USC’s Young Americans for Freedom hosted a lecture from Michael Knowles, a conservative speaker and commentator, on Thursday night.
Knowles was met with silent opposition as close to 30 protestors walked out during the event, leaving behind a written proclamation calling for the university to revoke the recognized student organization status of USC’s Young Americans for Freedom.
The lecture, titled “Men Are Not Women and Other Uncomfortable Truths,” began with a joke about climate change. After progressing to the topic of cancel culture, the protesting students walked out quietly.
The statement, left by Trojan Advocates for Political Progress, stated its wish “for USC to unrecognize Young Americans for Freedom as an official student organization.” They added, “Michael Knowles’ speech is not an academic inquiry, but rather a malicious attack on people who are different from him. Claiming that trans people do not exist not only discriminates against them, it negates their very being.”
“The time has come to stop granting academic credence to racism, transphobia, homophobia, islamophobia, climate denial, ableism -- the list goes on. We are a Trojan Family. We must act like it,” the statement concluded.
During the walkout, Knowles didn’t seem phased. “The minute all the shmucks leave, the people who are waiting in line and waiting out the door get to come in and fill the seats,” he said.
A graduate of Yale and a previous actor, Knowles broke into the political circle after writing a mostly blank book titled “Reasons to Vote for Democrats: A Comprehensive Guide.”
He previously toured college campuses with Young Americans for Freedom and was met with opposition at many of those events as well. In April, Knowles spoke at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, where a student sprayed him with a super-soaker filled with a mixture of essential oils.
Knowles has written recent articles for The Daily Wire with titles such as “The Cruelty Is The Point Of Environmental Regulation” and “No One Actually Cares About Blackface.”
Knowles recently came under fire by media outlets for calling teenage climate activist, Greta Thunberg, a “mentally ill Swedish child” on Fox News. Fox News has since apologized, but Knowles stood by his statement at Thursday’s event.
“I owe those people no apology,” he said. “Obviously there is nothing shameful about living with autism or any other psychiatric condition. What is shameful is exploiting children for political purposes.”
Sophomore journalism major Presley Baker attended the event and said Knowles’ recent comments didn’t change her views on him.
“I think it was poorly phrased, but it doesn't change how many of the ideals I have align with him,” she said.
Many of the approximately 100 student attendees were pleased with Knowles’ visit to campus.
“I feel like a lot of universities have a liberal bias, so it’s nice to have people from the other side of the aisle say what they think,” Mitchel Cole, a sixth-year film and television production major said.
The senior business administration and accounting major, and chairman of Young Americans for Freedom, Maxwell Brandon, felt that Knowles brought “intellectual diversity” to the school.
“Freedom of speech is a two-way street. If you want to talk, you’ve got to also listen,” Brandon said.
During the question and answer session, Brandon invited those who opposed Knowles’ views to come to the front of the question line. Nobody moved.
Knowles welcomed political opposition at his lecture as well.
“I have no problem with political division,” he said. “I’m not going to live in some magical country in the sky where everybody thinks exactly what I think. I wouldn’t want to live there even if I could.”
“I wish the protestors would’ve stayed around and asked more questions,” Brandon said. “They’re not out here to have a debate, to have a conversation. They’re out here to say we’re wrong, call us names, and basically try to kick us off because they don’t like what we say.”
Kush Shanker, a junior health promotion major and protestor, said walking out sent the message to Knowles that he wanted to convey. “Greta Thunberg’s decision to walk out combined with our decision to walk out is the reaction we want him to see.”