Berkeley chancellor’s statement on Milo Yiannopoulos’s upcoming visit: it’s free speech

January 28, 2017 • 10:50 am

Next Wednesday, February 1, the ever-unruly Milo Yiannopoulos, Breitbart editor, provocateur, “alt-righter”, and reliable inciter of Regressive Left hatred, will be speaking at the University of California at Berkeley (UCB), invited by the Berkeley College Republicans (a student organization). Yiannopoulos’s talk is part of his continuing “Dangerous Faggot Tour.”

There will surely be trouble, for Milo + Berkeley = Attempted Censorship. (I’m becoming aware that, taking a playbook from some Muslims, campuses and students are starting to call Milo’s appearances “unsafe”—but precisely because students come out en masse to demonstrate in a violent way, and, once inside the auditoriums, to throw tantrums and try to shut the speaker down. If nobody showed up, or simply tried to demonstrate peacefully, the events would come off without a hitch. But that, of course, would take away one of the excuses for trying to ban Milo in the first place. In other words, the threat of violent retaliation for a perceived “hate speech” offense is a sufficient reason to disinvite the speaker.) In fact, twelve UCB professors originally signed a letter asking the Chancellor to cancel the event, and 90 others have added their names since. Here’s what one signatory said:

“We believe wholeheartedly in free speech and in the presentation of views that may be controversial or disturbing, politically or personally,” said David Landreth, one of the 12 professors who authored the letter, in an email. “However, Mr. Yiannopoulos’s public talks routinely veer into direct personal harassment of individuals; they often also call for such harassment and aim to incite it.”

Even if that were true (and I do deplore the singling out of one transgender student in a talk in Wisconsin), that’s not sufficient reason to cancel a talk. Note, too, the “we believe in free speech BUT” trope: the “but” is a sign you’re dealing with Regressive Leftists. And if they believe in free speech for views that may be “personally” disturbing, why do they decry “personal harassment”? If that harassment is defamatory or slanderous, it’s illegal, as it is if it calls for immediate violence. But if personally harassing individuals is a crime, then many comedians would be out of business now (Don Rickles comes to mind). In fact, Milo rarely calls out individual students, and when he does so they are usually “public figures,” as one could argue the Wisconsin student was. Beware, O beware the claim that speech should be band because it involves “personal harassment of individuals.”

As reported by the student newspaper The Daily Californian, Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks wrote a long letter to the campus community addressing Milo’s appearance. The letter is on the paper’s site, but you can access it more easily here. The good part is that Dirks defends Milo’s right to talk as free speech, e.g.:

Since the announcement of Mr. Yiannopoulos’s visit, we have received many requests that we ban him from campus and cancel the event. Although we have responded to these requests directly, we would like to explain to the entire campus community why the event will be held as planned. First, from a legal perspective, the U.S. Constitution prohibits UC Berkeley, as a public institution, from banning expression based on its content or viewpoints, even when those viewpoints are hateful or discriminatory. Longstanding campus policy permits registered student organizations to invite speakers to campus and to make free use of meeting space in the Student Union for that purpose. As mentioned, the BCR is the host of this event, and therefore it is only they who have the authority to disinvite Mr. Yiannopoulos. Consistent with the dictates of the First Amendment as uniformly and decisively interpreted by the courts, the university cannot censor or prohibit events, or charge differential fees. Some have asked us whether attacks on individuals are also protected. In fact, critical statements and even the demeaning ridicule of individuals are largely protected by the Constitution; in this case, Yiannopoulos’s past words and deeds do not justify prior restraint on his freedom of expression or the cancellation of the event.

Berkeley is the home of the Free Speech Movement, and the commitment to free expression is embedded in our Principles of Community as the commitment “to ensur(e) freedom of expression and dialogue that elicits the full spectrum of views held by our varied communities.” As a campus administration, we have honored this principle by defending the right of community members who abide by our campus rules to express a wide range of often-conflicting points of view. We have gone so far as to defend in court the constitutional rights of students of all political persuasions to engage in unpopular expression on campus. Moreover, we are defending the right to free expression at an historic moment for our nation, when this right is once again of paramount importance. In this context, we cannot afford to undermine those rights, and feel a need to make a spirited defense of the principle of tolerance, even when it means we tolerate that which may appear to us as intolerant.

But what I find problematic about Dirks’s letter is the bit where the University not only distances itself from Yiannopoulos’s views, which I guess is okay, but details some University actions that look for all the world like an attempt to “persuade” the College Republicans not to host Milo—or to disinvite him. To me, that smacks of attempted censorship.  Read the excerpt from Dirks’s letter below and tell me what you think; the material after the first paragraph almost sounds like attempted prior restraint:

Like all sponsors of similar events, BCR will be required to reimburse the university for the cost of basic event security. Law enforcement professionals in the UCPD have also explained to the BCR that, consistent with legal requirements, security charges were calculated based on neutral, objective criteria having nothing to do with the speaker’s perspectives, prior conduct on other campuses and/or expected protests by those who stand in opposition to his beliefs, rhetoric and behavior.

In addition, however, we have also clearly communicated to the BCR that we regard Yiannopoulos’s act as at odds with the values of this campus. We have emphasized to them that with their autonomy and independence comes a moral responsibility for the consequences of their words, actions, events and invitations – and those of their guest. We have made sure they are aware of how Yiannopoulos has conducted himself at prior events at other universities, and we have explained that his rhetoric is likely to be deeply upsetting and perceived as threatening by some of their fellow students and members of our campus community. Our student groups enjoy the right to invite whomever they wish to speak on campus, but we urge them to consider whether exercising that right in a manner that might unleash harmful attacks on fellow students and other members of the community is consistent with their own and with our community’s values.

Finally, we have also made the BCR aware that some of those who are opposed to Yiannopoulos’s perspectives and conduct have vowed to mount a substantial protest against his presence on our campus. UCPD has been directed to maintain public safety and to do what it can to prevent disruptions and preserve order. It should be noted that the anticipated cost of those additional preparations and measures will be borne entirely by the campus, and will far exceed the basic security costs that are the responsibility of the hosting organization. We will not stand idly by while laws or university policies are violated, no matter who the perpetrators are.

Nothing we have done to plan for this event should be mistaken as an endorsement of Yiannopoulos’s views or tactics. Indeed, we are saddened that anyone would use degrading stunts or verbal assaults on marginalized members of our society to promote a political platform.

That’s pretty damn paternalistic.

I wonder if the Administration does this when an anti-Israeli speaker comes to campus, or an anti-Palestinian speaker? How often does the administration have a sit-down with any student group and let them know with a nod and a wink that it might be better if they disinvited a speaker or hadn’t invited them in the first place?

Am I wrong, or do you think those words are out of place in Dirks’s letter? I can see why they were included: to show that the University is not on board with Milo’s message, thus trying to soothe the easily-offended students. But why should a University have to say any of this stuff in the first place? This wouldn’t have happened at the University of Chicago, where the administration would never try to position itself politically during a kerfuffle over a speaker.

Finally, below is a picture from a post on the San Francisco site Carpe Diem!calling for people to come out and drive Milo off campus. An excerpt:

Milo Yiannopoulos is a spokesperson for the newly activated far right, an Islamophobic writer for Breitbart, a leader of the Gamergate sexual harassment campaign, and a figurehead for some of the most hateful right-wing elements in Trump’s camp. We should allow no space for his message at UC Berkeley.

We also have to do more than stop one event to prevent these far right elements from recruiting and growing their forces. We have to shut them down and drown out their events in every community they pop up, and we have to undermine them politically as well.

Well, peaceful protest is one thing, but I don’t think this is what this group has in mind. . . .


h/t: Grania

84 thoughts on “Berkeley chancellor’s statement on Milo Yiannopoulos’s upcoming visit: it’s free speech

  1. The most significant threat to free speech right now comes not from the Regressive Left but the Alternative Right — including Milo, who supports “daddy” Trump. Steve Bannon recently told the media to shut up (which sounded like a threat), Sean Spicer suggested that the media-administration relationship might have to change, Trump supports expanding libel laws to sue the media, there has been a gag order imposed on scientists working for the government, Twitter accounts have deleted tweets about climate change, and both Trump and Bannon have called the media the “opposition party.” A bunch of morally sensitive kids on college campuses are not by any measure the greatest or most urgent danger to the First Amendment — the foundation of American democracy. So, why not focus our attention on higher priorities?

    1. Excuse me, but I already have posted about Trump’s threats to stifle the press. So stop telling me what priorities I have to focus on. I’ve written a ton of anti-Trump posts this week (including his “counselor’s” threat to the press), and I’m not turning this site into a 100% Trump All The Time site.

      And, by the way, how, exactly, does Milo pose a significant threat to free speech? Bannon and Trump, yes, but Milo isn’t calling for censorship.

      1. No need to be cross. Happy to discuss these issues.

        What I’m responding to is this: (a) there are profound, urgent, and genuinely unprecedented risks *right now* to free speech in the US, to freedom of the press, to the First Amendment. These are real and they threaten to undermine American democracy as we know it.

        (b) I have seen, over and over again, the “status quote warriors” (SQWs) — almost all white men, one must admit as a demographic fact — complaining about the Regressive Left on college campuses. Yet when it comes to the pressing and potentially existential issues of (a), most are silent. I’m glad that you’ve posted a bit about Trump (I’ve read them). But — and this is a crucial point, or so I would claim — complaints must be proportional to the threats. And the dangers posed by kids on campuses who don’t like hate speech are far, far smaller by virtually any measure than the dangers of Trump and his anti-free speech cronies.

        And finally, (c) Milo absolutely poses a threat to free speech: first, he has been one of the most vocal supporters of Trump for many months, leading the Breitbart charge to propagate fake news and alternative facts in an effort to embolden The Donald, who is now trying to undermine our most precious democratic institutions. Furthermore, in an interview with Rubin, Milo even agreed — explicitly — with Trump’s proposal to expand libel laws so intimidate and control the media. This is extremely dangerous rhetoric that I, as a free speech advocate, find utterly appalling.

        1. In sum: Why it is that those who have made such a fuss about kids on college campuses are *freaking out* about what’s going on with the new administration strikes me as extremely inconsistent. Whereas I was alarmed and annoyed by Regressive Leftism, I am absolutely horrified about Trump, Bannon, Conway, and the others. My own view is that *these issues* ought to take immediate and total priority over the stupid, insignificant, and ultimately inconsequential issue of kids who just graduated from high school making a silly fuss about the paragon of anti-intellectualism, Milo.

          1. Quite frankly, who do you think you are to tell someone else what they can and can’t write on their own website. And how fu*king patronizing is it to start your follow-up comments with, “No need to be cross.”?

            Your points about the current dangers to free speech are accurate, but could just have easily been made without a petulant dig at our host. As you are obviously aware, he has written about those things. Do you also think he should not write about evolution to focus on the danger Trump et al pose to free speech and freedom of the press?

            It is those going OTT in their protests against Milo that turn him into the “dangerous faggot” he wants to be known as. The protesters who get violent and shut him down are playing into his hands. He’s loving every second of it, and it’s giving him ammunition for the future.

            It’s the protesters who are making Milo famous. Every time they shut down an event or commit violence in opposition to him, they make him a martyr and increase his status. He thus gains sympathy for the Alt-Right they wouldn’t otherwise have had. Instead of talking about his vile views, people are talking about how liberals are a bunch of hypocrites.

            Personally I don’t think anything Milo has to say is worth listening to and I think the thing he would hate the most is to be ignored. He would lose most of his value to the Alt-Right if no-one except the tiny number of Republican students went to hear him, and all protests were peaceful. Wtf would the slimy git have to get worked up about then?

            Imo, your attack on Jerry is misdirected.

            1. “The protesters who get violent and shut him down are playing into his hands. He’s loving every second of it, and it’s giving him ammunition for the future.”

              Heather do you think publically criticizing them is going to cause them to change their minds, or does it just bring more attention to their childish behavior, thereby giving the right more ammunition, and making Milo even more famous. 90% of us on the left wouldn’t even know about this behavior if it weren’t for our fellow liberals bringing attention to it, and in my experience that attention is far more successfully driving more people towards the right, or at least the center, than it’s changing these kids minds.

              1. I suppose I’m hoping that saying this often enough then somehow at least some of them will get the message that they’re going the wrong way to get what they (and I) want. That is, a more accepting and tolerant society. Their actions are turning people against them, and I think many don’t see that. Understandably, they’re either too angry or too hurt. Or both. Hard as it may be, they need to step back and be more analytical.

              2. Heather I agree with everything you said, particularly “Their actions are turning people against them”. The problem with that is the direction their fellow liberals are turning in order to distance themselves from them is right, and that IMO is hurting we reasonable liberals more than them.

              3. Yeah, you could be right. I don’t know. There certainly are some moving to the right. If these kids toned things down a bit they’d soon get support back I think because in principle, they’re the ones who are right. I suppose I feel like if I can I need to clearly express a pov that supports liberal values so maybe someone will notice that they can stay a liberal without turning into an authoritarian leftist.

              4. If the solution to bad speech isn’t public criticism and counter-speech, then the foundational marketplace-of-ideas rationale undergirding the First Amendment is in trouble.

              5. “If the solution to bad speech isn’t public criticism and counter-speech, then the foundational marketplace-of-ideas rationale undergirding the First Amendment is in trouble.”

                In this age of fake news where even the college educated can’t tell fact from fiction the “marketplace-of-ideas” is doomed. I suggest that in the future it will be those who can best silence the oposition, and use propaganda most effect who’s ideas will win out, and because of our principles, and belief that it’s the best arguments will win out, we’re running a distant second in that race.

            2. I posted an article expressing exasperation that the free speech warriors — who one can always count on to call out Regressive Left nonsense — are largely silent about Trump. I do not understand this — and frankly, it worries me. If one is upset about anti-Milo silliness, then one should be outraged at what’s going on with Trump. I do not see outrage on this website.

              I have not been petulant at all, although I have been earnest. Jerry’s “excuse me” response was a little aggressive (in my view, which is perhaps mistaken), and you cursed at me.

              I’m genuinely baffled as to why one who cares about free speech would spend any time on writing an article about Berkeley students when Trump threatens the very fabric of American democracy — as the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists recently put it.

              Criticisms should be welcome, especially when they are thoughtful, as I hope mine have been. Please, relax.

              1. If you haven’t seen outrage on this website, then you haven’t been reading this website, particularly the comments after some of the anti-Trump posts.

                And seriously, you tell the proprietor that he should be posting entirely about Trump rather than Milo and then say, “relax” and “no need to be cross.”

                Well, telling me what to post about and not post about is a rules violation, so I say, “Please, go somewhere else.” You can express your views, you know, without touting your superiority.

                I’ve posted a lot about Trump lately, and threats to free speech come from all sides, including the younger generation.

              2. “…largely silent about Trump…”

                Bullwaste. I’m as much a “free speech warrior” and anyone and I’ve been “freaking out” about Trump/Bannon/Republicans as loudly as I’m able to accomplish. I am dismayed that you don’t see “free speech warriors” outraged about Trump et al.

              3. As I said, I agree with your points. The bit I have a problem with is telling someone what they can and can’t write on their own website. On my website people are welcome to disagree with me as much as they want, but the one thing guaranteed to get my back up is telling me what to I should write about. And as you note yourself, Jerry does write about Trump’s egregious behaviour.

                But there’s another side to it. There are people who are being driven towards Trump by the behaviour they see at things like Milo talks. Of course, those protesters are actually a minority. But they’re the ones who get the attention, and they’re damaging the anti-Trump movement.

              4. I posted an article expressing exasperation that the free speech warriors — who one can always count on to call out Regressive Left nonsense — are largely silent about Trump.

                And you included absolutely nothing to back up that claim, while the site you’re posting on is a clear counter-example.

      2. You be you, Citizen Coyne.

        As long as there are starving orphans anywhere in the world, you’re liable to get concern trolled.

    2. If both sides of a debate are not held to the same principle, then I don’t see how one can attack one side for the failure to follow that principle.

      “But when my side violates the principle it’s not as bad as when their side does it” could mean that your own side is more reasonable and restrained when they’re wrong — or it could mean that it’s not really wrong when it’s your side doing it. If it’s the second, then there is no principle. And if it’s the first, then how can anything remain ‘reasonable and restrained’ without self-criticism?

  2. Just to be clear:

    Would Jerry Coyne support the right of the College Republicans to sponsor an openly antisemitic speaker who named his tour ‘Kikes are Dangerous’?

    1. Absolutely! Haven’t I made that clear over the past few years?

      Sorry, but you’re trying to catch me in hypocrisy–but it won’t work. If someone invites someone to speak on campus, or elsewhere, to give a talk with that title, I would certainly support the right of that speaker to speak.

      I sense that your question is not an honest one, but I may be wrong.

      1. I think the word “kikes” is so gratuitously offensive that I would be inclined to request that the word “Jews” be substituted. Just as I would ask that the words “African Americans” or Blacks” be used rather than “niggers”.

        1. Yes, one would make that request, and I certainly would, but I wouldn’t try to censor or ban the talk if they didn’t comply. The whole talk is certainly terribly offensive, but those are the kind of talks that need protection.

          Hell, I would probably even go to that talk.

          1. But wait, just to be clear, you did once write: “Shame on Prager University for disseminating not just a religious viewpoint, but actual lies about what scientists say about the pace of abiogenesis, the origin of biological diversity, and human biological and cultural evolution.”

            This “shame” statement seems to suggest that Prager should have prevented such speech, no? (Please do tell me if my puzzlement here is misguided.)

            1. Yes, your puzzlement here is misguided. I can certainly call them out; and you notice I didn’t say that the post should be taken down. You are equating my criticism of creationism with calls for censorship. Are you really that misguided?

              1. Hmm, am I really that misguided? That’s a weird question to ask. As a philosopher, I would not say it’s particularly conduce to an honest exchange about issues.

                You said “shame on Prager University for disseminating…” When one says “Shame on X for doing Y,” one means that X shouldn’t have done Y. In this case, you aren’t merely calling them out, you’re suggesting — based on your words — that Prager University should have refrained from disseminating certain information. If they had taken your suggestion, the result would have been tantamount to censorship.

                My apologies for questioning you. I have obviously made a mistake.

              2. You are being disingenuous–or something–and this discussion is at an end. If you cannot, as a philosopher, distinguish between someone saying something is “bad”, or that they “shouldn’t have said it,” and telling some venue that they should remove a post, or taking action to shut down discussion. I don’t know how to respond. And no, if Prager had taken my suggestion and taken down the post, that would have been their decision, not “censorship” on my part. I didn’t tell them to do that. Do you fail to distinguish between censorship and criticism that is accepted and leads to retraction or a change of ideas?

                According to your logic, anybody that criticizes ANYTHING, or an institution for doing anything, is equivalent to censoring them.

                Seriously, you are being obtuse here. I am going to censor my own temper and simply ask you to go to other sites. I don’t need this kind of relentless and unsuccessful attempts to brand me a hypocrite, all disguised as “honest attempts to have a discussion.”

    2. Freedom of speech includes freedom of speech for those whose views we find offensive.

      Who exactly would you choose to be the arbiter of what can and can’t be said?

      The way to stop bad ideas is to provide better ones, not to shut them down.

      Let, for example, Holocaust deniers speak. Then expose them as the liars or fools they are by providing the evidence they’re wrong.

      Society will always include people who speak fu*kwittery. There will always be those who follow them. The challenge is to minimize the followers. Long-term, stopping them from speaking or subjecting them to violence doesn’t work. It only gains them sympathy.

      When you ban people from denying the Holocaust, it only makes people wonder what you’re trying to hide. It’s like having a big red button saying “don’t push this.” People are gonna want to push it.

      1. Yes, and note how outrage (at laws in Europe ordering imprisonment for those who’d even as much as dare suggest reflecting on the officially sanctified Holocaust narrative)among free speech cheerleaders ranges from the nonexistent to the unnoticeable.

        1. Look, we have both a Holocaust denier or critic (“officially sanctified Holocaust narrative”) as well as a flat liar about nobody criticizing those Holocaust-denialist laws or other European free-speech laws. I can name at least two people who have vociferously questioned those laws: Christopher Hitchens and myself. I’m a small fish, but Hitchens was certainly vociferous on the issue.

          Bye, Charlize.

          For some reason, the Trump election has brought out many people like her, trying to accuse the Progressive Left of hypocrisy. It’s wearisome, and, in cases like this, untrue.

    3. “Would Jerry Coyne support the right of the College Republicans to sponsor an openly antisemitic speaker who named his tour ‘Kikes are Dangerous’?”

      You misunderstand the name of the Dangerous Faggot Tour. Milo is gay. He’s claiming to be the dangerous faggot.

      1. Yeah, it’s like Richard Pryor titling one of his early comedy albums “That Nigger’s Crazy” — except a lot less funny. (A lot less smart, too, now that I think about it.)

  3. “Mr. Yiannopoulos’s public talks routinely veer into direct personal harassment of individuals …”

    We need to clarify the word “harassment” here. (OED: “Aggressive pressure or intimidation”.) Criticising someone in a speech is *not* harassment. Following and accosting them in the street and shouting at them *is* harassment.

    Milo does the former, not the latter. He does not “harass” people. Further, “harassment” should indeed be deplored and illegal (beyond some threshold).

    This is yet another example of the Regressive Left misusing words in an attempt to claim victim status (cf. “safe”, “harm”, “violence”, etc).

  4. The campus Re-ublicans should have no problem raising the additional security funds after the event as even in California there are plenty of people tired of the extortion and threats by the left. If UC Berkeley is anything like UC San Diego most of the students are to busy to know much about politics and this action will only show them that there are reasoned opinions that differ with what they are told.

  5. Ironic, ain’t it, that this time around it’s the chancellor speaking out for free-speech and the students opposing it?

    That tremor you feel is Mario Savio rolling over in his grave.

  6. “reliable inciter of Regressive Left hatred”

    They’ve got that right, he should incite every decent person’s hatred. That doesn’t mean he should be silenced.

  7. As a student fro Cal, I have no problems with Yiannopoulos ‘ appearance as it did inspire debate in the campus, specifically freedom of speech on college campuses. However, it’s ridiculous that members of the Berkeley College Republicans and other students were victims of a cyber attack weeks ago and that our Daily Californian released one hilariously cringey “open letter” (or declaration of war, it seems) to the speaker, stating the gay conservative is not “gay anymore” and inciting Yiannopoulos to harass the him.

    1. “…the gay conservative is not “gay anymore”…”

      These days, some activists of the tiny, nascent vegan community in my country said that abstaining from animal food alone does not give you the right to call yourself vegan; no, you must also take part in protests against those who eat animal food.

      1. Anthony Bourdain described vegans as the Hezbollah-like splinter-faction of vegetarianism.

        I laughed so hard when I read that, I snorted foie gras out of my nose.

  8. I don’t get the argument that “who is going to be the arbiter of what is allowed?”

    Certainly we can identify hateful ideologies like racism and xenophobia and ban those specifically. Certainly understand why some people would. There might be other examples that are more difficult to define, but not these.

        1. What the hell kind of paternalistic political environment do you want on campus?s

          In Wisconsin the Board of Regents ultimately governs the administration on all campuses in the UW System. Sixteen of the eighteen regents are appointed by the Governor.

          I sure as hell don’t want Scott Walker deciding who qualifies as a “hateful speaker”.

          Why is this so hard to understand? Why on earth do you think only “good guys” will be making the rules?

          1. Again, identifying hateful ideologies is not ambiguous. This is the fallacy of free speech at any cost proponentes.

            1. It is only unambiguous to you and those who happen to agree with you. The “good guys” who are absolutely sure they know where to draw the line. Why should I trust your judgment any more than I trust Donald J. Trump’s? Because I can pretty much guarantee you that he would hold your views to be hateful.

              1. You have a very naive understanding of social history. Your understanding of racism and Donald J. Trump’s understanding are likely to be poles apart. My understanding of racism is very different from what my mother’s (born in 2918) was in her life. Of course racism is relative.

                You’re simply confusing your opinion with reality.

              2. “… my mother’s (born in 2918) …”

                I *knew* you were a space alien!


    1. There is a difference between speech and practice. People who are racist in their thoughts and beliefs can and should be forbidden by law from putting their racism into practice, such as practicing job discrimination. However, the first amendment forbids laws to prevent racists from speaking their views. This is what freedom of speech means.

    2. You can identify hateful ideologies with certainty but not everyone agrees with you; and ideologies, hateful or otherwise, are made of numerous individual claims, some of which are are factually more accurate or arguably more reasonable than others.

      We only have to look at accusations of islamophobia and xenophobia in immigration debates to see how elastic these terms are and how the general terms are used to try and shut down specific claims about immigration and its possible effects. Or we could look at shifting notions of racism and equality from the 1964 Civil Rights Actto now, to see how unstable these concepts are.

      There is overwhelming evidence that some universities require higher average SAT scores from some ethnic groups than others. Is this racist? I think so, but plenty of people who would be mortified if accused of racism think not.

      It is quite arrogant and shortsighted for one group of people to imagine that their group alone defines now and into the future what counts as acceptable speech by others.

    3. That won’t do in the US of A. As Supreme Court justice Justice Robert Jackson observed, “[i]f there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion[.]”

      With our First Amendment, we decided once and for all that the dangers associated with bad speech are outweighed by the dangers associated with constricted speech.

      Plus, what constitutes “hateful” speech is never as unambiguous in practice as you think it is in principle.

    4. I have been listening to Gadzi Kodzo on YouTube and Twitter. He is a black activist. He says that all white people are racist by virtue of being born white. Seeing as how oppressed people are never wrong about anything, perhaps we should end the “racism” at universities and other public institutions by simply banning white people from them, who are, I should remind you, racist by merely existing.

      Oh, and don’t you dare disagree with Mr Kodzo, that will just prove beyond a doubt that you are racist and should be banned.

    5. Why don’t you compile a list of things that we can ban specifically? You’ve already started your list. Now, who is going to decide that that is the right list? You? On behalf of all of us? Or a group of like-minded thinkers? Or, who exactly?

      And if you wade in more than a couple of inches deep do you now get the argument?

  9. “We also have to do more than stop one event to prevent these far right elements from recruiting and growing their forces. We have to shut them down and drown out their events in every community they pop up…”

    This statement strikes me as exactly wrong. Trying to “shut them down and drown out their events” gives them the attention they crave, and will help them recruit and grow.

    The more you try to suppress them, the stronger they will get. The progressives, of all people, should know that. Far better to let them babble on, until they are just boring and passé.

  10. Let’s suppose that because of free speech enshrinement a large segment of the population can be conned through the use of fake news, and stoking of bigoted and xenophobic fear.

    What if this large segment of the population was impervious to good ideas and the truth.

    Would you accept that free speech could be adverse to human progress and some baseline rules would have to be developed?

    1. This is the “little people” argument, one often used about religion. It’s no more true in the political context than it is in the religious one.

      1. I read the comment as blaming tr@mp on free speech or more to the point, not banning speech he/she finds ooensive.
        But yes, the argument is ridiculous.

        1. And yet, it is what’s happening right now. Your approach is to just let end progress because of the fallacy that humans can’t come to conclusions about what is best?

    2. This is getting ridiculous. If things ever got near to the dystopian fantasy you evoke, then *only* free speech would have a chance of redressing the imbalance. And who decides on your ‘baseline rules’? You? How are you going to go about that, then?

        1. If xenophobia was always misguided, and sharing the resources you have with everyone else guaranteed the well-being of all, Ms. Merkel wouldn’t be now desperately trying to share with other countries the hundreds of thousands of people she invited.

          The problem is, these resources are limited.

        2. Because different people have different ideas about what “human well-being” means.
          To some on the left, it means not letting Milo Yiannopoulos speak; to Paul Ryan, it means shutting down the Affordable Care Act. Your mileage may vary; and I do not want you (or anyone else) making those decisions for me. Living in a democracy (from Greek “demos” – the people) means, essentially, living with what the majority decides; living with free speech means, essentially, that people can generally say what they want, with only very narrow restrictions on content to protect public safety.

            1. As are you in your desire to ban the speech of others.
              You might want to take notice that no one has suggested censuring you.

            2. “Objectively wrong”?
              It’s objectively wrong to say that 2+2=3.
              It’s not objectively wrong to say that the ACA should be abolished, unless “objective” has taken on some new meaning.
              I think it would be wrong to abolish the ACA without replacing it with something like single-payer; but that’s not objective, that’s my subjective view.
              It would be more like objectively wrong if, let us say, the country would spend more on healthcare without the ACA than with. But I’ve seen no proof of that.
              As for Milo, I’ve never listened to him and have no intention to – but that’s my choice; and if I want to listen to him, I would be upset that people such as you feel that you can decide not merely that I shouldn’t, but that I can’t.

        3. As Derek Freyberg says, who gets to define ‘human well-being’? Even just on this site, you would likely get a couple of dozen opinions.

          Our host’s point, as I understand it, is that *no* speech should be suppressed or censored, unless it directly incites violence, discrimination, etc. The best way to oppose offensive ideas is to argue against them with all the tools at our disposal, including unrelenting mockery. If you start by suppressing some viewpoints, you will end by smothering them all.

          1. “…unless it directly incites violence, discrimination, etc.”

            Actually, I don’t think that’s right. I do not think our host would block speech that called for discrimination or “etc.”. He has repeatedly stated that direct calls for violence are where he draws the line.

    3. If a “large segment of the population” in a democracy becomes “impervious to good ideas and the truth,” then that democracy is royally screwed.

      That democracy would be screwed even worse if a small segment of elites becomes convinced it can protect the population at-large by paternalistically banning bad speech.

  11. Yiannopoulos spoke Thursday, without incident other that protesters outside, on the campus of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. I thought that the Chancellor’s statement was quite good:

    The statements that Mr. Yiannopoulos has made at other campuses are clearly in opposition to the values of the University of Colorado Colorado Springs and its commitment to creating an inclusive community that welcomes all.

    Moreover, his tactics of personal denigration, as well as racist and misogynist comments, are both personally reprehensible and contrary to the university’s values of civil, respectful discussion of difference and difficult topics. We ascribe to The Board of Regents’ Guiding Principle that the University of Colorado shall always strive to be “provide an outstanding, respectful, and responsive living, learning, teaching, and working environment.”

    At the same time, the University of Colorado system adheres to the freedoms embodied in the United States Constitution, which include the freedom of speech contained in the First Amendment. Under well-established constitutional principles, when a student group invites a speaker, the University of Colorado does not censor the speaker because it disagrees with his viewpoints.

    In doing so, we draw guidance from, and I quote the words of, the United States Supreme Court, which recently reaffirmed that speech touching on social and political matters are within the bounds of constitutional protection. When speech is on a matter of public concern, even though it it racist or sexist, it “cannot be restricted simply because it is upsetting or arouses contempt” and we “must tolerate insulting, and even outrageous, speech in order to provide adequate ‘breathing space’ to the freedoms protected by the First Amendment.”

    Mr. Yiannopoulos’s attacks on others constitute “vehement, caustic, and unpleasant expressions” that “can stir people to action” and “inflict great pain.” We can, and do, condemn his words, but, as a nation, “we have chosen to protect even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate.” As a public university, we know of no legal grounds to prevent Mr. Yiannopoulos from coming to our campus based on his comments elsewhere.

    UCCS will, however, require the organizations that invited him to campus, the College Republicans and Turning Point USA, to be responsible for all costs, including security. Additionally, the university will handle all ticketing to ensure that fire codes and other legal requirements are met. I will continue to emphasize that while Mr. Yiannopoulos may be speaking at UCCS, he in no way represents us as a campus community or our values.


    Pam Shockley-Zalabak


  12. In Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science (1952, old books are the best!), Martin Gardner criticizes a respected scientific publisher for publishing a pseudo-scientific books about the cosmos.

    “When book editors and publishers are questioned about all this, they have a ready answer. It is a free country,…that is, however, is not the issue. The question is whether the voluntary code of ethics…is worth preserving.”

    In my view, If you want to invite someone who has controversial ideas, at least invite someone who really has something to say, not a shallow troll such as Milo. I believe it is right to say that a respected university should maintain a standard for the quality of people who speak there (the voluntary code Martin Gardner speaks of in the quote above).

    University funding should not be spent on public shows of trolling. If these gentlemen are so keen about hearing what Milo has to say, they should rent a private venue and hold their show there.

  13. Here’s my take, for what it’s worth:

    Forbidding a person from giving a campus speech, or not allowing a campus group to invite a person to do so, serves simply to call attention to that person and, worse, to enable the person to complain about being unfairly treated. It does nothing to silence the person.

    I suggest letting him speak. Those who don’t agree with him can boo. If applause is permitted, why not booing? It has a time-honored place in opera performances in Italy.

    If questions are allowed, let protesters stand up and ask questions and offer their opinions. If they are shouted down, shout louder.

    Be prepared to fight for what you think is right! Stop whining about how so-and-so is not representative of your progressive views and be prepared to defend those views tooth and nail. That is the only way to get them to shut up, and even if it doesn’t always work, they just might have some respect for you.

    The 1913 premiere of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring caused a riot by the audience. People were throwing chairs! And that was ballet! People go to the ballet today and sit there like a bunch of stuffed pigs (to use Elgar’s characterization of the audience). That was back when people cared about art and what they thought it should be. People should care about political speech like that these days. (Of course I don’t advocate physical violence, but I think people who don’t agree with what they are hearing should speak up.

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