An Interview with Austen Fletcher

Austen Fletcher ‘12 has recently developed quite a following on YouTube with his channel, FleccasTalks. The premise of his videos is simple, as Fletcher puts it, “I amplify the voices of leftist protestors.” Through candid interviews with protestors in the midst of demonstrations, Fletcher exposes the radicalism, hypocrisy, and lunacy common in these movements. Most recently, he received widespread attention for his video on the ground at the large “March for Our Lives” event in Los Angeles last month. FleccasTalkscurrently boasts over 140,000 subscribers on YouTube and Fletcher has more than 157,000 and 57,000 followers on his personal Instagram and Twitter accounts, respectively. He spoke with ReviewManaging Editor Daniel M. Bring to discuss his YouTube channel, his time at Dartmouth, and his views on what’s going on today in this country.

TDR: For those curious and uninformed, can you describe a little bit about what you do on your channel, FleccasTalks?

Austen Fletcher '12 Reps Dartmouth

Austen Fletcher ’12 Reps Dartmouth

AF: I am a recent conservative and I wasn’t really following politics while I was in college that much and this past election really woke me up. I think that was the case for a lot of people that weren’t taking politics too seriously in their day-to-day lives. So then I started my channel about a year and a half ago, called FleccasTalks, and basically I go to protests and I interview protestors, just to see how much they know about what they’re protesting. At first, just to talk about the ideas and hear another side, but the more and more, the more I realized it was basically going to be more of a comedy channel, just because all of the protestors I come across don’t really know what they’re protesting or the deep down facts that go along with all of the events that they’re demonstrating against. So I interview protestors with a wooden spoon microphone and find out what they think about certain topics. Mostly conservatives and rational centrists think my channel is pretty funny.

TDR: What’s the story behind the spoon?

AF: I think the mainstream media, the dinosaur media is dying, and I think it’s really important to show people that journalism, or even just getting the story and standing up for your views, doesn’t have to be a million-dollar production. You don’t need a CNN studio or a guy in a jacket and a tie with all the equipment to tell you what’s going on. My mic is a wooden spoon with a microphone taped to it, which pretty much discredits me… People think I’m an idiot and stupid, I wear hipster clothes, I’m out of shape, I have a beard, and a weird mic, so people open up to me more and don’t think I’m a credible person and don’t mind opening up to me. One of the bigger, overarching themes of the spoon mic is that I have an Italian mom and growing up I would get threatened with the wooden spoon if I misbehaved. This strict, structured upbringing is something I don’t think my peers, millennials especially, have experienced, and that’s why we’re seeing what we’re seeing when it comes to these temper tantrums in the streets.

TDR: Where does the nickname “Fleccas” come from?

AF: I was in Fahey my freshman year, my best friend Zach, texted me saying, “I love you, Fleccas,” late one night. I wasn’t over 21 at the point, so I probably wasn’t drinking. People started calling me Fleccas on the football team and it was a random nickname that stuck. It just worked and fell into place.

TDR:Including the election of 2016 as you mentioned, what experiences led to you getting involved in today’s political conversations?

AF:I grew up in New York, so I’ve been somewhat following Hillary Clinton for her whole career, and I’ve always known, my family’s always known, that she’s corrupt. When the debates started happening and I saw how favorably the mainstream media was treating Hillary and the spin they were doing for her, it really woke me up and made me question what they were telling me about Donald Trump. So once I actually did some research, looked at some reliable sources, and figured out what was really going on, I realized that that the mainstream media was lying to me. They were preying on people who don’t follow politics but consider themselves of high moral stature. ‘Oh, you’re moral, you’re for gay rights, you’re for women’s rights, you’re not racist, so you’re a Democrat.’ That’s how I thought it was, just because I wasn’t paying attention, when I was in college, when I was younger. Once I realized that was the game they’re playing, I did some more research and figured basically everything they told us was a lie.

TDR: You’ve really touched on a common experience of this conservative awakening for young people in America today.

AF: Along with that, there was a huge rebrand of the Republican Party, and now conservatism is becoming more counterculture, and it’s cool to be a conservative. The Republicans have connected with a younger, cooler demographic with all ethnicities, all genders, all sexualities. Everyone’s invited and it’s this cool movement, while the Democrats seem to be pushing their old ways and the same people over and over again, that didn’t work the first time.

TDR: Getting back to your content, what are some of the craziest or eye-opening experiences you’ve had on the street?

AF: One guy pulled out a huge knife and was flailing it around. That’s probably the craziest thing I’ve seen. When it comes to the actual protests, in LA, and I’m sure it’s the same across the country, there is a core group of organizers that I’m sure are paid protestors, part of the refusefascism.org group. They’re at every protest, every demonstration, they’re there with mass produced signs and it’s the same core people and everyone else just floats in based on the event. What I’m realizing about the protest culture out here, something that’s very telling to the larger issue with young people in America, I think that it’s basically how they were raised. A lot of these people are victimizing themselves and fell victim to the narrative that the mainstream media pushed that they are victims and they are oppressed. When the game is going on and you think you’re oppressed and you’re a victim, instead of trying to win, when you first reach a road block, you try to leverage your victimhood to win the game without having to compete. The people I’ve met on the conservative side come from every creed, gender, sexuality, everything, and they’re hard-working people, who have at a base level, maintained their immigrant values. My grandparents are immigrants, and there’s a toughness, combined with a work ethic and determination, that a lot of these people have strayed away from. Instead of trying to compete and win at all costs, they’d rather blame the game and the rules, and because they’re a victim, leverage that to their success, which never works. You never win by pulling the winner down, you win by doing whatever you have to do.

TDR:The Left in America today seems so energized and organized, do you think that’s something that those on the Right are capable of countering effectively?

AF: Yeah, I think so. Conservatives will “red pill” their rational friends, who don’t participate in politics by sending them Ben Shapiro videos or a podcast or Milo [Yiannopoulos], whatever it is, and introduce them to the other side. While, I’m noticing, Democrats would rather capitalize on emotion-based events, like a shooting or a natural disaster, and attack the Right on those situations. As we saw with Parkland, the Left comes out and gets all these people in the streets to protest and condemn the NRA and that’s really just an attempt to rile people up before 2018 to vote against the Republicans who supposedly want more mass shootings. The Right tries to be rational and says ‘Hey, look at the numbers,’ while the Left would rather target the emotions of the groups and the masses and say ‘Oh, if you don’t want more kids to die, you have to vote Democrat.’

TDR: Do you think there will be a public rejection of the leftist narratives based solely on appeals to emotion or will this sufficiently mobilize people for a Democratic victory in the midterms?

AF: When it comes to the midterms, it’s going to depend on what information comes out between now and November. For example, if we can prove once and for all that the Russia collusion thing was BS and it wasn’t what everyone thought it was, that will really help us. The Left’s been receiving Russian collusion narrative news every day for the last year and a half. If we can prove that wrong, if we can prove the big scandals wrong, then we’ll have a better chance in 2018. If we can deal with some of these big issues and walk a fine line, people in the middle will start heading towards the Right. Right now, Democrats, especially Nancy Pelosi, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren, are so far-left that rational middle of the road people, Dave Rubin for example, are considered right-wing. There’s more people in the middle, who don’t know which side to go and I think the Right and the conservatives are more welcoming at this point because the Left is just too radical. I think that’s why we’re winning online for the most part. I think the Right is winning on social media and that’s why the Left is trying to silence us and censor us off platforms. What the Right is selling is actually relatable, it’s for people who love America, normal, working-class people who want what’s best for themselves, their family, their community, and their kids. At the end of the day, one side is trying to sell you what’s best for the country, what’s best for the future and for everyone, and the other side’s trying to sell you ‘the Right is Nazis and they’re trying to put us in camps.’

TDR: Let’s talk about your time at Dartmouth. While you said you weren’t that active here, did your experience here shape your views and perspectives in any way?

AF: I was lucky that I didn’t go to class enough to get indoctrinated. My only political debate, or the closest thing to it, was that there was an Occupy Wall Street person on campus with a guitar, and he came to our frat and asked if he could pay us in songs for some beer. I told him no. On campus, I wasn’t the most political, I didn’t really follow it. To be honest, I saw Obama get elected my freshman fall and then re-elected in 2012, and at that time, I was like ‘Oh great, this guy seems great, he’s going to bring the country together.’ Change and hope and change. It sounded so good and I didn’t pay attention, I just trusted the guy. A couple years ago, I did some research into what he really did, and it scares me.

TDR: Apolitically, what was your time at Dartmouth like?

AF: I was a four-year starter on the football team. I was All-Ivy twice. I was in GDX, the fraternity, where I was the social chair. I really had a great time at school, I loved it. I had great friends, a great football experience. I learned how to get stuff done and how to compete. It helped me get a job at Citigroup right after, where I worked from 2012 to 2014. Then I resigned from my job, turned down a promotion to go to LA and pursue comedy. I didn’t know what that was going to mean at the time. This election came around and it all kind of fell into place.

TDR: What are your views about what’s going on college campuses today? Events that come to mind are the Berkeley riots and the situation with Charles Murray at Middlebury.

AF: When it comes to the situation on college campuses today, I think a lot of it has to do with the way my generation and the generations that came after me were raised. Being competitive isn’t taken seriously anymore and that starts at a young age. I know it’s a cliché to say, but everyone getting a trophy creates a mindset where people aren’t used to losing that doesn’t set them up for success when it comes to an arena of ideas. So when people hear an opposing idea, it’s a lot easier for them to shut it out and challenge the morality of the person saying the idea, as opposed to what the idea actually is. If a right-wing person comes to campus, instead of saying ‘Oh, what does he really think about immigration’ or another topical issue, instead of considering what they actually have to say, it’s easier to say ‘That person’s a racist, racists don’t deserve time, shut them down, they shouldn’t speak.’ So a lot of the students on college campuses, unfortunately, are challenging the reason someone’s saying something instead of listening to what they’re actually saying. And with that comes the echo chambers. The Left wants an echo chamber and the Right seems to be the side that wants to talk ideas out. A lot of people I’ve come into contact with on the Right are on the Right because they used to be on the Left and knew what going on and knew the techniques the Left uses to keep you under their spell. What I’m seeing out here is the Right is open to debate, the Right wants to exchange ideas, and the Right is open to changing their mind, while the Left is set in stone, and anyone that challenges their beliefs or brings a new idea into their echo chamber is considered violent and should be opposed at all costs for the safety of the students.

TDR: What advice would you give to a student today who’s sick of what going on at college campuses and wants to get involved in these wider conversations?

AF: My message has been from the beginning, and it’s why I use the wooden spoon, that you don’t need a production studio, you don’t a camera crew, you don’t need a suit and a desk to be a journalist or seek the truth. I think college students today, now more than ever are needed to share their view, because the people that matter are the individuals. When it comes to students in America today, the Left is very outspoken and just because the Left is loudest voice doesn’t mean it’s the most correct. The Right, as it’s historically been, is the silent majority and it needs to be less silent, because the volatile political atmosphere we are seeing today is not going away. I really think we’re in a culture war, a non-violent civil war basically, so it’s not going to be that both sides agree to do their own thing and we’ll see in two years or four years, whenever the next election is. This is really going to be a bigger battle for ideas. On a college campus, if you feel a certain way or if you’re seeing something you don’t agree with, now more than ever you need to speak up and either challenge the idea and change the opinion of people who hear it or challenge yourself and change your own views based on new information. I think the Left is encouraging a lot of people to stay in their echo chambers, keep their heads down, and believe they’re morally superior to everyone.

The Right tends to challenge their ideas and change their minds, so now more than ever I think we need to challenge other people’s ideas and try our best to change as many minds as possible.

TDR: What are some of your projects, ideas, and long-term plans? What’s the bigger picture for you?

AF:There’s bunch of people who like my videos and have been sending me their own videos with spoon microphones going in and interviewing protestors at high schools and colleges all over the country, so I’ve been starting to do that and getting more content of those people out there. I’m trying to focus on the entertainment side long-term and bring back more conservative values to Hollywood. I think the liberals’ way of running Hollywood has destroyed entertainment. The bigger goal is to get into the entertainment business and start putting stuff out there that America really wants to see.