Milo Yiannopoulos, and What Free Speech Does and Does Not Mean

white male hand grabbing microphone

I don’t believe we have to discuss this again. But apparently we do.

The right to free speech does not give someone the right to other people’s platforms and microphones. You can respect someone’s right to free speech, and not give them your own space and audience.

You don’t have to invite someone to speak on your campus. You don’t have to interview them in your newspaper or magazine, on your TV show or podcast. You don’t have to let them comment in your blog or Facebook page or YouTube channel. You don’t have to give them a book deal. People are not entitled to these things, and in fact most people don’t get most of them. I haven’t been invited to speak at the University of California, and this doesn’t obstruct my free speech. I can speak in other places.

When you give your platform and your microphone to hateful, bigoted, dangerous fascists known for ugly harassment, it gives them legitimacy. It makes their ideas seem mainstream. It doesn’t necessarily say that you agree with them, but it says you think their ideas are worth considering and are a subject for reasonable debate.

Milo Yiannopoulos is part of a highly dangerous movement, a movement that has been empowered and emboldened by the 2016 presidential election. If successful, this movement will result in a rise in bigoted and xenophobic hatred, a massive upsurge in violent hate crimes, a loss of basic civil rights, severe restrictions on science and education — and yes, the suppression of free speech, for individuals as well as media organizations. Some of these things are already happening; others are already beginning to happen. Do you really want to give this movement your platform, your microphone, and your audience?

History has its eyes on us. In twenty years, fifty years, a hundred years, we will be judged by how we responded to this crisis. Do you want to be one of the people who helped the Nazis reach more people?

In the past, when people have argued that they’re entitled to other people’s platforms (such as commenting on blogs or Facebook pages), I’ve often illustrated the absurdity of this by asking, “Would you let people spew openly hateful racism on your platform? Would you let people advocate genocide on your platform? Would you let Nazis use your platform?” It is highly distressing to learn that for many people, including people I’ve considered colleagues and allies and even friends, the answer is Yes.

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Milo Yiannopoulos, and What Free Speech Does and Does Not Mean