July 18, 2019 | 81° F

FINNERTY: Visiting speaker at Rutgers sparks old flame in New Left

Opinions Column: Waxing Philosophical


Surely by this point, one has undoubtedly heard of the visit by Milo Yiannopoulos to Rutgers on Feb. 9. The visit incited protest, which I will get to, in response to previous assertions made by Yiannopoulos. Previous to that, an opinions column written by Matthew Boyer, entitled fatuously, “Overly Sensitive Liberal Students Unprepared for Real World” was featured in this very paper. Before discussing my own personal thoughts on the matter, I’d first like to applaud those who took to protesting. Perhaps a newfound flame has arisen in the Left, one that has been missing for some time.

Working now in order, I first challenge Boyer to please explain what this "real world" is, and what qualifies him to speak on it? Sure, Boyer advocates for free speech, a noble cause, but in the same hand, he seems to be openly advocating for the ability of one to promote hate speech. Well, I invite Boyer to come visit the small union I have toiled at for several years and invite some megalomaniac like Yiannopoulos to speak. I can assure anyone that the Working Left, those union brothers and sisters who live the ideals of the Left with dirt on their hands, would not tolerate hate speech either. Sure, the workplace may lack safe speech zones and similar spaces, but only by virtue of leather and rubber boots enforcing equality. Nothing stops hateful banter like a united group of people who truly wish to preserve the ideals of free speech, not some chimera of vocal abuse under the guise of freedom. Perhaps the real world is much different than that insinuated by Boyer.

Now, call me an old soul more akin to the left of the late 1960s or even more preferably of the early 20th century, but when someone brings an openly racist, homophobic and entirely misogynistic speaker to a public platform — in a major university — they deserve a tussle. Sure, one may speak freely and say what they wish, but there is nothing about the consequence of one’s actions. That, my friends, is the real world.

The tradition of left-leaning rabble-rousing is nothing new, and is in fact an old tradition that I thought passed with the ages. However, hearing of the New Left hitting the streets to protest a bigoted and intellectually void speaker has proven me wrong. When people of like minds and similar values unite for a common good, I suppose Boyer is right in that speech zones are unnecessary. But just remember what the counter response is.

Moving on now to Yiannopoulos, I find it hard to imagine what made him seem like the ideal speaker? Simply putting up with his caustic ramblings and a show pony attitude does not promote free speech, but rather the problem of allowing such an individual air time in the first place. The man is a racist — one could have invited an active KKK member to speak on free speech. Then, to add an even more asinine gleam to this idiot, Boyer writes on his Facebook page, “This is all ironic considering Milo's preference for black male partners,” as if fornication were grounds for exception! Good grief, the ill-minded justification some have. I really question the mind’s cogs and gears for those involved. Bottom line, if you bring a hate-filled chump that's searching for the limelight and will do and say damn near anything, one ought to know that the Left has not been subdued by signs and zones. To borrow from David Bowie, "These children that you spit on as they try to change their worlds are immune to your half-witted consultations.” Again, I find it too ridiculous to speak of the real world and then invite the world’s most boring and reactionary man to speak, and then complain about protesters ruining his free speech.

I wish to pay Boyer some respect, as some is frankly due. I applaud his organization, the Young Americans for Liberty at Rutgers, as they do have honorable motives and intentions — just not the right guests, to put it mildly. I concur that speech zones and other forms of inoffensive insurance are perhaps not ideal for the freedom of speech nor the muscle of the Left, but then again, gone are the days when racist bigots could be chased out of town on account of riot. Where does one draw the line between law and order versus street justice?

Jonathan Finnerty is a School of Arts Sciences junior majoring in classics and philosophy. His column, "Waxing Philosophical," runs on alternate Fridays.


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Jonathan Finnerty

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