In less than a week, Breitbart tech editor and infamous provocator Milo Yiannopoulos will appear at Spanos Theatre. On Jan. 31, the campus of Cal Poly will erupt with protests, long lines and bad behavior. I will be there as well, hopefully not doing something stupid.
The Cal Poly College Republicans have invited speakers before. Christina Hoff Sommers, Ben Shapiro, Bill Whittle, Steven Crowder are just a few of them. None has generated as much controversy as Yiannopoulos.
So why did the Cal Poly College Republicans invite such a man, who is known for his provocative speech, his crass jokes and trolling? Why did we invite a man who often goes out of his way to troll liberals, socialists, feminists, Muslims and others?
From my own personal beliefs, they invited Milo because he is one of the leaders of the new conservative movement and a defender of free speech. Breitbart, whether you love it, hate it or something in between, was instrumental in this election, and its former CEO Steve Bannon is now serving as an adviser to President Donald Trump.
Does Yiannopoulos say some very unpleasant things? Yes, he does. Islamophobia is ripe within the conservative movement and he preys on this, citing anti-LGBT acts happening in the Middle East by Islamist terrorist groups and theocratic governments that give money to Hillary Clinton. He was banned from Twitter because he helped facilitate harsh attacks on black actress Leslie Jones. He said that lesbians didn’t exist and transgender people shouldn’t be allowed to use the bathroom that corresponds to their chosen gender.
However, he is still an influential member of the conservative movement.
Milo has become a symbol of the new right (not the alt-right, who have losers like Richard Spencer trying to bandwagon on the Trump train). This new right mixes traditional conservatism with populism and social moderation. He has become a symbol of the fight against political correctness that seeks to limit what we can say, what we can think and what we can write. Instead of censoring what you don’t like, protest it. Write angry letters to the editor. But don’t censor your opponents (that goes for both left and right).
Yiannopoulos is a symbol of gay conservatism, showing that you can be part of the LGBT community and be a conservative. For too long, gay conservatives have struggled against the social conservatism of the Republican Party and other conservative movements, but with him leading the way, the right has become much more accepting of the LGBT community, with people such as Peter Thiel speaking at the Republican National Convention and receiving thunderous applause. It had been 16 years since the last gay speaker was at the RNC.
But most importantly, Yiannopoulos has become a symbol of the fight for free speech. Time and time again, liberal and progressive groups have tried to shut down his speech, further ensuring that he gains more and more support. Every time a brick is lifted against Milo, every time a protest gets violent, every time a cowardly mob blocks people from trying to hear his words, he wins.
The most recent example was the protests at the University of Washington that sought to block his supporters from going and showed that the “message and concerns about equality and fairness were lost when the protest became a mob restricting access to the speech, and began throwing bricks and paint” as the editorial board of the Seattle Times put it.
Already I have heard that people are trying to shut down the event at Cal Poly. I hope they reconsider, because they are giving Milo the victory he wants, instead of going inside and challenging him as they should.
So instead of dressing up in masks and blocking the event, show up with questions and plan to debate with the man.
Elias Atienza is a sophomore majoring in history and a member of the Board of Directors for the Cal Poly College Republicans. These views do not represent the Cal Poly College Republicans or the Republican Party of San Luis Obispo.