THE ISSUE: The UC Berkeley College Republicans invited Milo Yiannopoulos to speak on campus. Protests erupted in response, leading to the event being canceled. The violent protest came from a non-student organization, but the event inspired substantial debate over free speech on campus. You can read the other side here.
Our disagreement is really about what free speech is and what its limits are. On one side, you have an alt-right figure whose views are pretty extreme. He has called feminism toxic, attacked transgenderism and labeled campus rape culture a myth. His views should never be normalized because they enable hate. On the other side, you have a liberal university culture. To these students, Milo’s words are emotionally traumatic, and by extension, they serve as an assault on their person in a way that warrants banishment.
While I am aware of my privilege and empathetic to those Milo belittles, violence is still not justified. No one has the right to live free of content that offends them. The victim card is not one that supersedes someone else’s right to speak. What you do have a right to do is use your freedom of speech to fight back. You can organize a peaceful protest, engage in discourse with those you disagree with and publicly condemn organizations that support speakers whose beliefs you find repugnant. Attacking others and causing over $100,000 in property damage are not included in those rights.
People often conflate my support of Milo’s right to speak with support for his views; this is not the case. I disagree with all of his views, with the exception of those on free speech. Taking away freedoms sets a dangerous precedent that can be hard to undo. When you allow people to believe opposing views violate a nonexistent right, they will believe that censorship is not only justified, but also the only solution to the disagreement. Creating such an unhealthy culture of discourse with suppression is precariously fascist, which is why I believe we should err on the side of freedom. Milo sucks, but censorship is worse.