Walking into the event “Feminism is Cancer” on Thursday, May 26, at Corwin Pavilion, I had sympathy for the UCSB Young Americans for Liberty. Developments over the last several months seem to have vindicated the campus free speech cause. I’m somewhat bothered by the prospect of banning chalk political statements or the constant interruption and shouting down of conservative speakers across this country.
When Black Lives Matter protestors stormed the stage at DePaul University to prevent Breitbart commentator Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking, it seemed as if the claims about left-wing college students were proven true: They don’t want to hear any opinions other than their own and will actively try to stop them from even being voiced. Suffice to say that as a politically incorrect, libertarian-leaning, diehard free speech proponent, I was ready to hear what speaker Milo Yiannopoulos had to say, even if I disagreed with some of it.
I walked out of the event with a profound contempt for the Young Americans for Liberty and for anyone who believes what Milo Yiannopoulos has to say is valuable. Over the course of the evening, Yiannopoulos called the UCSB gender studies professors along with all gender studies professors carpet munchers and dykes. He repeatedly returned to the right-wing mainstays that all feminists are fat and ugly. He referred to the anger of black female protestors at DePaul, saying “maybe it’s ’cause I fucked all their brothers.”
Personally, I’m the type of person inclined to make light fun of gender studies, but saying “they’re all fucking dykes” about professors at our university is a fairly revolting statement.
Milo Yiannopoulos is gay, you see, and he loves to remind everyone that he likes to fuck black guys. I couldn’t help but think that it had to be uncomfortable for the small handful of black people I saw in the audience to hear the largely white group laugh at all the black dick jokes in a generally mean-spirited way.
Personally, I’m the type of person inclined to make light fun of gender studies, but saying “they’re all fucking dykes” about professors at our university is a fairly revolting statement. When Milo Yiannopoulos “jokes” and his audience laughs, it’s clearly an attempt to hurt people (when they do laugh, even this crowd treats some of his forced quips with awkward silences). I’d like to ask the attendees if they wouldn’t be at least a little ashamed if they were to come face-to-face with the feminist studies professors at this school. Yiannopoulos certainly isn’t. When a feminist studies lecturer questions him, he tells her she’s been “gobbling” too much and that lesbianism isn’t real.
Along with his torrent of bile, Milo Yiannopoulos did articulate a few salient points which might have otherwise been persuasive. The idea that sexual assault statistics have been fraudulently or deceptively presented, or that the gender wage gap is founded off of deceptively presented research, have merit. But the content of Yiannopoulos’s arguments isn’t remotely the point of his speech.
The arguments he present become so obscured by how fundamentally caustic he is, you come to realize the point is to provoke people. Yiannopoulos injected his speech with claims like “nobody wants to fuck Amy Schumer,” which should tell you how interested he is in persuading anyone. Up until now, he has been fueled by the rowdy protests attempting to shut him down, making him look like an unfairly persecuted dissenter.
Yiannopoulos praised the UCSB audience for its civility, but you could tell he was a little put out by not having a disruption. And when he gets the chance to speak uninterrupted, he’s so vile I think even his supporters catch on a little. Joking that “if American campuses really were such hotbeds of rape, I’d spend even more time on them,” he elicited groans from the audience.
During the question-and-answer section, I spoke with Yiannopoulos. He and his supporters always reply to interruptions by saying that you can have a chance to speak with a question. This is part of the Young Americans for Liberty narrative about just wanting to start a discussion.
What they don’t say but what should have been made evident is that this portion is the opportunity for him to belittle anyone who disagrees with them. One individual, speaking politely, questioned if the constant insults undermine Yiannopoulos’s message. Audience members responded by heckling him, shouting out “triggered” (the reference to “trigger warnings” is a favorite pejorative of this crowd).
Yiannopoulos loves to peddle the stereotype of feminists as fat, ugly dykes. I wanted to see what would happen if confronted with the stereotype of his supporters: that they’re schlubby guys who can’t get laid.
My own question referred to the fact that Yiannopoulos likes to mock people based on their appearance, but meanwhile a frequent derision of his supporters is that they’re a bunch of virgins. There’s a large contingent of Yiannopoulos’s opponents who contend that his supporters hate women because they’re insecure about their sexuality. If you look at the “Feminism is Cancer” Facebook page you’ll see a barrage of insults alleging the sexual inexperience of the attendees.
Yiannopoulos loves to peddle the stereotype of feminists as fat, ugly dykes. I wanted to see what would happen if confronted with the stereotype of his supporters: that they’re schlubby guys who can’t get laid. I think it bears mentioning at this point that I had to shout the second half of my question, as audience members had begun to drown me out with boos and shouts. By then, I wasn’t surprised that many of the people in the audience didn’t really believe that you shouldn’t shout people down or interrupt them. They only believed it for people who agreed with them.
Yiannopoulos’s response was telling, though. He started off by saying that feminists actually are fat, but his supporters aren’t the losers they’re made out to be. He claimed this mockery was “evidence-based.”
“Sometimes young men can’t, and as a Christian, I believe it’s important for the strong to protect the weak, and in many cases the young men you’re describing do have problems. They sometimes aren’t the most socially fluent. They sometimes aren’t the most sexually fluent. Fuck you for putting those people down,” he said.
What Yiannopoulos appeared to be insinuating is that it’s petty and cruel to mock people based off of superficial characteristics. He even called the premise of my question an “ugly, nasty, cruel generalization.” He’s probably right, but when someone who fairly breezily labels his opponents as cunts and dykes at an event that itself should be called “ugly, nasty, cruel generalizations,” takes the moral high ground with you and sanctimoniously shames you for mirroring their invective, it makes you reel with the sheer cognitive dissonance.
When someone like Yiannopoulos — who places at least as much emphasis on making fun of overweight girls as he does his actual points — says that he believes the strong should protect the weak, you really don’t know whether to laugh or cry or vomit.
Yiannopoulos is a cancer on the discourse. Contrary to the organization’s claim, he doesn’t generate productive reactions.
Under what justification did the Young Americans for Liberty bring these dick jokes and lesbian slurs to our campus? The president of the UCSB YAL chapter, Dominick DiCesare, convened the talk with a spurious disclaimer.
“Students deserve the opportunity to discuss issues on this campus without fear of being silenced or shouted down. It is for this reason we bring a provocative man like Milo Yiannopoulos to this campus. It is important to note that YAL does not endorse what Milo says necessarily […] what we do endorse is his right to speak freely on all issues.”
That sounds reasonable enough. Too bad it’s not true. Not hosting certain speakers, canceling certain speakers, even interrupting speakers may very well be juvenile, but they’re not censorship issues. Hundreds of millions of Americans are not and will never be invited to speak on a college campus. Their free speech isn’t being violated. The first amendment does not guarantee you an unlimited forum for your views at all times at all places. YAL knows this, as during the question-and-answer section they restricted the ability of individuals to expand and reply.
That policy is their right; the talk is their event, just like colleges have the right to deny speakers or cancel speakers due to student protest. The first amendment does not oblige other people to give you a microphone and auditorium.
YAL’s other claim, that having someone like Yiannopoulos makes for healthy discourse, is equally disingenuous. Yiannopoulos is a cancer on the discourse. Contrary to the organization’s claim, he doesn’t generate productive reactions. He transforms the discourse into a game of goading, insults and pettiness. When your speaker calls the people who disagree with you fat, ugly dykes, how can you be surprised when they call you losers that can’t get laid?
YAL isn’t serious about opening up a forum for discussion, though. If they were then they’d have condemned Yiannopoulos. “Feminism is Cancer” made clear that they’re interested in the exact same insular and self-confirming echo chamber that they claim their opponents are.
Inviting conservative and libertarian and anyone with a rarer point of view to speak on our campus is a noble objective. So is debating and disputing the statistics about sexual assault and the gender wage gap. But what I’ll say to the Young Americans for Liberty is that you really don’t want what Yiannopoulos espoused: for life to be more like an internet comments section.
Because people could criticize how your event was a total sausage-fest. They could mock you about the creepy, middle-age guys who showed up. They could use the fact that there is possibly a higher proportion of guys in YAL who are shy or awkward around girls as a weapon against you, just like you used the fact that there might be a higher proportion of girls who are heavier or have dyed hair in left-wing circles against your opponents.
When the spirit of your event appears to be such emotionally motivated petty insults, concluding that the motive is an underlying insecurity seems compelling. You can repeat that you’re trying to start a discussion as much as you want, but no one will believe you when you spend all your time instigating a shouting match.