Milo Yiannopoulos is the kind of despicable and incendiary individual whose very presence on campus gives UD’s preening leftists the uncontrollable desire to write an open letter asking administration officials to ban him from speaking at our university. And so it was that last week in The Review such a letter was reprinted for the entire student body to see.
In case you didn’t know, Mr. Yiannopoulos has been invited by the College Republicans to make a stop on his “Dangerous Faggot Tour” to our fair university, and speak at some length on his views on society, culture and politics. The open letter signed by several RSOs summed up his views upon those topics as “racist, sexist, rape-denying, anti-immigration, Islamophobic and homophobic.” After all, it is not without some justification that he was banned from Twitter, and his speaking tour has encountered similar challenges from other universities. But does that make it right for us to do the same?
I would argue, that no, it does not make it right for us to ban him from our university. He may be the antithesis of everything we value, but he does not weaken those values by being able to voice opposition to them, in fact I would argue letting him speak strengthens them. A good challenge allows us to reaffirm our convictions with new strength as new attacks allow for innovative defenses of our own beliefs. And even if you are already supremely confident in your opinions and are totally resistant to alteration there are still benefits to accommodating his presence. Events that cause a lot of tension and opposing ideas that contrast sharply bring a lot of attention to both sets of ideas. If the leaders of these RSOs truly believe in the morally authority of their own ideas, than the opportunity to display their superiority should be welcomed.
We do an intellectual disservice to ourselves not to at least entertain opposing points of view. Some may well ask if we are entitled to any standard of civility and politeness when we engage with opposing ideas, and I would say that we are. But we must admit that these are entirely subjective considerations. In the current political atmosphere of the “anti PC” crowd versus the “safe spaces” crowd, one man’s off-color witticisms are another man’s hate-speech. In this bifurcated debate on public appropriateness it is likely we will face many situations which challenge each side’s understanding of the other. Let us take this opportunity to examine the limits of our comfort zone.
Aristotle said that it is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. If nothing else is clear about Mr. Yiannopoulos, it is that he is entertaining. Much like a poorly produced scary movie, Mr. Yiannopoulos’ ideas and the way he presents them are at once horrifying and hysterical. It may just be schadenfreude, but I like to watch some of those from my own team squirm once in awhile. As a lifelong Democrat I know how easy it is to fall into the echo chamber of reflexively treating those who disagree with us as idiots and more recently as bigots. We must resist this emotionally satisfying, but ultimately pointless urge to see and hear only that which pleases us. While it may be hard, we must find a way to laugh off and take lightly the subversive ideas which Mr. Yiannopoulos will no doubt spew forth.
The university’s motto is “Knowledge is the light of the mind.” We must seek knowledge from even the most unsavory and unorthodox of sources if we are to properly enlighten ourselves. I encourage the university administration to look past these reactionary calls for silence, and fully embrace the motto on which we base our intellectual advancement.
-Evan Butler is a senior International Relations major at the university. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.