On Oct. 27, 11 Jews were murdered by an alt-right gunman at the Tree of Life synagogue in the largest loss of life from a single act of anti-Semitism ever committed on American soil. On Oct. 28, I stood with over a hundred others in White Plaza to mourn our dead. On Oct. 29, I learned that a student group is inviting the anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist Dinesh D’Souza to campus.
Here are a handful of facts about D’Souza. D’Souza is one of the largest promoters of conspiracy theories about George Soros, saying that he funds antifa and other leftist groups. These conspiracy theories echo every conspiracy theory in history about rich Jews controlling politics. D’Souza has a list of people he blames for 9/11, about half of whom are Jews. D’Souza was sentenced in a federal court for campaign finance fraud. D’Souza has defended Adolf Hitler, saying that Hitler was “not anti-gay.” D’Souza has compared Bernie Sanders, who lost family members in the Holocaust, to Hitler. D’Souza has retweeted a tweet that said “#burnthejews.”
D’Souza was invited to campus by Stanford College Republicans, who are asking for $6,000 to go toward the event. This student group claims to be practicing its right to free speech. So far, so good. What’s odd is that they are doing so by inviting someone else to speak. Most likely, they believe they are proving a point by showing that there are some points of view that students will oppose. I have heard some of them argue that this infringes on their first amendment rights. Those who make this argument have apparently not read the first amendment, which says that Congress shall not make a law prohibiting free speech. This was extended to the State level by subsequent Supreme Court decisions. At no point does it extend to inhibiting what private institutions like Stanford may do. The argument that the university is bound to respect the free speech of students as a contractual obligation is undermined by the fact that the university is not obligated to provide funding to students for events.
Other conservative voices have argued that opposition to speakers shows that students don’t want to hear certain points of view. Let me make the bold claim that, in this case, I don’t want to hear any more of what anti-Semites like D’Souza have to say. Most significantly, I would like Stanford College Republicans to explain to me why I should accept that money from an institution that I, personally, pay to attend, should go to giving a platform to people like D’Souza. There is no argument for why we should support D’Souza, financially or even by giving him a space in a private building, when he is already free to say what he wants in White Plaza over a megaphone.
The last time a speaker as controversial as D’Souza was brought to campus was during last year’s Charlie Kirk event. I did not attend this event, but I happened to be with some friends at a table outside Tresidder at the time. At the table next to ours there was a group of Proud Boys, identifiable by their trademark Fred Perry polo shirts. The Proud Boys are a militant hate group, self-described “western chauvinists,” whose founder was videotaped on the streets of New York swinging a katana at counterprotesters. They’re infamous for their brutal beatings of leftists. When I saw the Proud Boys at Tressider, an ice-water fear went down my spine and I offered a silent “baruch hashem” in thanks that I had not worn a kippah that day.
I am not advocating a walk-out, a counter-protest or a simultaneous teach-in right now. I hope that it does not get to that point. It’s my hope that this event does not occur, ideally when Stanford College Republicans withdraw their invitation in recognition of the traumas the Jewish community has recently suffered.
D’Souza’s point of view is not one I am trying to exclude from a “safe space” because it’s scarily unfamiliar. The message of anti-Semites like D’Souza is one that I’ve already had to internalize. Their words echo en Deutsch under my skin and with the pounding heartbeat I get when I overhear someone say “Jews” with the tell-tale sibilant hiss at the end. I am not asking for much, just that the voices that say “globalists” and hint “Jews” are not held up on a platform supported by Stanford. I pray for my community to be given the strength to stand up for ourselves and for all others who suffer within and beyond this country’s borders. V’imru amen.
— Elijah Spiegel ’20
Contact Elijah Spiegel at spiegele ‘at’ stanford.edu.