McWilliams and Vander Graaff: The ironic culture of ‘Culture War’

Leta McWilliams and Abby Vander

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

For weeks, the Fort Collins community has prepared for Turning Point USA’s “Culture War” event. Despite holding the facade of an event centered around deliberation and various opinions, “Culture War” failed to invite the type of conversation that it claims to cherish. 


The environment outside of the University Center for the Arts was disorganized, chaotic and polarizing. The lines for entry were unclear. TPUSA didn’t formally distinguish between VIP and general admission, causing crowds of people to walk in front of and through organized protests, only to be turned away from the event 30 minutes after its designated starting time.

According to the “Culture War” website, students were supposed to get first priority going into the event, which wasn’t the case — those with the aid of a heavy wallet in their pocket got priority. There were only 550 seats available, the majority of which were filled by people with paid VIP tickets.

“No Trump, No KKK, No fascists USA.”

“No room for fascists, only room for immigrants.”

“Border walls are all a crime, from Mexico to Palestine.”

“Power to the people, no one is illegal.”

“Silence is violence.”


Not everyone can pay for a ticket, and not everyone wants to pay for a ticket for an event that challenges their opinions. This fault in accessibility contradicts the rhetoric behind the event: for those of different backgrounds and ideologies to come and listen to viewpoints and opinions other than their own.  

During the event, TPUSA founder Charlie Kirk discussed the importance of the phrase “e pluribus unum” or “out of many, one.”

And I’m afraid that instead of saying ‘e pluribus unum,’ the American left that stems from universities just like this one is more focused on dividing and conquering than bringing this country together around our foundational ideas of equalism,” Kirk said.

Kirk blamed the left for divisiveness, yet his event does nothing to counteract it. 

Many of the people who weren’t let into the event proceeded to engage in a shouting match with the protesters across the street. 

“We can’t hear you” was chanted in unison from the protesters, met by a reactionary comment, “Get the c*ck out of your ears,” from someone across the street. The difference between the rhetoric was that the protesters had intentional, organized dissent, while the scattered event-goers had individualized reactionary comments. 

A good thing that came out of the event was the unity demonstrated by the Young Democratic Socialists of America protest. While protesters from YDSA were just as passionate as those in favor of “Culture War,” they had a sense of unity that was productive to their cause, they provided a space to those who disagreed with the event and they allowed others into their space.


“We are marching on the UCA to actually make sure that they hear us because I think they have an idea in their head that we’re ‘delicate little snowflakes,’ but really, we’re here to defend our community,” said Rob Haggar, YDSA member.

Laurie Hutton, a Fort Collins community member, attended YDSA’s open mic event and sang “For What It’s Worth,” a protest song, by Buffalo Springfield. Afterward, she said, “That song was from way back in 1969, and we still have to do this sh*t.” During the event, Hutton discussed how she felt proud of the students for protesting “Culture War.”

“People in charge are not going to change unless they’re scared enough of the people — not violence — just the will of the people,” Hutton said. “That’s why this is important. That’s why I’m here.”

The desire to instigate change seemed to be consistent among the protesters at the event, but opinions on how to do so, as well as reactions to the protests, varied. 

“I wanted to hear a different point of view,” said William Samuels, a Colorado State University student. “I wanted to hear what the protesters had to say and (Donald Trump Jr.) and TPUSA. From what I have seen, I’m much more impressed with TPUSA as opposed to this borderline violent protest.”

Despite multiple efforts to interview people in support of the event, Samuels was the only person willing to provide his identity as well as a serious comment.

people protest
Colorado State University students, community members and members of the Young Democratic Socialists of America carry signs as they march to protest the Turning Point USA Culture Wars event hosted by Charlie Kirk with special guest Donald Trump Jr. at the University Center for the Arts, Oct. 22. (Matt Tackett | The Collegian)

Conservative people at the event requested anonymity as a means of protecting not themselves, but their reputation. Despite a desire for anonymity due to safety concerns, individuals from the protesting side chose to share at least their first name and, in doing so, took a risk to further their political opinions. For us, this implied that the former opinions expressed by conservatives were not grounded or respectable enough to be connected to their identity.

A protester, who wished to be known as Fiona for safety concerns, came to the event in an effort to build bridges.

“I don’t think that de-platforming people is the correct way to help people see that their ideas are bad,” Fiona said. “But it’s really difficult to cut through their rhetorical tactics that are designed to confiscate. … They claim free speech, but then they degrade our ability to even have rational discourse by using dehumanizing language and … duplicitous arguments.”

Every argument should have multiple perspectives, and this column reflects our own experience that night. In sharing our experience, we hope to contribute to a more educated and cooperative approach to difficult and controversial conversations. In the future, we hope that these events genuinely reflect the values of free speech, exchange of ideas and diversity of thought like they claim to do.

Leta McWilliams can be reached at or on Twitter @LetaMcWilliams. Abby Vander Graaff can be reached at or on Twitter @abbym_vg.