Matt Ingoglia: Confronting controversial aims

Sometime last week, while I was putting off writing papers and studying for upcoming midterms, I noticed a Facebook event invitation awaiting my response. Now, these events typically fall into two categories: random club meetings I don’t want to attend, or happy hours that I can’t attend (I turn 21 today, so keep those coming). But this event was something quite different.

A few months back, I started a column by listing aspects of GW life that we take for granted. Turns out I forgot an entry on that list: Young America’s Foundation’s ability to stoop ever lower in defense of its “values.”

Forgive me, ladies and gentlemen, but I somehow forgot that last Thursday was “Defending Marriage” day, a day during which YAF’s executive board takes to Kogan Plaza and doles out wedding cake to passersby in an attempt to remind them of the “true” definition of marriage: one man, one woman, no exceptions. Though an annual tradition, the event attracted greater attention this year because of the Meghan McCain drama and the marriage equality counterprotest that nearly drowned out their event.

This follows the pattern of YAF’s unnecessarily confrontational abortion demonstration in University Yard, handing out fake anti-global warming programs at Thomas Friedman’s speech and public refusal to count its community service hours toward the University’s goal of 100,000 hours in protest of Michelle Obama as Commencement speaker.

I’ve realized that the best way for bleeding-heart liberals to inoculate themselves against YAF’s poisonous and divisive rhetoric is to understand precisely what motivates them to act the way they do. You might suspect something complicated, but I believe it is much more obvious: the insatiable desire for attention. While this desire is not unique to them by any means, they are definitely the clearest example of what happens when organizations adopt the same tactics a screaming toddler uses to get what she or he wants.

Think about it. Their events do nothing to advance their arguments so much as shove them down everyone’s throats. Their core mission of supporting conservative principles on a liberal campus like ours does not require them to change anyone’s minds, just speak theirs. As the college subsidiary of a nationwide organization, I think their only goal is to do right by one another and antagonize everyone else to the best of their ability. But don’t take my, liberal, word for it – even conservative blog The GW Patriot wrote in September that YAF didn’t want to be taken seriously after the group so publicly denounced the Commencement service initiative.

Put simply, YAF doesn’t expect its wedding cake to win you over; indeed, the organization’s mission depends on outrage to gain publicity, funding and prominence on a national level. Essentially, getting upset with YAF plays right into the group’s hands. That’s exactly why I did not attend the counterprotest in Kogan; I’ll support marriage equality to my dying day, but I’d rather not go about it in ways that only embolden its opponents.

I don’t hate YAF any more than the average Democrat. I consider myself friends with its president, Travis Korson, but I suggest he admits his organization’s penchant for controversy. We both know this is an incredibly liberal campus, and that conservative organizations need to assert themselves to stay relevant here. But it is disingenuous to deliberately obscure the intent of your events. If your group thrives on controversy, being honest and acknowledging your motives can only help your cause. If not, then go ahead and keep calling the rest of us crazy – we’ll be sure to do the same as we laugh on by.

The writer, a junior majoring in political communication, is a Hatchet columnist.

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