Pieter Sittler and Troy Worden’s understanding of “free speech,” as advanced in their Valentine’s Day op-ed, doesn’t stand up to intellectual scrutiny. First, the right to free speech hardly means the right to be paid to speak in whatever venue one chooses. Milo Yiannopoulos is free to preach on any street corner he’d like, and likewise, no one’s stopping him from self-publishing his screeds. But if workers and students on this campus don’t want their fees sponsoring someone who attacks them directly, this seems perfectly reasonable to me.
Second, the content of the “free speech” advanced by the speaker in question is precisely an effort on his part to suppress the speech of others. Whether encouraging a sustained harassment campaign against a transgender student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee or planning to instruct his followers how to facilitate the deportation of undocumented students at UC Berkeley, Yiannopoulos’ whole shtick is to limit the speech of already marginalized groups. Sittler and Worden know this, but like Yiannopoulos, their entire strategy is predicated upon provoking liberals into defending a racist troll.
Last I checked, Yiannopoulos has quite the platform for his transphobic rants. He’s on every major cable news and radio station and in every newspaper. How was his speech limited again? Meanwhile, while everyone is wringing their hands over a scorched generator, I haven’t heard a peep about the student who was shot through the stomach by a Yiannopoulos fan in Seattle a month or so ago. As one of our leaders once wrote, “SAD!”
Zachary Levenson is a UC Berkeley student.