Penn State: Milo Yiannopoulos event sparks anger, controversy
A controversial right-wing figure linked to hate speech against various groups is expected to speak on the Penn State campus next week, drawing widespread condemnation from both the student body and university leaders.
Political commentator Milo Yiannopoulos – whom the Anti-Defamation League has described as “a misogynistic, racist, xenophobic and transphobic troll” – will speak on November 3 at the 101 Thomas Building on “freedom of speech, faith, therapy conversion, hairstyling, etc. According to the event’s web page. In a written statement, university officials explained that they opposed the event but could not stop it due to the First Amendment.
The slogan for the event is “Pray the Gay Away” and is organized by the student group Uncensored America, which was formed last year.
“(Yiannopoulos’) past presentations on college campuses across the country have been contrary to Penn State’s values, and we share the deep dismay others have already expressed in response to his upcoming appearance here,” one reads in a statement. joint statement Monday evening by three university officials to Steve Dunham, vice president and general counsel; Damon Sims, vice president for student affairs; and Marcus Whitehurst, vice-president, equity in education.
The statement continued, “Yet as offensive and hurtful as Yiannopoulos’ comments have been and likely will be again, and despite our own aversion to such statements and the promotional tactics used, uncensored America has the unmistakable constitutional right. to sponsor this presentation on our Campus. The university is not allowed to do anything to stop it.
Yiannopoulos, former editor of the far-right media outlet Breitbart News, is no stranger to the controversy. He was permanently banned from Twitter in 2016 after calling black comedian / actress Leslie Jones a man and a monkey, while mounting an abusive campaign against her. He was also banned from Facebook and Instagram a year later after platforms called him “dangerous” for promoting hate speech and / or violence.
He was forced to resign from Breitbart in 2017 over remarks that appeared to condone sex between older men and boys as young as 13. (The Conservative Union of America has rescinded its invitation to speak to CPAC on the controversy.) And the former openly gay commentator – who has also been accused of being sympathetic to white nationalists – married her boyfriend in 2017 before to announce earlier this year that he is no longer gay.
He now hopes to open a “conversion therapy” center in Florida that seeks to change a person’s gender orientation or gender identity. Conversion therapy is banned in 14 states, while dozens of national organizations – like the American Medical Association – have denounced such practices.
In a joint statement Tuesday, the University Park undergraduate government and two LGBTQ groups have “strongly condemned” Yiannopoulos’ appearance, saying she encourages homophobia on campus.
“Bigotry and discrimination have no place at Penn State, and the university must take action to combat hate speech and protect the LGBTQIA + community,” the statement read, before continuing. later, “(Yiannopoulos’) presence poses a threat to students on campus, and the university should treat him as such.
The statement, which called for the event to be canceled, was signed by undergraduate government president Erin Boas and vice president Najee Rodriguez; Lion PRIDE Co-Chairs Josh Bannon and Cydney Howard; and Celeste Good, president of Queer and Trans People of Color.
Uncensored America, the student group that is hosting the event, told CDT in a written statement that it invited Yiannopoulos because he is the “ultimate martyr for free speech.”
“The reaction to our event – with many requests from Penn State to cancel it simply because they don’t like Milo – proves that we don’t live in an environment where people can truly speak freely,” the statement said. . “We don’t live in a country where we can have an open conversation without fear of intimidation or censorship. We cannot grow up and live in a better nation if we are not willing to discuss any issue from all sides. “
In a separate statement sent to the CDT, Bannon and Howard of Lion PRIDE wrote that they understood the university was limited in what it could do due to the protection of free speech – but they commended them. Penn State officials for speaking out. They also said they are currently working with PSU staff “to ensure the safety of all students, especially those who are part of the LGBTQ + community.”
Lion PRIDE and other organizations also announced a “Spread Love, Not Hate” event on the same night as Yiannopoulos’ speech. This event will take place at Heritage Hall from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., while the speech will begin at 8 p.m.
Despite the backlash, university officials remained adamant that they could not prevent the Yiannopoulos event from happening.
“As a public university, we are fundamentally and unalterably obligated under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution to protect various rights of expression, even for those whose views offend our core institutional values,” it read. in the joint statement of the university.
“To do otherwise would not only violate the Constitution, but would undermine the fundamental freedom that each of us shares to think and speak generally as we wish. … But let’s be clear. At its core, Yiannopoulos is a social provocateur – a figure whose central public goal is to deliberately create controversy, hurt and disruption. This is something we should all recognize.
This story was originally published October 26, 2021 2:41 pm.