Milo Yiannopoulos, Breitbart writer, alt-right pundit, and still banned from Twitter, recently had the rug pulled out from under two American university appearances.
According to The Diamondback, Yiannopoulos was scheduled to appear at the University of Maryland sponsored by Terps for Trump, a group which, in their words, “is for high energy University of Maryland Students who wish to elect Donald J Trump for President in 2016.” Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak to the group on October 26.
Terps for Trump, in an EventBrite email, canceled the event, citing high-security costs. The group was able to raise about $2,000 to cover costs, but security, provided by local police, would cost them $6,500.
The reason the student group was cited for the high cost was the need for extra officers and K9 units, along with a change in venue; the security organizers had heard of bomb threats and other incidents at schools which the blogger had spoken at in the past and was sufficiently concerned to consider the extra precautions necessary.
Patrice Ripley of Terps for Trump wasn’t having it, however.
“This move is nothing short of a hecklers veto and is absolutely deplorable. I hope to be able to give more by Monday, the way free speech is being treated on campus is horrendous and unacceptable.”
Breitbart writer Tom Ciccotta, referencing other incidents, referred to it as a case of “security fee censorship” and accused the University of Maryland of “fail[ing] to prepare students to engage with ideas that conflict with their own.”
“It seems that university administrators have failed to realize that the precautions they must take when faced with a controversial guest lecturer are a result of the inability of their students to behave rationally in the face of opposing viewpoints.”
However, university spokesperson Crystal Brown said that the university had never officially confirmed the event, and University Police Special Operations Commander Laura Dyer said that they were not scheduled to provide security at the event – and freshman psychology major Jacob Penrod, who started a petition to keep Yiannopoulos off of the UMD campus, said that he was pleased with the way events concluded.
“Freedom of speech has been protected, but fear and hate is not coming to our campus.”
Meanwhile in a related incident, according to the Wall Street Journal, New York University canceled a Yiannopoulos appearance, again citing security concerns. In NYU’s case, however, they were worried about the security of people at the nearby LGBTQ and Islamic Centers, stating that the students there were “subjects of Mr. Yiannopoulos’s attacks” in an administrator’s letter to the NYU College Republicans group.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education responded that this was, again, an attack on free speech.
“It’s incumbent on administrators to not cut off debate and discussions because people are offended by them. Nobody is being forced to go hear the speaker. In fact, students who are offended and disagree with the viewpoint should seek out the speaker to raise questions and try to them prove them wrong. It’s an intellectual exercise.”
It’s absolutely true that Yiannopoulos frequently attacks groups including (but not limited to) feminists, LGBTQ people (in spite of being openly gay himself,) Muslims, and Black Lives Matter activists. And it’s understandable that local students might not care to have his followers, sometimes referred to as a “hate mob,” gathered nearby; it’s a fairly constant debate whether Yiannopoulos is culpable for his followers’ actions, but they have unequivocally been known to drown targets painted by his articles under a tide of harassment – very often, explicitly bigoted harassment. As the Inquisitr has previously reported, Yiannopoulos was finally banned from Twitter after an attack article provoked a racist harassment campaign against Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones. This all also begs the question: What about Milo’s right to free speech without threat of violence.
When asked for comment, Yiannopoulos responded that the security concerns were “garbage.”
“The only person really at risk at any of my talks is me.”
NYU College Libertarians also expressed their opinion that the decision to cancel the talks was a violation of free speech. NYU College Democrats said that while they had mixed feelings, they generally agreed that Yiannopoulos had a right to speak – but that safety did have to be a priority.
Ultimately, the issue of controversial speakers on college campuses is one of the major issues of our day, and doesn’t have an easy answer – especially in America, which, by and large, does not have anti-hate-speech legislation.
Who do you think is in the right here?
[Featured Image by Drew Angerer/Getty Images]