At age 31, Senior Advisor to the President of the United States is no small title. Duke graduates, to their credit, have the ambition and drive to affect real change at a young age- be it for better or for worse. Stephen Miller graduated from Duke in 2007, a mere 10 years ago. During his time here, he was perhaps The Chronicle’s most arrogant and outwardly offensive columnist. Over the past few weeks, Miller has been in the spotlight over quotes on behalf of President Donald Trump. His unsubstantiated claims have been lampooned on late night shows.
Because the online presence of our publication was not quite thriving in the early 2000s, Miller escaped his college legacy relatively unscathed. Few take the time to dig up his old articles and read them in all their glory. However, for the sake of convenience, I have pulled a few gems and addressed them below.
Miller describes himself as “a deeply committed conservative who considers it his responsibility to do battle with the left.” Throughout his career as a columnist, he made it clear that he was not joking about this perceived battle. Each column identified a heinous attack from “the left,” which usually presented themselves in the form of a conversation about race, class or basic human decency.
Miller penned an entire column ranting about the threat posed to “traditional values” in media. So rampant was this liberal control of Hollywood, he thought, that “shows like ‘Queer As Folk,’ ‘The L Word,’ ‘Will & Grace’ and ‘Sex and the City,’ all do their part to promote alternative lifestyles and erode traditional values.”
Yes, he really did mention “Sex and the City” as an example of an evil show brainwashing his generation. Miller seems to feel visceral disgust with the idea of a single woman having consensual sex, or, even worse, buying her own shoes. He devoted actual time and energy to print a full article about the dangers of two men kissing or four women eating brunch. His blatant fear of creativity and free choice seems to contradict his self-proclaimed love for independent thought and freedom of speech.
Another one of my favorite quotes come from an article about Durham—our home. Miller writes off the city with the sort of indifference and lack of cultural understanding that defies common sense. He writes, “I have nothing against the town, but I wouldn't exactly describe it as a rich treasure-trove of life and culture waiting to be discovered by the eager student. I would more accurately describe it as one of the last spots in America anyone would visit were it not for the presence of Duke University.”
It takes a terrifying amount of delusion and self-importance to believe that we are the only thing that makes Durham interesting. My belief that Durham is a unique and attractive city with its own history, culture and community does not come from a place of political correctness nor pity. It comes from fact. It comes from direct experience with children and parents and politicians and researchers. It comes from a knowledge that Durham was here before Duke and would continue on its own without Duke, retaining its quirks and prides, its Black Wall Street, its markets, its “townies.”
I could go on, but it’s all the same. Miller wrote about everything from a defense of cigarettes to a claim that a cohesive American culture was represented by a list of white guys with Jackie Wilson included as a token (“Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jackie Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, Douglas Macarthur, Milton Friedman, Edgar Allen Poe, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Edison and again, for emphasis, Elvis Presley.”). I don’t intend this article to serve as a takedown of the hyper-conservative perspective, or Trump, or even of Stephen Miller.
I want the world to know that Stephen Miller does not represent Duke. His actions are not representative of the actions of Duke students, and his words are not indicative of the culture here.
Duke students are smart and talented and conservative and liberal and anarchist, but none are so paranoid or proud as to think that the world is out to get them. Miller proves that lying, fear-mongering and anger in the name of American values may be tactful, but never just. The idea of coming through four years of Duke with a stone heart and a stone mind is baffling. This is a place that shapes and changes its students, helping them develop while still allowing them to maintain individual thought and expression. Miller, then and now, creates an ideological war where there could have been peace. There is no “battle” between the right and the left unless we choose to take up arms and start shooting at one another.
Leah Abrams is a Trinity freshman. Her column, “cut the bull,” runs on alternate Fridays.