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People for the Ethical Treatment of College Republicans

BY SHAY O'REILLY | SEPTEMBER 28, 2011 7:20 AM

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University of California-Berkeley political-science Professor Wendy Brownhad an idea: She would use the power of her pocketbook to end a battle over race-baiting cupcakes.

In a ludicrous media stunt, the UC-Berkeley College Republicans decided to protest a change in the admissions process, which would allow the UC system to consider ethnicity and gender of applicants, by having a bake sale. Specifically, a bake sale in which cupcakes cost more for white men than any other demographic.

"We did intend for it to be controversial," College Republican President Shawn Lewis told CNN's John King, saying that the group was looking for greater critical thought rather than student outcry.
Brown responded to the controversy by showing up at the beginning of the bake sale with a wad of cash, intending to buy all of the cupcakes. She was not permitted to do so.

This kind of provocative grandstanding — and riding waves of outrage into the national media — seems typical for the young GOP, which thrives primarily on creating controversy through an action insensitive at best and then complaining about the all-too-predictable backlash. Any publicity is good publicity, after all, and outraged reactions are fodder for a scandal-hungry media.

It's rather like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, that vegan group notorious for its scandalous, never-quite-serious campaigns. In 2009, for instance, PETA submitted an ad to the Super Bowl that was blatantly inappropriate. When it was predictably rejected, the group rode the controversy into the national spotlight, promoting their its on YouTube and through social media.

But the College Republicans have something PETA doesn't have: a massive victim complex.

University of Iowa students gained firsthand experience with that mindset during the Conservative Coming Out Week debacle this past spring. The event, which claimed a direct parallel with lesbian and gay experience by title alone, was met with anger from community members — including an explicit email from a professor, prompting a national media dust-up.

Conservatives trumpeted this as proof that the nation's universities were centers of liberal indoctrination. Iowa Federation of College Republicans Chairwoman Natalie Ginty received an invitation to Glenn Beck's show, where she joined dozens of young Republicans in telling sad stories about the lack of respect shown for conservatism on college campuses.

Lewis even invoked this trope in his CNN cameo, asking why the proposed rule didn't include consideration for "ideological diversity."

Instead of earnestly representing the measure, which does not institute affirmative action or quotas, the Republicans held a bake sale. Instead of initiating a good-faith conversation about differing viewpoints on college campuses and the responsibility of all parties to facilitate dialogue, Lewis obliquely equated conservativism to blackness. Generating a media stir through misrepresentation and calculated outrage may help the College Republicans feel productive but relegates them instead to gleeful shit-stirrers. The bake sale wasn't bigoted because it charged white men more but because it reduced a complex issue — that of equal access to education in a society rife with discrimination — to a bake sale.

When earnest speech is trumped by intentional controversy that both trivializes and mocks important issues, the only mature response is to take the seriousness up a notch. Luckily, the Berkeley community, aside from a few online threats, responded in First Amendment kind: Hundreds of black-clad students arrived at the bake sale midway through and lay down in silent protest.

It's the kind of response you might expect for a particularly noxious PETA campaign. Maybe one that equates non-vegan baked goods to slavery or some other absurd reduction of a messy topic.

You know how it goes.


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