Yes – Sophie Wheeler
Controversial figure Milo Yiannopoulos, set to give a speech at U. C Berkeley on cultural appropriation, was silenced by rioters last Wednesday in the name of ‘tolerance.’ Rioters threw smoke bombs, started fires and smashed windows protesting against the speaker’s alternative views. Only one person was arrested however, despite $100,000 of damage caused to the campus and nine people being injured in the process. The irony of protesting so called ‘fascism’ through violence and shutting down free speech appeared to have been lost on the protestors.
The most essential part of free speech, as protected under the first amendment of the U.S constitution, is that my right to speak freely remains regardless of whether or not you agree with my views. Yet there appears to be an entirely different set of rules in the wild west that is modern day university campuses.
In an age of safe spaces and trigger warnings it seems that freedom of expression is slowly being chipped away at in favour of, as the left would describe it, progress.
The funny thing about progress is that it does not occur through allowing one side of the debate to be voiced whilst silencing the other. Only through rigorous debate can we progress. Through stifling free debate on our university campuses, we are stagnating. If you disagree with Milo’s views do not silence him. Challenge him. Debate him. Dispute him. Through censoring such views, you are only adding to the fire, fanning the flames of intolerance so long as these views remain unchallenged.
The U.S president Donald Trump has threatened to withdraw funding from U.C Berkeley after the incident if they continue to disregard one of the most fundamental aspects of the U.S constitution, and rightly so. University campuses should be a place for learning, for being exposed to a wide range of views and to challenge one’s own assumptions of the world. Not to be sheltered from alternative views which may cause discomfort or offence.
On Facebook, Milo has declared his intention to return to Berkeley at a later date to give the speech which was previously shut down by violent protestors. Regardless of your opinion of him you cannot help but admire his perseverance. The fight to restore safe spaces for free speech on university campuses wages on. The protestors have won this battle, they will not win the war. The spirit of free speech will continue on, as a vital part of liberal democracy at home and abroad.
No – Nathan Redman
Milo Yiannopolous is known to be, amongst a great many negative things, a viciously right-wing troll and provocateur whom deliberately says things with the intention of causing a reaction. It is a wonder we are all amazed when his speech at UC Berkeley was met with derision and resistance from anti-fascists.
Indeed, he is most well-known for his current ‘Dangerous Faggot’ tour that is going across American campuses purely so he can spout as many extreme statements as possible – most likely because he revels in the reaction he receives for his trolling endeavours.
For instance, in an event at the University of Oregon, Milo claimed that people aren’t “racist anymore” and that “muslims don’t belong in this country”. Small wonder that such deliberately inflammatory statements incite such a vicious reaction – Milo simply offers vacuous statements for the sake of offending, and brings nothing of intellectual value to a debate.
Milo was kicked off Twitter for precisely the same antics that he’s been doing in his college tour; Milo’s hatred of the all-female reboot of Ghostbusters saw him direct vicious abuse at actress Leslie Jones, calling her “barely literate”.
This led to many of his fans sending racist tweets to Leslie in such volume it caused her to delete her own account.
Milo, although saying he had nothing to do with it, certainly helped whip up his fans into such a frenzy – causing his own account to get banned by Twitter for inciting such harassment.
University, of all places, should be a haven of rational, reasonable debate and balanced discourse, yet Milo has failed to engage in this at any of his events, with titles such as “Feminism is Cancer” and his supporters shouting “cuck” at anyone who dares to question him.
Milo isn’t some kind of right-wing contrarian in the same vein as someone like Peter Hitchens – he is simply an inflammatory speaker who speaks for the sake of being inflammatory.
Indeed, Milo has even abused students at his events. At one his talks in Wisconsin, Milo openly abused a transgender student in front of his audience. This isn’t someone who is a champion of free speech, he’s simply a bully who has been given a platform that he does not deserve.
Ultimately, Milo is simply a repackaged Katie Hopkins. His entire career has been devoted to writing offensive opinion columns for the alt-right website Breitbart News, using offensive rhetoric at speeches and encouraging his fans to engage in trolling and dangerous behaviour. The more we give this man a platform the more he’ll simply use it to spout vacuous statements for the sake of inciting a reaction. Considering that so far he has used it for nothing more than abuse and antagonism, its clear that he doesn’t deserve the right to speak at universities anywhere in America.
(Image courtesy of IB Times UK)