‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.’ – The First Amendment, United States Constitution
Milo Yiannopolous, a right-wing provocateur and frequent college speaker, was recently meant to speak at the prestigious University of California, Berkeley. However, it was cancelled due to an overwhelming display of violence by a group of organised far-left protesters. I was left further disillusioned with the way political discourse is currently heading – as someone who vehemently disagrees with Milo Yiannopolous on almost everything, I still believe that he has as much a right as I do to air personal views and engage in peaceful, rational debate.
However, violence is never the answer – property was set on fire and windows were smashed, all because of a speaker who has never himself incited violence.
Far from actually stifling and silencing the views that these protestors find distasteful, it will instead make these views stronger – as is shown by the fact that Milo still continues to tour throughout the U.S and enjoys a huge amount of online popularity. Indeed, one could consider the U.S election a perfect example of what happens when balanced debate is left to the curb in place of tribalism, violence and anger - especially the Anti-Trump riots that happened after the results were announced.
Anti-Fascist protestors who attended Milo’s event said they were there to ironically (to quote one protestor) display their distaste at the “violent rhetoric” of Milo and Trump. However, I struggle to see how one shows disdain for violent rhetoric by using violence. This is the failing of the anti-fascist movements of today – rather than resisting genuine fascism that one can see in the rise of Richard Spencer and the Alt-Right, they are confronting conservative speakers who aren’t even close to being Nazis or fascists. Instead of confronting fascism, they are confronting whatever views they personally disagree with, with the weapon of the intellectually vacuous – violence.
Milo certainly says things that are controversial, but that doesn’t mean he should be attacked. Rather, we should debate, challenge and question what he says.
We would certainly be outraged if a left-wing speaker was attacked by right-wing protestors, and we should apply the same to conservative speakers and thinkers. They have their views, and they have every right to air them and speak on the same platforms that I should have. Providing they aren’t inciting violence, then they should have the right to speak.
The First Amendment is enshrined in the U.S constitution for a reason – and if anti-fascists really want to stay true to their name, then they should allow Milo, or any conservative speaker the right to speak freely without the threat of being attacked or being silenced.
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