Ben Shapiro isn’t worth your money

Sara Beth Bolin, Contributing Writer

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The University of Alabama doesn’t often have large political figures visit its campus. So when Ben Shapiro announced his event with the UA chapter of Young Americans for Freedom, I was a little shocked. We’re a primarily white institution in a deeply red state that doesn’t have much sway in national politics. Why would he want to come here?

And that’s when I saw the ticket prices.

There are three kinds of tickets listed on the event website: a free ticket that guaranteed entry, but no seat; a $50 ticket for a guaranteed seat (unless you’re late – then it’s gone); and a $300 VIP package that gave you “access to an abbreviated security line, early entry, two guaranteed seats in the VIP section and access to a Special VIP Reception and photo opportunity following the event with Ben Shapiro. Light refreshments will be included.”

All three packages were gone in minutes.

Over the past few days, the Alabama Student Ticket Exchange Facebook page has been filled with people begging for tickets. People offered absurd amounts of money, some that could pay my rent for a month, to get a picture with a right-wing troll. Members of the organization commented on some of the posts, saying that IDs would be checked at the door, so you couldn’t sell your ticket even if you wanted to. And it got me thinking: Why do all of the guaranteed seats for the event cost money for students?

When Condoleezza Rice visited the university in 2011, it was free to students. The same happened with Bill Nye and Margaret Atwood. Even when YAF invited Rick Santorum to speak last year, wristbands were given out on a first-come, first-serve basis.

So why charge an absurd amount of money for guaranteed seats and backstage access? Is Shapiro scared of the few Alabama liberals who dare challenge his ideas, causing him to hire security? Did the University charge for the event? Or are Shapiro and YAF just trying to take advantage of our students?

The truth is that I don’t know. When I reached out for comment, I was redirected by the Alabama chapter of YAF to the national spokesperson, who never responded. I look forward to hearing their reasoning, but I’m sure that, whatever the answer is, it’s not a good one.

If Shapiro really wanted to speak to UA students, he’d do it free of charge. He wouldn’t be hiding behind a ticket price to take a picture with him. He would encourage people to talk to him and exchange ideas.

But I guess when you’re a coward, that’s what you do.

If you’re looking for a ticket on Facebook or even considering standing in the standby line to try for a seat, I’d suggest you stop. Do you really want to spend all that money to watch some Republican mouthpiece spout the same things that you could see on YouTube for free? Do you really want to wait in a long line to possibly listen to him yell false information at a crowd for an hour or so?

My warning comes too late for those who already bought guaranteed tickets. Go enjoy yourself, I guess. Just take everything he says with a grain of salt.

And for those who paid for the VIP experience: I hope you enjoy discussing racist propaganda over light refreshments with the “Baby Hitler” guy.