Ben Clerkin

How bad are things in the US? Well, frat boys are now the voice of reason

The US public aren’t keen on the pro-Palestinian students either


UNC Chapel Hill students hold up the American flag during a campus protest on Tuesday when anti-Israel protesters replaced the American flag with the Palestinian one during the demonstration. (Parker Ali/The Daily Tar Heel)

May 08, 2024 14:11

It wasn’t exactly the iconic photograph of battle-weary Marines hoisting the American flag over Iwo Jima.

But a now-viral image of frat boys protecting the stars and stripes from pro-Palestine protesters at the University of North Carolina (UNC) had a slight glint of the same patriotism.

Despite a barrage of objects raining down on them, the clean-shaven and smartly dressed students (apart from a young man wearing a Hooters Augusta T-shirt) worked together to hold the US the flag aloft and stop the cherished symbol falling onto the ground.

At campuses across America, frat boys have had enough and have, rather unexpectedly, captured the mood of a nation tired of the privileged toddlers who have taken over colleges. They have helped cops remove “Tentistan” encampments, protected Jewish students and counter-protested with the American flag. They sing the national anthem and chant “USA, USA, USA,” at the “From the river to the sea,” brigade.

Joe Biden couldn’t quite make up his mind if he was for or against, in his words, the “vandalism, trespassing, breaking windows, shutting down campuses, forcing the cancellation of classes and graduation” because, again in his own words, “we are not an authoritarian nation where we silence people or squash dissent.”

There was no such vacillating from the frat boys at UNC who knew instinctively which side they were on when protesters replaced the American flag with the Palestinian flag.

When the stars and stripes was hoisted once again, they stood guard beneath it with Jewish students.

Trevor Lan, a member of the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity at UNC, said he stood up to protect the American flag because it represents the First Amendment.

“They have a right to protest, it’s a legal right under our constitution, and the American flag is tied in with that,” said Lan. “We wanted to ensure that the American flag wasn’t once again taken down.”

So taken was the nation with the frat boys’ stand that $500,000 (£400,000) was raised on a GoFundMe set up to reward them with a party for their patriotism. Members said they intend to use money to support charities aligned with their beliefs, including supporting Israel.

Country singer John Rich said he is willing to play at the “rager” for the fraternity members, and billionaire investor Bill Ackman donated $10,000 (£8,000) to the GoFundMe.

The frat boys are on the same page as the US public. Almost half of Americans — 47 per cent — oppose the protests versus 28 per cent who support them, according to the results of a YouGov poll released last week of over 9,000 US adults. Twice as many believe college administrators have not responded to the protests harshly enough (33 per cent) as say administrators’ response has been too harsh (16 per cent).

Perhaps frat boys are also conscious of the damage the protests are doing to their employment prospects. Business magazine Forbes surveyed around 200 hiring managers and 33 per cent said they were less likely than they were five years ago to hire Ivy League graduates while 42 per cent said they more likely to hire from public universities.

It is a measure of quite how far through the looking glass colleges have fallen that frat boys are now the voice of reason.

​ It is unclear why, but the Biden administration last week put a hold on a shipment of ammunition to Israel. Biden is facing criticism from members of his party for supplying Israel with arms. This was the first time since October 7 that the US stopped a weapons shipment for the IDF.

Netanyahu hinted at tensions with the US in a statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day issued on Sunday: “In the terrible Holocaust, there were great world leaders who stood by idly; therefore, the first lesson of the Holocaust is: If we do not defend ourselves, nobody will defend us. And if we need to stand alone, we will stand alone,” he said.

Again, the decision appears out of step with the US public. A Harvard poll found that an overwhelming majority of Americans — 72 per cent — favour Israel moving forward with an operation in Gaza to remove Hamas while 28 per cent say Hamas should be allowed to stay.

l Donald Trump has found another point of differentiation with Biden and the West over Israel and come out against a two-state solution.

He told Time magazine: “Most people thought it was going to be a two-state solution. I’m not sure a two-state solution anymore is gonna work.

“There was a time when I thought two states could work. Now I think two states is going to be very, very tough. I think it’s going to be much tougher to get. I also think you have fewer people that liked the idea.”

But it wasn’t unconditional support for Benjamin Netanyahu. He reiterated his call for the Israeli PM to “finish up your war.”

“We gotta get to peace, we can’t have this going on. And I will say, Israel has to be very careful, because you’re losing a lot of the world, you’re losing a lot of support, you have to finish up, you have to get the job done.”

May 08, 2024 14:11

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