Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Milo Yiannopoulos vs. America's So-Called Left: Front Lines in the Free Speech Battle

Let’s face it. The American left is a sick joke. I don’t even call it the left anymore. The “left” rather.

The current American left retains none of the positive aspects of the 20th-century left, but virtually all of the negative ones. It cares little about the serious social problems engendered by crony capitalism, focusing instead on the minutiae of political correctness vis-a-vis this or that clan of professional victims. It’s not so much interested in anyone’s actual rights. No, it is interested in groupthink and authority and its own ability to invent new “rights” to impose on society so as to demonstrate that authority. It is a cult, almost a new religion, of political correctness.

And worst of all, our left is now actually proud of the fact that it hates free speech. Its idea of progress--stated over and over in manifesto and university policy paper and demand list--is to ensure that every walking, breathing citizen agrees to its every ideological demand, and it will bully and silence them until they do so. It claims to champion diversity, but the only kinds of diversity it values are race or sexual preference. Diversity of thought is forbidden. Pro “diversity”, it is anti-pluralist and anti-liberal.

This left was on prominent display again last week at Berkeley, when SJW students threw a hissy fit that ended in a riot in protest against fact that Milo Yiannopoulos was going to speak there. And must of the left press gets it almost exactly wrong. Here’s David Kaye in the Guardian: "Our constitutional commitment to debate, dissent and freedom of expression is bumping up against hateful, attention-seeking speakers who rush up to, and often cross over into, incitement to violence, harassment and hatred."

The problem? The left has no “constitutional commitment to debate, dissent and freedom of expression". Kaye’s piece goes on, predictably, to blame the victims: Milo and those conservative students who wanted him to speak, and some of whom were seriously beaten by left protesters.

“Hateful, attention-seeking speakers”? “[Crossing] over into incitement to violence”? That is a description in this instance of the protesters, Mr. Kaye, not the conservatives who criticize those protesters.

University campuses are regularly visited by hateful speakers, employ hateful professors and are rocked by hateful gangs of students. But hateful as they are, and provocative as their speech might get sometimes, they are almost never called out as hateful and their comments are never called "harassment" or "incitement". Why not? Because these groups target, mock, or “call for action” against 1) men; 2) white people; 3) Christians. It’s not hate or harassment if you’re target isn’t one of the protected identities beloved of our SJW left.

I have spent plenty of time in these milieus, and the hatred that motivates these people is palpable. Yes, most of them do not call for actual violence in their pronouncements, but they do everything they can to shut up or ruin the careers of anyone who does not repeat their mantras. That this is true in our universities is depressing, but not surprising. But it is growing almost equally true in the corporate world.

Milo has never to my knowledge encouraged his admirers to engage in violence, but he has encouraged them to engage in scorn and laughter, neither of which (sorry kids) are "hate speech”. Scorn and laughter are elements of ridicule, and they fit with biting criticism, a necessary part in any democratic society. Ridicule or criticism is in fact what scorn and laughter ARE called when they come from the left. When Milo employs them, however, suddenly it is “hate speech”, and he must be shut up or shouted down or, if a lot of those Berkeley students had their way, beaten to death.

Let's be clear: Milo doesn’t consider black people, or transsexuals, or whatever group of people ridiculous or deserving of mockery per se. He doesn’t consider people ridiculous because of what they are. This is obvious to anyone who takes the time to listen to even a couple of his talks. Rather, what Milo seeks to ridicule are the hypocritical ways different groups politicize what they are through the playbook of our current left politics.

In America we have plenty of hard-edged satirists. One of them, a brilliant satirist on the liberal left, was Jon Stewart. Stewart employed the same arsenal of tropes and tricks used by Milo to make great fun of and throw scorn at: 1) political conservatives; 2) southern people; 3) rural people; 4) religious conservatives. But America called Stewart's work "comedy" or "satire", not "incitement" or "hate speech".

The lesson is: If you are on the left and point out the hypocrisy and stupidity of the left's favorite punching bags (southern whites, rural folks, Christians) it is “comedy”. If you are on the right and point out the hypocrisy and stupidity of left-wing campus ideologues, you are "inciting violence", "harassing", etc.

Our universities are in dire need of reform. It’s getting more obvious by the year. Universities must provide space for speakers or students or professors to speak their minds as long as they do not call for violence. But our campus administrations, fearful of the ire of the student left, functions by a glaring double standard. They do not apply the same standards to speakers on the left as it does to speakers on the right.

University administrations should enact strict policies ASAP that make it clear that protesting visiting speakers is any student’s right, but disrupting their talks or shutting down their talks through mass bullying is censorship and will not be tolerated. Campus police need to start monitoring events and protests and identifying those who seek to disrupt and censor in this way. I’m thinking: One strike and you’re warned, two strikes and you’re expelled.

In fact I'm not optimistic. Most American universities already are going out of their way to implement authoritarian speech codes so as to make everyone feel "welcome" and "safe". This is a grave mistake. University must be a place where young adults debate, where they are challenged out of their comfort zones and shaken out of their preconceived notions. University is not a place where students come to be coddled and celebrated.

It is time to stand up strong against this debased political movement that calls itself the left. Respect for open debate and free speech must be re-established in our public square and especially on our campuses. We need to recognize that free speech is not valuable when it protects popular opinions, but becomes valuable when it protects marginal opinions from being censored. Milo’s talks are well within the bounds of protected free speech. Universities that cannot protect his right to address students who invite him have failed in their most basic mission: to foster open debate between competing social or political views.

Pick up a copy of my collection Idiocy, Ltd. today, deadpan humor so dry it will make your eyes sting, your hair fall out, and paint peel from your walls.

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