By Sean Raycraft
The controversy over Milo Yiannopoulos coming to UC Davis in January has caused a lot of discord in our community over the last few months. Some believe he should not be allowed to come at all. Some think he should be allowed to speak, but we ought to protest him coming here. Others are enthusiastic about him coming here. What has been missing from this discussion is the why. Why did the Davis College Republicans invite this person to speak at UC Davis? What good to the community comes from him being here?
Milo Yiannopoulos is a professional provocateur. When you go to his Facebook page, you will see him promoting himself and Breitbart, the far-right wing website. He does this by asking his followers to buy racist T shirts and coffee mugs. The merchandise says awful things like “Fat Shaming works” or “Goodbye illegals!”. If one is brave enough to look at the comments section on his Facebook page, you will find a menagerie of racist, sexist, xenophobic, sarcastic, transphobic and threatening commentary. A cursory examination will show his fans advocating for genocide, or rounding up progressives and putting them in camps like lepers. Here are a few more gems from his Facebook page.
“Harry Potter and Rape Culture, both Fantasy”
“There’s a new feminist Barbie, when you pull the string it says Math is hard, lets lie about rape”
“Muslims are like a common cold, and leftists are like AIDS, its easy to fight a cold, unless you have AIDS”
“Darlings! BMW has pulled ads from Breitbart, because they are beta socialist cucks from Berlin — or “New Raqqa,” as it’s now known to locals. Don’t buy their cars.”
“People keep saying Sandy Hook was staged”
“there’s nothing irrational about fearing trannies, they’re fucking terrifying! Im serious! They are so scary!”
He also has written several op-eds for Breitbart, where he calls for a quota for women in maths and sciences, and about Black Lives Matter being the only socially acceptable hate group. I haven’t even brought up his notorious role in encouraging his followers to harass and hack actress Leslie Jones, or his role in GamerGate. Seemingly it is his life’s goal to be the next Ann Coulter, to do or say whatever he can to get attention, no matter how ridiculous he sounds. He has stated he thinks white men are discriminated against in the tech industry in favor of women candidates. He says there is a crystal elevator in the tech industry and not a glass ceiling. It is clear to anyone who pays attention that this kind of speech, this kind of advocacy will be harmful to many Davis community members, and by extension, the entire city.
Years ago, I used to be a Republican. It was exactly this kind of hateful rhetoric (and their religious fundamentalism) that turned me off to Republicans. My grandparents who were staunch Republicans would never tolerate this kind of uncivil discourse. So, what has happened to the Davis College Republicans? Why are they inviting this man to UC Davis? To “protect free speech”? Or is it to anger, hurt and divide a largely liberal, tight knit and caring community? Why should public resources be used to facilitate this champion of hatred and bigotry?
I have laid out some of the deplorable aspects Milo represents, but what good could come from Milo coming to Davis? Is there any good? Why did they invite him to come here? What was the process? What public good is served by inviting him here? It is clear to everyone with eyes and ears his presence will cause harm to members of our community. If you were to go look at the Davis College Republicans Facebook page, you will see some comments about “free speech” or social justice warriors” or “Davis is already freaking out about Milo”. I repeatedly reached out for comment from the Davis College Republicans on this issue, here is what they gave me, word for word.
“Among recent attempts to prevent California schools from hosting controversial Breitbart writer Milo Yiannopoulos, some anti-fascist groups have blatantly labeled Milo as a member of the alt-right, a white supremacist, a racist and a fascist, claiming that he must be stopped by “any means necessary”. As a campus club open to challenging our community, we decided to host Milo in order to allow our people the opportunity to hear about ideas, policies, and theories that may be entirely alien to their background. While the Davis College Republicans do not endorse Milo or his speaking points, we do believe that college is a period in life where students must be aware of others’ beliefs and able to support their own values. At UC Davis, we cannot limit ourselves to challenges only in animal science, microbiology, or mathematics. Instead, we have to be committed to challenging ourselves outside of our academics, especially in political and social policies that we will one day develop. It is essential that here, in our college town, we promote healthy conversation about these issues where students can directly hear and question Milo’s ideas. We hope that liberals alongside conservatives attend Milo’s talk with the purpose of pondering his ideas, asking difficult questions, and promoting UC Davis as a place where we challenge the ideas set before us rather than blindly accepting them. As members of this community, and members of the Davis College Republicans, we invite all people to peacefully attend this event.
While I appreciate the College Republicans outlining their reasoning for inviting Milo, they dodged the serious ethical problems of inviting Milo to Davis. I agree that college campuses, ought to be places where the status quo is questioned, and freedom of speech and thought are cherished. I would add that colleges ought to be places that further the knowledge of humanity, and work to solve problems. Sadly, I do not see Milo’s visit as advancing any of these goals.
Desmond Tutu has a famous quote about neutrality in times of oppression, it goes like this.
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”
In this case, the College Republicans have invited the elephant to our community, knowing its going to step on a lot of mice. Moreover, their statement implies that Milo “promotes healthy conversations about issues”. What is healthy about transphonbia? What healthy conversations come from comparing Muslims to AIDS? Is it a healthy discussion to talk about limiting opportunities to women in Math and Science? Is it “healthy” to celebrate and promote someone who makes a living being a shameless self-promoter? What serious discussions and higher level of understanding of complicated issues come from inviting a man who purposefully keeps any discourse at an intellectually sophomoric level? As far as I am concerned, the College Republicans THEMSELVES are responsible for the hurt and pain caused by Milo coming here. Milo is what he is, they know that, the community knows that, and so does Milo. They have a lot to answer for.
Sean Raycraft is a lifelong Davis resident and proud UFCW Shop steward