What is Milo Yiannopoulos trying to say?
I respect his freedom of speech, but I don’t see the point beyond his crude expression.
The Cal Poly College Republicans student club invited the controversial “alt-right” conservative to speak at the university on Jan. 31. Since news broke that he was coming to town, everyone throughout the political spectrum has vigorously debated his upcoming appearance. The intensity of that debate hasn’t waned.
On the left, many have called for Yiannopoulus’ appearance to be canceled. Others have vowed to protest. Some have asked Cal Poly president Jeffrey Armstrong to cancel his appearance because of “hate speech” or — at the very least — turn the event into a panel discussion where Yiannopoulus’ views are juxtaposed with a dissenting perspective. A handful of critics have urged people to let Yiannopoulus express his opinions. After all, he’s exercising his First Amendment rights. But there is consensus on the left that Yiannopoulus is needlessly vulgar.
On the right, Yiannopoulus has been praised for speaking his mind and taking on liberals that attempt to stifle free speech. They’ve taken aim at the left for being hypocritical in supporting the First Amendment while feverishly trying to strip away his right to express himself at a venue he was invited to. They believe Yiannopoulus crudely expresses himself to make a point about the systemic overreach of political correctness, yet they pay no mind to the individuals and groups he’s harassed and humiliated.
One person that best encapsulates the right’s perspective on Yiannopoulus is Tribune columnist Matthew Hoy.
In his Dec. 17 column, Hoy compliments Yiannopoulus for “making all the right people lose their minds.” By “right people,” Hoy is referring to women, Latino-Americans, African-Americans, people who weigh more than Yiannopoulus does, Muslims, the LGBTQ community and many more — because those are all the groups that Yiannopoulus has targeted in his commentaries.
A big Donald Trump supporter, Yiannopoulus has also criticized people who supported Hillary Clinton. In his column, Hoy described Clinton supporters as “wannabe fascists.”
Hoy concluded his column by writing something less inflammatory: “It would probably benefit many of them to make their way inside to listen to Yiannopoulos speak — not to disrupt his speech — at some point as well. We can all benefit from respectfully listening to those with whom we disagree, even if no one changes their mind.”
That is a reasonable suggestion. If people feel so inclined, they should listen to what Yiannopoulus has to say, even if they are vehemently opposed to his point of view. It’s tempting to confine ourselves to our echo chamber safe space and shut out opinions that exist outside of it. The only way we can advance dialogue is to listen and accept dissent. However, Hoy does not take into account the fact that Yiannopoulus has used his speech to specifically target people, including a transgendered University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee student, a gay West Virginia University professor, and Saturday Night Live comedian Leslie Jones.
While people like Hoy conveniently ignore the animosity Yiannopoulus has created and thrived on, others are quick to point out all the crazy things he’s said and done within the past few months in addition to all the crazy things he’s said and done throughout his tenure as Brietbart’s tech editor. There are plenty of examples to go around, but there isn’t one defining example that completely invalidates his right to freely express himself nor will there ever be. That’s not to say people shouldn’t feel offended over the things he says, but seeking to ban his expression will only embolden him and those who appreciate his message — whatever message that is. After watching many of his videotaped rants, I’m still not sure what Yiannopoulus truly stands for or against. Sounds like he makes these comments to rile people up, but to what end? What is the point?
The best counterargument to Yiannopoulus is to educate and inform people on why his words are socially problematic, whether by literature or peaceful protest. Any push to restrict his speech, in any way, will be counterproductive.