On Oct. 31, I attended an event hosted by the Cal State Fullerton College Republicans club with Milo Yiannopoulos as the guest speaker. I also invited a friend who said he was scared to attend a conservative talk on a public university campus given the events that occurred last February at UC Berkeley.
In the weeks leading up to his visit, many people already started protesting Yiannopoulos’ appearance with a push the panic button.
First, the Humanities and Social Sciences Inter-Club Council approved a memorandum denouncing Yiannopoulos’ speech over civility concerns, but isn’t freedom of speech a civil right itself?
In early September, some students raised signs in a silent demonstration calling on CSUF President Mildred García to “protect her students.”
Protection from what? An ogre with an appetite for liberals?
Furthermore, over 70 faculty members signed a statement asserting that Yiannopoulos’ visit would disrupt campus. Even CSUF’s Children’s Center and the Student Recreation Center both closed at 3:30 and 4 p.m., respectively, because Yiannopoulos was coming to town.
As if that wasn’t enough, Dean of Student Affairs Hallie Hunt sent an email on Oct. 9 elaborating on the notion of free speech as if it were a new invention. Hunt said that “resources are available on campus for students seeking additional support during this challenging time.”
Did she mean support in the form of psychological therapy over a simple speech? And what has become of the home of the brave when a political event is considered a challenging situation?
Last but not least, García expressed in early September that it is a “painful thing” for her personally to allow Yiannopoulos to speak.
The examples of the fanatic frenzy from both faculty and students go on and on. For a moment, one would think that Satan himself was about to pay our campus a sinister stopover.
However, despite all the foofaraw, tickets for Yiannopoulos’ talk were sold out.
On the evening of the event, I took a moment to listen to what the protesters, some of whom were wearing gas masks, had to say. One chant that dismayed me was “Up, up, up with the people. Down, down, down with the racists” as if the event attendees were animals.
Moreover, one person carried a sign that read “Hate Free Zone” and one could ironically see the hate in his eyes. Another sign read “Immigrants In, Racists Out” and I couldn’t help but think about my own family members. What about immigrants who do not share their views?
Yiannopoulos touched on a variety of topics ranging from the waves of sexual harassment allegations surrounding Hollywood, to the over sensitivity concerning Halloween costumes deemed inappropriate.
For the most part, Yiannopoulos was more of a comedian than a lecturer, and the only controversial comments he made were humorous. For example, he joked that “the only thing I can’t find a sexy version of is Michelle Obama because no one is attracted to transsexuals” and “no wonder liberal women think all men are rapists because they think all men are like liberal men.”
As the crowd burst into laughter, I almost forgot how it sounds to make fun of liberals given the plethora of comedians mocking conservatives on a daily basis.
However, Yiannopoulos’ best moment was when he wholeheartedly proclaimed America as the only place where he is allowed to be himself, even more than his native country England, because of its freedom.
While exiting, angry protesters yelled “Racists!” at us. Thankfully, what happened at Berkeley wasn’t repeated at Fullerton, because of the much-appreciated police presence.
All in all, nothing Yiannopoulos uttered was worthy of the overreaction that preceded the event, unless stating an opinion or even a joke contrary to that of some is considered offensive nowadays.
At the end of the day, it’s not about what Yiannopoulos said or what he didn’t say. It’s about us, how we view one another, how we react to different perspectives and how we treat each other as Americans.
Finally, I’d like to remind our faculty members first, and my fellow students second, of the famous quote by English writer Evelyn Hall: “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”
CSUF civil engineering graduate student