I’d just as soon never listen to Milo Yiannopoulos again, for although there are some debatable issues he brings up, I know them already, and he’s more of a provocateur than a lecturer. Let me restate that: he’s a nasty piece of work.
But according to the article below from the local newspaper, Centre Daily, he’s scheduled to speak at Penn State on November 3. I sure as hell wouldn’t go, but some students will, as Milo is sponsored by Uncensored America, a student group. Yiannopoulos, who once prided himself on being gay, has now declared that he’s not gay, and, as the article says:
He is now hoping to open a “conversion therapy” center in Florida, which seeks to change a person’s sexual orientation or identity. Conversion therapy is banned in 14 states, while dozens of national organizations — such as the American Medical Association — have denounced such practices.
But there’s more:
Yiannopoulos, former editor of far-right media outlet Breitbart News, has been no stranger to controversy. He was permanently banned from Twitter in 2016 after referring to Black comedian/actress Leslie Jones as a man and an ape, while orchestrating an abusive campaign against her. He was also banned from Facebook and Instagram three years later after the platforms labeled him “dangerous” for his promotion of hate speech and/or violence.
He was forced to resign from Breitbart in 2017 over remarks that appeared to condone sexual relationships between old men and boys as young as 13. (The American Conservative Union rescinded his invitation to to speak at CPAC over the controversy.) And the formerly openly gay commentator — who’s also been accused of being sympathetic to white nationalists — married his boyfriend in 2017 before announcing earlier this year that he is no longer gay.
You can’t get much more odious than that, but since he’s already been invited, he should be allowed to speak. Penn State is a state college and must abide by the First Amendment.
What struck me about the article below was not so much Milo’s antics as the University’s repeated declarations that they don’t endorse his views, oppose him with all their might, and, most important, their implication that they would ban Milo if they only could, but they can’t. They almost seem reluctant that the Constitution prevents them from censoring him. What kind of behavior is that for a campus that purports to favor free speech?
Click to read the article:
That’s all I’ll say about Milo except to give the topic of his talk according to the event webpage: “free speech, faith, conversion therapy, hair style, and more. ”
Now here are some statements from Penn State officials from the article, either direct or reported secondhand:
In a written statement, university officials explained they are opposed to the event but cannot stop it due to the First Amendment.
. . .“(Yiannopoulos’) past presentations on the nation’s college campuses have been antithetical to Penn State’s values, and we share the profound dismay others have already expressed in response to his forthcoming appearance here,” read a joint statement Monday night from three university officials in Steve Dunham, vice president and general counsel; Damon Sims, vice president for student affairs; and Marcus Whitehurst, vice provost for educational equity.
The statement continued: “Yet as offensive and hurtful as Yiannopoulos’ comments have been and are likely to be again, and despite our own abhorrence for such statements and the promotional tactics used, Uncensored America has the undeniable Constitutional right to sponsor this presentation on our campus. The university lacks the right to do anything to stop it.”
. . .Despite the backlash, university officials remained adamant they could not prevent Yiannopoulos’ event from happening.
“As a public university, we are fundamentally and unalterably obligated under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment to protect various expressive rights, even for those whose viewpoints offend our basic institutional values,” the university’s joint statement read.
“To do otherwise not only violates the Constitution, but would undermine the basic freedom each of us shares to generally think and express ourselves as we wish. … But let us be clear. At his core, Yiannopoulos is a social provocateur — a personality whose central public purpose is to deliberately create controversy, hurt and disruption. That is something we all should recognize.”
Now only the last two lines emphasize freedom of speech, but I have to say that it’s offered grudgingly, and the whole tenor of the Administration’s statement is “We’d ban this joker if we could, but the Constitution won’t let us.”
The LGBTQIA+ group, a student group, said this:
In a joint statement Tuesday, University Park’s undergraduate student government and two LGBTQ groups “strongly condemned” Yiannopoulos’ appearance, saying it promotes homophobia on campus.
“Bigotry and discrimination have no place at Penn State, and the university must take the necessary steps to combat hate speech and protect the LGBTQIA+ community,” the statement read, before later continuing, “(Yiannopoulos’) presence serves as a threat to students on-campus, and the university should treat it as such.”
Of course they hate Milo, and they should, but I doubt that his presence threatens students. If anything threatens students, it’s themselves, who might riot and engage in damaging property, as they have with Milo’s appearances before. They should urge a boycott or organize counterspeech.
You know what the University of Chicago would say in response to a Milo appearance here?
Either nothing, or, “Anybody who’s invited to speak here will be allowed to speak, for we adhere to freedom of speech.” There would be no preening statements that the University abhors Milo.
And that’s the way it should be. Colleges and universities should not take public stands on political, moral, or ideological issues, for that leads to chilling of speech. This is embodied in the University of Chicago’s Kalven Report, which is adhered to pretty scrupulously —despite a few slipups that I’ve noted. What Penn State is doing here is telling students how moral the University is compared to Milo, which of course leads those who like what Milo has to say to keep their mouths shut. Their speech is chilled, and more than half of college students report that they self-censor to avoid getting into trouble.
But Milo, despite his repellent personality, does have things to say worth debating. Penn State should have just done what my own University would do.
And by the way, even if you think that Milo’s statements are always unbearably stupid and don’t deserve to be heard, have a look at this paper in the Journal of Controversial Ideas. It defends the stupidest of all ideas—flat Earth theory—as worth hearing, and if that theory is worth hearing, then almost anything is, as the title of the paper below implies (click on the screenshot):