In defense of Young Americans for Liberty

| Staff Columnist

On Friday, Dec. 4, Sneha Thakur’s column, “Young Americans for Liberty: Too inflamatory to be persuasive,” grossly mischaracterized our organization in a way that demonstrated her underlying bias. I hope that through this article I will be able to set the record straight about the purpose and accomplishments of the Young Americans for Liberty and to refute Thakur’s troubled piece.
Thakur begins her article by characterizing the mission of Young Americans for Liberty as a group that seeks to “work toward providing a venue where people who hold different beliefs and ideologies can come together, express their opinions and agree to disagree.” While we at YAL may be open to individuals of all ideologies, this is certainly not our most prominent goal. YAL is a political activism organization that seeks to challenge, educate, and mobilize students on the ideals of political, social and economic liberty. Even a half-hearted evaluation of our events will demonstrate that this goal has been more than fulfilled.

Young Americans for Liberty began the year with an event that distributed Constitutions to the student body on Constitution Day. In one of our less provocative events, which Thakur fails to mention, we were successful in distributing nearly 300 Constitutions to the student body. Our next event was a free trade versus fair trade coffee tasting, which distributed information on the problems with the supposed “fair” trade system. We then held a film screening for “Not Evil, Just Wrong,” which questioned the veracity of claims made by global warming alarmists. Thakur attacked this film in a different article despite the fact that she admittedly did not bother to watch it. She mistakenly claimed that YAL was an arm of the Republican Party and went on to attempt a film review based on the movie’s trailer. Next came our infamous, yet fantastically successful gulag event. Finally, we held a well-attended rally outside the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis building that called for transparency in our nation’s central banking system.

Thakur, however, seeks to characterize YAL based solely on her poor interpretation of our gulag event. The gulag was not intended to represent the state of the country under the Obama administration as Thakur suggests, but rather to show the inevitable consequences of continuing down the road to serfdom on which the United States has been marching for nearly 100 years.
Thakur describes our gulag as distasteful, inappropriate, bizarre and offensive to those who actually suffered under the tyranny of the Soviet Union. This description is wildly inaccurate and does not in any way reflect the success of the gulag event. Following the event, YAL received considerable donations from political groups around St. Louis who praised our activism and initiative. We then went on to receive a $500 award from the national Young Americans for Liberty organization for the best Berlin Wall event in the country. We have received praise for our event from several other national political organizations such as Campus Reform, Campaign for Liberty and biggovernment.com.

Furthermore, Thakur’s assertion that the display was offensive to those who suffered under the Soviet Union simply does not reflect the response we received. For instance, I was recently approached by a German immigrant who thanked me for the event, as it called attention to the oft-forgotten horrors suffered by her father, who was imprisoned by the Soviets many years ago. Also, this Tuesday, Wash. U. YAL will be holding a lecture by a retired Washington University professor, Dr. Gregory Nikiforovich, who lived in the Soviet Union until 1989, was very grateful for our event, and will be speaking on the implementation of socialism in his former country. It seems to me that the only people who were offended by the gulag were not those affected by the horrors of socialism, but rather socialists themselves who were made uncomfortable by the frank portrayal of the results of their ideology.

Thakur then makes the patently false claim that we devote the majority of the space on our Web site to attacking individuals who disagree with us. Despite her claims to the contrary, there is nothing on our Web site that attacks the Students for Fair Trade. The Web site merely acknowledges the fact that the group refused to engage us. There is a video of the Event Services personnel conspiring to shut down our gulag; but neither the video nor the post contains commentary on the nature of Event Services’ actions.

Thakur spends the rest of her article attacking a comment made by John Burns and posting on our group’s Web site. She characterizes Burns as an ungrateful student of Washington University and another “disgruntled” member of YAL. A quick perusal of our Web site, however, reveals that Burns is neither a member of YAL nor a student at Washington University, but rather the owner of the construction company which erected our gulag.

Thakur should just be honest: She doesn’t approve of our group’s message of liberty. That is fine; she certainly isn’t the first. But to cherry-pick and mischaracterize  facts in an attempt to cast our organization as some sort of band of vicious reactionaries is incorrect and inappropriate. I encourage Thakur to attend one of our meetings if she wishes to better understand our goals.

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