Column: Free speech is a two-way street
Even Milo Yiannopoulos deserves free speech rights.
Feb. 15, 2017
The opinions expressed by The Maneater columnists do not represent the opinions of The Maneater editorial board.
Hunter Gilbert is a freshman data journalism major at MU. He is an opinion columnist who writes about rights and tech for The Maneater.
The founding fathers did not get everything right when it came to explaining the rights they believed every American should have. For starters, they didn’t believe these rights applied to everyone in the nation.
What they were successful in doing was expressing how important specific rights were to their vision of a longstanding democratic republic. This is why the First Amendment includes several tenets, some of those being the freedoms of religion, speech and press. In the event that a sovereign state silences all forms of publication that have conflicting viewpoints with the powers that be, the voice and verbal opposition of a populace in the absence of the press would act as the last vessel for the people. It is essential for democratic processes to occur.
Recently at the University of California-Berkeley, a member of the alt-right, Milo Yiannopoulos, had his event canceled due to a concern for his own safety. This was the result of a protest that turned into a riot — one that was not controlled by the police even though their purpose was to maintain order. It goes without saying from my past columns that I do not champion or support rhetoric like Milo’s. He has done some truly despicable things. I do, however, agree with Milo, much like another opponent of his rhetoric, Matt Teitelbaum, when it comes to freedom of speech.
If you have ever actually watched the man speak, he carries himself with an interesting demeanor. He will have a good dialogue with someone with opposing views if they carry their conversation through well-mannered means. If someone is merely screaming at him and calling him names, he will do the same through vicious mockery and heckling. beliefs. It has been that way for over a hundred years and it will remain that way. There is no changing that. So when it was announced that one of the leaders of the UC Berkeley protest believed the protest was successful and that she tolerated the behavior that occurred, it sends a very concerning message. Plenty of protesters acted respectfully, and they deserve praise for doing so. The fact of the matter is the violence and rioting that occurred gave more attention to Milo’s cause. Milo’s book is now an Amazon bestseller thanks to the publicity, and it hasn’t even come out yet. In part, the protest failed since its goal was to keep people from hearing him speak. Violence or silencing your opponent discredits your own side’s credibility.
If you truly want change, make compromises. Talk to people who have different views than your own. Learn about the origins of why they believe in a certain ideology. Don’t surround yourself solely with people who think exactly like you. That only creates a hive mind mentality with an echo chamber effect. It doesn’t lead to any progress. Free speech is useless when your opponent can’t speak for themselves.
He has two sides, one of which I respect. At times, he has openly welcomed actual dialogue from opposing viewpoints. This is rare these days. Society jumps at labeling people without actually listening to them or mislabels a party or person for the shock value or simple discreditation. It’s modern day McCarthyism, but instead with buzzwords like fascist and neo-Nazi, even though sometimes it is warranted. It is the equivalent of crying wolf over and over again. No one will listen to you when the truth is applicable. One does not have to agree with Milo’s beliefs to recognize he values free speech for what it actually promotes: discussion and dialogue between opposing viewpoints.
Back to the protest. One can easily watch the videos of rioters clubbing people with iron pipes or punching a bystander several times even though it is apparent she had done nothing to warrant this. What shocked me the most was a man, already unconscious, being beaten by a group of anti-fascist demonstrators.
There was no uproar and no mainstream condemnations from bipartisan groups for what occurred. For the most part, the response was silence. I may not agree with the people who were clubbed and beaten, but suppressing their civil right to free speech should not be so widely accepted.