I’ve always defended libertarian provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos’s right to speak if he was invited to speak. That, however, doesn’t mean that people should invite him to speak, for that depends on whether what he says is worth hearing. Up to now I think it has been, although I disagree with a lot of what he says. After all, everyone needs their ideas challenged, and if you can’t answer Milo’s charges, or respond to his views on feminism, the transgender movement, or the Black Lives Matter group, you haven’t done your homework. A proper response requires thought, not bullhorns and dousing yourself with fake blood.
But now the man, emboldened by his success, has gone too far. As Media Milwaukee and The Cut report, on December 13 Milo, invited by a libertarian group, spoke at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee (UWM). The full video of his talk (a bit over 2.5 hours long) is below, with the introduction beginning at 27:40. (As usual, there was considerable student protest.) But then—and this was clearly planned since he had a slide—Milo made the inexcusable mistake of singling out a transgender student, showing her picture (she appears to “present” as male), and haranguing her from his bully pulpit. As The Cut (NY Magazine) reports:
In critiquing leftist criticism of the phrase “man up,” Yiannopoulos said around the 49:52 mark, “I’ll tell you one UW-Milwaukee student that does not need to man up.” He then showed the student’s photo. “Have any of you come into contact with this person?” he asked. “This quote unquote nonbinary trans woman forced his way into the women’s locker rooms this year.” He went on:
“I see you don’t even read your own student media. He got into the women’s room the way liberals always operate, using the government and the courts to weasel their way where they don’t belong. In this case he made a Title IX complaint. Title IX is a set of rules to protect women on campus effectively. It’s couched in the language of equality, but it’s really about women, which under normal circumstances would be fine, except for how it’s implemented. Now it is used to put men in to women’s bathrooms. I have known some passing trannies in my life. Trannies — you’re not allowed to say that. I’ve known some passing trannies, which is to say transgender people who pass as the gender they would like to be considered.”
He then referred to the photo, which was still onscreen, and said, “Well, no. The way that you know he’s failing is I’d almost still bang him.” The audience laughed.
Have a listen to the part starting at 49:52, where he calls the student “just a man in a dress.” He then admits that what he did was “mean”, but the damage was done. (The Q&A session starts at 2:08:00.)
In response, three things occurred besides the vigorous student protests, which were mostly confined outside the auditorium. (However, a small group of students at the talk tried to disrupt it.)
- After Milo’s talk, the group that invited him, Young Americans for Liberty, received a threat of violence on Facebook from an unknown person (the account is now deleted). This is unacceptable, though members of the group said they weren’t scared.
- Mark Mone, the chancellor of UWM, wrote a letter to the university community that, while defending Milo’s right to speak, abhorred his views and his attack on the transgender student. And it supported the transgender community and others comprising “diversity”. At first I thought the expression of the Chancellor’s personal views may have been gratuitous, but after I heard Milo’s attack on the student, I don’t think the letter below is out of line:
- That wasn’t sufficient, though. The transgender student wrote a long, heated letter to the chancellor full of invective and profanity, saying that Mone hadn’t gone nearly far enough in condemning Milo. You can find that letter here; here’s one except:
Now I’ve listened to a lot of Milo’s talk, and besides the attack on the student, it was, as usual, provocative and challenging to Leftists. Had he omitted the bit about the student, I see it as an appropriate talk, and I have to say that I agree with some of the bits on identity politics. But that alone would be no reason to ban him or deplatform him, for he’s simply challenging the campus Zeitgeist. The outrage he provokes among left-leaning students is one more reason to let him have his say.
But it’s totally inappropriate to go after a student at the college and embarrass her in this way. Were I a libertarian or conservative student group contemplating giving Yiannopoulos an invitation, I’d seek assurances that he would lay off the personal insults.
As for the student singled out, I can also understand her rancor. How horrible it must have been to see yourself mocked in that way! All I can say is that she undercut her arguments by calling the chancellor names like “asshole” and “a cowardly piece of shit”. That’s just indulging in the same name-calling as Milo did, and accomplishes nothing.
I don’t think that this one incident warrants “de-platforming” Milo, but recurrent attacks on individual students should. We’ll see. One lesson from this, though, is that the Chancellor’s letter, which I considered good, wasn’t good enough for the attacked student, and perhaps not for other students. That’s a shame, for the letter does support the student while at the same time upholding the principle of free speech. As one person said, “You can’t win by sitting in the middle.”
h/t: Gregory J. and Phil T.