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In the past couple of months, I’ve seen many, many people complain about protesters blocking entrance to talks on campus by professional instigator Milo Yiannopolous. “No, no”, people say. “Go in and listen and challenge him. Free speech is important. The best counter to bad speech is more speech. Ugh, these protesters are so violent and immature.”
In the past couple of weeks, I’ve seen many, many people say that willingness to punch neo-Nazi Richard Spencer or to appreciate the fact that someone else punched him makes someone equivalent to a Nazi morally. “Noooo”, they say. “If you resort to violence, you have no standing to object to their violent suggestions. You say it’s okay to hit people whose opinions you disagree with. Plus it won’t stop them.”
To everyone who’s found themselves saying one version or another of those: Y’all have no idea what you’re talking about. You’re making stuff up to support your predetermined stance on freedom of speech.
I mean that part about making stuff up literally. No one I’ve heard say anything like this about Yiannopolous has been to one of his productions. I have.
To start with, Yiannopolous makes nearly no arguments in his presentations. He does make assertions, but rather than backing them up with anything, his schtick is to talk about how outrageous he is for saying these things and giggle that it makes people mad at him. No one will be educated on the reasoning of the Right by engaging with him.
What they’ll find instead is demagoguery and Yiannopolous encouraging the audience to suppress dissent. Continue reading “Nazis, No Platforming, and the Failure of Free Speech”