Shapiro at the U of M

Michael Geiger

After months of controversy, the time finally came for Ben Shapiro to take the stage at the University of Minnesota. Shapiro’s speech took place in the North Star Ballroom on the St. Paul campus, a venue selection that faced heated criticism from conservative groups nationwide. Despite the roughly 80 protesters protesting outside the front of the building, the event went off without a hitch, avoiding the kinds of security debacles that plagued some of Shapiro’s past events at UC-Berkeley and UW-Madison.

A few minutes after 7:00 p.m., University of Minnesota senior and State Chair of the Minnesota College Republicans Madison Faupel introduced Shapiro to the crowd of 400 attendees. Faupel noted, “I have learned more from (The Ben Shapiro Show) and his books than I have in my almost four years here at the University of Minnesota.”

Shapiro opened with a brief critique of the University’s handling of the event, calling President Eric Kaler’s statement defending the school, “Just absurd.” He also criticized the University of Minnesota’s decision to green-light an event in opposition to his speech held on the same day on the main campus entitled, “Protesting White Supremacy in the Age of Trump: an Anti-Racist Teach-In.”

Shapiro then began his speech titled “Capitalism and the First Amendment.”  Labeling capitalism “freedom” and socialism “tyranny,” he identified the morality, or lack thereof, inherent in the two economic systems, “Capitalism is about the idea that I have to be forced to do something good for you in order for me to live, and socialism is about the idea that I have to be forced to do something good for you so that you can live.” 

Finishing his speech in a brisk 23 minutes, Shapiro then opened up the Q&A session to the crowd for over an hour. He first fielded questions on subjects such as the rising popularity of Jordan Peterson, the specificity of political labels, and the irrelevance of ethnic identity.

Undoubtedly, the question of the night came from a student asking Shapiro how he could help a “hypothetical” young man expose his left-leaning girlfriend to conservative ideals without causing the relationship to “crash and burn.” Shapiro first comically pointed out that it was clear the young man was “an optimist” and that “he was making a huge mistake.” However, once the laughter and applause dissipated in the crowd, Shapiro implored the student to ignore shared interests and focus solely on shared values.

The most relevant question for University of Minnesota students questions was next, as a student asked Shapiro about the concept of renaming historic buildings based on past injustice by the building’s namesake. The student specifically mentioned Coffman Memorial Union and its potential renaming in his query. 

Shapiro responded by stating that, “I think it’s actually very important as a country for us to face up to the problems that we’ve had in the past.” He cited Thomas Jefferson as an example of a person who “did some terrible things” but that, “it’s a mistake to obliterate history.” Shapiro admitted that while he was ignorant to Lotus Coffman’s background, as a general rule he is opposed to the renaming of historic buildings.

The next run of questions hit on topics including a private business’ freedom of association, objective morality, and the importance of race vs. culture.

The last big subject that Shapiro tackled was the importance of identifying transgender medical patients by their biological sex. A student attending a health professional school asked a question regarding the topic, and also noted that students were docked points on assignments if they did not say they would change a patient’s gender on a medical profile at the patient’s request.

Shapiro condemned the idea, calling it “idiotic,” and brought up the example of how stomach pain would be treated as indigestion for a man, but he noted bashfully that for a woman it would be treated as “something else.” Shapiro posited, “If you were a transgender person would you really want the doctor profiling you based along the lines of an organ you don’t have?” He closed his response claiming, “For people who proclaim that they care about science and facts, to say this kind of stuff is ascientific and afactual.”

The night closed with questions on artificial intelligence, taxes, and a finally a challenge from a University of Minnesota employee objecting to the criticism over the selection of the venue. 

1 hour and 13 minutes after the evening began, and more than 2 months after the speech was first put under public scrutiny, Shapiro exited stage left to thunderous applause, closing the book on one of the more compelling events at the University of Minnesota in recent memory.