Dillon speaks in Hermann Lounge on Wednesday, Sept. 19. PHOTO COURTESY OF LONE CONSERVATIVE.
BY ALLIE KENNEBECK
Conservative journalist and political commentator Kassy Dillon spoke to an audience of Westminster students, faculty and board members on Wednesday, Sept. 19, in the first event of the 2017 Hancock Symposium.
In her talk, entitled “Campus Conservatism and Social Media,” Dillon discussed issues regarding conservatism on college campuses and explained how social media can be used as a tool for conservative and non-conservative activism. She also promoted open, respectful dialogue among all peoples on all subjects.
Dillon defined conservatism as “the idea that a well-ordered government is necessary to a well-ordered society, but is not the solution to the problem of society.”
She added, “Conservatism is based on the ideas of conserving the values of the Constitution. Government exists to defend the right of the people, not to be the source of those rights.”
Dillon argued that conservative ideals are being repressed in the world of higher education and that this repression is unhealthy for students of all political affiliations.
“Conservatism is based on the ideas of conserving the values of the Constitution.”
To support her first argument, she gave the example of what she implied to be an extreme reaction to conservative political commentator Ben Shapiro coming to speak at the University of California, Berkley, in September. Shapiro, the editor-in-chief of the Daily Buzz, was lined up to speak, but, Dillon said, excessive pushback coming from liberal-sided students, faculty and administrators led to the school charging the Shapiro organization $600,000 for security measures.
Dillon also described an incident that occurred at Hampshire College, a private liberal arts college in Amherst, Massachusetts, last November. On the night before Veteran’s Day, Hampshire students pulled down an American flag and set it on fire. In response, the president of the college ordered the removal of all American flags found on campus, to avoid further controversy.
These examples highlight the pressing issue that Dillon explained throughout her talk: the difficulty that conservatives face in expressing their beliefs.
In addition, Dillon said that the restraint of certain beliefs, including conservative rhetoric, is harmful and has no place in higher education.
“College is supposed to be a place where students are exposed to new ideas,” she said. “It is not the job of a college to protect its students from ideas, but to teach them how to confront them head-on.”
She said that academia should be a place for “an open, respectful dialogue which celebrates the idea of diversity of thought,” adding, “Diversity of ideas is as important as any other kind of diversity.”
To promote political diversity for college students, Dillon founded Lone Conservative, an online platform where young, conservative-minded college students may voice their opinions and inquire about issues in our society today. Dillon created the blog to provide an easy way for conservatives to acquire the information they want or need, as well as serve as a forum for discussion and debate over certain topics.
“The Internet, and social media in particular, is a great place to connect with other conservatives, learn from each other and develop platforms,” she said. “Social media is great for political activism because it opens so many doors that were never there before.”
Dillon said that the Internet plays a vital role in the cultivation political opinions, which is why she said her blog is so essential to the millennial conservative culture.
“It is not the job of a college to protect its students from ideas, but to teach them how to confront them head-on.”
However, Dillon also spoke of some of the downsides to the use of social media in the world of politics, namely that social media can lead to gross generalizations and false conclusions.
She said that “the drive to fit ideas into 140 characters and the constant desire for attention means that both sides are pushed to further and further extremes.”
On the conservative side of the spectrum, the furthest extreme is the “alt-right.” The alt-right, which has been associated with racist and fascist ideas, is not affiliated with the official conservative party. Members of this group have been known to take the idea of freedom of speech and warp it into their own perception, which is that we should be able to speak about whatever we want, regardless of its offense to other people, Dillon said. These movements are the sources of many of the United States’ difficulties on social media and in the real world, including the Neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville, Virginia, and many more hate crimes across the country, she added.
Dillon explicitly stated that the conservative party in no way adopts or condones the actions of extreme white nationalists, and that it is unfair to attribute the actions of such a small group to the entire the Republican Party.
Because of these misconceptions regarding the party’s platform, Dillon explained, the Internet, although a useful tool for our education and advocacy, can be quite dangerous. The alt-right will continue to spread false conspiracies, causing people who side to the left to condemn the right even more, eventually pushing people from either party to be polar opposites of the other, she said. Dillon said that she wants to break open these barriers by cultivating true dialogue between those who differ in ideology in order to attain a more compete perception of each political standpoint.
Toward the end of her talk, Dillon stated what she believes to be the most important way to initiate change in society, and that is to simply talk about it and create dialogue that was not there before.
When asked by a Westminster student how students can “restore sanity to [the] college campus,” Dillon replied: “I think it’s important that students speak up, but do it respectfully. Talk to you professors, make friends with them. You have to speak up. Organize.”
“I think it’s important that students speak up, but do it respectfully.”
Then, in a follow-up question, another student asked how they may speak up if they are a minority. Dillon answered: “I would talk to people, have discussions. One-on-one chats are my favorite thing.”
Dillon suggested that students make relationships with those who disagree with them, in order to try to create new opinions while also attempting to learn from the opinions of others as well. She urged the students in the audience to voice their opinions and to act on their beliefs with all of their heart.