Milo Yiannopoulos talk canceled at University of California at Davis

January 16, 2017 • 10:30 am

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 ideas 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?

65 thoughts on “Milo Yiannopoulos talk canceled at University of California at Davis

  1. Yiannopolous is scheduled to speak at CU Boulder (my university) on January 25. He was invited by two college groups: College Republicans and Turning Point USA. The CU community has organized an alternative event to take place during Yiannopolous’ speech. It will be interesting to see how the two events collide, I mean co-exist.

    1. Allowing him to speak and then having the event flop as everyone attends the alternative seems like a much, much better way to protest his ideas.

      I’m sure these guys think of being ‘protested out’ as a badge of honor. But no matter who you are, speaking to a mostly empty room is just an annoying embarrassment.

      1. Well, he always seems to fill the rooms for his talks, so I doubt any sort of alternative will somehow change that. I think that’s what these people hate most: that others do and will actually listen to him/hear what he hast to say, and that isn’t right because nobody should hear any views that disagree with the campus left.

    2. Incidentally, it appears from the UC Davis editorial that some students at the school did exactly what CU is doing – planned an alternate event. And in fact, it sold out. But the protesting happened anyway. That’s somewhat depressing; even when you give the students the ‘good’ option, they pick the ‘bad’ one.

  2. I would have protested against Shkreli (who is a parasite) but not against Milo. The snowflakes should get a life.

    1. I think Shkreli is far worse than Milo too. Also, of all the bad opinions, in my opinion, that Milo has, I’m not sure that racism is one of them. There’s some anti-Muslim stuff, so maybe that’s what counts with the snowflakes.

      The authoritarian left are NOT liberals. They give liberals a bad name. I’m sick of either being lumped with them by people who mis-characterize their position as liberalism, or being accused of neo-conservatism by the authoritarian left.

      1. Thank you for reiterating something I have been arguing for a long time: all liberals are leftists, but not all leftists are liberal. The “illiberal left” are petty authoritarians and actual liberals should and do repudiate them. The “illiberal left” is a boon to the right wing because without any attempt at intellectual honesty it conflates the “illiberal left,” in numbers only a small percentage of those on the left, with the much more numerous actual liberals. Unfortunately, as is many of their tactics, the right wing has been largely successful, so much so that for many years liberals shunned the term and started calling themselves “progressives.” I think this situation may be changing now and liberals are once again starting to call themselves what they are. Liberals have a proud tradition of fighting for economic and social justice, going back at least to Franklin Roosevelt and some would say Woodrow Wilson (at least in the economic area, but not the social). Liberals have nothing to be ashamed of and should wear that appellation as a badge of honor.

        1. It’s interesting because the phenomenon where “liberal” became an insult and liberals started calling themselves progressives is, afaik, unique to the US. I was quite shocked to discover years ago that in the US “liberal” was considered an insult.

          It seems that now that US liberals are using it again, the right is trying to denigrate it again by associating it with the authoritarian left.

          Personally, I don’t see how it’s possible to be both liberal and authoritarian. Of course, logic was never the strong suit of those opposing liberal values. (Just think religion and trickle-down economics for a start.)

          1. The progressive movement in the U.S. started a century ago. Teddy Roosevelt (Republican) and Woodrow Wilson (Democrat) would be considered representative. Progressivism is too democratic in my opinion, allowing “the will of the people” to trump individual rights and constitutional authority, unlike true liberalism.

            I still cling to the word “liberal,” though its meaning has been perverted from opposite corners of the political world.

          2. I agree that it seems impossible to be both liberal and authoritarian, but there are plenty of authoritarians who call themselves liberal and who’d attack you for pointing out the contradiction, which just proves your point.

            Hate to hijack WEIT for a comment re your website, but I don’t know any other way of getting through to you. I attempted three times to send a comment to your latest post, but it doesn’t survive transmission. Is something wrong on your end? I have no trouble posting to this site.

            1. I found it a few minutes ago and released it from purgatory! I’m not sure why it got stuck as you’re an approved commenter, and there was only one link. Anyway, it’s there now, though I haven’t had a chance to look at it yet. Cheer. H.

          3. Both sides in the US now have the other side using their label as an insult. The word conservative is an insult on every one of these campuses.

          4. ‘I was quite shocked to discover years ago that in the US “liberal” was considered an insult.’

            Ditto, of course, ‘socialist’. One can be a socialist without being a communist, though most USAnians don’t seem to be able to discern the difference.


            1. Yeah, that’s another one that gets me. Socialist and communist are quite different, but they’re conflated by many in the US and socialist is an insult. They don’t recognize that things like Social Security, MedicAid etc, which most love, are socialist programs.

      2. I don’t know if he’s actually racist, or if it’s just part of the character he plays in real life, but he says/writes some pretty racist stuff. I can’t find the original because he’s been banned from Twitter and his account closed, but he wrote to Ben Shapiro (with a picture of a black infant – “Prayers to Ben who had to see his kid come out half-black. And already taller than he is! #CruzCrew #HappyMothersDay

        — Milo Trumpopoulos (@Nero) May 8, 2016”

        He has also referred to black men and women as gorillas, monkeys, apes, chimps, etc.

        I don’t think he believes nearly half the stuff he says, but still…

  3. The news clip showed a protestor holding up a sign saying “hate speech is not free speech.” This is the crux of the problem. People who have consistently advocated for free speech realize that “hate speech” is free speech as long as the speaker does not call for violence. The protestors do not realize that hate speech can be defined to mean almost anything and consequently could be used to forbid speech that the protestors like. Forbidding speech is a slippery slope that could erode all freedoms. The protestors are playing into the hands of the right wing. They do not have an inkling of the consequences of what they are doing. I am confident they have little knowledge of the first amendment.

    1. They do not have an inkling of the consequences of what they are doing.

      Yeah, the short-sightedness is quite amazing. Typically we might fight such calls for censorship by asking “but what if you don’t get to decide what hate speech is,” referring to some vaguely ominous dystopian future government. However, we just elected a GOP president, GOP senate, GOP house, and that GOP president is going to get to pick at least one and probably two Supreme Court justices…and they still want the government to be able to censor speech based on content? That’s so short-sighted they can’t see the end of their nose.

    2. “The protestors do not realize that hate speech can be defined to mean almost anything and consequently could be used to forbid speech that the protestors like.”

      They know, but they don’t care. Like all zealots and authoritarians, they think that if they can consolidate their power, they will always hold onto it.

  4. why cannot we hear from the “other” side? No matter what “other” side might be?! And this is a “Progressive” university? Where is Trotsky, Stalin, Lenin, MLK, Jr., Nader, and on and on???

  5. I’m worried about it being framed as a free-speech issue, because there’s also the issue of whether the marketplace of ideas is enriched by persons such as Milo.

    I think a university should use its discretion to not invite people such as Milo on the grounds that their ideas are not enriching. And people can protest on those grounds and have a point.

    At least if you had, say, Ross Douthat speaking, you might be exposed to opposing views that people benefit from engaging with. It’s the same reason you wouldn’t want your angry uncle at thanksgiving invited to give a Tanner Lecture. There’s more going than mere exposure to diversity of views.

    1. The university didn’t invite him and in fact the university publicly said they don’t agree with him.

      It was a student group that invited him to speak, which they are allowed to do – or should be allowed to do…

    2. The market place of ideas is the concept that all ideas are welcome and compete on a fair and level playing field for “market share.” Pre-selecting ideas for suitability for entry into the market place of ideas is exactly contrary to the concept. The whole idea is that in the market place of ideas, ideas are freely discussed and evaluated and stand or fall on their own perceived merits.

      Milo should be considered welcome. How else will people learn to evaluate ideas if the only ideas they encounter are ones that are pre-selected by some authority figure(s) to be appropriate for them?

    3. When some people take it upon themselves to decide for others what is acceptably diverse and ‘enriching’ for those others to speak and hear, then this is very much a free speech issue.

  6. It seems that far too many Americans do favor putting limits on Free Speech. You have the example of these college students protesting successfully against having a speaker they claim promotes values they disagree with from speaking at a non-university sponsored event. There are plenty of “adults” who want to censor those speaking in support of political/religious positions they disagree with from being able to speak. You see the assault on our news media by our next President. He and his supporters have no problem in suppressing Free Speech that disagrees with his agenda. This issue is important for Americans because we have Free Speech deeply embedded in our law via the Constitution. Every generation has to decide what is meant by Free Speech. The battles for Freedom of Speech in the 60s and 70s have been forgotten today. Maybe we need to refight the meaning of this right every generation until it is finally secured for every citizen, no matter your worldview.

    1. I find it likely that the Ctrl-Left will suddenly remember the importance of free speech when Trump attacks their free speech. And they will not even sense the irony.

      1. That’s always how it goes, eh? I went through my teens during the W. Bush administration, so I grew up seeing Democrats and the left fighting for free speech. Once I realized that both sides’ worst elements and most powerful people don’t really care about the rights of the other and only their own, I realized not to align myself with either one.

        It seems that whichever side has the power, they will always try to silence the other until they lose it. Consistency isn’t exactly a concern to them.

  7. It’s funny but back in the 60’s no one on the left was complaining when we protested against warhawks speaking, or giving commencement addresses at our universities. If it’s because there is some unwritten rule that such protests can only be condoned when they are against the “establishment”, I submit that post Trump, Milo is the establishment. It’s his side that now controls the water cannons, and national guard.

    1. Actually, in the universities, the left is BY FAR the establishment. Anything out of the current narrative (which changes as theJacobins continue to change) is decried as blasphemy and must be silenced by voice or by violence.

      You have groups openly threatening violence in DC on the 20th. Can you imagine of groups opposed to Obama had made threats like that back in 2008?

      I know someone who is afraid to go into work at a university on the 20th because of fear of the crazies (and it’s not the Trump fans).

      1. “You have groups openly threatening violence in DC on the 20th. Can you imagine of groups opposed to Obama had made threats like that back in 2008?”

        First of all I don’t know that they weren’t, but imagine if at the time blacks were the majority, and Obama made no effort to be a unifier. Trumps treatment of his opponents, particularly blacks, both pre, and post election, most recently John Lewis, has understandably invited such divisiveness. Add to that the Russian hacking that Trump is unwilling to even concede was a thing whether or not it influenced the election results, and the level of hostility is unsurprising.

        “I know someone who is afraid to go into work at a university on the 20th because of fear of the crazies (and it’s not the Trump fans).”

        My daughter who is in an interracial marriage is fearful post Trump to visit me in Alabama.

  8. I’m convinced they intended to cancel from the beginning. The point was not to hear asshole and assholer, it was to bring speakers that would generate enough protest to justify canceling so they can now complain about the ‘regressive left’.

    I wish people had ignored and let the college Republicans have their alt-reality event, if only because they have now essentially handed them the victory they wanted.

    1. “I’m convinced they intended to cancel from the beginning. The point was not to hear asshole and assholer, it was to bring speakers that would generate enough protest to justify canceling so they can now complain about the ‘regressive left’.”

      That occurred to me as well. At a minimum it seems likely they would have known cancelling it was a likelihood, and that it was a win win situation for them.

    2. He’s spoken at many universities this year. His plan is to speak unless he can’t, and when he can’t, to use the protests and riots to his advantage, as it makes his common point that the left is censorious look undeniably true.

      But he absolutely would have spoken if allowed.

    1. I read a claim recently (don’t have a link at the moment) that if the rape rate on campuses was anywhere near what some feminists are claiming, it exceeds the combined murder, rape and assault rate in Detroit by two and a half times.

  9. This is not the way to keep me focused on the regressive left. These are not conservative voices being denied a forum, but provocateurs. It’s a disgrace that they were shut down but, before that, it’s a disgrace they were invited. Conservatives: You only win this battle if you remain the adults in the room.

    1. Provocateurs may provoke a good discussion, even if despicable themselves. So I find some rationale in inviting Milo. I wonder why the other gentleman was invited. He is, to put it politely, a man of action rather than word.

    2. Christopher Hitchens was often a provocateur. It doesn’t really matter whether you personally classify someone as such or not.

  10. This is becoming as repetitive and predictable as creationists’ arguments against evolution (do you ever get that deja vu feeling when you write yet another college special snowflake post?), and like creationists, these anti-free speech mobs have little to add to the discussion. Well, actually, I misspoke, they won’t even HAVE the discussion. At least creationists pay lip service to the notion of “teach the controversy” (even though there isn’t one) and some even pretend to be open to dialogue. Not so with the illiberal snowflake set. I suppose this is why I routinely have the Stealers Wheel song stuck in my head these days. “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am stuck in the middle with you.

    UK comedian Katy Brand recently summed it up on the BBC Radio 4 News Quiz with her statement that “…I feel I am one of the disenfranchised center now. We’ve got a government that is too right-wing for me to vote for, and the opposition that is too left-wing for me to vote for…they’ve managed to alienate millions of us who are quite center and I literally have no idea who to vote for.” except I’m not sure there are millions anymore. It’s getting a bit lonely here in the left-of-center, arguing for free speech while arguing against what is being said.

  11. On the subject of ‘hate speech’, the UK now has a frightening new classification ‘non-crime hate incident’ where ANYTHING that COULD be taken as criticism of protected class (yes that includes religion) must be reported:

    “regardless of whether or not they are the victim, and irrespective of whether there is any evidence to identify the hate element’.”

    The intimidation component is, apparently, so that police can look at a ‘history’ of ‘non crime hate’ in determining a person’s guilt.

    1. For those unfamiliar with Amber Rudd, she’s the British Home Secretary, and the alleged ‘hate incident’ was a speech given at a party conference.

      This goes way beyond campus bullshit: this is a direct attack on the free speech of a member of the government doing her job.

      I fundamentally disagree with her on this issue: most of her constituents do not. They have a right to be represented.

      If a member of the cabinet is not free to discuss political matters who the hell is?

    2. Jay, a hate incident is non-crime i.e. the Police have looked at the matter and decided that no law has been transgressed. It is not particularly new either.
      The ‘victim’ or any other person has perceived the matter to be hate related, the Police cannot disprove that.
      It hasn’t been to the Crown Prosecution Service as it has not been recorded as a crime. The matter is recorded, briefly investigated and filed.
      A person has heard the speech, seen their arse (for whatever reason), reported it and has been told, “NO”. The Police can still do that.
      No consequences, merely the press making a mountain out of a molehill (Quelle Surprise).

      1. It’s still a problem if this part of the story is accurate:

        The much-quoted police statistics, denoting a ‘spike’ in hate crime after the vote, conflated both hate crime and hate incidents.

        1. Taz, who conflated the hate crime and hate incidents?
          I think that people worry too much about hate crime in the UK because the reporting on it is generally sensationalised (again Quelle Surprise). It is used to protect people who have historically been the victim of sometimes ongoing and prolonged nuisance (there are five strands). Also to protect people who are subjected to intense hatred for something they cannot help. I agree it appears to be knee jerk and policing thought crime, but in practice it is not. A lot of it came about because of high profile murders/deaths e.g. Stephen Lawrence, Michael Causer, Anthony Walker, Fiona and Frankie Pilkington (there is a long list….)
          In this instance, it seems to me, some person decided to make some political hay and the press lapped it up.

  12. Yiannopoulos … often says things that I’m not sure even he believes (i.e., “there are no such things a lesbians”)

    Yeah, I doubt a gay chap like Milo actually believes that; I think he’s merely playing to his (ostensibly) heteronormative men’s-rights base, which thinks that, if they only got the shot, they could “cure” lesbians (or at least those of the lipstick persuasion), the way James Bond did Pussy Galore during their romp in the barn in Goldfinger.

    1. ETA: Trigger Warning — Mr. Bond does not seek or receive the explicit verbal consent that is no doubt mandated for sexual-encounters-between-agents by the whatever Code of Conduct MI6 has now adopted.

  13. Jerry, I’m sure glad you keep speaking out about this problem.So many people are just not aware of or don’t see regressive leftism as an impediment to the future of liberalism.

  14. The politically correct extremists who prevented these repugnant ideas being heard should be careful what they wish for. Once the idea that ideas which violate community standards should be prevented from being expressed in public takes hold, what do you suppose will happen to your own ideas once Trump redefines what is and is not consonant with “community standards”?

  15. I would say that many are leaving out a solution that would make those fighting against the free speech of some people demand they be allowed to speak. I have no love for either of these gentlemen, but I feel if part of the requirement for their being allowed the venue to speak out as they wish, they must also agree to answer questions from the audience for the same length of time as their speech. Not being able to duck out of the angry questions would cause some of these people to simply refuse the offers. IF they do agree to this then those who feel these people are harming society will get to voice their opinion while asking questions that may point out how morally bankrupt the speakers are. I think this solution fits the needs of everyone. Hugs

      1. I have not been invited to hear him in person. I have only heard him in interviews on TV. Those times I did not have an opportunity to question him. Plus I am not one who would protest his speaking at an event sponsored by a group on campus. I would have to look at it more from the “hat is the harm” category. IF I can not see significant harm then I can’t justify stopping a legitimate speaker. I do like the idea of a question time, as I have watched many debates on YouTube that end with the audience asking questions of the people on stage. I find I learn a lot form the questions and the answers. Hugs

        1. Well it is what I would want and what I would do myself if invited to speak.

          As would most people, including Milo. My point is that requiring someone speak subject to a regimen not their own is deeply illiberal.

          1. As I said some where here in a comment I would have to judge a speaker’s invite on the basis of “what would be the harm”. Now if there is not a good viable harm that will be caused by the event, then I don’t see a need to interfere with it. If there is a threat of physical harm or such as that then steps must be taken to minimize it. If a speaker is inciting harm to someone and has shown a prior willingness to act on it, I would then make the decision to block it, if I were in charge. Now the entire above is if I was in charge. I am not. SO I simply said I felt a solution would be a question and answer period, because in debates I have seen on YouTube I have learned a lot for the questions and answers. Sometimes more than I learned during the debate. I hope this fleshes out what I was trying to say. Hugs

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