I saw a report on BBC Breakfast this morning which showed students from the University of Berkeley rioting over an appearance by the right wing provocateur Milo Yiannopolous.
It struck me as an incredible overreaction, what has Yiannopolous done to deserve such ire? Is he wanted for war crimes in the former Yugoslavia? Does he believe in sterilisation for disabled people? Nope, he appears to be guilty of being an alt-right arsehole.
Here I would agree with the protesters, Yiannopolous is an alt-right arsehole, but do I believe he should be denied the right to speak? Of course not. If you don’t like him, don’t go to listen to him speak, or go and try to debate and defeat his ideas. We seem to have lost the ability to listen to different points of view, however toxic we find them, universities and students are especially guilty of this. It is also ironic that the same students talk about hate speech and safe spaces whilst burning and smashing anything in sight.
It is a mystery to me why Yiannopolous makes people so utterly furious. From what I have seen, he doesn’t seem to be particularly intelligent, has little of substance to add to any discussion and has no discernible talent for writing (one thing we have in common). Despite this, he makes left wingers and liberals want to burn things down at the mere suggestion of his presence, the human personification of the rage virus.
There are various versions of the Yiannopolous character. There was the time when he published plagiarised poetry under the name Milo Andreas Wagner, the conservative commentator who seemed slightly sane, followed by the tech journalist who did not pay his contributors, to his final incarnation, the outrageous alt right, Trump supporting, paedophile hiding rent-a-gob. He once wrote a piece about Mo Ansar being a Walter Mitty character, I think it is clear that he is one too.
There are many other questionable aspects to his character. He has real distaste for Muslims despite once claiming to have a Muslim boyfriend. He claims to be part Jewish but subscribes to anti-Semitic tropes about Jews running everything. He’s a rabid Catholic who would loved to be cured of the affliction of being gay. Finally, he is alleged to have raised $100,000 for white male only university grants, except that this money has vanished into thin air, perhaps it’s just resting in his account? (h/t Father Ted).
Despite all this, and his Twitter ban, Yiannopolous has carved out a healthy niche for himself, and has recently been rewarded with a $250,000 book deal. Never underestimate the power of a posh English accent.
In conclusion, whilst Yiannopolous is a attention seeking troll, there is no justification for the destruction Berkeley students have caused over his scheduled appearance. Denying his right to free speech only emboldens him and his ilk. To riot over his appearance brings shame on Berkeley and its students, the University that staged the free speech student protest.
Or like me, they should ignore him, then write a blog filled with mild abuse.