COMMENTARY: Scott Hall protestors should be held accountable for actions
Chancellor Richard L. Edwards’s Feb. 12 email didn’t seem to make anyone happy. His accusation of “incivility” at the Milo Yiannopoulos event on Feb. 9 was very vague, and protesters felt, once again, victimized. It’s safe to say they were the “uncivil” ones, after smearing fake blood on themselves, flipping off people and embarrassing Rutgers on national news. And let’s not beat around the bush: The actions of the protesters were abhorrent. Protests don’t have to be, and the reasonable protesters suffered due to the theatrics of others.
But what happens next? Edwards wrote that, “I believe we can embrace both inclusion and free speech … all need to feel secure in their expression.” As a member of Young Americans for Liberty, I implore Edwards to educate the protestors and hold them accountable — they’re vandals, and it’s clear that they don’t understand inclusion or free speech.
Inclusion doesn’t mean that someone with a negative opinion on a movement you identify with “hates your existence.” Yes, hate speech can make inclusion difficult, but Yiannopoulos’s political incorrectness doesn’t amount to hate: After hearing him speak, it seems the only group he “hates” are self-righteous leftists, and since no one takes the “I feel victimized for being a conservative” argument seriously, let’s not go there. Political affiliation doesn’t count. Moreover, the protesters actually worked against inclusion. Yiannopoulos, the Greek-born British journalist of Jewish descent, was ridiculously accused of supporting the KKK. Yiannopoulos, who has been openly gay longer than any undergraduate there, was accused of being homophobic and having “bad fashion sense” by students audacious enough to speak over his experiences as a homosexual. That’s poor taste, and not inclusive.
Those comments are protected by free speech, which coincidentally does not mean that Yiannopoulos has an obligation to answer your questions when you misbehave. Free speech also doesn’t mean that you have the right to vandalize Scott Hall. And to the people who laugh at that charge, do you think the janitor had the same reaction when he or she saw those stubborn red stains? But I won’t deny that the people who called me a "racist b—" had a right to call me that, even though videotaping a public protest without “consent forms” didn’t make me racist. At least I was a "b—" that knew my rights, since “consent forms” have about as much legal importance on public property as, well, toilet paper. And if anything, the protesters, not Yiannopoulos, attacked me for being a woman.
It’s clear that there’s an incredible burden on the protesters: They must find an actual example of Yiannopoulos inciting hate. No, chanting “Trump!” doesn’t count. They really should’ve done this before, and whatever they find must be so mind-numbingly offensive that the red paint will make sense. Jonathan Finnerty wrote in a column for The Daily Targum last week that the protesters embodied the New Left of the 1960s. I disagree insofar as the New Left was intellectual. The claim that Yiannopoulos was hateful, rather than just conservative, is unfounded. Oh, and what did the college students of the New Left support? Was it free speech?
Edwards’s very vague prose is admirable, but not nearly enough. Take action. Have a conversation with people who were wronged — the janitors, the police officers, the students who genuinely wanted to see Yiannopoulos without disruptions, the hopefuls who waited in the snow only to be turned away. And please, get someone to apologize to Milo Yiannopoulos. Take a look at the protesters, too. Show them what free speech is. Show them that libertarian organizations don’t hate their identities for being libertarian. Inspire them to be critical thinkers. Maybe they should watch a few of Yiannopoulos’s videos before embarrassing themselves, and perhaps ponder, “Is Milo really hateful? Or do I just think he’s icky? If he is hateful, should I leave the fake blood at home and just challenge him civilly? Would that make my cause look better?”
It’ll be good for them when they enter the real world, and Finnerty was right when he said that hate speech isn’t tolerated there. I won’t deny that, but donning yourself with red paint and howling like a banshee at the suggestion that “feminism drives people apart” won’t get you too far, either.
In the meantime, if you’re in doubt, YAL does think you should watch the YouTube video of a protester punching a guy for videotaping the indoor protest. Oh, and Chancellor Edwards: Keep an eye on the cultural centers whose funding went up 50 percent. They sent out a mass email encouraging protests, as published in Boyer’s, "The College Fix" article. Amusingly, the email stated that “shock-value rhetoric” doesn’t reflect society’s values, and was sent to students who amazingly trolled the event better than Yiannopoulos ever could.
And we think we’re worthy of a presidential commencement? Come on.
Andrea Vacchiano is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student majoring in history and political science.
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