St. Olaf Cancels Shapiro Event on Anniversary of Hoax

In the war over political correctness, it isn’t always easy to find a smoking gun. Blatant examples of leftist overreach like the ones at Berkeley, Depaul, and UC-Davis are rare. 

Generally, the left employs a “death by a thousand cuts” approach to winning their ideological battles. These tactics are subtle and aren’t always spotted by conservative watchdogs. 

Unfortunately, the left was recently able to strike another shadowy victory when St. Olaf’s refused to host Ben Shapiro on campus for his planned April 23rd speaking date. The decision was made due to the speech date landing on the one year anniversary of a race-based hoax that took place on the Northfield campus.

Last spring, a racist note was left on the windshield of a black student at St. Olaf College. This sparked outrage across the campus, leading to canceled classes and protests at the small liberal arts school. However, a couple weeks after the incident took place, a student came forward and confessed to fabricating the note.

Kathryn Hinderaker, the St. Olaf student leading the efforts to bring Shapiro to campus, sent emails to both St. Olaf President David R. Anderson and Vice President Carl Crosby Lehmann protesting their decision to bar the prominent conservative from speaking at the school. 

Anderson responded, “I share your interest in ensuring that diverse viewpoints are expressed on our campus, including the perspectives of conservative speakers like Mr. Shapiro.” But he also noted that the scheduled date is, “is at a time that coincides with the anniversary of last year’s protests. This is deeply concerning. Our campus is still healing from that experience.”

Lehmann wrote back that, “… (Shapiro’s) appearance on our campus at that time would have been counterproductive. I don’t think it is debatable that he is a divisive person… having (Shapiro) here during the anniversary of last year’s protests is not appropriate.”

The administrators at St. Olaf perfectly illustrated how the left will undermine the conservative message going forward. If they’re smart, they won’t call people like Ben Shapiro fascists or Nazis. Instead, they will label them divisive or disruptive. Subtly, slowly, conservatism will be sabotaged in increasingly cunning ways. 

The 2016 election taught us a lot of things. Chief among them was that blanket moral assaults are fairly ineffective in the political arena. Over the course of his campaign, Donald Trump was repeatedly labeled a racist, sexist, narcissist, Nazi, bigot, homophobe, and a host of other nasty epithets. 

Now at times, Trump lent credence to these arguments. He committed a whole host of errors during his run to the presidency and very rarely came off as a man of principle. But because so many of the attacks lacked sufficient evidence and nuance, it was easy for the MAGA crowd to write them off.

However, it appears that some of the more clever agents of the left are learning their lesson, and are adjusting their strategy in ways that will give them the capacity to do immeasurable damage to conservative principles.

The dangers of this gambit by the left is it forces conservatives into a tough spot. If we cry wolf too blindly, they can retreat behind the mild nature of their rhetoric and punch back using their typical identity-politics tactics. If we ignore them, they will continue to inch towards the country towards a postmodern endgame. Neither outcome is acceptable, so our only choice is to arm ourselves to the teeth with intellectual ammo and dissect their arguments with surgical precision.