The assault on so-called “far-right firebrand” Milo Yiannopoulos (Milo) is very disturbing, if not damaging to proponents of the First Amendment.
As an antiwar activist I rely on free speech, so even though I strongly disagree with Milo on many issues, I appreciate him being an impactful promoter of open expression.
Milo, who is a fan of Donald Trump, has been accused of being a white supremacist and a supporter of pedophilia and child sexual abuse. Due to the latest accusations, Milo lost a book deal with Simon & Schuster (the book was #1 on the Amazon best-seller list), as well as a speaking spot at last week’s influential Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Milo also resigned from his employment at Breitbart.
A self-described “longtime critic of colleges shutting people up,” Milo has created a stir on his popular nationwide tour of campuses where he lambasts political correctness. Opponents of Milo believe he is engaging in ‘hate speech’ and that such speech is not afforded Constitutional protection. (PolitiFact wrote otherwise, stating that ‘hate speech’ is not excluded from protection.)
Ironically, some students have resorted to saying that Milo is “a racist … misogynistic demagogue … twisted psychopath … neo-fascist … and defender of rape,” without acknowledging that some people may consider their words as ‘hate speech’.
And to go further, some students and groups believe that using physical violence to stop Milo from speaking is justified.
Such behavior affirms Milo’s assertion that many of today’s liberals and college campuses have become intolerant, bigoted, opposed to free speech, and perpetrators of hatred and violence. In addition to the aforementioned riots at UC Berkeley, recent months are littered with incidents to support Milo’s claims.
And in the past few weeks, more examples are pouring in:
· A University of Michigan student group is demanding that the university, “create a permanent designated space on central campus for Black students and students of color to organize, and do social justice work.” White people would not be allowed.
· “Bias Response Teams” at hundreds of campuses across the country encourage students to turn in fellow students for offensive speech.
· The student government at the University of Wisconsin-Madison said that black students should be offered free tuition and housing because blacks were legally barred from education during slavery and the university remains out of reach for black students today. They passed legislation that calls for reparations to black students because of "systemic denial" of minorities from the "white supremacist" institution. It also demands the creation of a task force to consider "test-optional admissions and geographically weighted admissions" that would give preference to students in cities.
· Penn State professors have been told to “avoid assuming the gender of any student,” and to not “assume all students speak English fluently”.
· Emory University is looking to establish people “of color” only social events.
· Students at UC Berkeley built a human wall to prevent white students from entering campus.
· Students at Elizabethtown College this month are wearing white pins to remind them of white privilege.
Is Milo a pedophile and a white supremacist?
Many liberals, college students and much of the establishment media have said that Milo is a white supremacist and a supporter of pedophilia.
Milo acknowledged that he has inadvertently contributed to the attacks on him because of his “gallows humor,” and “sloppy choice of words” that he regrets,” but he has a long track record of condemning the same things he has been accused of.
In fact, when comparing the allegations made against Milo to his actual words, it’s pretty clear that the charges against him are bogus.
(The charges against Milo are similar to allegations made against US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who in 1974 praised and quoted a draft Senate bill that read, "A person is guilty of (rape) if he engages in a sexual act with another person … (who is) less than twelve years old." Some used her statement to accuse her of advocating that the age of sexual consent be reduced to 12.)
Since he has been in the public spotlight, Milo has repeatedly condemned the exact things he’s accused of. For instance, earlier this week Milo said, “I do not support child abuse. It’s a disgusting crime of which I am a victim,” and in September 2015, Milo wrote an article titled, Here’s Why the Progressive Left Keeps Sticking Up for Pedophiles.
In the article, Milo strongly denounces “adults who crave sexual intimacy with children,” while pointing out that there is "... a disturbing trend of pedophilia activism on the Left, which has gone out on a limb time and time again to normalise child abuse. From the 1970s to the present day, organised pedophilia has been a recurring problem for the supposedly progressive movement ... the left makes excuses for them, they try to legitimize them, they try to habilitate them as an unfortunate sexual orientation ... Why are defences of pedophilia so rampant on the Left?... In the U.S ... relativism has even seeped into the military. As was recently reported, American soldiers in Afghanistan are now being instructed to ignore the sexual abuse of boys by Afghan allies.” Milo goes on to say that “pro-pedophile activism continues to surface on the Left in a way that it simply doesn’t on the Right. Salon is one of the worst offenders: the left-wing website runs sympathetic features on pedophilia with alarming regularity ... In 2012, the site ran a story entitled, Meet pedophiles who mean well, a story about a group called ‘Virtuous Pedophiles’.”
(The Virtuous Pedophiles website says: “We do not choose to be attracted to children, and we cannot make that attraction go away. But we can resist the temptation to abuse children sexually, and many of us present no danger to children whatsoever. Yet we are despised for having a sexual attraction that we did not choose, cannot change, and successfully resist.”)
Last week’s pedophilia accusations against Milo -- initiated on Twitter by a group called The Reagan Battalion -- are based on partial remarks that he made on two separate podcasts in 2015 and 2016.
Mainstream media quickly picked up the story with headlines such as the USA Today: CPAC boots Milo Yiannopoulos over pedophilia comments” and The Independent: Milo Yiannopoulos: Video of right-wing journalist ‘defending paedophilia’ surfaces online.
But if you watch both interviews in their entirety, Milo’s remarks are nearly the opposite of what he’s being accused of.
In a September 2015 interview on the Joe Rogan Experience – which was done about 10 days after Milo’s article about the left protecting pedophiles – Milo said that as a teenager he was sexually molested by a Catholic priest. Milo then joked about it saying that he liked it. He makes a number of statements, that when edited or taken out of context, have been used to make Milo look bad, but there is nothing in the interview where he condones pedophilia, or non-consensual sex.
And in a January 2016 appearance on the Drunken Peasants podcast Milo made comments that I disagree with and others that could be considered to be provocative, but it is clear that non-consensual sex and pedophilia are not acceptable to him.
Regarding the white supremacist claims against Milo, the charges are dubious given Milo said this in January:
“White pride, white nationalism, white supremacy isn’t the way to go… The way to go is reminding them and yourselves that you should be aspiring to values and to ideas. … You should be focusing on what unites people and not what drives them apart … You shouldn’t give a shit about skin color, a shit about sexuality … You shouldn’t give a shit about gender, and you should be deeply suspicious of the people who do.”
Although I do not know Milo’s real views, and I have not read or listened to everything he has said, his views on white supremacy above are pretty clear, and I haven’t seen any evidence that he is a white supremacist – just accusations.
In fact, Glamour magazine, NBC News, USA Today, CBS and the Los Angeles Times published corrections after running stories that labelled Milo a racist, a white nationalist or a white supremacist.
Blowback on the antiwar movement?
Whether I like it or not, the antiwar movement is lumped in with liberals as a whole, so the treatment of Milo reflects on the rest of us.
Will the everyday person disregard the views of the antiwar community because of the hypocritical behavior of other so-called liberals/progressives/radicals/anarchists, such as those who violently suppress a person’s free speech rights?
The virtual witch hunt of Milo is reminiscent of what happened to Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, and many others. The difference is that this time around the attacks are carried out by people who are historically in the antiwar community’s circle.
Note: The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of St. Pete for Peace.