Mon. Oct 21st, 2019

The Blue & Gray Press

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Op Ed: Hate Speech Is Not Free

4 min read

Lauren Brumfield / The Blue & Gray Press


On Feb. 1, the University of California, Berkeley cancelled a planned speech from a noted Alt-Right figure in the wake of on campus protest. While this is not the first time university students have vocally protested the presence of the Alt-Right speaker, the University of California entered the national spotlight when Donald Trump tweeted his disapproval and issued a threat to withdraw federal funding. Another one of Trump’s complaints was that the university was not allowing the speaker the opportunity to practice free speech.

First, it is important to provide some background information. The speaker in question was Milo Yiannopoulos, best known as an editor for the Alt-Right outlet Breitbart News. For reasons I will explain later, I’m going to call him “M.Y.” M.Y.’s limited persona is of a supposed provocateur who stirs up controversy at the expense of “sheltered” liberals. These actions include calling rape culture a fantasy, threatening his unpaid writing staff, and harassing Saturday Night Live actor Leslie Jones on Twitter to the point the social network banned him. M.Y. also has a college speaking tour series called “Dangerous Faggot.”

One of the problems of talking about M.Y. is that much of his persona is an overt attempt to draw attention to himself despite his lack of qualifications. Even when he mocked the video game community in the past, M.Y. rose to prominence when he became a core member of the online harassment campaign known as GamerGate. Similarly, he uses his identity as a homosexual man to bully other queer people and validate the homophobic rhetoric of his followers and peers. As such, I’ve chosen to refer to him as M.Y. as even being critical about him is also playing into his goal of gaining attention. I am also going to use “Alt-Right” and “white supremacy” synonymously since that is how they are described by both the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League.

A major complaint about preventing M.Y. and other white supremacists from speaking at college campuses is that it inhibits their right to free speech. This is only functioning with a definition of free speech that implies that every individual is entitled to say what they please without being criticized or punished. Thus not hosting M.Y. is censoring his political ideology. However, this overlooks that any criticism against a person’s statements is also free speech. As such, the University of California students protesting M.Y. wasn’t suppression of free speech, it’s a mass demonstration of it. Similarly, Alt-Right ideology isn’t a genuine political platform designed to offer answers to how a governing body should function. It offers hate speech which is designed to justify the oppression of others while feigning legitimacy. M.Y. acts like his statements are provocative, but he’s not actually saying anything qualitative that undermines the institutions he opposes. Using transphobic slurs or calling Black Lives Matter a hate group isn’t thought provoking, it’s the equivalent of a child using swear words on a playground so his playmates will think he’s cool. In fact, Alt-Right leader and Neo-Nazi Richard Spencer said so after hearing one of M.Y.’s speeches, “It’s edgy and dangerous, it’s cool and hip. It’s that thing our parents don’t want us to do.”

Letting white supremacists like M.Y. speak at schools isn’t simply gross negligence but dangerous. While he ignores his critics as thin-skinned, the harm he inflicts is real. At the University of Wisconsin, M.Y. outed a transgender student, dead named her (using a name she no longer uses), intentionally used incorrect pronouns, dehumanized her, and made lewd sexual remarks about her. Professor Alan-Michael Weatherford of the University of Washington was targeted by M.Y.’s supporters for helping to organize the protest against him. Another protester at the same campus was shot by a M.Y. supporter. None of this is surprising as Alt-Right leaders actively recruit on college campuses. To quote Richard Spencer again, “I think you do need to get them while they are young.” Given that Donald Trump led in the polls with white college-graduated men, the Nazi might have a point.

It falls on the responsibility of university campuses to keep out white supremacists like M.Y. To let these hateful people in and to give them a soapbox isn’t a celebration of free speech but a mockery. The Alt-Right has plenty of platforms to speak from. What offering a hand does is draw out the marginalized people who are endangered by these people. To let white supremacists into universities puts their student body and faculty at risk and who the campus sides with says far more than an attention-seeking shill.


5 thoughts on “Op Ed: Hate Speech Is Not Free

  1. Milo is a gay Jew. His boyfriend is black. LOL he is not a white supremacist. You shouldn’t smear people like this.
    Free speech is to be protected irrespective of how offensive if it is or whether you agree with it or not.

  2. This paper just lost all credibility. How can a homosexual Jew who brags about his black boyfriends be a “white supremacist”? The progressive marxist left has gone completely off the mental rails.

  3. To address the collective comments, apologies if you found my article difficult at times. With an 800-word limit I was pressed for space and chose instead of arguing the points you were concerned with to focus on the real physical harm M.Y. and his supporters do to people. I thought I was clear enough with my points that you would have already understood these points from reading my article.

    Free speech is the promise that the government cannot censor or control the language of individuals or institutions. Even that is not perfectly secured due to institutions like the FCC or how threats to do one harm can result in arrest. Free speech never promises you a platform to speak from. Going back to M.Y.’s removal from Twitter, he violated its terms of services by directing a swarm of racist and sexist abuse towards Leslie Jones. By breaking that contract, Twitter has every right to remove him as he agreed not to break their terms of services. Free speech also never promises you cannot be criticized by other individuals or institutions. The inability for one’s ideas to stand up against criticism and claim they are being censored is more a case that their ideas are flimsy and not worth entertaining.

    As for the comments about M.Y.’s stance as a gay Jewish man, it’s important to note that no group is a monolith. Plenty gay men find what he does abhorrent. As I state in my article, he uses his position as a gay man to belittle other queer people and encourage homophobic behavior among his peers and followers. Again, I call him a white supremacist because he recites dominantly Alt-Right ideology which is a subset of white supremacist ideology, both by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League. Oddly enough, in their definition of Alt-Right ideology, the SPLC cites M.Y. by name for his contribution to the movement. Similarly, I quoted noted Alt-Right founder and white supremacist Richard Spencer where he speaks his appraisal of M.Y. Hence I find it safe to label him as one.

    I appreciate you taking the time to respond to my article, but I would appreciate it more if you had taken the time to read it.

  4. It is patently obvious the author is young, naive and intellectual immature. Thus, some leniency is due to a certain extent but not too much. With that said, the entire premise underlying the piece wholly without merit either substantively or legally.

    Substantively, the author makes several “assumptions” concerning various individuals and groups which have are described in a grossly exaggerated manner through the use of words chosen not so much for their meaning but for a cliched impact. Furthermore, the author uses a fallacious strategy which I will simply call “grouping” wherein the author defines a group in pre-contextual manner and then by association concludes that any individual known or even believed to be associated wit the “group” must have the same characteristics. Thus the putting MY in association with something called “rascist alt-right” is no different that saying all black women with living in the inner cities are sluts with several children living on welfare and since Jane here is a black women living in an inner city she is clearly a slut with many children. The ridiculousness of the argument is glaring.

    From a legal standpoint, the author should refrain from assert what is or what is not free speech since the author has zero knowledge concern the legal parameters surrounding what constitutes free speech under the constitution and the United States Supreme Court precedent regarding same. I will not wasted time going into the details concerning what is or is not a “public fora,” “non-traditional public fora” “heavy burden” “compelling state interest” “reasonable vs. non-reasonable restrictions” etc. Suffice it to say that the author should, in the future, give very careful consideration before publicly offering an opinion on such subject matters which I hope such a pause will prevent the author from ever again publicly displaying such ignorance.

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