There is a war raging among students at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
In past eras of social conflict, students used to rally together and fight the administration. Now, there is a crystal clear line between classmates. Safe space, or free space? Hate speech, or free speech? The extremely mixed responses when one of our campus organizations, UCSB Young Americans for Liberty, invited Milo Yiannopoulos to come speak at the school blatantly reveal the divide.
Put simply, Milo Yiannopoulos is a journalist. However, there is nothing simple about Milo, the openly-gay conservative who wants to commit, according to Breitbart, an “all-out war on social justice.” From being escorted out of Slut Walk LA to causing uproar among students at Rutgers University, his presence seems to hit a nerve. He instigates the people around him and he loves doing so. The reactions only seem to strengthen his resolve in talking about how hysterical liberals are. To me, however, the reactions only reveal how ineffective he is at creating the dialogue that he and his exuberant followers claim is missing from college campuses.
If a UCSB organization wants to hold an event titled “Feminism is Cancer,” it should not be surprised when it receives extreme reactions. But contrary to current beliefs, the people reacting are not egoists who believe that their opinion is above the First Amendment. These are groups of people who have historically been brought down in the past, groups that know the burning power behind words.
Young Americans for Liberty, and other similar groups, are known for fighting for the right to express conservative views on certain topics. Perhaps the problem is that it is blinded by its own good intentions. There is a separation between conservative views and hate speech. The Supreme Court has time and time again protected hate speech under the First Amendment. Legally, this objective stance makes sense. Socially, it does not.
Milo and a colleague once held up a sign reading “Regret is not Rape” at Slut Walk LA. The language he chose to use transcended his words into something that can be used as a mechanism for the subordination of women. In this case, his words go further than merely expressing an opposing opinion. The many instances of women being raped do not come down to merely “regret” on the part of women. There is nothing to debate about whether or not some women get sexually abused due to the violence of some men. It is historically and factually proven.
In those respects, there is no discussion to be made. However, something that would be worth having a dialogue about is how to handle the delicate cases of sexual abuse. For example, should the women who stand up with allegations be taken by their word automatically, or after some thorough investigation? Rape is a sensitive topic, and sometimes it is hard to get a clear picture of what happened. Yet, showing up at an event held in solidarity with rape victims is different.There is a large gap between having an unpopular opinion and trying to twist reality, especially when the latter yields a consequence of quieting the real victims.
Even with all of this, it is not up to us to stop him from being an invited speaker, nor is it up to any of the people (working women, sexually abused women, etc.) that his talk is going to target. While Milo himself is more infamous for creating spectacles than discussions, hate speech is protected under the First Amendment. Optimistically, in the future, Young Americans for Liberty, and similar groups, will choose to promote more of what they preach and facilitate a dialogue, rather than inviting the brash entertainment act that is Milo Yiannopoulos.