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colleges and universities have been in the bull’s—eye of this ongoing debate with conservatives now emboldened with Trump’s presidency to challenge aggressively the politics of “political correctness.” Yiannopoulos’s cancelled visit to Berkeley due to student protests were spun by conservatives as antithetical to free speech and viewed by liberals as hate speech.
“An epidemic of speech suppression has taken over college campuses,” Matt Schlapp chairman of the group which sponsors CPAC told the Hollywood Reporter of Yiannopoulos’ cancelled appearance at Berkeley.“ Milo has exposed their liberal thuggery and we think free speech includes hearing Milo’s important perspective.”
Yiannopoulos has been uniquely positioned in transforming his public vitriol and provocation as the symbolic voice and victim of the not “politically correct” oppressed. He has deliberately exploited the tensions between the two camps, employing his brand of hate speech, to stretch the perimeters of how far he can go protected not only under the First Amendment, but also with his audience.
As an infamous internet troll, for example, Twitter suspended Yiannopoulos account only after an onslaught of targeted racist and sexist diatribes hurled at Saturday Night Live comedian Leslie Jones was derided by an explosion of celebs coming to Jones’s defense.
I believe free speech not only has its limits, but that it also has a level of responsibility to promote civil discourse for the welfare of others, and reject hate speech which is a precursor to violence. While we know, we cannot scream “fire’ in a crowded cinema, because of the potential harm it could create it is equally inappropriate to hurl epithets and threats which Yiannopoulos did unapologetically. And he engages in hate speech aimed at historically disenfranchised groups and individuals with the sole purpose of enflame divisions not only on college campuses but also across the country.
When hate speech becomes an accepted norm we have a problem.
Hate speech is not a passive form of public speech. And one of the signs of an intolerant society is its hate speech, whether used jokingly or intentionally, aimed at specific groups of people.
Also, when this form of verbal abuse becomes part and parcel of the everyday parlance and exchange between people, we have created a society characterized by its zero-tolerance of inclusion and diversity, and where name-calling becomes an accepted norm.
Language is a representation of culture, and it perpetuates ideas and assumptions about race, gender, religion, and sexual orientation that we consciously, and unconsciously, articulate in our everyday conversations about ourselves and the rest of the world, and consequently transmit generationally.
The liberation of a people is also rooted in the liberation of abusive language in the form of hate hurled at them. Using epithets, especially jokingly, does not eradicate its historical baggage, and its existing social relations among us.
Instead, using them dislodges these epithets from their historical context and makes us insensitive and arrogant to the historical injustices done to specific group of Americans.They allow all Americans to become numb to the use and abuse of the power of hate speech because of the currency these epithets still have. And lastly, hate speech thwarts the daily struggle in which many us engage in trying to ameliorate human relations - something Yiannopoulos was antithetical to.