Petition started by University of Colorado student to disinvite Milo from speaking there; claims that doesn’t violate free speech

December 20, 2016 • 10:00 am

Update: I’ve said previously that, in light of Yiannopoulos’s unconscionable attack on a transgender student in Wisconsin, he should be allowed to speak on campuses with the proviso that he be told to refrain from singling out and attacking individuals students from his bully pulpit. (There may be exceptions if those students are seen as public figures.) I stand by that. Elsewhere, people like Dan Arel are apparently calling for him to be permanently and irrevocably banned from speaking elsewhere. I disagree with that.


Charles Wofford, a graduate student in music at the University of Colorado at Boulder (CUB), has started a petition at to disinvite Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking there. (Wofford also has a similar letter to the editor in the Boulder newspaper.) According to the petition, Milo was invited by CUB President Philip DiStefano himself, who’s quoted in the petition as saying ““Personally, I feel strongly that discrimination and harassment have no place on our campus.”

CampusReform adds another quote from Wofford, who apparently considers speech as equivalent to physical violence:

Charles Wofford, the petition organizer, wants the campus to be a safe space for students.

“It is, I think, the university’s responsibility to defend its students from being literally attacked, and physical harm isn’t the only kind of harm out there. The university ought to be a safe space to learn and be who you are without fear of reprisal,” he said.

Wofford explained that he’s “not a censorious person,” but rather that he was motivated to start the petition because he believes the administration shouldn’t be giving Milo a platform to spread his message.

But the CUB website itself says this, which implies the petition is wrong on one point and misleading on another (my emphasis).

Conservative journalist Milo Yiannopoulos will talk at the University of Colorado Boulder on Jan. 25 as part of a national college speaking tour.

The CU Boulder student organization chapters of the College Republicans and Turning Point USA invited Yiannopoulos, technology editor for Breitbart News, to speak on campus. The free event will be held at 7 p.m. in the Mathematics Building, room 100. Ticket details and other information can be found at

Over the years, the CU Boulder campus has hosted events featuring prominent figures with liberal and conservative perspectives. Those include appearances by Edward Snowden (via videoconference), Antonin Scalia, Karl Rove, Howard Dean, Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, John Ashcroft, Ann Coulter and Rudy Giuliani, to name only a few.

And they give the full quote from the college President, which shows he’s drawing a distinction between his personal views and his approval of free speech. The petition, of course, also omitted that.

CU Boulder Chancellor Philip DiStefano said that the campus will continue to be a forum for a variety of viewpoints, including those that are controversial.

“Personally, I feel strongly that discrimination and harassment have no place on our campus,” DiStefano said. “With that said, we must support the free exchange of ideas. I would hope that any speaker who comes here can present his or her opinions in a respectful manner. We understand that some topics will be supported by some students and denounced by others. Hosting a speaker on campus does not mean the university endorses or has other viewpoints on that speaker’s message.”

But the best part is at the end of the petition:


He’s already been invited, so yes, disinviting him is infringing on his right to freedom of speech. These Illiberal Leftists (is that better than “Regressive Leftists”?) have no idea what freedom of speech is really about.

h/t: Gregory

106 thoughts on “Petition started by University of Colorado student to disinvite Milo from speaking there; claims that doesn’t violate free speech

  1. Isn’t it inevitable that illiberal reactionaries will employ the same tactics, leading, if capitulated to, to debate-free campuses inhabited by tribal factions who never engage one another? Regressive left seems so short sighted on this issue.

    1. Richard Dawkins has been dis-invited from speaking. He has been described as a “racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic, transphobic, misogynist’ by illiberal leftists.

      Dawkins is a controversial speaker. By the logic offered up by some of the more illiberal leftists here, dis-inviting Dawkins would be a righteous and just act, as he is a “controversial” speaker.

      Oh, and isnt evolution a controversial subject in some places? Well then, it would certainly be righteous and just to dis-invite evolutionary biologists from speaking , as their controversial “beliefs” would upset religious students.

      1. Milo’s a troll sometimes and always obnoxious… but why do people believe he’s a racist and a sexist?

        Because he opposes feminism and BLM? I hope you can do better than that.

  2. I’m generally with you on decrying illiberal attitudes (whether on the right or the left) but I don’t see how rescinding an invitation to speak denies freedom of speech. You seem to be implying that his freedom of speech is somehow triggered by the original invitation to speak. If I need an invitation to speak, then how was that ever “free speech?” Did the invitation create some kind of space that now Milo has a constitutional right to use? Can rescinding an invitation really be an unconstitutional act? I don’t think so.

      1. “I’m not talking about the Constitution here; I’m talking about underlying principles of democracy (and a staple of liberalism).”

        You wrote “He’s already been invited, so yes, disinviting him is infringing on his right to freedom of speech,” which as a “right” typically refers to the Constitutional right to free speech, which only applies to government regulation of free speech.

        To subsequently add “I’m not talking about the Constitution here; I’m talking about underlying principles of democracy” comes as a surprise to me given your prior statement.

        This is an issue that has me on the fence. I don’t support the idea that universities should coddle students, but I also think that inviting racists to speak on campus by *supporters* of those racists (the Republican student organizations) is likely in furtherance of racism as opposed to academic scrutiny of racism. And while espousing racism is constitutionally protected speech, that doesn’t mean that racists are required to be invited to give lectures at any given university.

        1. “inviting racists to speak on campus by *supporters* of those racists (the Republican student organizations) is likely in furtherance of racism as opposed to academic scrutiny of racism.”

          Agreed, and thus my suggestion that controversial speakers shouldn’t be allowed to speak uncontested. Clearly the “Young Republicans”, or whatever group is inviting him is engaging in propaganda to spread their message, does a university have an obligation to support that?

          1. “Agreed, and thus my suggestion that controversial speakers shouldn’t be allowed to speak uncontested.”

            That seems like something that is an appealing idea but one that will immediately fall prey to unintended consequences. Conservatives will declare even moderate liberals to be controversial and demand to have a conservative counter to them. Invite Hilary to give a speech (well, if you could afford to) and wind up with Yiannopoulos as a co-speaker.

            1. “That seems like something that is an appealing idea but one that will immediately fall prey to unintended consequences.”

              It certainly could prove unwieldy, but I’d rather live in a world where all ideas are contested than one where both sides live in a bubble without their ideas contested. And I say that because, as I said below, I believe liberal principles will win out in such a system.

          2. People never seem to understand that the more tools they create for control, the more control the other side will have when they take power. This is why things like free speech, as a principle, are so important.

            For example, Obama allowed a huge spying infrastructure to be built. I never felt comfortable with anyone having those kinds of tools, but some people weren’t worried by it in Obama’s hands. Now that those tools are Trump’s, you better bet those people are very concerned, indeed.

            1. “People never seem to understand that the more tools they create for control, the more control the other side will have when they take power. This is why things like free speech, as a principle, are so important.”

              Again my suggestion is that controversial speakers not be allowed to speak uncontested. Given that I believe liberal principles win out in an open playing field of ideas I have no problem with ensuring that BOTH sides compete on an open playing field.

              1. You won’t get a level playing field if you don’t have neutral rules like free speech, and if you don’t respect them. Eventually an Erdogan will exploit the lack of such neutral rules to seize and keep your playing field.

                This is why your suggestion is, as another here has noted, so illiberal. Your suggestion would have a judge of what is or is not controversial deciding who or who cannot speak, and which speech must be invigilated. labeled, “responded” to, and judging what is an adequate response.

                I am going to assume you do not want Trump making those decisions. Still less would you want a Mullah or Fred Phelps. Reason enough to deny such power to Barrack Obama too.

          3. Agreed, and thus my suggestion that controversial speakers shouldn’t be allowed to speak uncontested.

            So every biology lecture has to be accompanied by spiel from a YEC?

            The “shouldn’t be uncontested” is a mixture of limiting others’ speech and claiming a platform for oneself. Both are dubious.

            What happens if more than two “sides” demand to speak?

            Should every event by a Catholic organisation be accompanied by an atheist, and a Protestant, and a Hindu and the Scientologists?

            And who gets to define what is controversial anyhow?

            1. “So every biology lecture has to be accompanied by spiel from a YEC?”

              First of all if it was University sponsored event these rules wouldn’t apply.
              And university student unions perhaps would have to determine whether an event qualifies, or perhaps a certain number of signatures on a petition. And the group wishing to present it’s side would be required to share the costs of the event, and provide the speaker.

              Another option would be to require an extensive Q&A at the end of events where the questioners aren’t confined to simple questions without followup.

              This is just something I’ve brought up off the top of my head, I suspect a system could be developed that would be better than simply allowing people like Yiannopoulos to hold court uncontested.

              1. What is wrong with allowing Milo to hold court uncontested? If people don’t want to hear him then they needn’t go.

                What are you afraid of, that relatively young adults might hear him speak and be persuaded by him? Well they might, but in a free country with free speech we have to put up with that possibility.

            2. The “shouldn’t be uncontested” is a mixture of limiting others’ speech and claiming a platform for oneself. Both are dubious.

              Very dubious. I hope your comment is convinces anyone who thought otherwise.

        2. The words “free speech” don’t just mean “Constitutional free speech.” Free speech is an ideal that should be upheld in an Enlightenment philosophy-based democracy, especially in places of learning like universities.

        3. There are various exceptions to the First Amendment where speech can be barred or restricted. The closest one here is speech that incites people to violence. However, even in this case one would have to point out particular instances where his speech clearly incites his followers to do violence. He does provide a means to formalize and articulate their views. He does provide a central figure about which they may rally and unite. But these, technically, cannot be said to incite violence.
          It is hard to agree that this asshole should be permitted his platform, but a public university especially has little power to prevent it, as far as I know.
          Now, if this talk lead to riots or even threats to riot in response, then a university might have a means to block him at his next invitation.

          1. “Now, if this talk lead to riots or even threats to riot in response, then a university might have a means to block him at his next invitation.”

            True, but I think such a development would be worse than anything Milo could say.

          2. “Now if this talk leads to riots or even threats to riot….”

            As in publishing Danish cartoons of Mohammed or arguing for atheism in some Muslim majority countries. Just who are more likely to be motivated to riot in order to shut down other viewpoints – supporters or opponents?

            A right to free speech includes not just a speaker’s right to be heard, but a listener’s right to hear; no-platforming violates the second right.

            Any speaker’s view can be contested, but the contesting does not have to be at the same specific time and venue. Let those who wish to contest particular views invite their own speakers in response so that listeners can make their own judgements, rather than patronizingly and arrogantly determining what is acceptable and unacceptable for others.

            1. I have no disagreement with you. The violent reaction is the greater wrong on all levels. But I was describing what university officials might choose to do to protect the public and property if there was a promise for violence. Those officials could want to allow him to speak in support of the 1st Amendment (and so do I though it is irksome), but their priority would have to shift if there is a threat.

        4. How is he a racist?
          Crying ‘racist’ on a whim, with little to no evidence is the typical shriek of the regressive leftist.

    1. I assume PCC is talking about free speech as a principle not a constitutional issue. That being said I agree, I don’t see how a disinvitation is any more of a violation of that principle than simply not inviting someone because you disagree with them is.

      1. In my view, I don’t see this so much as a violation of the speaker’s right to speak as a denial of my right to hear that speech, no matter how onerous.

        This kind of de-platforming is a violation of everyone’s rights. I understand that there is some speech and there are some speakers who ought not to be invited by anyone, so vile and tendentious as they can be. But unless they are engaging in illegal speech, denying the rights of others to hear that speech, no matter how much one may loathe it, is a (extra-Constitutional) denial of free speech rights.

        1. “In my view, I don’t see this so much as a violation of the speaker’s right to speak as a denial of my right to hear that speech, no matter how onerous.”

          I don’t see the right to hear speech as a right. If it were no one could charge for tickets to events. That would amount to infringing on the right of the poor to hear it.

          1. The right to hear not a right? Is the right to read books not a right? Same thing, and the speaker has a right to charge just like the author does.

            1. “The right to hear not a right? Is the right to read books not a right? Same thing, and the speaker has a right to charge just like the author does.”

              If the right to read a book were a right then charging for it would infringe your right. The “right” to read a book is perhaps a right in the sense of having a right to pursue happiness, you have a right to pursue it, but no right to have happiness.

              1. The correct formulation would be that government has no authority to prevent you reading a book, or hearing a speaker. It is not at all an abstract right like the “pursuit of happiness.” The charge is not part of an attempt to limit access by government. You are correct in the sense that if Mark Twain were speaking, and charging an fee, I would not have a right to hear him without paying, any more than my right to bear arms allows me to steal a gun.

      2. The difficulty I have with that idea concerning dis-inviting is this. Either the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing at the institution or there is “heat” being applied to cause the same who invite, to then retract. I believe the PCC perspective here is that influence has been allowed in with some intimidation perhaps, to cause this retreat. If this is not considered a move against free speech as we define it, then what is?

        1. Exactly. “Oh we were going to let you speak, until some of us found out what you might say.” PCC is right on this: it’s an illiberal reaction and should be resisted.

    2. I started writing this comment to say that I wasn’t sure that it is not a denial of Yiannopoulos’ liberty, because he has numerous channels for expression (as opposed to the right of others to hear him, which I think is at risk here regardless). As I wrote, though, I changed my mind. To be debarred from speaking at a school would be no different than being prevented from speaking in a city or in a state. CUB is under no obligation to provide him a platform, but to rescind the invitation based on a petition would be wrong. That’s just censorship, and it’s wrong whether it is tyranny of the majority or the minority.

      It is also an issue to deny other people the opportunity to hear him speak. Freedom of speech is about hearing as well as speaking, and I think it is the responsibility of educational institutions to provide viewpoint diversity.

      1. I just really thought he went to far by picking on a trans kid in the audience at the one college he went to. I think its fair for people to be outraged by that. Plus all he is doing is stoking the fire of the regressive left. How can I expect people to hear my side of the story when I (rather mildly) critisize islam when people like milo are saying things that might sound similar at first but are really bigoted half truths.

      2. “but to rescind the invitation based on a petition would be wrong. That’s just censorship, and it’s wrong whether it is tyranny of the majority or the minority.”

        I think that is an overstatement. There is nothing magic about an “invitation” to speak that should make it inviolable. It is pretty common to find out more about someone after they have been invited. That’s not the preferable order of things, but it happens.

        Is there nothing about a person that could make them unworthy of a university-sponsored speech once they have been invited?

        I’m sympathetic to your warnings about the tyranny of the majority. My own views aren’t mainstream in many areas of the country and I don’t want my rights to be subject to a heckler’s veto, but I also don’t see an “invitation” as a magic talisman either.

        1. Who do you think issued the invitation? A student group.

          If a university administrator “un-invites” a speaker who has been invited by a student group, then the university is directly interfering with the political speech rights of the students involved.

          These demands for “un-inviting” are being made of university administrators, not the College Republicans, who knew perfectly well who they were inviting. Some students (and non-students) are seeking institutional interference with the political speech of other students.

          I can not understand why this is difficult to recognize.

    3. I think universities have been centers of open discussion where controversial and/or offensive ideas are given a chance to be discussed and debated.

      Learning critical thinking skills absolutely requires you to be more open-minded and engage intellectually with ideas you may find distasteful. Even if in the end you still reject the idea, you do so with greater understanding of the other sides. This understanding enables many things. You can make small adjustments to your position to make it more appealing to a larger coalition and address some of the concerns of the other sides. You can make more persuasive arguments for your position instead of talking past the other sides. You can also make better criticisms of the other sides.

      Learning critical thinking is a core function of universities. Teaching students to toe the line set by dominant political or religious ideologies will do significant damage to this function.

      I think there is a significant difference between rescinding an invitation and not inviting them in the first place. A rescinded invitation has a chilling effect. It indicates there were some who wanted to hear what the speaker had to say and influential interests silenced the discussion. It is also violates norms of civility. When someone is not invited in the first place, it often indicates a lack of interest in the speaker, but more importantly there is no public signal saying that only speakers acceptable to dominant ideologies are allowed.

    4. The free-speech rights at issue here are not Milo’s; they belong to the organizations that invited him.

      The forum in which Milo is set to speak is not generally available to those from outside the campus, so does not constitute a traditional “public forum” for First Amendment purposes, such that Milo (or anyone else) has a constitutional right to insist on speaking there. But by allowing campus organizations to invite private speaker onto campus, the university has created a “limited public forum” for its students. Once is does so, it cannot restrict speakers based upon the viewpoint of the students’ chosen speaker.

      The Supreme Court has recognized that readers and listeners have a First Amendment right to have access to speech and writing. (See Lamont v. Postmaster General) The courts have extended this to the right to hear invited speakers on a public college campus. (See Brooks v. Auburn University, enjoining a university from prohibiting Rev. William Sloan Coffin from speaking before organizations that had invited him to campus).

      If the College Republicans and Turning Point USA were to rescind Milo’s invitation, it would implicate no First Amendment rights, since they are not state-actors for constitutional purposes. But it would still be a loss for general free-expression interests.

  3. The more we appear to be living in a world where facts don’t matter, and where propaganda that appeals to the lowest common denominator seems to often be winning the day, the less of an absolutist I become on issues like these. That’s not to say I want to go as far as preventing people from speaking in situations like this, but I think should, when possible, require controversial speakers to appear in debate type formats so they can’t present their positions unchallenged.

  4. I have never understood why it is so difficult for some people to understand a simple concept: Free speech means that someone with whom I disagree (perhaps vehemently) has the same right to voice his or her opinions as I do.

    But I don’t consider this a left or right issue. It is a founding principle of this country, which is sometimes ignored by people of all political stripes.

    1. Excuse me, you are missing the point here. Nobody is denying that Milo has the right to speak his mind, aside from issues of libel and slander or advocacy of illegal acts. This in no way, shape, form, or regard requires that anyone provide him with a forum.

      1. The College Republicans invited him to speak. If the university were to block his ability to speak they would be interfering with the political rights of those students who are member of that group.

        I have nothing good to say about College Republicans, or any Republicans at this point. But if an institution can block their political speech, they can block everyone else’s.

        What makes people think that Republican governors across the land wouldn’t love to block liberal political speech on every campus in their states?

        1. This clearly explains why it is, in fact, a constitutional free speech issue. Also, how short sighted it is to seek some “angle” for blocking a disliked speaker.

  5. Milo Yiannopoulos is a bomb-thrower no different from Ann Coulter (who may be angry he is stealing her thunder). Ignoring him is best. Trying to stifle and dis-invite him just makes his rabid fanboys gleeful.

    1. I agree. Also just a minor note about CU – Benson is the President of the entire system, and DiStephano is the Chancellor at the Boulder campus. My understanding is that Yiannopoulous was invited by the system, giving lectures in Boulder, Denver and Colorado Springs. I have not seen any petitions from the other campuses, and believe that some of the CU-Colorado Springs campus are organizing a peaceful protest, not of his presence but of his message.

  6. If only Yiannopoulos was a muslim, then his racism and sexism could be praised and held up by the illiberal leftists as a heroic resister waging war against all things evil as represented by the White Western male patriarchy and a proud symbol of punching up!

    Seriously. I thought education was supposed to help inoculate people against this sort of cognitive dissonance and outright stupidity.

      1. immediately after making that comment I regretted it, fearing people would misunderstand what I was driving at, and it reminded me all too much of comments some of my very racist but pretending not to be racist family would make. perhaps I’m being too sensitive, or not sensitive enough… I was hoping to point out the bizarre mentality of the young leftists. But of course, our new reality leaves me wondering if I should self-censor for fear of being attacked by one or both sides.

        As a wise man once said, “well here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into”.

        1. Maybe I misunderstood what you were driving at. I didn’t see anything wrong with your comment and my first thought was, if he wore a hijab we would quickly find out who the real regressives are. A gay man wearing a hijab. Just typing that gave someone at HuffPo a tingling sensation. Too bad he would be beheaded for it.

          1. It’s just me, tripping over myself with second-guesses in this time of overly sensitive reactions, it wasn’t directed at anyone/anything specific. Glad nobody took it the way I worried they might.

            1. I didn’t have any problems with it at first read, Christopher, but now that you’ve expressed your reservations, I went back and noticed a part that should, perhaps, have been rephrased:

              “If only Yiannopoulos was a muslim…” should probably read, “if only Yiannopoulos was an Islamist…”

              Or perhaps, “fundamentalist Muslim?”

              (Since polls show that significant portions of all Muslims support some of the worst tenets of Islam & Sharia Law.)

  7. The petition itself does not violate anything, except maybe a waste of time. It is interesting to me that there are universities who have never and would never consider inviting Yianopoulos. They are, in a philosophical twisted manner, abusing freedom of speech.

  8. I think the point isn’t so much that a rank provocateur like Milo’s rights are being violated if he’s disinvited from a speaking engagement as it is a problem when those who invited him – who wish to hear his ideas – are coerced into disinviting him.

  9. I totally despise Milo’s message. I totally despise the attempt to disinvite him. Further more, I totally despise the concept intellectual and/or emotional safe-safe spaces at Universities, if you feel unsafe intellectually go home and hide under your bed. If you feel threatened emotionally, again, go home and hide under your bed. The world is full of intellectual and emotional conflict and disagreement, deal with it or become a recluse, but don’t try to infect your University or other persons with your dysfunction. (A small portion of my firmly held opinion on this subject)

  10. The University of Colorado at Boulder is a public School, therefore a government actor. And Milo Yiannopoulos would be exercising political speech there, which is the highest-protected free speech.

    So this petition, it seems to me, is Constitutionally troubling. It asks that the government restrict the political speech of a citizen based on its expected content. That is a blatant no-no since, as our host has pointed out, the man has been already invited to speak.

  11. I do not agree that the petition is a violation of freedom of speech in law or in principle. Indeed, the right to petition the government is in the 1st amendment, which also includes the right to freedom of speech. Of course, the petition is not one directed to the United States government, but the principle is the same. A petition is nothing more than a group of people requesting some entity with authority to take or not take an action. The entity in question here, the college administration, is under no obligation to honor the requests in the petition. In this case, I see no evidence of harassment or intimidation on the part of the petitioners. The wisdom of the petition can be questioned. The administration can be urged to ignore it. But the right to petition (which is just as important as the right to free speech), no matter how much you may disagree with what is in it, should not be questioned.

    1. Thanks for making this distinction. We should always be free to petition our government about anything, but that doesn’t mean the government will grant the request, which should be denied in this case on 1st Amendment grounds.

  12. I continue to be vexed by the equivalence between physical violence and offensive speech. It seems like people are learning that “Stick and stones and words will break my bones, but lack of free speech will never harm me.”

  13. I’m all in favor of Milo being allowed to speak in any venue that will have him. (And if he were to appear somewhere close by, I’d be inclined to go see him, if for no other reason than to get my blood up and be reminded of what I oppose.)

    I’m a bit surprised, nonetheless, that his appearance at CU-Boulder is being co-sponsored by the local chapter of the College Republicans. My understanding is that these campus GOP groups maintain an affiliation with their local Republican party and the RNC. I wouldn’t think the Republicans would relish a connection to someone so closely associated with the “alt-right,” inasmuch as it contravenes their ostensible “big tent” philosophy. (It’s unclear whether Milo himself qualifies as full-on alt-right, but he’s spoken and written of them favorably, and he’s unquestionably a favorite of theirs, since they come out in droves for his appearances — usually showing up outside the venue, counter-demonstrating the protesters.)

    Then again, the Republicans have completely disregarded the recommendations in their “post-mortem,” conducted after their drubbing in the 2012 election, that the party reach out to minority voters. The GOP appears to have cast its lot with the shrinking angry-white-guy demographic, thereby hinging its future success on continued savage gerrymandering, the suppression of voter turnout through restrictive ID laws and reduced polling-place locations and hours, and associated electoral skulduggery.

    1. Ken, this is a post mortem of the recent election that would benefit you, and many others who post here. Or you can ignore it, continue mischaracterizing Trump supporters, and aid Trump in gaining a second term by venting your anger in counter-productive ways.

      1. I always read anything you link to, Carl 🙂 — and endeavor to do so with an open mind.

        I think you misunderstand my position. I am not contending that all Trump voters — or even most of them — are bigots and xenophobes, or even that they’re angry-white-men, far from it. But there is a narrow slice of the Trump electorate that fits that bill, and Donald Trump very intentionally appealed to them during his campaign.

        He first fomented this support with his birtherism in 2012, and they provided the hardest of his hardcore support at the start of this presidential run — the ones who, as Trump bragged, would stick by him even if he shot somebody on Fifth Avenue. (I think Trump did so cynically, rather than because he’s their ideological compatriot. He’s a classic authoritarian personality, so has a natural affinity for far-right rhetoric. But I don’t doubt that Trump would have been as at-home with any authoritarianism, right or left; he’d be as happy forcing women to have abortions in support of a one-child policy, as he would be prohibiting them from doing so under pain of criminal penalty.)

        This bigoted, nativist strain Trump appealed to is always among us, usually moldering away on the far-right fringes,* listening to talk radio, reading its conspiracy-laden newsletters. But from time-to-time, once every generation or two, it flares up and becomes a danger to the body politic — as it did with the Know-Nothings of the 19th century, as it did with the first Red Scare in the early 20th, as it did with the “America First” crypto-Facsists in the Thirties, as it did with McCarthyism in the Fifties, and as it did with the rise of George Wallace two decades later.

        We are in the midst of such a recrudescence now. Trump has excited and inflamed his hardcore base. He ran a relentlessly negative campaign, with frequent appeals to fear and hatred of the “other,” be they Muslims, or Mexican immigrants, or another marginalized minority. (He also ran on economic populism, as unlikely a harbinger for that message as he was.) In an election as close as this year’s, Trump’s base supporters (like any other slice of the population constituting an electoral coalition) provided the margin for Trump’s victory. They know it and he knows it, and he panders to them whenever the political need (or his longing for their unreserved approbation) arises. In return, they expect acknowledgement and a voice in his administration.

        Even more dangerously, in doing so, he’s sparked something in the rest of the electorate, the ones who aren’t racist or misogynist, who aren’t bigoted or xenophobic — sparked something that perhaps lies dormant in us all, something that longs for scapegoats, that is excited by attacks on an out-group.

        These people bear watching, not willful blindness, Carl, and they bear political containment.


        *I’m well-aware that there are equally noxious characters on the far-left fringes. But now, at this place and time in our nation’s history, they are naught but hot-house tomatoes, lacking the power of realpolitik. Accordingly, they pose little present risk.

        1. Thanks for reading. I hope the takeaway was that focusing on, or even devoting much time at all to, racism, sexism, and misogyny was a poor tactic, at least if the goal was not having Trump elected.

  14. Fine. But would it be in the bounds of free speech have Milo agree to not single out a particular student for ridicule?

  15. His free speech gives him a blank check to verbally assault other people then? Because that is exactly what happened at the University of Wisconsin where he recently spoke. He set a specific transgender student up and outright lied and vilified the student and incited others to do so. You can call it free speech but I call it harassment.

    The university is well within its rights to withdraw the invitation, especially when it is most definitely going to lead to harassment of the people who are the most vulnerable.

    If the price of free speech is one person being so harassed and demonized and others feeling entitled to continue to do so to make that person feel like less than a human being, you can keep it. The price is too high.

    1. Milo’s disgusting, and he should never have singled out a particular student. But do you really want to sell free speech so cheap, Todd?

      Without free speech, transgendered people would’ve gained no rights anyone was bound to respect — and gay folk would still be getting rousted by the cops outside the Stonewall.

      Free speech — full, vigorous, raucous, sometimes-hurtful and even-disgusting free speech — is the necessary condition for the flourishing of all our other freedoms.

    2. This is perhaps the most chilling comment I’ve seen here.

      I wonder if you really can’t feel the cold fingers of fascism in this.

  16. Didn’t this guy take the opportunity to use his platform to publicly humiliate a student the last time he spoke at a university? Seems reason enough to disinvite to me.

    1. He publicly identified a student who had already publicly identified herself doing television advocacy for access to the women’s locker room on campus.

      This was discussed extensively yesterday (or earlier?) in a different post here on WEIT.

        1. We aren’t talking about “already come out”. We’re talking about making public television appearances to advocate for changes in university policy regarding access to locker room access. She has every right to advocate in that way, and I may even support her position. But it is disingenuous to claim the right to advocate on TV while claiming victim status when screenshots of the TV appearance are shown during a talk. That is not “abuse”, in my book. If you involve yourself in public advocacy, finding yourself referred to in public discussion of that advocacy is not “abuse”.

          1. So you are talking about being fair game for public humiliation if you have been vocal about your sexuality? Of course being referred to on a public platform is not ‘abuse’ – spare us the straw-man, please.
            “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… 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… The way that you know he’s failing is I’d almost still bang him”

            1. She was not merely being “vocal about her sexuality”

              I saw the interview when it first came out and she:
              Is a natal male
              Looks like a natal male
              Presents as a natal male
              Presumably has typical male anatomy
              Demanding to use female only facilities whilst looking male and packing that male genitalia.

              This is what I understand Milo to be mocking. I hope that you can understand that some folks don’t believe that penises are female just because the owner says they are.

              Mocking the student was wrong, but she did go on TV and advocate for something that could be perceived by many folks as ridiculous, and was mocked for it.

            2. Well, revjimbob, you need to work on understanding distinctions. “Coming out” ≠ “going on TV to advocate for a political position”. At least not in my book.

              And please don’t pretend that I’m defending what were rude and obnoxious comments by a right-wing hack. I’m simply insisting that students who are political activists on TV are not in a position to cry “abuse” when the appearance becomes fodder for their opposition.

    2. “Seems reason enough to disinvite to me.”

      Perhaps by those who invited him. If they reconsider their invitation in light of that appalling behavior, it’s their prerogative.

      But those who don’t wish to hear from him should not be allowed to dictate to those who do.

  17. What a load of bullshit. No one is being deprived of free speech here, Milo can spout his hate-mongering crap on Breitbart, on the street corner on his blog or in any of a dozen other places. Freedom of speech does not include an obligation on anyone else, even a State sponsored institution, to provide anyone with a platform.

    The other freedom to consider here is freedom of association; the University can not be required to associate itself with an offensive half-witted little shit disturber whose self promoting antics contribute absolutely nothing to the world of academic discourse.

    1. “The University” did not invite Milo to speak. A student group, College Republicans, did.

      On what basis do you claim the moral authority to prevent this group, or any student group, the right to invite whoever they want to speak?

      1. And student organizations are obligated to conform to University policies regarding harassment and discrimination. Someone who has shown his willingness to use such a platform to harass an individual student has no business expecting to be given a place on campus to do his hate-mongering. Let them find another venue.

      2. By the way, petitions are a form of free speech too; asking whoever invited the little whiner to dis-invite him is a perfectly legitimate exercise of that right.

        1. Of course. That’s the way free speech works. You are free to say profoundly stupid things. Things like “de-patforming has nothing to do with free speech”.

    2. I disagree, completely.

      The world of academic discourse is swamped by every version of left ideology there is.
      From reasoned and considered to rabid and loony.

      A voice in opposition is not such a bad thing, unless people are so feeble of intellect that they can’t discern for themselves, good and bad argument and evidence.

  18. Seems to me this speaker’s free speech and the free speech of those opposing his appearance cancel each other out here. More of a “no platforming” issue than a free speech issue. This speaker has oodles of free speech opportunities as well as well-paid outlets for his schtick. Nobodies outlawing what he has to say. But should he ever be denied his platform? That, I think depends on what he has to say and puts the issue into the gray versus black and white. I think it should be possible to deny specific platforms of prestige (like a University speaking gig) to hate-mongers. But a box in the public square – no. And there’s a difference between the two. But this is definitely a slippery-slope type issue. Should atheists be given sermon rebuttal time at all church’s, mosques, and synagogues? Much as I might like that I think no, those who own those platforms have the final say. But outside on the sidewalk – yes, and our courts have upheld that right. Little trickier with a public institution, and this club is doubtlessly University-funded at least in part, but I don’t see that the person in question here has anymore right to be granted a paid platform there than Ken Ham or his ilk have a right to present paid YEC seminars to the biology students at the their local college or University. They can be given the privilege to do so, but I fail to see a right.

    1. I guess I need to say this again.

      This speaker was invited by a student group, not by “the University”. What possible justification do you or anyone else have for violating their right to invite whoever they want to discuss whatever they want?

      1. I have no problem with this club inviting him or anyone. Likewise I have no problem with people objecting to the invitation. That’s their free speech right too. As regards who makes the final call about who can appear at this venue, I have no opinion as I’m not associated with CUB in any way, but I do recognize that there are some forms of harmful speech that can cross a line of hate-mongering that I think would be unfortunate to see emanate from a publicly funded University, club invite or not.

        BTW, you can say whatever you want – all you want. I take posts like these as intended to stimulate discussion and debate. There will be disagreement and push back, and thoughtful comments on both sides of issues like this one. That’s what makes them a little bit interesting and worth the time taken to occasionally join in.

  19. He should have the freedom to speak there, otherwise, Free Speech will have to be called Qualified Free Speech, subject to the latest fringe opinions or cause of the Students not being affected , by the same token the Students have the right to confront in the Hall, in a polite manner, any speaker with whom they disagree

  20. I think your post-script about Dan Arel is slightly misleading. He never called for a permanent ban for Milo Yiannolpoulus. Here’s Arel’s reply to you from Facebook, unedited, that explains his position to you.

    “Lifelong ban? Likely not, but given that he does as he pleases, and has already attacked one, I don’t think a petition of this kind is any violation of his right to speech. He can go yell in a park near the school.

    The schools have a right to rescind invitations to speakers if they believe that speaker has become an increased risk since the invitation. These same schools have an obligation to protect their students. What happens if she says he will be good and then does it again? Do we ask him nicely not to do so in the future and keep letting him get away with it?

    Speakers should be invented that challenge a students worldview, not them personally. He has shown he is willing to do so and these students are not violating his free speech by demanding he be disinvited.”

    He may have left wiggle room here, which I think he did, but it is still misleading to say that he said he called for a permanent ban.

    I don’t think that Milo should be banned or disinvited, in general, but I do think he should be held accountable for singling out students and harassing them. That’s not about sharing controversial opinions and having an open dialogue. That’s giving someone who has harassed someone cover under the pretense of “free speech.”

    1. “he should be held accountable”

      What does that mean?

      And, fwiw because you perhaps have not seen the whole conversation here, the free speech right belong to the student group who invited the speaker. On what basis do you claim the right to prevent student groups from inviting whomever they want to speak?

      1. You are putting words in my mouth. Nowhere in my comment did I say or imply that student groups can’t invite anyone they want. I agree with johnw, who replied back to you on a previous thread, that this is complicated.

        Should he be held accountable by the law? Of course not. He should be held accountable by the court of public opinion, who criticize him just as much as he criticizes others.

        What I meant by “held accountable” is actually in line with what Coyne has said, which is that he should be strongly advised not to single out individual people and harass them on stage, as he did to that one student.

        This is a tough issue, because you don’t want to be in a position of censoring someone. Having said that, I don’t think that harassing individual people, rather than merely presenting your views, is something that should be tolerated.

        Again, just so that I’m crystal clear, I’m mainly at issue with Milo’s singling out of an individual person, not his politics in general. This is an ethical issue, hence these discussions.

        1. I don’t think your object really is that he is “singling out an individual person”. You’re doing exactly that when you talk about him here.

          What is at issue is whether his “singling out” someone who is a public activist is a violation of that person’s privacy. I don’t think so when the image presented is from a TV interview voluntarily made by the student for purposes of political advocacy.

          Students, when they are political activists, are no different than any other political activist. They do not become abuse victims simply by being referenced by other political activists.

          1. Sure, I get that about this person’s activism. I agree with you about that. This person is, to some extent, a public person.

            However, I’m not talking about a person’s privacy. When they are activists, to one extent or another, they lose a little privacy.

            What I really have an issue with, and again, don’t necessarily think he should be deplatformed but merely criticized for it, is what he said about this person.

            Quoting here from New York Magazine, this is his discussion of the student.

            “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.”

            This issue I have, and again it’s an ethical one, not necessarily a free speech issue, is that he was pretty insensitive and didn’t really offer a counterpoint so much as an accusation of perversion and then made fun of their appearance, which is an ad hominem.

            As I’ve mentioned before, I think the University shouldn’t deplatform him but he should be criticized for his inflammatory remarks. That’s it.

            1. I’m not offering an argument that Milo behaves ethically. I don’t like the fellow in the least. My argument is entirely about free speech and the attempt by many to limit it when they find someone’s speech detestable. Personally, I’d like to just ignore him.

  21. Yiannopoulos shouldn’t be speaking on campuses, or anywhere, because he has nothing interesting to say and he’s a waste of time for people to listen to. Couldn’t the speaking venue/time slot be filled with someone who is more worthwhile to hear? His vacuousness aside, i say “booooo” to the regressive left who want to preserve their little “safe space” echo chamber.

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