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In less than two weeks, Breitbart News‘ tech editor, Milo Yiannopolous, will come to the University of Colorado, Boulder, to speak to students. Everyone seems to be losing their minds because of it.
For those who don’t know who Yiannopolous is, this video might give you a better sense of his stance on several issues.
Last month, our Editor-In-Chief, Ellis Arnold, penned an op-ed stating why hosting Yiannopolous, an “alt-right” poster boy, would be an absolute disaster for CU. The “alt-right” political movement has been described as a mix of racism, white nationalism and populism, according to the Associated Press. While I respect his argument and understand why people are concerned, I have to disagree with the assertion that Yiannopolous should not come.
Like many others, I dislike Yiannopolous. But that’s never a good reason for dismissing someone’s right to speak.
Yiannopolous is the kind of person who stands out because of his inflammatory, and sometimes blatantly outrageous, views on feminism, the LGBT community and Islam. But more importantly, he’s a hypocrite, a liar and a Donald Trump shill.
Yiannopolous has stated that “liberals are using ‘1984,’” the famous dystopian novel by George Orwell, “as an instruction manual” to craft a police state. Meanwhile, he reiterates the Islamaphobic rhetoric that all Muslims are savage zealots who hate Western values and thus may commit a terrorist attack against the American public. His solution? The U.S. “must face its Muslim problem before it is too late.” This euphemism means we need to start denying Muslims their constitutional rights for security reasons. Using the fear argument to marginalize an entire group of people and justify the suspension of civil liberties and constitutional rights is exactly what Orwell warned would lead to totalitarianism.
Back in June, Yiannopolous went on UFC commentator Joe Rogan’s podcast, where he discussed a variety of issues and made many false statements. He said that Sweden has become “the rape capital of Europe” due to the influx of Muslim refugees and immigrants from the Middle East. Sweden does have a sexual assault problem, but that is due to a 2005 law that redefined sexual assault. Yiannopolous’ claim is a dramatic distortion of Sweden’s sexual assault “epidemic,” and only serves the alt-right’s narrative that every Muslim is a savage barbarian.
Yiannopolous also made a laughable point that running doesn’t help you lose weight, which Rogan quickly called him out on. It’s hilarious because Rogan, a former martial arts champion himself, is one of the most respected figures in the world of combat sports and frequently has athletes and gym rats on his show to discuss their workout routines. And those of us here in Boulder don’t need to be reminded how healthy running is for you.
Finally, Yiannopolous has publicly endorsed Trump, arguing, among other things, that he would “bring back masculinity … real masculinity” because apparently you need a president in order to be a man and become the master of your own destiny. Give me a break.
With such a low opinion of the guy, you’re probably wondering why I’m defending Yiannopolous’ appearance at CU.
The main reason is that liberals need to accomplish a larger objective: understanding and tolerating those they disagree with. Otherwise, words like tolerance, diversity, open-mindedness and acceptance are nothing more than hollow code words that do nothing but vainly attempt to sway neutral or conservative-leaning people to the left.
This is a free society and we have an obligation to put up with Yiannopolous’ presence on our campus. Nobody is forcing you to go see him; you do not have to accept him. If it really bothers you that much, just stay home.
Remember, he only has as much power as you choose to give him. Although Yiannopolous will draw a decent crowd, it’s not as though his audience will be a bunch of blank-slate college students who are going through the process of indoctrination and will begin spouting his views more frequently because of it. They were listening to Yiannopolous’ lectures and watching his videos long before the event was arranged.
Maybe for a day or two after the talk, some jackass will feel empowered enough to blurt out that liberalism is a mental illness. Who cares? If someone says something you feel is wrong, you are within your rights to challenge it in discussion. That’s what college is all about. You will grow as a person and that is critically important: learning to construct your viewpoints and present them in civilized debate. We need to use this event as an opportunity to exercise restraint and to remain rational where irrationality metastasizes.
The way that people are reacting — specifically the petitions and the letter from faculty members — is making it seem that somehow Yiannopolous’ presence will destroy our reputation and undo decades worth of progressive intellectual thinking. That’s simply not true. CU is, on the whole, a liberal campus and Yiannopolous’ appearance is not going to change that.
Here’s what will happen when Yiannopolous comes on Jan. 25: He’ll give a talk for a couple of hours, possibly be heckled by protesters for 10 minutes and then he’ll leave and go on to the next campus. Rinse, lather, repeat. That’s it. So what’s the big deal?
The First Amendment right to free speech cannot be overlooked. If we begin to compromise this, then a precedent to censor or ban future speakers will be in place. And that may very well come back to harm us in the future.
Contact CU Independent Visuals Editor Jesse Hughes at email@example.com.