Features, Politics, Top Stories

“Which Side Are You On?”

“Which side are you on, friends? Which side are you on?” This question was robotically intoned by a dozen or so students led by a young woman in a ‘Stay Woke’ jacket. As she paced back and forth before a stunned audience at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon on March 5, they chanted slogans and their dreary rendition of the 1930s union folk song. By their own account, the students were there to oppose fascism, which that week was represented by the American Enterprise Institute’s resident scholar, Christina Hoff Sommers. Prevented from delivering her remarks for the duration of the interruption, Sommers patiently waited for them to finish. The spectacle was meant to disrupt, but it was also a challenge and an ultimatum: “Which side are you on?” the students demanded of their assembled colleagues.

I am the freelance journalist who recorded and released the viral video of what happened that day. For doing so, I now find myself accused of being on the ‘wrong side’ — not just by the protesters, but also by some in the media. The Guardian has accused me of belonging to “a movement” that works “hand in hand with right-wing media and right-wing organizations to promote attacks on progressives.” This was followed by an article in GQ which includes me on a would-be shaming list of “free speech grifters.”

A number of pundits and columnists have quarreled with the idea that our campuses are becoming less tolerant, and there is certainly room for reasonable disagreement on this topic. What is dismaying about the Guardian and GQ articles is the recourse to personal insults and an unwillingness to distinguish between different critics of campus illiberalism. Instead, thoughtful progressives like Bret Weinstein and his wife Heather Heying are lumped into the same category as a right-wing provocateur like Milo Yiannopoulos, and all are accused of operating from mercenary motives.

Three days after the protest against Ms. Sommers at Lewis & Clark Law School, I received an email from Jason Wilson at The Guardian. He asked if I was responsible for her Portland-area visit. “You’ve received national attention now,” he went on. “Was that part of the plan?” Wilson pointed to my involvement with the student group that invited James Damore to speak at Portland State in February, but he also misattributed responsibility for other controversial events to me. Ms. Sommers was invited to speak at Lewis & Clark and Willamette University by The Federalist Society. She also spoke at Portland State on a panel organized by the campus chapters of Turning Point USA and College Republicans. I am not a member of any of these groups.

The evident bias in his questions made me uneasy. When I googled his name, I found an article by Nathan J. Robinson, editor of the left-of-centre Current Affairs, that accused Mr. Wilson of misleading and sensationalist reporting on Charlottesville. Nevertheless, I answered Mr. Wilson’s questions frankly and courteously. A week later, his story appeared, describing me in the following way:

The widely circulated video that underpinned all coverage was captured and tweeted out by a Portland State University graduate student in politics, Andy Ngo. Ngo describes himself as a journalist, and his work has appeared almost exclusively in hyper-partisan conservative outlets like The College Fix. There was no media accreditation, but Ngo captured cellphone video, and this became the unchallenged record of the event.

Ngo is no stranger to controversy, and it wasn’t his first viral video. Over the last year, the student has shrewdly inserted several into the workings of the right-wing outrage machine.

“Shrewdly”? Mr. Wilson cites two videos I recorded in support of his claim that I am a right-wing provocateur. The first is a clip from a public interfaith panel, during which a Muslim speaker freely expresses his view that the correct Islamic punishment for unbelief is banishment or death. The second is a video of a protester damaging the sound system during the Damore event last month. Mr. Wilson’s uncharitable mischaracterization of my reporting and motives reminds me of the justification offered by my former editors at Portland State’s student paper, The Vanguard when they fired me from my editorial position last April. Recording and sharing a video that exposed Islamic apostasy doctrines to scrutiny, one of my supervisors explained, violated the principles of media ‘intersectionality.’

The following day, GQ published a feature which characterized several major free speech advocates as con artists. The “Free Speech Grifters,” wrote Mari Uyehara, a culinary critic turned social commentator, “are not actually interested in the free exchange of ideas, per se; they are interested in liberal caricature for clicks, social-media followings, and monetization.” Former Evergreen State biology professor Bret Weinstein told me that Uyehara’s word choice here is politically strategic:

[Grifters] lure unsuspecting people into accepting fiction in order to steal their money. If you call someone a ‘grifter,’ you are also leveling an accusation against those that find the accused person reasonable. It stands in for a counterargument and is, by its nature, hard to disarm.

The University of Toronto psychology professor, Jordan Peterson, rejects Uyehara’s accusation that he only focuses on the Left as a “conservative provocateur.” “I’ve made no secret of my distaste for the identity politics of the Right,” he told me. “[It is] both ignorant of historical reality and morally despicable.”

Ms. Uyehara is better at tossing casual ad hominems at her political opponents than she is at getting her facts right. For example, she opens her essay by quoting a three-year-old interview with comedian Bill Burr, in which he dismisses the idea that political correctness is challenging free speech. However, she ignores his long record of making fun of outrage culture, and the more pertinent remarks he made just a couple of months ago: “So many people agree on so many things right now [but] they are so afraid to talk because you don’t want to get in trouble.”

Of course, both Ms. Uyehara and Mr. Wilson imply that speaking up should land a person in trouble which is why they are demanding a reputational cost from those who do so. Ms. Uyehara even criticizes me for soliciting donations after documenting the protest at Lewis & Clark. Are we to understand that she does her writing for free? Describing free speech advocates as con artists if they try to earn a living from their work only increases their vulnerability to mob resentment and functions as a warning to others: put the camera down and shut up or face the same treatment.

Christina Hoff Sommers at Lewis & Clark on March 5, 2018.

Ms. Uyehara’s willingness to misrepresent her opponents even leads her to infer mendacity from something as innocuous as a smile: “It was a Ben Shapiro wet dream. As the ringleader yelled, ‘Black lives matter,’ Sommers turned to the camera euphorically grinning from ear to ear. Here it was: the money shot.” I was in the room and a lot of students were smiling, not least because the protest was completely ludicrous. “I was embarrassed for the protesters,” Sommers told me. “The whole thing was like a South Park parody of campus demonstrators.”

Citing a post by Heterodox Academy’s research director, Sean Stevens, Uyehara says they found “that the majority of successful disinvites came from the right, not the left.” But this is misleading without context. Sean Stevens states in his post that:

[S]peaker disinvitation attempts from the left of the speaker and from the right of the speaker were roughly equal from 2000 to 2009 (except for a spike in activity from the left in 2006). Yet, from 2010 onward there is a noticeable increase in disinvitations attempts from the left of the speaker, relative to disinvitation attempts from the right of the speaker.

And finally, almost all of the disruptions of events held at universities have been found to come from the Left. A table published by the Heterodox Academy highlights this clear trend:

Source: “Campus Speaker Disinvitations Part 2 of 2,” Heterodox Academy

I’m proud of the work that I’ve done as a student writer. Inter alia, I’ve exposed the bankrupt ideology behind a white nationalist group attempting to recruit on my campus, I’ve given voice to closeted atheist Saudi Arabian students, and I’ve written about a brave Muslim mother who stood by her gay son even as she was ostracized by her faith community. To be reduced to a mercenary “conservative activist” in GQ and a “hyper-partisan” hack by The Guardian, is disappointing. But in the current polarised and highly tribal environment, that, apparently, is the price demanded of those suspected of belonging to the wrong side.


Andy Ngo is a graduate student in political science at Portland State University. Follow him on Twitter @MrAndyNgo.


  1. ccscientist says

    If someone is truly an idiot, the best thing in the world is to let them talk. One of the ways Trump won was by quoting Hilary. If your grasp of the issues is so feeble that your only possible response is to shut people down, that is sad.
    But even sadder is that the administrations at these schools could shut these protesters down in a heartbeat, but they don’t want to.

    • Such truth and wisdom! Only someone (or a group) with a totally vapid argument or movement would fear what another has to say.

    • TarsTarkas says

      Because (1) they are cowards, (2) because too many members actually agree with the premise that speech should only be free for the ‘woke’, (3) they want to be considered ‘woke’, and lastly (4) the ‘woke’ are never ever wrong, and they don’t want to be considered wrong.

  2. The administrators are beyond timid. Maybe they think these protests offer teaching moments. Very well written article. Another Quillette star.

  3. doiknowyou says

    No time to read all, only read the last one.

    Focus is not a gay. Ngo also is likely to be dogma against their faith. Only the good is the right, in other words, the ends justifies the means. Every law has an exception.

    However, it is compatible only by rational reasoning. That is preventing from self-deceived. Ironically it says, as the society is advanced, there is not only raising pickets. But also each stakeholders combination from political n civil n capital backgrounds. Look up the administrative dictionary.

    Likewise, my focus was: if the peculiar community has infamous intention against their pickets, it is reversed another doctrine, eliminating different voices. Btw, some gay’s wordplay is shown like that. Moreover, they made 3rd gender, in fact it is biomedical business and some of them concealed their beneficial sponsors wrongdoings, sometimes or often. On the other hand, many companies also use this ngo for campaign marketing, like Dove or Nike. But as you know, remimder, why fair trade from coffee farm to clothes manufactured. In this case, is it lasting of the ends justifies the means?

    On the contrary, citing that one’s pronoun is replaced as one’s representative is possible to be on top of everything, dogma. To make one’s prominence, he drags and owns every superior words, attaching purity 100%, infinitely. But it is resulted in self-contradition. As I wrote, as the society gets advanced, each stakeholders relationships are more complicated. As the result, we should feel the necessary to mediate each benefits in diverse people. There would be 3 components of persuasion, ethos, pathos, logos. Among 3 components, the most acceptable moment is pathos. When we buy a product, some of us consider meaning and purpose. When I feel it’s wrong, like the polarized discord, removing this procedures. The world is not changed at once. But it’s the same motivation for us to go forward, persistently.

    Added once more, you didn’t have to example of extremely edge case study case of the most conservative society. Different from your viewpoint, israel used to be the most conservative society, but absolutely open-society for gays. Plused, there’s also domestic people community to think himself and herself, without foreign groups. The mere change but some moments to listen to their voice through female directors.

    Next time, making up for more reasons, out of maternal nature’s appeal to authority. Only by it, meaningful, but why was there not father? Without practical experience in reality and aging, literal repeat can be dogma. So Kafka said for the student, don’t try to find everything from bookshelves, go outside and face reality. I don’t have ever demonized same sex communities. Even I’ve tried to see more from the Art. Jean Genet’s Splendid’s play. Even they played in English by foreign casts in real-time. It’s still ~ing.

    But those avoiding my tries and their self-manipulated mask have been not the same as whom I try to know.

    Good luck.

    • spookykook says

      An utter abuse of language.

      What I got out of the first couple paragraphs was that your claim is that Ngo is standing on the same ideological ground that the people he’s against are standing on, the only difference being that he thinks the right are the “good guys,” so to speak. You’re saying that the fault in what each of them are arguing for isn’t in the particular side of the issue that they fall on, but that ideological ground that they share in common; something like “the ends justify the means.” Then you say that this is this ideology is only compatible with rational reasoning, which I can only take as a criticism of rationality, given the gobbledygook that is your post. It is as if you originally typed something some what understandable in microsoft word, right-clicked every word and replaced it with a synonym. I do not necessarily disagree with you either, but this is not the way to go about getting your point across. I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong, but jesus, the words are crying.

      • toestubber says

        I get the impression that English is not that person’s first language. You’re right that the comment is incomprehensible; I have no idea whether you have accurately paraphrased the writer’s muddled thoughts. It could have meant anything.

    • Tezza says

      I think this must have been written by a poorly programmed machine.

    • David Turnbull says

      No time to read, but time to write 490 words of gobbledygook.

  4. ga gamba says

    Firstly, I want to thank Mr Ngo for organising these events and his reporting. The more people doing so the better off we all are. Still, it saddens me intelligent, talented, and thoughtful people are devoting their efforts to what I thought was settled long ago. In some ways this keeps us on the back foot. Our challenge is to manipulate the opponent’s force against himself rather than confronting it with one’s own force. Be the jujutsu.

    I have one criticism of this otherwise excellent piece: “Instead, thoughtful progressives like Brett Weinstein and his wife Heather Heying are lumped into the same category as a right-wing provocateur like Milo Yiannopoulos, and all are accused of operating from mercenary motives.”

    I have no beef with non-violent “provocateurs” – I’d wager Rosa Parks was smeared as one. Their speech (and right to assemble too) is as protected as anyone else’s. Attacking someone for being a provocateur is buying into the opinion, wittingly or not, there are illegitimate forms of speech beyond the fake fires panicking theatre goers. This is the argument advanced by academics and others who claim they support free speech but demand platforms be denied to those who aren’t “producing knowledge” wherein knowledge is defined to suit their objectives. Understand the lie for the lie it is, and don’t allow progressives to expand definitions to twist them to their ends.

    Free speech isn’t restricted to knowledge producing endeavours. We shouldn’t ignore the fact universities have produced knowledge that was later proved false. I’m sure the same errors happen presently. Should professors be removed from their laboratories and classrooms when an error is found? And let’s not fail to see those whose views are actually backed up by scientific data are nevertheless deemed unworthy of speaking on campus – Charles Murray for example. The “knowledge-producer” v. “provocateur” argument establishes a pecking order of acceptable speech and that which isn’t, and this is exactly the same as the hate-speech gambit.

    Moving on to The Guardian’s Jason Wilson and others like him such as Nesrine Malik and Dorian Lynskey. I encourage anyone contacted by the media and who choses to participate in an interview to mention all correspondence will be made public. If and when a misleading article is published make a video showing how one’s comments were mischaracterised and recontextualised, then upload it to youtube. If the interview is electronically recorded, make sure to bring your own recording equipment and upload it afterward. Learn from Lindsay Shepherd.

    • Some excellent points again, especially with regard to maintaining the same standards of freedom for all speech.
      What do you mean by this though? “Our challenge is to manipulate the opponent’s force against himself rather than confronting it with one’s own force. Be the jujutsu.” How can we do this in practice?

      • ga gamba says

        By storming the podiums and beating people senseless in the streets the progs have proved themselves handy, useful stooges in this regard. It sucks to say it, but we have to be the ones who take the first punch. And the second. Even the third. Use their violence and hysterics against them in the battle for public opinion. Save vengeance, if you’re so inclined, when the cameras and crowds are gone.

        The mainstream media tends to under report abuses and crimes committed by their allies and amplify those when progs are on the receiving end. A couple of examples. Before the Charlottesville killing Antifa had perpetrated attacks including stabbings on alt-right and racist extremists holding lawful rallies in California. See here: www(dot)latimes(dot)com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-neo-nazi-event-stabbings-capitol-20160627-snap-story.html. These incidents didn’t get much coverage nationally or internationally.

        Later, at the Battle of Berkeley, an Antifa demonstrator was punched in the face when she jumped into the fray. She received sympathetic coverage from CBS. Did the reporter ask her about her tweets: “Nervous af but determined to bring back 100 nazi scalps”? Absolutely not. The narrative concocted was a vulnerable girl viciously attacked by right-wing thugs. “BERKELEY PROTEST VICTIM: Woman Punched On Video Talks About Assault During Berkeley Demonstration”. www(dot)youtube(dot)com/watch?v=dcrY2QbppWg.

        Charlottesville was the culmination of more than a year of violent melees. Seeing how police failed to intervene repeatedly, ordered to stand down to allow the two groups at each others throats time and again, it was no surprise to me someone ended up in a grave. Had the media been questioning decisions made by mayors and police chiefs in 2015 and 2016 I think violence would have been reduced and perhaps that death avoided. I suspect progressive mayors allowed this violence because they knew legacy media would frame it to damage the right. If Berkeley mayor Jesse Arreguin had been receiving tens of thousands of tweets after the first Berkeley melee perhaps it would have compelled him to revise this hands-off-Antifa approach.

        Fortunately the MSM no longer monopolises sense making. Plenty of people are recording these crimes and uploading them to youtube and other platforms. We need to use social media to drive viewers to these recordings to ensure legacy media’s fabrications are challenged – contact those who comment and asked to reciprocally friend/follow each other. Keep building those relationships and use those to organise local cells. Further, legacy media needs to be confronted. Reporters, editors, and the owners detest being called liars, but when that’s what they are the name is earned. Mind you, they are shrewd enough to avoid blatant lies. Theirs are the lies of omission and recontextualisation. Mayors and police chiefs need to be called out online and at city council meetings.

        Nurture relationships with rank and file police officers and other first responders. They’re appalled by their political masters. Encourage them to speak off the record or anonymously at a later time and date.

        Progs are very well organised and they control the major makers of sense. We need to be likewise. The most effective social movement I’ve ever seen was orchestrated by the gay community. Their tactics (ACT UP, Silence = Death, etc.) need to to be co-opted and also use Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals against the left. Progs need to experience the consequences of the monster they created.

        (Note: normally I would embed hyperlinks in my comments, but I keep finding my comments stuck in moderation. I find little evidence to prove this site is being actively moderated. The managing editor needs to attend to this.)

    • stevengregg says

      What pretzel logic it is to claim that denying others free speech is free speech itself! That makes authoritarian regimes beacons of free speech the more they repress speech, eh?

  5. Andrew_W says

    Watching those protesters it occurred to me that they were not acting like adults, as wiki say: “one may legally be an adult but possess none of the maturity and responsibility that may define an adult character.”

    Somehow they were failed in their upbringing, they never learned maturity and responsibility and so they continue to act in a childish, if not infantlike manner.

    • Yes. They were all appalling but all I could think about the girl who asked the question from the back was that she clearly had never been taught manners and common courtesy.

  6. Anti-postmodern pre-modern says

    These are the outcomes of post-modernism infiltrating the academia.

    Are these protesters paid by Judith Butler?

  7. Jeff York says

    Mr. Ngo, like Jordan Peterson, James Damore, Charles Murray, Jonathan Haidt, et al, it sounds like you’re striving for objectivity and have made all the right enemies. Please keep up the good work but be aware that “No good deed goes unpunished.” I’m 59 and I know of what I speak.

  8. Chris says

    yeah, which side are you on?
    In a war there are only two sides; the winner’s and yours!

    My apologies, but by now reading stories like that is more like a sitcom; same script, same comedy, same emotions, same audience.
    However, I bet the author did not feel like that when experiencing first hand how the free press is freely interpreting an interview and also freely prosecuting anyone who questions doctrines, which defense and postulation it has assumed (often so not by free choice, but as a consequence of reward).

    The headline is not only an excellent fit for the article, but it really sums up the overall topic. You have to choose between what you feel is right and what helps your carrier. Look at any of the well studied totalitarian regimes; like the Soviet Union, 3rd Reich etc. The MAJORITY of people go along against their believes in hope it won’t last too long, but it most often does. Those who don’t, will either get silenced or become heroes. Think of how Peterson became the unintentional redeemer for millions by just stating staunchly what he believed in.

    Free speech has not killed a single person, infringing on it has, does and always will on a massive scale. It is the centre pin of our current culture and identity; i.e. take it away and it falls apart, and what comes then?

  9. I doubt if the author will see this but…take it as a badge of honor that the Guardian and GQ have smeared you in the press. They are both absolute garbage that no one but crazed leftists take seriously, GQ was once good but now is staffed by the same low-T soyboy beta males that run Buzzfeed!

  10. Wade Althen says

    Thank you for writing this. We need more people who have been targeted by this propaganda to speak out against it. These people do not believe in integrity or honesty. There is only narrative and political power and they have zero qualms about painting you as whatever monster is convenient to serve their threat narrative. Anyone who doesn’t agree with their dogma must be identified as a heretic and their personal character attacked. All good people, after all, think exactly like them.

  11. Caligula says

    “Ngo is no stranger to controversy, and it wasn’t his first viral video. Over the last year, the student has shrewdly inserted several into the workings of the right-wing outrage machine.”

    Was the video edited, or is it in some way inaccurate? If not, why would the author of this care who made the video (let alone why it was made)? Really, we understand that images can be made to lie, but, if you believe it is inaccurate, where’s your evidence?

    Assuming the video is an accurate representation of what happened (I assume that because the author resorts to obvious ad-hominem “argument”), then why do you not address its content?

    If this is “professional journalism,” please, bring on the amateurs!

  12. jason kennedy says

    The Guardian’s sniping is doubly distasteful, as without the boots on the ground of Ngo and others like him, they’d have nothing to hang their stories on, as they certainly don’t report, but merely opine.

    As for the Guardian hack’s referencing of Ngo’s amateurism, this is par for the course. The Guardian just months ago had a cookery writer, erm, cook up a piece smearing independent journalist, Vanessa Beeley, for her on the ground reporting from Syria that challenges the corporate media narrative re The White Helmets.

    The ‘fake news’ moral panic, the move towards the public/democracy being ‘saved’ from misinformation by the promotion of ‘trusted sources’, the NYT, The Guardian, WaPo, etc. has given young reporters for the corporate media added incentive to pack their pieces with invective against anyone daring to engage with journalism with any sort of independence.

    Quillette readers may find this corporate media flap over writing for love, not money, instructive:


  13. doiknowyou says

    Spooky, Toest/ Quillet is responding Quillet. At least, drop more lines than mine. If my English is not much like your fluency, show me reasonable standard. Who knows?

  14. Martti O. Suomivuori says

    What shocks me the most is how freely people lie in the media.
    They seem to have no considerations of the consequences to be spotted as a liar when facts are mounted against them. How can it be?
    Because there are no consequences.
    As long as you are ‘controversial’ and stay off certain subjects you can pretty much say whatever comes into your mind.
    Misquoting is totally OK, guilt by association is OK, namecalling is OK.
    I am 65. In my youth we sort of knew that whatever came from the Soviet-controlled radio was tainted. Newspapers were silenced, journalists lost their jobs if wrong kinds of truths were voiced. We thought it would pass.
    What we got was a new set of lies and liars.
    I have confidence that the kids of today will eventually see through them, see their own gullibility, see who the players are. It is sad, all the machinery to get relevvant knowledge and sound facts is there. Kitten videos, conspiracy theories, porn and other sports push everything else aside.
    Good guy, bad guy, us and them.
    Litmus tests.

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