Editor’s Note: The the views and opinions expressed in this piece are those of the author and are not a direct reflection of Her Campus’ views.
Over President’s Day weekend, alt-right professional hatemonger Milo Yiannopoulos made headlines when an old video resurfaced of him supporting grown men having sex with boys as young as 13. Though he later denied condoning child molestation, he in fact outright endorsed it; in fact, he said that the very idea of consent is “arbitrary and oppressive.”
There was an immediate backlash: the Conservative Political Action Conference rescinded his invitation to speak, Simon & Schuster cancelled his book deal, and he was even forced to resign from Breitbart, the ultra right-wing website that made his name, after his own colleagues threatened to walk. The swiftness of Milo’s fall from grace is especially striking as he had just been riding high. Just on Friday, he made a controversial appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher, and just a few months ago, he had made headlines after two of his college visits were cancelled due to protests: most recently at UC Berkeley, but first, of course, at UC Davis.
Which brings us to Davis College Republicans. As the group that invited him here, and then criticized the protesters that resulted in his event being cancelled (even though Milo’s whining about violent property damage was a complete lie), I am sincerely curious: do you join CPAC, Simon & Schuster, and Breitbart in now condemning him?
Think carefully about your answer.
Milo brands himself as a “free speech” advocate. He has argued that his multiple targeted harassment campaigns, mostly against women, with women of color and transgender women receiving especially appalling abuse, are acceptable because of “free speech.” Many became familiar with him after his horrendous hate mob attacked actress Leslie Jones, but the reason he even became popular among the worst people on the Internet in the first place is because he made a name for himself inciting mobs against less famous, more vulnerable women. “Free speech” is the defense that CPAC, S&S, Bill Maher, and yes, UC Davis and Davis College Republicans have previously put forward against criticism for giving him a platform. But this latest scandal is not about something he did: it’s about something he said.
Source: LA Times
Let me rephrase the question: if his initial event at UC Davis had not been cancelled, but was actually scheduled for this coming week, and the story about his comments about sex with children had broken out last weekend, would you, Davis College Republicans, like CPAC and Simon & Schuster, have cancelled?
If you have previously not only defended, but insisted upon Milo’s “right to speak” — not simply his right to say whatever bilge he wanted without legal repercussions, but his “right” to be given access to a particular platform at UC Davis — despite his hateful but constitutionally protected speech against women, minorities, Muslims, transgender people, etc., but now draw the line at his hateful but constitutionally protected speech supporting child sexual abuse, then you understand that denying someone a particular platform after they said something horrific is not an attack on free speech. If you can say, “We support free speech but draw the line at pedophilia,” then how can you not understand that protesters might support free speech but simply believe that a line should also be drawn at misogyny, racism, and transphobia?
There is no way around this. If you insisted that you invited Milo to support “free speech” (and I repeat: we are talking about whether an institution can be criticized for giving a platform to a person, not whether Milo should be arrested by the U.S. government for his words), you either have to stand by that decision even when his free speech is a glowing endorsement of raping children, or you have to denounce his pro-pedophilia speech, which would mean that you actually never cared about free speech to begin with, but simply believed that a particular kind of speech — namely racist speech, misogynistic speech, Islamophobic speech, and transphobic speech — does deserve a platform that other kinds of speech do not.
Source: The Davis Enterprise
Perhaps you think I’m being unfair by calling you out. How would you imagine, then, that transgender students at UC Davis felt when they heard you were giving a platform to Milo, who at a previous campus event pulled up a picture of a random transgender student, outed her, and made vile comments about her for no reason? By the way, Milo defended this to Bill Maher as “protecting women and children” from transgender people, just two days before his own pro-raping children words resurfaced. If that seems contradictory, it is because this person has no coherent ideology to speak of. Over and over again, liberals have heard that we have to listen to “the other side.” There is no other side with Milo. Milo doesn’t actually care about “protecting” children. (He correctly pointed out that transgender people are “disproportionately likely to be involved in sex crimes”, but he deliberately, disingenuously, and dangerously phrased this in a way that obfuscated the fact that trans people are disproportionately likely to be the victims.) He doesn’t care about free speech — his entire modus operandi is shutting up marginalized voices by trying to send so much hate against them that they leave social media or even kill themselves.
I ask: do you, Davis College Republicans, condemn CPAC and Simon and Schuster cancelling Milo’s events and book deals as attacks on free speech? Would you have done the same if this video (which is at least a year old) had resurfaced two months ago? Do you stand with Milo Yiannopoulos?