On January 31, Cal Poly is inviting a guest speaker by the name of Milo Yiannopoulos into Chumash Auditorium. He will get up on stage and be given a microphone. He will talk. He will pass on hate speech as a mere form of “politically incorrect” talk and promote discrimination as something we should normalize. Cal Poly is allowing this to happen.
Now, for those of you who are writing me off as a leftist, socialist, politically correct hippie, I ask that you hear me out. After all, Yiannopoulos’ supporters love advocating for free speech; I want that freedom as well. And for the record, exercising free speech just means you won’t be arrested by the government for speaking about something. It does not mean you don’t have to face other consequences from what you say.
And what will Yiannopoulos say? Something along the lines of, “Feminism is cancer.” “It’s wrong to expose an innocent child to the possibility of gay influence.” “Western culture is what is at risk from immigration from the Middle East.” “Women don’t work as hard [regarding the wage gap].” “Anybody who asks for a safe space or a trigger warning should immediately be expelled.” “With a little effort, we can help fat people help themselves. But first we have to make sure that “fat acceptance,” perhaps the most alarming and irresponsible idea to come out of leftist victimhood and grievancean politics, is given the heart attack it deserves.”
This self-proclaimed “alt-right” speaker is making his way around the country, spreading bigotry and hate speech in his Dangerous Faggot tour. He offers no new perspective in his degradation of LGBTQ and racial minorities; he merely reiterates centuries of torment in his own voice. Whatever the Cal Poly Republicans may think, Yiannopoulos isn’t clever in his views. He relies on insulting groups that have already been oppressed in history to build his reputation. That’s not refreshing or insightful; that’s just being a d*ck.
He also manipulates his identity as a gay man to excuse his abominable speeches. But here’s a fun fact – just because you are a part of one oppressed group doesn’t mean you get a free pass on the others. You can be gay and still be sexist, racist, transphobic and xenophobic. As a matter of fact, Yiannopoulos even says he would “hate gay people” if he wasn’t one himself.
Cal Poly is giving this man, who was banned from Twitter for blatant harassment, a platform on which to speak. By doing so, our university – which already has a huge problem with diversity and inclusion – gives Yiannopoulos the power he needs to continue his abhorrent influence. We not only empower him, but we say to the world, ‘We promote and comply with a person whose values directly harm others, whose ideas deny the humanity of other people.’ It may not be the intention of the school to do so, but that’s the reality of it. And in inviting him to openly spew hate speech, we encourage others on campus to do the same. We say it’s okay to abuse our First Amendment rights to degrade and intimidate groups of people – people who have the same rights to safety and happiness as we do.
Cal Poly may claim to be making progress but this decision shows otherwise. The administration’s email about the importance of free speech backtracks whatever actions they have taken in the past to further diversity and campus climate changes, simply because they fail to acknowledge the difference between free speech and hate speech. This is detrimental, especially now, in a political climate where the United States has elected a man who falls under the same category as Yiannopoulos: “alt-right” which is a nice way of saying “white supremacist.”
In allowing this event to happen, the university has placed priority of one group over the humanity of those being verbally slaughtered by Yiannopoulos. The university has contradicted their insistence on being able to distinguish free speech and hate speech. And the university will reap the consequences of it.