Some 53 years later it is apparent the Free Speech Movement spawned at the University of California at Berkeley comes with a big asterisk — * as long as we agree with your views.
Milo Yiannopoulos is not someone I’d embrace let alone be the first person I’d ask to speak if I were in charge of securing the program for a campus political organization should I have membership in one. But then again I wouldn’t embrace and invite Barbara Boxer as my first choice either. Nor would I try to block Yiannopoulos or Boxer from speaking.
That said I would have no issue sitting down and listening to either on a one-on-one basis or reading their views if for no other reasons than they represent many viewpoints that I don’t share. Believe it or not, this thing called democracy works best when we listen and read viewpoints that don’t affirm our perceptions and values.
And while I’ve got to admit I haven’t read the complete works or either Yiannopoulos or Boxer I haven’t seen anything either has written or said that I’d define as socially vulgar such as in hardcore rap songs that are about as demeaning to women and the idea of civilized society that you can get.
I do find things that Yiannopoulos and Boxer stand for that I disagree with stridently or I view as downright revolting. That doesn’t mean I should shut down either one of them by participating in mob rule by trying to silence them in the public square of which public American universities like to claim they are when it comes to the “free” exchange of ideas.
Yiannopoulos’ “crime” as delineated by the self-proclaimed thought police is that he engages in hate speech.
Yiannopoulos is gay but he doesn’t conform to the viewpoints on his sexuality that you’d expect him to embrace. He has issues with what he calls “third wave feminism” and Islam.
There are people out there who engage in male bashing and Christian bashing as stridently as Yiannopoulos does with values he disagrees with yet they’re not labeled as purveyors of hate speech.
By all means protest his appearance while trying to show some decorum by not drowning out his right to speak and the rights of others to listen. But to essentially contend Yiannopoulos has no right to speak in a public forum speaks volumes of where your values as an American are as you stand in the quicksand of your self-righteousness.
Assuming the anti-Yiannopoulos campus crowd are among those having massive coronaries over the federal travel ban they should be having a tough time squaring up their concept of rights and the basic American tenet that protects the minority in cases where the majority lapses into tyranny. It is why we have check and balances. It is why virtually all dissent is protected by being given a long leash under judicial interpretations of the constitution.
Tolerance is essential not for just a society of 325 million souls that are not programmed to be Stepford citizens but for a republic to thrive using personal liberty as its foundation.
Dump on Trump all you want. It’s a free country.
But while you’re doing that you might want to give some thought to what the world would be like if a mob mobilized either by petition, social media or some other means to pressure authorities to silence you by taking away your right to speak in the public square.
The howling and indignation would be deafening.
Wise men some 241 years ago once said freedom and liberty are only secured if they are universal. They can’t be simply reserved for kings, governments, and mob rule.
Mob rule has a nasty way of repressing people. Many become fearful of speaking up. Others become victims of the paranoia mob rule ignites. The liberal studies majors at Berkeley among those wishing to ban Yiannopoulos might want to read up on the Salem Witch Trials that took place in the colony that was the forerunner to deep blue Massachusetts.
What is the danger of letting Yiannopoulos speak?
We are told by the self-proclaimed thought police that it would spread ideas they see as dangerous.
Perhaps they might want to ask for a partial refund of their annual $13,485 tuition. Their professors apparently failed to demonstrate to them that ideals that stand the test of time are ones that are built on a solid foundation and strengthened by fire. Simply shutting down all speech to the contrary ultimately weakens ideals.
If the Berkeley professors and students that want to ban Yiannopoulos from their supposedly intellectual hotbed of ideas and political exchange are so fearful that the idealism they embrace will be forever damage because a 34-year-old Greek-born British gay man with a black boyfriend they might want to look in the mirror while holding up their i-Pad after clicking on the Merriam-Webster online dictionary and searching for “bigot”.
They will see both the definition — “a person who is obstinately or tolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially: one who regards or treats members of a group with hatred or intolerance” — and the personification of that definition.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at email@example.com or 209.249.3519.