Vanderbilt's First and Only Nonpartisan Political Journal

Vanderbilt Political Review

Vanderbilt's First and Only Nonpartisan Political Journal

Vanderbilt Political Review

Vanderbilt's First and Only Nonpartisan Political Journal

Vanderbilt Political Review

OP-ED: Michael Knowles and a Pill Wrapped in Cheese

OP-ED%3A+Michael+Knowles+and+a+Pill+Wrapped+in+Cheese

Convincing a dog to swallow a pill is difficult. Wrapping that pill in food solves the issue. The dog is deceived but it is satisfied; it thinks it’s just eating some cheese. In very much the same way we can be convinced of ideas that we might otherwise reject, as long as those ideas are wrapped up in some more palatable ones.

This evening the Vanderbilt chapter of Young Americans for Freedom hosted famously inflammatory political commentator Michael Knowles at the Student Life Center. Mr. Knowles appears to be a talented speaker, using a command of language and history to explain and defend his points. He was rigorous with his definitions, logically complete, and carefully avoided contradictions. His Yale history education was evident, as was his understanding of the Bible. The issue? What he used all his talents to say.

First and most glaringly, Knowles stated this evening that he wants to “eradicate transgenderism entirely from society as a whole.” He later doubled down, claiming that “there is no such thing as a trans person… you don’t support them by lying to them.” These statements have become something of a tagline for his speaker series, resulting in campus groups like Lambda and the Campus Democrats organizing a boycott of this event. Indeed about a dozen protesters held signs and pride flags at the entrance and exit, attempting to convince guests to leave.

Secondly, Knowles is an ardent Catholic who does not believe in the separation of church and state. He made these views very clear both in his open Q&A session and during the talk itself. By using cherry picked but objectively factual statements from the founding of the nation, he painted a picture of America as inseparable from religious morality. He repeated another well-known quote of his, “if you think Christian nationalism is bad, just wait until you see un-Christian nationalism.”

Finally, he made it clear that the one thing that is not up for debate is Christianity. Mind you, that’s his own denomination and specifics. Several students pressed him on the issue including two Muslim men who asked him to explain how he justifies the superiority of his god and the killing of innocents during colonialism. His response was that “the way to judge a religion is whether it’s true or not.”  

Not one of these three points were the focus of tonight’s discussion, but they were all ushered in under a far more reasonable core point. Michael Knowles’ speech, and the reason he came to campus, was to discuss the current vilification of colonialism and the historically natural nature of conquest. He presented a roughly half-hour defense of the early United States, the Conquistadores, and Western nations during Europe’s expansion. In this defense, he walked through the flaws in applying modern worldviews to past events, and the idea that it is inevitable human nature to grow.

This is all fair enough. A traditionalist approach to history is becoming more popular these days partially as a reaction to modern liberal ideas. The danger is using this simple, and less directly conservative point to Trojan horse in more extreme ideology. Knowles is a highly convincing figure and he knows it. His confident and witty delivery is appealing to the young and impressionable. His academic focus and frequent lapses into serious monologue can be hypnotizing, grabbing the attention of adults and even academics. With unusual self awareness and a stubborn adherence to history, Michael wears down the already listening guest.

And so we swallow the cheese satisfied, subtly deceived into moving further along the spectrum into the political fringe and abandoning the chance of bipartisan cooperation. When we fall for showmanship and a good camera presence, we become blind to what is being fed to us. On both sides of the aisle but especially in the young conservative movement, well spoken figureheads are radicalizing a new generation into a sinister breed of Republican.

 

Image by Robert Harvey

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About the Contributor
Robert Harvey, Contributor
Rob is a Sophomore at Vanderbilt studying Public Policy with a minor in Communication of Science and Technology. He has lived abroad in Sweden and likes to focus on the geographical and technological aspects of politics. Rob is also an avid car guy and lover of the environment.