Capture
ELINOR WALKER/THE HOYA

Self-described as “the most fabulous troll on the Internet,” Milo Yiannopoulos is eminently comfortable in his role as the left’s comically villainous bogeyman.

Leveraging outrage for attention, Yiannopoulos has made a name for himself at the forefront of the culture wars, decrying the perceived evils of third-wave feminism, political correctness and other issues at the heart of the modern social justice movement.

Most recently, the divisive right-wing provocateur saw his speech at the University of California, Berkeley, cancelled Wednesday night amid demonstrators setting fires and throwing objects at buildings to protest his appearance.

To critics, Yiannopoulos epitomizes the evils of the alt-right, a label he flirted with in the past but has since disavowed. To his followers, he is a champion of free speech and a prominent voice against the regressive left. I believe we, the students of Georgetown University, should extend Yiannopoulos an invitation to speak on campus in order to answer, once and for all, a fundamental open question about our university’s commitment to free speech.

In the last two years, Georgetown has repeatedly seen controversies from both sides of the political divide regarding its free speech and expression policy. In September of 2014, the student body protested the removal of H*yas For Choice members in advance of the Archbishop of Washington, D.C., Cardinal Donald Wuerl receiving an honorary degree in Gaston Hall.

In April of 2015, the Georgetown University’s College Republicans’ invitation of Christina Hoff Sommers, a critic of the “rape myth,” prompted a wave of condemnation from students, including the editorial board of The Hoya, who argued that she should not have been invited.

A year later, the student body was divided on whether a Catholic, Jesuit university should have invited Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards to give an address. Even as recently as last semester, free speech incidents included pro-life messages being defaced in Red Square and GUPD investigating pro-Trump chalked messages.

These incidents will continue to happen and spark controversy, because, although Georgetown’s free speech policy is clear, the student body only selectively respects it.

Broadly speaking, we must choose between two options for our university. The first is an environment of open debate, of competing ideas, of controversial opinion and intellectual freedom. The second is to leverage cultural pressure and social stigma to shield and support the prevailing conception of social justice.

The first option tolerates opposing viewpoints; the second rejects unproductive ones. The first allows protest but rejects censorship and intimidation; the second option utilizes protest intended to silence.

This dichotomy was first observed by New York University social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, and respected universities have aligned themselves on both sides. On one end of the spectrum, the student body at Brown University has a checkered history with cancelling controversial speakers. Student protest has successfully cancelled or curtailed events featuring former New York Police Department commissioner Ray Kelly, libertarian Wendy McElroy and black trans-woman activist Janet Mock.

On the other hand, the University of Chicago sent its Class of 2020 a letter of academic freedom detailing the university’s commitment to the “freedom of inquiry and expression” and rejection of trigger warnings, safe spaces and cancelling speakers.

Now, Georgetown simply has to choose: model itself on the suffocating limitations on free speech policy at Brown University or promote the culture of open discourse exemplified by the University of Chicago. I submit that inviting Yiannopoulos and inviting the ensuing controversy will be the grounds upon which we discover exactly where Georgetown stands.

If the administration and the student body intervene outright or otherwise intimidate him from coming, we will have demonstrated our intolerance for opposition to prevailing opinion out of a desire to protect futilely our conception of social progress.

If, on the other hand, a student group is able to bring successfully a vocal critic of social justice peacefully to campus for him to share his ideas, we will have taken a step towards the idea of a university that is truly tolerant of free speech.

I firmly believe such a step would be in all students’ interest. As the past year has shown, the increasingly isolated ideological bubbles we live in have real cost when it comes to our ability to understand our country and our world.

Milo Yiannopoulos is currently touring college campuses across the country, so College Republicans, College Democrats and the Lecture Fund, I urge you to take the first step towards a reckoning for our university: Send Milo an invitation.

Alan Chen is a junior in the College.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

16 Comments

  1. The Real SFS 2016 says:

    This is probably the best op-ed I’ve seen in the Hoya in years. Great job!

    For the record, some of us tried to get the Lecture Fund to bring Milo but they refused. He just wasn’t liberal enough for the board.

    Oh, and you forgot to mention the amount of violence perpetuated by the UC Berkeley rioters (they weren’t just protesters). There were women assaulted and threatened with rape, and men who were also attacked, not to mention the significant property destruction. Similar to the things which happened at Trump rallies in Chicago, San Diego, and elsewhere, including inaugural weekend.

    I hope liberals soon learn they can’t combat ideas they dislike with violence and intimidation (physical or otherwise). Because if it doesn’t stop people on the right will soon start reacting in kind.

    It’s like Trump’s election. Were it not for the identity politics of the last ten or twenty years you wouldn’t have a bunch of White men AND women voting overwhelmingly for Trump. The left can promote civic nationalism and “ONE” America, or they can promote the tribalism we’ve seen from them so far. If they continue to do the latter, then they can expect White people to increasingly be tribal as well and not see themselves, as “Americans” first and foremost, but “White Americans,” instead, and because human nature is what it is, they will vote for explicitly White interests just as Black people, Latinos, Jews, and Muslims do now.

    Thus endeth the lesson.

    • 1) Where do you draw the line on inflammatory speakers? Milo isn’t interested in constructive debate. If he was, he wouldn’t be on that despicable website.

      2) Thank God up to now we haven’t been living in a world where white people primarily look out for white interests. What an awful world that would be — I could only imagine – colonialism, slavery, segregation, police brutality. I could only imagine what we would endure if white people were truly victimized in this country.

      Remember everyone — the devastation caused by white people on this earth is not the cause of today’s problems — it’s the reaction of the oppressed that is the problem. If the oppressed just asked nicely and didn’t offend anyone, we wouldn’t be in this mess.

      WHAT

      A

      JOKE

      • What website are you talking about? you know the internet has more than a few websites right? lot of interesting stuff to find

        Can you provide an example of Milo being inflammatory outside of his tweets? All the videos of his lecture events I’ve seen have been supported arguments. Yes, they’re conservative, but that doesn’t make him wrong and dumb.

  2. We should not invite people who spew ignorance to promote their hateful views at Georgetown. I am already very disappointed that we had a former white supremacist speak on campus recently. Hate and bigotry really has no place here. I honestly believe we are better than this.

  3. You’re misrepresenting the objection to having Milo come to campus. In his speeches he encourages listeners to report undocumented people on campus and to harass/attack people he doesn’t like. At one school he visited, he encouraged people to go after a certain critic of his who ended up dropping out due to harassment and threats. He poses an active danger to community members.

  4. How did The Hoya Editorial Board let this pro-free speech op-ed slip through? They’re usually pretty good at stamping down dissenting opinions and open debate

  5. At this point, why even bother? Milo is very little beyond a troll just looking for pots to stir (even by his own admission and that of many of his fans) and by coming to speak doesn’t offer much of anything beyond eliciting Liberal Tears. Fun enough, but not necessarily a good use of the lecture fund’s or the university’s time and money.

    Plus, even putting aside the extreme example we just saw at Berkeley, isn’t this just way too much trouble? His appearances virtually always inspire a lot of opposition, to the point that I’m not convinced the number of people at Georgetown who would sincerely want to hear him speak actually outnumbers the number who would be inspired to protest. I’m not sure it’s worth the headache, in the end.

    You can say all you want that we need to be driven to openly examine opposing (here, non-liberal) viewpoints and allow people who espouse these viewpoints to come to campus, and I agree. But at the same time, shouldn’t we also be discerning about the quality of the speakers we allow at our school? If you want conservative speakers, there are plenty to invite – Matt Drudge, Jagdish Bhagwati, Herman Cain, Dinesh D’Souza, David Horowitz, Bay Buchanan… Hell, if you want to be edgy, see if you can invite Bannon! But no one wants to invite, like, Martin Shkreli. I don’t see why it’s so important that we pull in Milo.

    • Thank you for vocalizing exactly what I want to say. Invite conservative speakers of a higher caliber who will actually provide something of value to students.

  6. http://nymag.com/thecut/2016/12/milo-yiannopoulos-harassed-a-trans-student-at-uw-milwaukee.html

    Is this what we want at GU? Harassment of trans students? Because that’s what you get with Milo.

    You talk a big game about free speech and the ability to express one’s viewpoints, but students can’t express themselves when they are being harassed and abused for who they are and when Georgetown sanctions that harassment and that oppression. This is not just “controversial opinion.” Milo is a threat to people on our campus.

    You speak of “opposition to prevailing opinion.” What is this “prevailing opinion”? The “opinions” that people deserve to not be harassed and abused? Because that’s what Milo opposes. His “controversial opinions” are hatred, pure and simple.

    You say it would be “in all students’ interest.” Was his talk at UW in the interest of the student he mocked, who then faced such serious abuse and harassment that she was forced to drop out? Are you willing to tell trans and nonbinary students here that their dehumanization is in their interest? Because that’s what you’ve clearly implied.

    Milo has harassed and dehumanized people before and he will do it again. It’s what he does. Georgetown has no business endorsing him.

  7. Hoya Junior says:

    Agree agree agree entirely. Let’s petition the lecture fund. This is the perfect test for Georgetown and it’d be good to push the limits. College campuses should be so radically open and I’d like to see how Georgetown handles it.

  8. Honestly, if the University can allow Cecile Richards to speak on campus why not let any hateful person speak. I mean it cannot get much worse than someone who oversees the deaths of 330,000 people every single year.

  9. Yes, if we are going to have extreme free speech, it needs to be free on both sides of the aisle. How can the university justify hosting an abortion rally with a progressive like Cecile Richards while also rejecting speakers from the far right end of the spectrum?

  10. Lydia Brown (COL 2015) says:

    If you’re so willing to bring an openly hateful troll to this campus in the name of “free speech” and “balance,” then why the hell am I the only person so far not afraid to use their real name in the comments?

    FREE SPEECH doesn’t mean a right to have people listen to you. It doesn’t mean a right to not be criticized. It doesn’t mean a right to be invited or a right to be given a platform for your speech.

    It ONLY means the right to not be persecuted by the *government* for your speech.

    Read a copy of the damn U.S. Constitution. (I have, several times.)

    And there is a huge difference between considering points of view/perspectives you dislike or that you feel are inadequately represented, and … inviting someone who at best callously disregards the personal safety of individual students for the lulz, or at worst, deliberately places vulnerable people into extreme danger because basically, he thinks they/we shouldn’t exist. I would say that I can’t believe any of my fellow Hoyas would endorse this kind of garbage, either wholeheartedly in agreement with Milo, or as an interesting intellectual exercise *that puts other Hoyas’ lives in actual danger* — but you know what, I can.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*