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Turning Point USA degrades campus dialogue

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As many students may already know, Candace Owens of Turning Point USA will be giving a speech at St. Olaf on Tuesday, May 8, titled “Big Gov Sucks in Black America.” 

For those of you not in the know (or who wisely stay off of Twitter), Candace Owens is the Communications Director for Turning Point USA, a student-led conservative movement that disseminates posters and fliers to its various chapters located at colleges throughout the country, organizes conferences and events and mobilizes aforementioned chapters in pursuit of conservative causes. 

The thing that perplexes me is not that Candace Owens is coming to St. Olaf to spout conservative talking points. 

What befuddles me is the fact that she’s giving a speech about how “big government” hurts Black communities when she does not seem to have any education or professional experience in this subject whatsoever. 

Owens has a B.A. in journalism and has worked for Vogue, a private equity firm and Degree180, a website she founded. 

She also periodically uploads videos to her YouTube channel, and now works for Turning Point USA. 

Now, Owens might have some fantastic arguments to put forth. However, the fact that she is not a sociologist, political scientist or economist and hasn’t written about public policy and race in any books or articles makes me skeptical. 

The main collection of articles she has authored appeared on Degree180, and now live in the internet archives. 

She wrote such scholarly pieces as “I’m So Sorry Ladies, But We Can NEVER Stop Faking The Orgasm,” and “Getting Prescribed Xanax: So Easy, A Caveman Can Do It.” 

They all are like this (if you think I’m cherry-picking, go check for yourself).

Instead, I am fairly certain that Turning Point USA is inviting Candace Owens because of Kanye West. 

West has been vocal on Twitter lately about his support for Trump and “free thought,” and recently tweeted “I love the way Candace Owens thinks.” 

West and Owens have both recently been outspoken in their opinion that Democrats and “big government” have hurt Black communities, and that Black Americans should reconsider their political allegiances.

After the 2016 election, I vowed to ascribe good faith to my conservative opponents. I vowed to engage in meaningful intellectual debate in order to gain empathy, understanding and perspective. 

This is not meaningful intellectual debate.

Turning Point USA is inviting Owens to enrage liberals on campus and possibly spark a protest that conservative media can then gorge itself on. 

If disruptive protests do occur, the conservative audience can then bask in self-righteousness, having stood up for “free speech” against the tyrannical left (a humorous aside: Candace Owens almost began a massive online campaign to de-anonymize/dox online trolls, which does not exactly harmonize with the free-speech message she now espouses).

The funniest thing about all of this is that young conservatives frequently claim that they just want to have a civil, spirited discussion. 

If that were the case, why invite Owens? 

Why not invite Jason Riley, a journalist on the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal who wrote  “Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed”? 

Riley has substantive conservative critiques of the government’s treatment of Black communities and actually has the qualifications to intelligently expound on the matter. 

Inviting him or a different scholar would bolster conservative claims that they want a civil, substantive discussion. 

Instead, Turning Point USA simply wants to inflame and provoke. 

In doing so, they delegitimize themselves and degrade the quality of campus political dialogue.

Sam Carlen ’20 (carlen1@stolaf.edu) is from St. Paul, Minn. He majors in economics and mathematics.