From the New York Times:
The Conservative Force Behind Speeches Roiling College Campuses
By STEPHANIE SAUL MAY 20, 2017
Close to 200 students kept up the noise for more than an hour in a University at Buffalo lecture hall on May 1, mostly drowning out the evening’s featured speaker, Robert [not Richard] Spencer, a conservative author and blogger who espouses a dark view of Islam.
The event appeared to follow a familiar script, in which a large contingent of liberals muzzles a provocative speaker invited by a small conservative student club. But the propelling force behind the event — and a number of recent heat-seeking speeches on college campuses — was a national conservative group that is well funded, highly organized and on a mission, in its words, to “restore sanity at your school.”
The group, the Young America’s Foundation, had paid Mr. Spencer’s $2,000 fee, trained the student leader who organized the event and provided literature for distribution. Other than the possibility of outside interference, little had been left to chance.
The speeches are a part of the group’s mission of grooming future conservative leaders — Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Stephen Miller, a White House adviser, are among its alumni — and its long list of donors has included the television game show host Pat Sajak, the novelist Tom Clancy, the billionaire brothers David H. and Charles G. Koch, and the Amway billionaires Richard and Helen Devos, who gave $10 million to endow the Reagan Ranch near Santa Barbara, Calif., which the foundation runs as a preserve.
The Reagans gave the mountaintop ranch, which I visited recently, to the foundation to use as a campus for educational programs, but it’s so remote that they later bought a building on a great location in downtown Santa Barbara to host attendees. Young people can walk back from the bars on State St., whereas trying to drive back from the bars up the endless one-lane mountain road to the Reagan Ranch would probably get people killed.
… In that time, the speakers have gotten edgier, more in-your-face and sometimes even meanspirited. Among them is Ann Coulter, whose canceled speech last month at the University of California, Berkeley, led the foundation, which was covering most of her $20,000 fee, to sue the college, arguing that it had violated the First Amendment in its failure to provide a suitable time and place for the event.
To put this in perspective, Ann, who has been a TV celebrity for a couple of decades, gets significantly less than Ta-Nehisi Coates, who was paid $30k and $40k for a couple of college speeches in Oregon recently.
In the meantime, protesters have questioned whether such events are cynically intended to provoke reactions.
“It’s part of a larger systematic and extremely well-funded effort to disrupt public universities and create tension among student groups on campus,” said Alexandra Prince, a doctoral student at Buffalo who circulated a petition to block Mr. Spencer. …
The foundation teaches essentials such as when it is legal to record a conversation with a college administrator; how to press schools to cover some of the security costs; regulations on sidewalk chalking, fliers and other forms of promotion and whether they can be challenged; and when to call the foundation’s legal staff for help. ..
Among the foundation’s most popular speakers is Ben Shapiro, a 33-year-old author and columnist, whose recent appearances were blocked by security at DePaul University, loudly protested at the University of Wisconsin and initially barred, then permitted, by California State University, Los Angeles.
In 2015, Mr. Shapiro spoke at the University of Missouri shortly after protests erupted over racist incidents there. He argued that “white privilege” was simply a way of telling white people to “shut up,” and that President Barack Obama, our first “white black president,” was not as articulate as the news media had made him seem but got “affirmative action points.”
“First white black President” is pretty good.
This reminds me that it would be a good thing if two opposing speakers got together to tour campuses doing debates, the way, say, George Bernard Shaw and G.K. Chesterton jousted a century ago. Perhaps Ann Coulter and Jon Stewart? The overarching idea would be to remind students and administrators to think of political speech as a sport, with rules of fair play, not as an opportunity for witch-sniffing.