In the fall of 2005, I opened a copy of my undergraduate college’s daily paper, the Duke Chronicle, to find a debut editorial by Stephen Miller, now Senior Policy Adviser to President Trump. In it, Miller derided Duke as a “Leftist University,” taking aim at everything from Duke’s efforts at multiculturalism to the dearth of registered Republicans among its faculty.
One of his targets of stood out in particular: Maya Angelou. Miller detested that Angelou was invited as a regular speaker at Duke’s freshman orientation. “I can imagine you must have been very excited to hear her speak, especially since the orientation pamphlet lauds her ‘legendary wisdom’ (known outside of academic circles as tired, multicultural clichés.),” he seethed. Claiming that she was consumed by “racial paranoia,” Miller felt Angelou did not deserve a standing invitation.
Who was this white kid from Santa Monica who was going out of his way to belittle a civil rights icon in his initial public foray? I found it hard to believe a classmate could be so obtuse.
It soon became clear that Miller was actually quite deliberate in his attacks, routinely seeking to offend and provoke, often at the expense of his arguments. “Miller Time,” the moniker given to his series, took aim at many groups: the Black Student Union, feminists, LGBT people, Muslims, and immigrants, among others. Above all, he despised political correctness, devoting an entire article to lamenting how Christmas was “being banned,” and exclaiming that “America was settled, founded and pioneered by people who celebrated Christmas.” (Miller is Jewish.)
His vitriolic words became ammunition against what he perceived as the politically correct leftist agenda. With each inflammatory, dehumanizing diatribe, Miller became more visible and more widely detested on campus―becoming the ultimate campus troll.
Miller has since gained much greater notoriety, having earned the dubious distinction of writing significant portions of Trump’s inaugural address as well as some of his recent executive orders, including the so-called “Muslim ban.” While disappointed, I cannot say I am surprised based on everything he said as an undergraduate.
In lambasting Duke’s Black Student Union for a protest they’d organized against a conservative pundit, Miller offered the group “some advice” on “how to help black people”: “The real problems facing the black community are not-gasp-conservative commentators but the fact that, as some studies have shown, about 194,300 black men between the ages of 20 and 29 are sentenced federal or state prisoners-compared to 126,600 white men and 103,300 Hispanic men; two-thirds of black children are born out of wedlock; and 12 percent of black students in the eighth grade are at or above a proficient reading level.”
Regarding feminism and the question of the “pay gap,” Miller brought out many tired arguments before devolving into a puerile jeremiad on the loss of gender roles: “The truth is, even in modern-day America, there is a place for gender roles. I simply wouldn't feel comfortable hiring a full-time male babysitter or driving down the street and seeing a group of women carrying heavy steel pillars to a construction site.”
“It's these differences that make the opposite sex so wonderful, so compelling, so attractive,” Miller embraced, asserting his heterosexuality.
But, of course, Hollywood was out to convert us into sexual deviants: “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,” he lamented in another piece.
Muslims were an easy target. “Islamic terrorists have declared holy war on the United States. They have declared a death sentence on every man, woman and child living in this country,” Miller explained, after calling Ted Kennedy an unpatriotic “traitor” for denouncing Bush’s torture program.
In a separate article on the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, he set his sights on undocumented immigrants in quite the rhetorical leap: “We give driver's licenses to illegal aliens. Meanwhile our enemy yearns to attack with all the force of Sept. 11 multiplied a hundred times.”
Miller has come a long way professionally from his biweekly college editorials in a college paper. But he doesn’t seem to have grown much in the decade since “Miller Time.” As he continues to attempt to impose his radical alt-right agenda (to which a majority of Americans voted in opposition) from within the White House, we would all do well to heed his own column’s parting words:
“And if the American nation is to survive, and the cause of freedom along with it, then her people must love and protect her. History is filled with great nations now long gone. Tomorrow is promised to no one.”
C. Nicholas Cuneo, MD is a resident physician at the Harvard-affiliated combined program in internal medicine and pediatrics at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Boston Children’s Hospital. He graduated from Duke University in 2008, where he was an undergraduate.
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