A group of Berkeley Free Speech Movement veterans have written an open letter defending Breitbart Senior Editor MILO’s right to speak while criticizing professors who have sought to have him banned from campuses around the state.
Despite proclaiming a great distaste for the self-proclaimed Dangerous Faggot and describing him as a “bigot” and “Hitler Youth with cool sunglasses,” the group brought up their struggle and fight during the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, expressing disappointment that professors at the Berkeley campus would ever want to censor a speaker based on their views.
“As veterans and historians of the Free Speech Movement, we are writing to comment on the forthcoming visit to Berkeley of Milo Yiannopoulos,” they declared in their letter, published by the Daily Californian. “Banning him just plays into his hands politically, which is one reason why we were glad to see the UC administration refuse to adopt such a ban. True to form, however, Yiannopoulos and his Berkeley College Republican sponsors nonetheless put on their phony free speech martyrdom routine when the administration asked them to pay for security needed to ensure that the incendiary bigotry of their event does not end in bloodshed.”
Berkeley’s free speech tradition, won through struggle — suspension, arrest, fines, jail time — by Free Speech Movement activists is far more important than Yiannopoulos, and it is that tradition’s endurance that concerns us. The content of speech or advocacy should not be restricted by the university”: That’s what the pivotal Dec. 8 resolution says, as adopted by the Berkeley faculty’s Academic Senate when it finally backed the FSM’s free speech demand in 1964. Under the terms of that resolution, even the worst kind of bigot, including Yiannopoulos, must be allowed to speak on campus. So the UC administration was acting in accord with those principles when it refused to ban Yiannopoulos.
We were thus disappointed that so many Berkeley faculty signed an open letter supporting such a ban and criticizing the UC administration for refusing to ban Yiannopoulos. The best way to battle his bigoted discourse is to critique and refute it. And really, that is not hard to do. Just have a look at his speeches, which are devoid of logic and humanity. For example, one of his speeches we read online finds him arguing against criticism of racial slavery in the U.S. since many societies had slavery, which is basically a kind of moral relativism for dummies. If even a 10th of the 100 or so faculty who signed those pro-ban open letters showed up to ask this bigot tough questions or held a teach-in about what’s wrong and unethical in his vitriol (and in the rest of the so called “alt right”), they could puncture his PR bubble instantly, avoid casting him in the role of free speech martyr and prove that the best cure for ignorant and hateful speech is speech that unmasks its illogic, cruelty and stupidity. At a time when we have a bigoted president taking office in the White House it seems especially important for universities to expose and refute bigoted speakers — banning them evades that responsibility.
Robert Cohen, Bettina Aptheker, Susan Druding, Lee Felsenstein, Barbara Garson, Jackie Goldberg, Lynne Hollander Savio, Steve Lustig, Anita Medal, Jack Radey, Gar Smith, Barbara Stack are the Free Speech Movement Archive Board of Directors.
Earlier this month, a long list of professors and faculty at UC Berkeley, the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement in the 1960s, demanded that MILO be banned from campus.
In their letter to UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, the professors falsely accused MILO of advocating “white supremacy” and claimed that though they allegedly support free speech and academic freedom, MILO should be counted as an exception.
“We are writing to implore you to cancel a planned speaking engagement by Milo Yiannopoulos, who has been invited by Berkeley College Republicans for February 1, 2017,” wrote the professors in the letter. “We support both freedom of speech and academic freedom on campus and realize that controversial views must be tolerated in any campus community dedicated to open debate and opposed to censorship. Although we object strenuously to Yiannopoulos’s views – he advocates white supremacy, transphobia, and misogyny – it is rather his harmful conduct to which we call attention in asking for the cancellation of this event.”
“We will enumerate some of his views below, but also then focus on his conduct, the repetition of which would clearly violate the codes of conduct that operate to keep the campus a harassment-free space for our whole community,” they continued. “We understand that if a decision to cancel were based on the political viewpoints he holds, we ourselves could become subject to censorship under other circumstances. We support robust debate, but we cannot abide by harassment, slander, defamation, and hate speech.”
Chancellor Dirks defended MILO’s right to speak on campus in a response letter, receiving backlash from many of the censorship-supporting professors.
Student organizers of the event were also doxed by far-left extremists, with their personal details and even a workplace address being published online in an attempt to direct harassment at the College Republicans.