Free speech and violence on campus
Sir, – Those who participated in violent protests at the University of California, Berkeley, this week, with the aim of preventing an appearance by Milo Yiannopoulos, have done more to empower the Breitbart contributor and his fellow Trump-adoring acolytes than allowing him to speak ever would have.
Yiannopoulos has become a darling of Trump’s America by promoting thinly veiled xenophobia and intolerance through his speeches, columns and various media appearances. He has convinced many across the Atlantic that he offers insightful social commentary by virtue of his eloquence, upper-class English accent and regular reminders that he is homosexual and therefore supposedly incapable of being prejudiced.
What he says may be an affront to many of us who subscribe to the liberal principles of tolerance, religious freedom and acceptance of diversity.
However, preventing him from speaking to those who wish to hear him is a greater violation of the liberal principle of free speech.
That the protestors used violence to do so further strips them of whatever liberal credentials they presumably would claim to hold.
One should not fight intolerance with further intolerance. In a truly liberal society, free speech is not just extended to those with whom college students agree.
Aside from these violations of classic liberal principles, the protestors’ actions are entirely counter-productive to their cause and actually add to the iconic status Yiannopoulos is fast assuming in alt-right circles. Short of inciting violence, Yiannopoulos and others like him should be allowed to spout whatever bile they please.
Not allowing him to do so simply adds to the damaging narrative of snowflake liberals that are unwilling to credit the general public with the ability to recognise prejudice when they see it. – Yours, etc,
Ballyneety, Co Limerick.