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The Right Goes Viral | The Nation

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Campus-oriented news, first-person reports from student activists and journalists about their campus.

The Right Goes Viral

CampusReform.org has many of the features you would expect from a university review site: you can rate your teacher, comment on textbooks, and let other students know about exciting upcoming events. But unlike sites such as College Prowler or Students Review, on CollegeReform, you can also report leftist abuses on campus, organize a Tea Party and "raise awareness about America's slide to communism." That's because CampusReform, launched last month by Morton Blackwell's conservative Leadership Institute, is a social networking site with an agenda: to provide training to future leaders of the political right by harnessing the ground-level organizing capabilities of social networking sites such as Facebook, twitter and Myspace.

According to the site's mission statement, "CampusReform.org is designed to provide conservative activists with the resources, networking capabilities, and skills they need to revolutionize the struggle against leftist bias and abuse on college campuses." To this end, CampusReform has sub-sites for 2,376 four-year colleges in the US, all easily accessible from the site's main page. From the sub-sites, students can connect with conservative groups in their area, rank faculty on a scale from conservative to leftist, and rate textbooks for their degree of liberal bias (reviewers should be on the lookout for "Politically Correct Language," "Radical Feminism" and "Reverse Discrimination"). Students can also network with alumni to find jobs and internships with conservative organizations.

Blackwell, the site's mastermind, told the American Spectator that he started CampusReform because institutions of higher education "have become left-wing indoctrination centers" and that "many, many students can go their entire college educations and never see any representations of conservative principles on their campuses." Judging from the list of Activism Ideas on the site, making conservative principles a part of campus life involves organizing Anti-Anti-War rallies, Anti-Vagina Monologues events, Anti-UN days and Global Warming Beach Parties, where students can draw attention to climate change "inaccuracies." The site even provides tips on how to organize an Islamo-Fascism awareness week, an event conceived and promoted by David Horowitz's notorious Freedom Center.

The danger of CampusReform is that Blackwell's Leadership Institute is not as fringe as it may seem: the Institute has actually been fairly successful when it comes to cultivating future conservative leaders. Blackwell himself got his start organizing the youth vote for Reagan's 1980 campaign, and has spent the last thirty years training young conservative leaders since founding the Leadership Institute in 1979. According to the Institute's site, "At least 555 current state legislators" are graduates of their seminars and workshops. Notable alumni include Republican strategist Karl Rove, Sen. Joe Wilson (R-SC) and Grover Norquist, head of the anti-health care reform lobbying group American's For Tax Reform.

What's more, by the Institute's own accounts, CampusReform is the largest program the organization has ever created. The site is impressive in its ambition: to serve as a central hub for conservative students to connect with each other and from which they will be able to launch coordinated actions. Plus, it has the funds to back up that ambition: the Leadership Institute spent $4.6 million last year toward seminars and workshops for students from around the country, and this year, before CampusReform even launched, the Institute received 2,000 contributions toward the project, with an average donation of $692. To foster interest in the site, from now until the end of the month, CampusReform is awarding $100 a day to the students who submit the best "liberal abuse" stories. Beyond the site itself, CampusReform also employs 11 regional organizers to help spread the conservative gospel.

Such an organized and well-funded operation should make progressive students ask "Where's our CampusReform?" Why doesn't the young left have a site where we can inform ourselves on issues that effect students as a whole, stay connected to alumni and organize across campuses? To protect the basic interests of progressive students in a time of rising tuition and widespread reductions in secondary education funding, we need it more than ever.

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