Riots at UC Berkeley: an attack on free speech


Image via Facebook

Milo Yiannopoulos speaking at the University of New Mexico.

Joel Hopkins, Opinion Editor

Milo Yiannopoulos has never been a stranger to controversy. His tendentious style isn’t news, but the terrifying new response to it is.

The 32-year old openly-gay, Catholic, alt-right Breitbart editor has made a career out of writing and speaking blunt unpopular opinions on topics such as feminism, Islam, transgender issues, and Black Lives Matter activism. Yiannopoulos would be the first one to call himself a “troll;” his antics online and in public are often met with outrage, which is just how he likes it. Yiannopoulos believes that his anti-politically correct nature is effective at starting conversation on touchier subjects.

“…I think actually, America’s had enough of nice manners. If my rudeness creates conversation, my rudeness provokes people into first of all saying ‘oh what a monster blah-blah-blah’ and then twenty percent percent of people start talking about what I was actually saying, I will consider my career to be a terrific success.”

Milo Yiannopoulos, ABC Nightline Interview

On Feb. 1 Yiannopoulos was set to speak at UC Berkeley while touring his book “Dangerous,” however the event was cancelled after peaceful protest outside turned into violent riots.

According to the university, about 150 people wearing masks came on campus and began stirring up chaos among the protests. The crowd set off fireworks aimed at the school, threw Molotov cocktails and rocks, and smashed glass doors and windows with baseball bats. One unfortunate bystander wearing a red “Make Bitcoin Great Again” cap was pepper-sprayed by a rioter on camera during a news interview.

There is a glaring irony that seems to be missed in committing acts of violence and destruction to protest what one perceives as “hate speech.”

As crude and as offensive as he may be, Yiannopoulos has never incited or advocated for violence. He offers a controversial point of view, and does it in a way that aims to elicit a response, but everything he says is protected under the First Amendment in this country.

If Yiannopoulos has the right to speak his contentious views, which he does, then the students of UC Berkeley have every right to protest, which they should. If you don’t like what Yiannopoulos says, then take a proper stand against it, as 1500 nonviolent protesters were trying to do before the riots broke out. Go make signs and hold them up for everyone to see, or make chants and scream them at the top of your lungs. Hell, even go to his one of his shows and debate him in person. Don’t set things on fire, smash up a school, and attack people just for coming to listen.

Yiannopoulos says that there is a difference between speech and action, but his opponents try to blur the lines, and place the fault on him for the violent response to his rhetoric. All that Yiannopoulos is guilty of is being offensive, which isn’t a crime. In fact, Yiannopoulos actually encourages open discussion, which is more than can be said about a number of his protesters.

“I’ve never claimed to be impartial, I think it’s fairly obvious I have opinions… and everything I say should be taken, you know, with that in mind. And you should go and listen to me, and you should also go and listen to feminists, and you should go and listen to Black Lives Matter activists, and you should work out who you like the best at the end of it.”

Milo Yiannopoulos, Speech at Miami University

If you don’t agree with Milo Yiannopoulos, you’re in good company; probably half of the country doesn’t either. However, trying to silence an opposing voice is not fighting “fascism,” it’s an attack on the freedom of speech that is so essential in defining this country. If this trend of violence in response to unpopular free speech gains traction, the divide between Americans in this country is only going to deepen. Yiannopoulos is fierce, but don’t fight fire with fire, or you’ll just burn the whole country down.

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Twitter: @Joel_Hopkins13