Conservative author, filmmaker and speaker Dinesh D’Souza spoke about the Democratic Party and its abandonment of liberal values to a packed Schwartz auditorium on Tuesday, April 25. The event was sponsored by Young America’s Foundation.
D’Souza was named one of America’s most influential conservative thinkers by The New York Times Magazine, according to the Brandeis Facebook event page and D’Souza’s own website. Before the speech began, Assistant Dean of Students Stephanie Grimes reminded students that the event was being live-streamed and recorded, and anyone who disrupted the event would be asked to leave.
“We are particularly appreciative to be learning at Brandeis, an institution founded on values of academic excellence, inclusion and critical thinking. Whatever your views, I remind you to treat each other this evening with courtesy and mutual respect as befits this community of scholars,” she said. “You are welcome to show your approval or disapproval in a way that does not disrupt the speaker or the ability of others to hear the speech.” She also noted that there was an area set up outside for protest if students wished to be vocal in their opposition to D’Souza, a statement which was met with some chuckles from the audience.
Mark Gimelstein ’17, the president of Brandeis Conservatives, then introduced D’Souza and the event, saying that it is “a forum, a place in which everyone gathered here tonight can achieve Brandeis’s motto: to find truth unto its innermost parts.”
“One of D’Souza’s favorite venues for debates and speeches is a college campus. That is why we are confident that Mr. D’Souza will create the perfect environment to allow all of us, from all backgrounds and all political persuasions to test ourselves and live up to Brandeis’ central mission: pursue the truth,” Gimelstein continued.
There was some opposition to D’Souza’s presence on campus. Some students and organizations, like the Queer Resource Center and Heller Forward among others, posted a letter to the Brandeis administration on Facebook from “Concerned Students and Alumni” protesting D’Souza’s visit.
“As concerned students committed to a world free of oppression, we understand the importance of engaging with perspectives that differ from our own … as concerned students, we also place D’Souza’s visit and his ideology in a historical context, acknowledging that hateful rhetoric is used to justify human suffering, assault, murder, genocide, etc.,” the letter stated.
D’Souza talked about how venues like college campuses, which he likes because they are “informal and intellectual,” have become contentious. “Conservative views are virtually nonexistent on college campuses,” he said, noting how this differed from years ago when he was an undergraduate. Now, he sees the explanation for this as “it is not that students reject conservatism. They don’t know what it is.”
D’Souza explained his version of conservatism. “If you think about modern American conservatism, what modern American conservatives are trying to conserve is the principles of the American Revolution … economic freedom, political freedom, freedom of speech and religion.”
He noted that many issues, like racism, have become distorted in American politics. He focused specifically on racism, offering a vastly different perspective on the the Democratic stance during the Civil War and antebellum periods, saying that the left is supposed to be fighting racism, but historically Democrats have supported it.
No Republican owned a slave, according to D’Souza. He said this in reference to the year 1860, during the Civil War when Republicans were predominantly in favor of abolition.
He also touched upon the liberal idea, or “meta-lie,” as he called it, that President Donald Trump and Republicans are fascists and that liberals are now playing the “fascist card” instead of the “race card.” Because of this, anti-fascist groups have arisen claiming that they need to take any measures necessary (inaugural protests, violent protests at Trump rallies) to stop fascism from taking root, D’Souza said. He then pointed out that behaviors such as these could be considered fascist.
“What we have here is a strange phenomenon, which is that the very blocking of free speech, the very terrorizing of opponents, the very isolation of views that you don’t want to hear, this is actually the behavior of the fascists,” he said. “This is not anti-fascism. This is actually characteristic of fascism itself. So how is it possible to engage in anti-fascism, while doing fascist stuff?”
D’Souza ended by expressing the hope that conservative ideas will be given more of a chance to be heard on liberal campuses such as Brandeis. “I’m not trying to get you to agree with me,” he said. “I’m trying to get you to become a soldier for a broader understanding of America and American politics, so that the kind of facts that militate against the left are not excluded from the campus, that they have a chance to compete in the free exchange of ideas.”