Over a year ago, I defended the Cal Poly College Republicans inviting Milo Yiannopoulos, the former Breitbart tech editor and right-wing provocateur, to campus. I defended and hailed him as a symbol of the so-called “new right.” I believed he represented a new conservatism that was much more socially moderate and accepting of LGBT individuals.
I was wrong then and I’m not afraid to admit it. Milo has offered nothing of substance for the past two years besides accusations of racism and a despicable flirtation with the alt-right. He has done little to advance the free speech discussion since his disgraced resignation from Breitbart and deep dive into the realm of irrelevance.
Milo has openly said that journalists should be gunned down by “vigilante squads” and mocked the deaths of Mollie Tibbetts and Sen. John McCain. He has openly opposed libertarian ideas such as the legalization of marijuana and has supported restricting immigration based on religion. One of his talks earlier this year was canceled because he planned to speak about what he hated about Mexico. Nowhere was there evidence of how this would advance the conservative movement on college campuses.
Instead of advancing conservative ideas, Milo has drawn criticism for his over-the-top antics that have distracted from real discussions surrounding free speech on campus. Whenever Milo has been invited to speak, the conversation never drifts to how conservative ideas can help millennials and young people, but how he believes sexual relations between older men and younger boys is appropriate or how he has outed or planned to out trans and undocumented students in his speeches.
There was a time when I believed Milo was a free speech warrior, who has done much to help open up conservatives to the idea of gays within their movement. Not anymore.
But his downfall still raises an important question. What should conservatives and libertarians do to advance free speech on campuses?
First, they need better figures and symbols. People such as Ben Shapiro and Christina Hoff Sommers are better figures, for even though they have espoused controversial opinions (to some). They haven’t written glowing profiles for the alt-right, nor do they have ties to neo-Nazis and other white supremacists, nor have they mocked those who had recently passed away.
In addition, conservatives can lift other voices up as well, such as The Atlantic’s Conor Friesdorf and New York Times staff editor Bari Weiss. Right-leaning college students (and college students in general) need to hear from less “mainstream” figures. Expanding the list of speakers would do well to diversify the types of right-leaning individuals who speak on campus.
In addition, organizations such as FIRE have proven to be great defenders of free speech rights, regardless of the political leanings of those caught in the crossfire of campus free speech policies. Conservative and libertarian organizations such as College Republicans, Young Americans for Freedom and Young Americans for Liberty should also partner together to bring conservative and libertarian speakers on campus and to bring more awareness to these issues.
Free speech is a cornerstone American right constantly under attack. We need new faces and speakers, along with actually addressing many of the free speech problems that permeate American campuses. Only then can we progress in the campus free speech wars.
Elias Atienza is a senior majoring in history and an opinion columnist for the Mustang News. These views do not represent those of Mustang News.