COMMENTARY: Yiannopoulos's issues with censorship
On Feb. 10, Milo Yiannopoulos began “The Dangerous Faggot Tour” at Rutgers University. The tour criticized the modern-day college campus as overly sensitive and censor-happy. During his speech, feminists and Black Lives Matter protestors stormed into the lecture hall and began chanting, “Black lives matter!” They were met with loud opposition, with the audience repeating, “Trump!” Most news coverage has criticized the protestors, citing disrespect to Milo’s freedom of speech.
I have a lot to say about this.
As a Rutgers alumna, I believe that people should have the right to free speech. I believe that there is a rising call for censorship based simply on the difference of ideas, which I disagree with. For example, Condoleezza Rice was invited to speak at Rutgers Commencement in 2014. However, protests against her speech were so extreme that it persuaded her to back out of the opportunity. In my opinion, that was unacceptable. Universities are a place where people should have uncomfortable conversations. I think what happened at Rutgers spells out a need to define the line between free speech and hate speech.
I am inclined to say that this situation is different from Condoleezza Rice’s issue. Rice's speech was protested because of decisions she made while in office, which she was not planning on speaking about. She was invited to give a speech about her success and leadership as a woman of color. Milo has received notoriety because of the Gamergate scandal, where women protesting the male-dominated gaming culture were doxxed and sent rape and death threats. The word "triggered" was thrown around, both during the scandal and during his speech at Rutgers, in an attempt to delegitimize any rational argument made against what these men believe in. For someone who is giving a university tour based on the need for freedom of speech, he and the rest of Gamergate did a great job of attempting to censor women who disagreed with his ideas.
A lot of people disagree about the way the protest was handled. Sure, it could have been better planned. Hindsight is always 20/20. Some people claim it violated his freedom of speech. People forget, though, that free speech works both ways. If someone says something disagreeable, it's someone else's right to say that they disagree. Barring threats and violence, ironically for Milo, there aren’t many bounds to how you can legally protest another's ideas.
But are Milo’s ideas harmless? Should we be allowing someone who is complicit in threatening women with violence to speak at a university? The fact that he opposes the campus rape crisis is a deeply dangerous idea. As someone who has been sexually assaulted on campus during my freshman year, twice, on the same day, by two different men (one incident was at the front of a campus bus), I can tell you that there is a campus rape crisis. As a sexual assault survivor advocate who was called to report to campus police on the very first weekend of the school year for a sexual assault, I can promise you that there is a campus rape crisis. Denying the problem, and encouraging others to deny the problem, is perpetuating the problem. It delegitimizes thousands of students who have experienced this. People never use the word "triggered" to derail discussions about war or police-related PTSD. Why is it okay, and supposedly hilarious, to use it to derail discussions about PTSD due to rape? My guess is that it's because people don't believe this is a problem. Our trauma isn't real. These words are disgusting to anyone who has experienced this and knows the damage it can cause. These ideas are not harmless to the women and men who know all too well what it really means to be "triggered."
I’m so tired. I’m tired of hearing people talk about false reports of rape — about 2 to 8 percent of reports are false — more than they talk about rape. I'm tired of the media stereotype of a strange man, who hops out of an alleyway, dominating what people think rape is because most survivors know their assailants. I'm tired of people blaming victims for their own assaults. And I'm so tired of people trying to keep rape invisible by denying its prevalence. Milo protests "victim culture," but in doing so, he disregards the fact that victims don't choose to be on the receiving end of this crime. And he disregards the strength that we have within us to be survivors. Protesting the pervasiveness of a crime isn't victimhood, and reacting to a traumatizing event isn't laughable.
To Milo and his followers: Before you claim "freedom of speech violations," make sure you're not stepping on someone else's freedom to voice their opposing opinions, their freedom to privacy and their freedom to live without rape.
Mariel DiDato is a Rutgers University Class of 2015 alumna.
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