In an example of stubbornness, courage, or suicidal tendencies, right-wing lightning rod Milo Yiannopoulos is announcing a return to the lion’s den of UC Berkeley, where previously his appearance resulted in violence by leftist students.
His plan is to hold “Milo’s Free Speech Week,” which he calls a weeklong event of rallies and speeches attacking such “enemies of free speech,” as feminists, Black Lives Matter members, and the Islam religion.
The impetus for this event is Yiannopolous’ view that free speech is under siege. “Free speech has never been more under threat in America,” he wrote on his Facebook page. This was especially and ironically true of UC Berkeley, according to him. He added, that free speech was being curtailed “especially at the supposed home of the free speech movement.”
Despite his inflammatory statements and far right politics—he has championed “man-boy” relationships, denounced gay sex as “aberrant,” rape a “myth,” and the transgender community as composed of the mentally ill—Yiannopolous says that the event is not confined to his side of the political spectrum.
He wrote, “all will be welcome, regardless [of] political affiliation.”I will bring activists, writers, artists, politicians, YouTubers, veterans and drag queens from across the ideological spectrum to lecture, march, and party.”
“I will bring activists, writers, artists, politicians, YouTubers, veterans and drag queens from across the ideological spectrum to lecture, march, and party.”
Despite his appearance in February at UC Berkeley, which resulted in violence from leftist groups such as the masked terrorist group, Antifa, who beat up Trump supporters and citizens of nearby Berkeley and set fire to a generator and automobiles, Yiannopolous plans to take on the demonstrators and what he calls “the university’s total dereliction of its duty” in protecting free speech via an encampment.
“We will establish a tent city” on the campus, “encourage students at other universities to follow suit,” and “to return Berkeley to its rightful place as the home of free speech—whether university administrators and violent far-left Antifa thugs like it or not.”
Yiannopolous has threatened the University with the possibility of holding the event longer than a week–even a month–if they don’t comply with helping plan and oversee it.
Yiannopolous is no doubt a controversial, even a repellent figure. But it says much about the state of free speech in the country that a far right pedophile supporter has to step in to champion it. Trump’s election has caused many on the Left to refuse to allow free speech protections toward those they disagree with. This current batch of students has learned well the lessons of the “No Free Speech For Fascists” academics, who brought such concepts from their time as sixties radicals into the classroom.
And, as with the sixties, liberals are attacked by far leftists for urging free speech tolerance to “fascists” like Yiannopolous. Nation columnist Natasha Lennard has chastised liberals as elitist snobs who cling to “racist” constructs of civil liberties, while the “oppressed” who cannot afford such deluded luxuries have no other option than to use the defensible tactic of street violence.
Surprisingly, or perhaps not, CNN anchors like Erin Burnette have argued essentially the same thing, declaring that right-wingers of the Yiannopolous sort should not be afforded freedom of expression because they would deny the same thing to their opponents; hence, right-wing speakers should be met with violent protest.
One doesn’t have to agree with Yiannopolous’ politics to note that free speech is under siege. Those who balk at McCarthyism have no theoretical problems with urging students to deny audiences the opportunity to hear “the other side” as presented by figures like Charles Murray or Yiannopolous.
And it is not just those of the Yiannopolous sort who are alarmed by the assaults on free speech. Such is the emergency that liberals have reached across the aisle to conservatives. Princeton professor Dr. Cornell West, every bit as anti-fascist toward Trump as the protesting students, (in a Salon interview, he labeled Trump a “neo-fascist”), has linked arms with conservative law professor Robert P. George to combat the attacks on free expression by hard-left students in a petition they drafted last month and circulated. It reads:
“The incivility and coarseness that characterize so much of American politics and culture,” they write, “cannot justify a response of incivility and coarseness on the college campus.”
Seventy years ago, George Orwell, no rightist, noted that the essence of free speech is “telling people what they don’t want to hear.” But in the age of Trump, the order of the day for far leftists who use violence to deny scheduled speakers a podium is that “no one should be allowed to hear opponents”.