The last time a huge crowd gathered in San Luis Obispo, upwards of 10,000 people marched in peaceful solidarity for the causes of equality and respect.
The next time a huge crowd gathers here, it won’t be peaceful; it will be divisive rather than unifying, and someone may get hurt.
That’s the prospect we’re facing Tuesday night when “alt-right” rabble-rouser Milo Yiannopoulos brings his traveling dog-and-phony show to Cal Poly’s Spanos Theatre.
Yiannopoulos, the gay Brietbart News personality, is in the midst of his cross-country “Dangerous Faggot” tour, which consists of him busing from one respectable university to another and acting like an utter jerk, to the delight of fans who cheer his no-filter opinions and this growing strain of conservatism that mixes racism, white nationalism and populism.
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His events regularly generate protests.
Despite that, Yiannopoulos has continued on his way, spouting hate toward women, Muslims, other minorities and anyone who has the gall to challenge him.
His supporters fancy him a champion of free speech who’s bringing fresh opinions to American college campuses, which they see as dens of far-left censorship.
They characterize him as a hero for modern times, keeping it real for the poor, huddled conservative masses, who’ve been crushed under the boot heel of the left for too long now.
The truth is, they’re just bandwagoning the latest extremist demagogue, an exploitationist who’s realized he can make a buck and generate fame by acting as obnoxiously as possible.
Like any reality show, it makes for good YouTube fodder.
In fact, Yiannopoulos is nothing more than your average playground bully, dressed in a Don Johnson suit and mirrored shades.
But who is he, really?
He’s a narcissist preacher brought to spread the gospel of selfishness.
He’s a wandering troubadour belting out a siren song of hate and disillusionment.
He’s a tuning fork of spite vibrating against courtesy and kindness.
On the family tree of conservative celebrities, he’s Rush Limbaugh’s more-outrageous and ostentatious nephew, a guy who keeps his gold around his neck rather than on his microphone.
If Donald Trump and Ann Coulter had an illegitimate gay son from the United Kingdom, he’d be Milo Yiannopoulos.
You get the picture. His acolytes paint a different one.
“Milo is a leading critic of the systematic censorship found on college campuses,” Cal Poly College Republicans President Katherine Rueckert told The Tribune in December. “Many individuals think that his ‘politically incorrect’ speech is refreshing. He has struck a chord that resonates with young people, which has contributed to his rise in popularity. … (Yiannopoulos) is willing to ask questions that are uncomfortable.”
There’s so much wrong with that statement, I don’t know where to begin. But here goes:
First, there is no “systematic censorship” on college campuses, at least not in any onerous form. If there were, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion, because administrators would have pulled the plug on his microphone a long time ago. Just because universities don’t offer degrees in “white, male studies” doesn’t mean they’re limiting your views.
Second, whatever chord he has struck with young people is hardly as broad as that statement suggests, judging from the number against him as opposed to for him.
And finally, being “willing to ask questions that are uncomfortable” is just code for acting rude, arrogant and inconsiderate.
They aren’t the same thing at all.
In fact, the target of this whole outrage movement on the right is nothing sinister or oppressive. It’s just people being nice.
That’s what “political correctness” is.
It’s being polite and decent. It’s being thoughtful and willing to walk in the shoes of another. At its most imposing, it’s listening and shifting your behavior — ever, ever so slightly — to appreciate differences.
That’s all. If it rubs you the wrong way a little bit, I won’t cry one little tear for you.
So someone said “happy holidays” instead of “merry Christmas.” Who cares?
They gave you a heartfelt greeting. Is that not enough? Must you bend them and the rest of the world to your will as well? Must you judge and preen and crow?
Yiannopoulos would say yes, and he’d drop an F-bomb on you in the process, and tell you you’re fat and worthless.
That’s not a recipe for peace in America. It’s a recipe for a riot.