, everyone on the right loses. If they support the strong slate . . . Ka-CHING!! Funding for the Right! Poverty for the Left!! Hallelulia!


Unfortunately, the Right, even with a correct tactical orientation, faces a huge problem: The Big Project, as promoted by, for example,, is the war. War is profoundly anti-conservative. The Viet Nam war would have wreaked deep transformations on America even without all the leftist agitation that went on. Even if we had "won," it would have affected America for the worse.

And today we are less secure because of our involvement in Iraq. Bush's insanely visionary quest to bring democracy to the peoples of the Middle East, at the point of a sword, is utterly contrary to the founding principles of America. Instead, it is a manifestation of Trotskyite tendencies that are part of the heritage of American "neo-conservatives."

It is not America's purpose or destiny to "go abroad in search of monsters to destroy," as one of our Founders put it. There are a few monsters we really must deal with, but that's a separate issue. If conservative students want to make a real difference, they will renounce the war abroad and focus their attention on the leftist frauds and usurpers there in Ithaca.

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