Opinion: Honest discussion and debate needs to replace political grifting

Figures such as Charlie Kirk and Steven Crowder only harm the political atmosphere and don’t educate anyone.


Mason Childs

Turning Point USA Founder Charlie Kirk speaks to an audience during his “Culture War” tour at the Iowa Memorial Union on Wednesday, October 23, 2019.

Peyton Downing, Columnist

Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk visited the University of Iowa Oct. 23 on his “Culture War Tour,” in which he talked about how he believes society is failing the younger generation. While it’s obvious that there is a wide swath of issues that we face as a collective, Kirk sells them in the worst way imaginable. These major political and cultural problems will never be resolved by him or others who follow his example.

While there is a host of critiques regarding Turning Point, other journalists have done far more extensive work in that regard. But there is something that must be said about individuals and groups similar to it — they’re grifters.

Political grifting is far more dangerous than is given credit. For the purpose of this article, “political grifting” refers to a method of political communication in which the speaker uses disingenuous and misleading arguments to create divisive outrage instead of genuine debate.

By now, it’s almost impossible not to have at least some sort of knowledge on the new wave of “debate” videos that have circulated through the internet in the past several years. Whether it’s The Daily Wire’s “Ben Shapiro DESTROYS transgenderism [sic]” or Steven Crowder’s “change his mind” videos, these debates tend to follow the same pattern.

Someone asserts a progressive viewpoint which is then retorted with a vast array of quotes and facts which may or may not be entirely made up. The person who asserted the progressive viewpoint is taken aback, stutters, and then backs away defeated.

These debates aren’t constructive in the slightest, because the people coming in aren’t on equal footing. The college students being presented as “the Left” aren’t equally well-versed on the material as those who are paid to spout “facts and logic.”

Political grifting works because the speaker appears strong, confident, and charismatic.

These grifters target these areas for engagement because they know that they won’t be met with people who can create retorts to their talking points on the fly effectively.

On the occasions when they meet their match in college environments — such as this video of Steven Crowder —  they simply stall and change topics until the grifter can have someone else come up for them to “own.”

Political grifting works because the speaker appears strong, confident, and charismatic. They inspire a cult of personality around themselves that makes their audience willing to overlook small details that don’t add up.

One of the greatest examples of this deception is horrific presentation of climate change.

Many of them — such as Kirk, Shapiro, and Crowder — have all commented on “the Left’s obsession” with climate change. They cite various sources to say that it either doesn’t exist or isn’t as big of a deal as it’s made out to be.

But this is entirely false and maliciously dishonest. It is scientific fact that climate change exists and its effects are widespread and extreme. The grifters’ sources are either misrepresented, improperly conducted, or just flat out lying.

YouTube video essayist Harry Brewis outlined these flawed arguments in his video “Climate Denial: A Measured Response.”

“The work is shoddy, and the holes are poorly wallpapered over with scaremongering about the dangers of big government me-no-like,” Brewis said in the video. “Not because they’re genuinely trying to convince outsiders to change their minds — it’s to try and protect the insiders from having to change their minds.”

Grifters are dangerous because they don’t argue in good faith. They’re not interested in sincere public debate and finding the best idea. They seek to create the biggest spectacle possible to spread their image and reinforce their follower’s beliefs.

If Kirk, Shapiro, Crowder, and others like them are serious about discussions of their political ideologies, they would not base their brands on “destroying” the opposition. For genuine progress to be made in our splintered society and political discourse, we need to approach it with honesty, not hostility.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.