Last week, while reporting a longer story, I had the distinct pleasure of joining hundreds of libertarian-leaning fundamentalists at the Great Homeschool Convention outside LA. In the interest of blending into the crowd, I wore the only floral thing in my closet and proudly carried the “GOD & COUNTRY” flag tote delivered to all of us upon entry. But there was still something—my non-whiteness, my laptop, my lack of young children trailing behind like obedient ducklings—that caused quite a few conference attendees to look me up and down with suspicion and then turn the other way. (Prudent.)
Adrift in a sea of nuclear families, I spent a couple hours walking around aimlessly in the exhibition hall, which contained a maze of variously doctrinaire homeschool materials, with a smattering of tertiary political accessories: workbooks on the Constitution, free bumper stickers for Ben Carson 2016. No one talked to me until I paused to examine the materials at the booth for Turning Point USA, a conservative activist nonprofit dedicated to making small government seem aggressively cool and urgent to young people.
Turning Point USA, often written about as a scrappy conservative counterpart to MoveOn.Org, was founded by “wunderkind” Charlie Kirk, a 21-year-old from Illinois who’s been the recipient of fairly glowing press from the National Journal and Bloomberg Politics. (From the former profile: “GOP donors, strategists, and even presidential candidates are awed by [Kirk’s] composure, his intellect, his passion for politics that most don’t associate with the millennial generation.”) Turning Point has, according to its website, identified 45,000 activists for the cause and made its presence known on more than 800 college campuses in all 50 states.
Their recruitment strategy is targeted, informal, pop culture-inflected, aggressive and chipper; at the homeschool convention, it was up in full force. “How old are you?” chirped a pretty, nervous-seeming brunette wearing a Turning Point t-shirt. When I told her I was out of the organization’s target age range (high school and college), she hid the slight slump in her shoulders with a big wide smile. She detailed the many opportunities still available to me if I wanted to get involved with Turning Point USA. “Are you interested in writing?” she asked. I could write some op-eds, she suggested. “Or even, if you want a job!”
I thanked her for the opportunity and picked up some of the snappy-looking pamphlets. “CAPITALISM CURES,” one of them said. “THE HEALTHCARE GAMES,” said another, with a Photoshopped Hunger Games franchise logo on its front. I fastened a button with Turning Point’s main tagline—BIG GOVERNMENT SUCKS—on my neckline and went to go sit down and read.
The materials were badly written and ahistorical—if selectively so, in the Founding Fathers dick-sucking way often exhibited by the far right—as well as consistently anti-intellectual and unintentionally hilarious. “Biased,” the adjective, was repeatedly spelled as “bias.” A recruiting tip suggests that campus activists start conversations with random passersby with the opening line: “Do you think big government sucks?” A pamphlet about how big government is harmful states that “True diversity is not found in skin tone or sexual preference. True diversity is found inside each and every citizen’s mind.”
Another brochure came with an amazing cartoon about liberalism:
But the best brochure of all was this one called “Indoctrination Prevention,” featuring a ‘90s-looking teen model with zombie eyes on the cover and the tagline “10 Ways College Professors Indoctrinate America’s Youth and How to Prevent It.” Its introduction states that it was written “so that college students can take charge of their education and remain steadfast in their beliefs of free markets, capitalism and the American dream.” The entire thing is structured to combat a powerful straw-made golem of the “Liberal Professor,” who is there to stifle you intellectually and break down everything you hold dear.
Let’s take a look inside, starting with:
“They want to brainwash you.” I suggest reading this a couple times—it’s too good.
Your liberal professor already attacked your upbringing; next, she plans to attack the idea of American exceptionalism, which, as we all know, is both ideologically neutral and also handed down from the Christian divine.
Here’s my favorite part from this section:
One time again:
While yes, America has had its faults through the years, such as poor treatment of natives, slavery, and unequal rights for women, the mistreatments of these groups were occurring all over the world and was considered as normal treatment during that time period.
That’s phenomenal. I can’t decide whether a copy editor is high or low on the list of needs for Turning Point USA when I can’t even decide whether I even want them to stop being like, “But all the other kids had slaves too!” They’re just out here saying it! Okay.
Your professor may advocate for the government to step in and help those in need. While we should all be in favor of helping those in need, we should be in favor of helping those in need as quickly and as best as possible.
As evidence: FedEx is faster than the USPS, and people prefer it. End of story, they nailed it.
Specifically, sullying its sacred name. Here is my favorite part of this section.
I like this because it evinces a particular, funny inconsistency in far-right conservative messaging—the last half-century is either an era of great, technological, corporate prosperity or a time in which everything’s gone to diverse gay hell.
Specifically, confusing the two.
If there is a case in which someone is more successful than everyone else, your leftist professor believes government should step in and redistribute the money. While this enforces an equal outcome, it also lowers the standard of living.
It’s about time someone spoke out against the rampant “equal outcome” society we have in America these days!
Here’s the best part of this section.
“These so-called tolerant people will tolerate everything except for intolerance!” Well, at least they’re catching on.
Social justice sounds like a good cause—after all, who wouldn’t want justice applied in realms of social society? However, social justice is defined as the distribution of wealth, opportunities and privileges within a society. It is strictly anti-capitalism and anti-American.
I’d have edited out the “social society” part—love to be part of a nice social society—but in a lot of ways, I couldn’t have said that last part better myself. Social justice is anti-capitalism and anti-American in a lot of ways, because of the simple fact that America’s prosperity has been consistently won by both hard work and personal integrity and also relentless abuse of the domestic and international disempowered.
Anyway, this section goes on to explain discrimination as “simply the recognition and understanding of the difference between one thing and another,” and that “people can be unfair and prejudicial in their discrimination, but that is not always the case!”
“Discrimination,” adds Turning Point USA, “when employed fairly, is the use of wisdom.”
This was so dramatically stupid that I had to do a tweet.
The section ends, “Nothing can stop anyone of any race from achieving the American dream if their drive is strong enough. White privilege is simply a way to stir up division and blame negative circumstances on pigment rather than principles.” I agree with the last sentence, but not in the way they would want!
Okay, two more and then we’ll have all the important talking points to throw back at Our Liberal Professors.
Although it’s very difficult to imagine Our Liberal Professors spending much if any class time on a specific Democratic campaign talking point from 2012, let’s see what this pamphlet has to throw at the wall on this one anyway.
The “There Is No War On Women” section acknowledges the pay gap, but attributes it to women’s “choices to raise a family” and the fact that women “statistically choose less-valued degree programs.” Then, in a paragraph clarifying the fact that women don’t actually care very much about reproductive rights (the logic is explicitly like, if women are equal to men, that means they care about what men care about, and men don’t care about reproductive rights), the pamphlet states: “If a woman is hungry or is worried about a bomb falling from the sky due to poor foreign policy, birth control is really the last thing on her mind.”
A great argument, as is:
The war on women was created as a tool to mobilize women to vote for certain policies. These certain policies happen to be leftist policies. Your liberal professor will try to advance the “war on women” narrative in order to squash capitalism, which truly looks at each individual as an equal actor in the free market.
Nothing could be more true and fair to all people than refusing to acknowledge that the legacy of centuries of discrimination still affects the free market dramatically today!
Finally, we have arrived at the last of 10 techniques in the arsenal of Your Liberal Professor. This section suggests that, if your professor brings up something like the BP oil spill (which, like—does the liberal media ever talk about all the oil rigs that didn’t cause massive catastrophes, the pamphlet asks smugly), you should “make sure to ask, ‘How many climate-related deaths occurred this year?’”
“The answer,” says the pamphlet, “should be few to none.” That’ll show them!
Follow up by suggesting this concept: Due to human innovation: i.e. capitalism and big businesses who use fossil fuels, the environment is actually becoming a safer place to live.
Well, there you have it.
You can read this pamphlet in full on Turning Point USA’s website, or check out their Twitter. It’s a great comfort to me in my post-Turning Point middle age to know that thousands and thousands of impressionable college students will be able to stay the course with the help of these materials, which were clearly written by people who have experienced college and are totally not like tiny children in business suits playing Let’s Fax This Mud Pie to Daddy.
I look forward to joining with them, as well as all of you, in the great fight to stop Liberal Professors all around America today.
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Images from your liberal professor