Columns, Opinions

Vilsan ’19: Tomi Lahren: The rightwing princess

By
Staff Columnist
Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The rise to stardom of political commentator Tomi Lahren is hard to ignore — her inflammatory statements light up social media and emblazon rightwing millennial voters looking for a fresh face to carry a conservative message. And not unlike President Donald Trump, Lahren knows the power of a tweet. Using as few characters as possible, she has likened the Black Lives Matter movement to the KKK, called liberals “snowflakes” and accused the Obama administration of being sympathetic toward terrorists. There’s no doubt that rightwing princess Tomi Lahren, who has her own show on TheBlaze, has gathered a large millennial following with her passionate approach to politics. But is Lahren truly the spokeswoman for the forgotten men and women of the America heartland as she so proudly claims to be? Or rather, is she a mouthpiece for the same old political forces afraid of change and inclusion? 

Political debate is a cornerstone of the American democratic system. Lahren is absolutely right to question those in power and demand more from her elected officials. She is also right to question the mainstream media’s bias throughout the presidential election. But when attacks on people, movements and belief systems are rooted in fundamental misconceptions, Lahren’s thirst for controversy is no longer conducive to engaging conversation and instead fuels misguided anger.

As has been painfully obvious throughout this election cycle, political discourse is no longer solely about differences of opinion regarding the role of government. It’s personal. Lahren doesn’t consider her liberal counterparts as intellectual equals but rather condescendingly refers to them as “snowflakes.” Apparently, these liberals are too fragile and sensitive to cope with the brutal truths doled out by Trump.

Lahren maintains that the label of “racist” has been thrown around so often in this election cycle that it no longer has any meaning and that liberals use the term indiscriminately when their comebacks come up short. But she is completely comfortable throwing around the label “snowflake” whenever she deems fit. On her show, Lahren dismisses the Black Lives Matter movement as a collection of angry snowflakes disrespecting the police force without a legitimate reason. A history of racism, police brutality and mass incarceration don’t get mentioned. The complexity of the movement — and the history of race in the United States — doesn’t fit well into her simple, angry narrative. When Lahren casually likened the Black Lives Matter movement to the KKK, it led me to believe that Lahren is either unaware of what the KKK stands for or she is simply indifferent to it. But that’s the thing — Lahren doesn’t need to care about facts or nuances so long as her fans gobble up her outlandish and controversial claims. She simply basks in the backlash. 

As a guest on the Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Lahren was asked a legitimate question: What is the right way for black people to protest? Lahren claims to be personally offended by Colin Kaepernick’s decision to exercise his right not to stand during the national anthem. But she also claims the Black Lives Matter movement is illegitimate due to several members’ decision to protest violently. Unsurprisingly, the always-passionate Lahren was unable to answer the question. She responded instead with a tangential, spirited defense of the flag and skepticism as to whether black people face oppression at all. For a woman who claims to love America for its freedoms, she is oddly bothered by a man’s silent protest against his oppressor.

The biggest problem with Lahren isn’t that she lacks nuance and well-reasoned attacks. Lahren fights opposing arguments with blind outrage and unadmitted privilege. She arms her followers with unfounded and racially charged arguments instead of practicing thoughtful reporting and effectively addressing pressing political concerns. Why should you care? Lahren isn’t simply muttering angry extremist beliefs to herself — she influences millions of viewers, has 585,000 followers on Twitter and is now essentially a part of the mainstream media. To make matters worse, Lahren is an active fearmonger, offering a narrative of exclusion rather than what the country really needs — hope and optimism. 

Knowing that the rightwing princess hates labels, I’ll refrain from adding one here and put it bluntly instead: I wish Lahren’s only problem were her one-sided arguments. Unfortunately, she possess neither the skills nor the empathy that her platform demands. 

Fabiana Vilsan ’19 can be reached at fabiana_vilsan@brown.edu. Please send responses to this opinion to letters@browndailyherald.com and other op-eds to opinions@browndailyherald.com.