The price of free speech


Ricardo Rodriguez

Among many of the issues dominating the political dialogue of our country, liberals and conservatives have another reason to squabble–free speech. At the forefront of this conflict is Milo Yiannopoulos who has made a career out of his scandalous and often satirical, political commentary. And business is good.

Milo Yiannopoulos’ commerce is outrage. This fueled his large following of people on social media who share his love of gleeful trolling and defiance of political correctness. Despite people siding with Yiannopoulos, many Americans saw his rhetoric as harmful. This reached a tipping point of the University of California at Berkeley.

In Feb. Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak at UC Berkeley, despite strong opposition from students on campus. Things quickly went awry when masked protesters committed acts of vandalism and violence by setting fires and breaking windows. UC Berkeley was forced to cancel the event but not before at least six people were injured.

It is a sad day in America when we silence the voice of others through violence instead of reason. Like many liberals, I vehemently disagree with Milo’s politics, but that does not give me the right to inhibit his ability to speak freely. The point of free speech is to encourage discourse and debate. It allows Americans to deconstruct ideas using words, not violence.

The events that transpired at UC Berkeley gave the right ammunition to vilify the left as extremists. Conservatives viewed it as an opportunity to use Yiannopoulos as a symbol for free speech by inviting him to speak at CPAC as an advocate for the First Amendment.

That is not to say one cannot be held accountable for his or her words, as was the case for Yiannopoulos. Recently, videos resurfaced of the former Breitbart editor making remarks about pedophilia during a podcast:

“Yeah I don’t mind admitting that. And I think particularly in the gay world and outside the Catholic Church if that is where some of you wanna go with this. I think in the gay world some of the most important enriching and incredibly life-affirming, important shaping relationships very often occur between younger boys and older men. They can be hugely positive experiences for these young boys. They can either save those boys from isolation, from suicide.”

That’s not the only instance of Yiannopoulos speaking openly about pedophilia. Milo was also featured on the Joe Rogan Experience describing his inappropriate relationship with a Catholic priest named “Father Michael” when he was a teenager. In both instances, the former Breitbart editor described men having relationships with young teenage boys as positive “coming of age” experiences.

Milo has since apologized for his remarks, but as with anything online, words aren’t easily taken back. The Internet is forever.

As a result of his remarks, Yiannopoulos resigned from his senior editor position at Breitbart, lost his book deal and had his invitation to speak at CPAC  rescinded. Unfortunately for Milo, he became a martyr of free speech. Yiannopoulos thought he was invincible.He thought he was able to speak his mind and deflect criticism using free speech as a shield. He was unaware that words do have real consequences.