Once again, Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos has been prevented from speaking, this time at the university where I did my postdoc: the University of California at Davis.
As CNN reported yesterday:
A speech by right-wing commentator Milo Yiannopoulos’ at UC Davis was over before it even started Friday after protests erupted, forcing sponsors to cancel the event.
Thirty minutes before the Breitbart tech editor was scheduled to speak, the UC Davis College Republicans canceled the controversial talk after consulting with the university’s police department and student affairs officials.
Former pharmaceutical executive, Martin Shkreli had also been scheduled to speak at the event.
“I am deeply disappointed with the events of this evening,” said Interim Chancellor Ralph J. Hexter.
“Our community is founded on principles of respect for all views, even those that we personally find repellent. As I have stated repeatedly, a university is at its best when it listens to and critically engages opposing views, especially ones that many of us find upsetting or even offensive.”
Earlier in the evening, protesters blocked access to the venue. Surrounding the lecture hall with signs, they chanted, “Say it loud, say it clear, racists are not welcome here.”
The implicit idea is not just that Milo is a racist, but also those who want to hear him speak.
Shkreli is the guy who, you may recall, got the rights to manufacture an antiparasitic drug and then raised the price by 56-fold. I have no use for that stuff, but he, too, was invited.
Here’s a video of the protestors:
Note, too, that Milo was invited not by the University, but by (as usual) the College Republicans. I am pleased that the interim Chancellor spoke up in favor of free speech. Yiannopoulos is indeed something of a provocateur, and often says things that I’m not sure even he believes (i.e., “there are no such things a lesbians”), but he also can be serious, provoking discussion about things like feminism, affirmative action, and free speech itself.
Once he’s invited, protestors have every right to picket the venue, but not to shut down an event itself. What we see above are protestors trying to censor speech that they simply don’t like.
In the long run, this will ensure conformity of thought by intimidating those whose thoughts go against the opinion of the majority. And that’s precisely why we have laws protecting freedom of speech.
An editorial in “The Aggie,” the UC Davis student newspaper, is called “Davis college Republicans provide platform for hate speech.” Read it for yourself; it does recount Milo’s unconscionable calling out of a transgender student in Wisconsin (something I decried), but also adds this:
The disclaimer on the event page for Yiannopoulos’ talk states: “[Yiannopoulos] is known for discussing topics, both political or not, that may offend some people but not others.” But the ideas espoused by Yiannopoulos should offend all people — at least, all people with any shred of humanity or decency.
One of those idea they mention is that we do not live in a “rape culture.” I think that claim is at least worthy of discussion, since the meaning of “rape culture” is not clear, and American culture certainly does not officially condone rape—not by any means. But what bothers me most about the above is that not all of the ideas espoused by Yiannopoulos, such as equity feminism, “should offend all people.” Who can determine which ideas “should offend all people”? And if someone claims that right, do they then have the right to block those espousing such ideas?