Milo Yiannopoulos, an anti-immigrant white nationalist, professional misogynist, and openly gay anti-transgender activist, has a scheduled stop on his “Dangerous Faggot” tour at Minnesota State University in Mankato on Thursday, Dec. 15. His planned appearance has sparked threat of protest.
Yiannopoulos’ tour has been fraught with cancellations across the Midwest which follow a familiar trend. At schools such as Iowa State University North Dakota State University, security concerns have arisen over Yiannopoulos’ brand of speech, one that incites people to protest his speeches. He even appears to enjoy baiting protesters at his events. However, the more he incites protest, the more costs the schools incur to provide security. Those costs are passed on to the student groups that invited Yiannopoulos to campus. They send a notice to Yiannopoulos and his team of writers at Brietbart, who generate more outrage. In some cases like ISU and NDSU, the student group couldn’t cover the security costs and the events got canceled.
At MSU-Mankato, the event allegedly hit a snag in late-November when an anonymous email sent to Yiannopoulos’ blog claimed that the university increased security fees for the event:
In an email to Breitbart Tech, the student organizer for the event claimed that the school is now demanding “double the recommended security presence,” meaning that they “need double the funds.”
“This was I believe a tactic to have us cancel the event because they don’t think we can raise that money and we will but then they just got benefit of draining us of more of our resources” he continued. “We want the bullying of conservatives on liberal campuses to stop.”
Three days later, the College Republicans said they’d reached an agreement with the university:
Regarding Milo Yiannopoulos at MNSU.
I would like to announce on behalf of the MNSU College Republicans that we have reached an agreement with the administration to reduce the cost of security for our event as well as keeping a presence of protection at the event that we believe is beneficial for all parties involved. I would like to thank donors online and in the area for helping us raise funds necessary, the administration/President Davenport for their belief in free speech and aiding us in pushing for a safe and successful event for all. I would also like to thank the Breitbart news team for helping us raise some noise about how things were going.
This is a win for all of us and we won’t stop winning here.
In the MSU Reporter, two past editors lambasted the upcoming appearance:
Briefly, this is a person who only survives on negative attention, making his name from gleefully slinging hate and lies. He doesn’t deserve the words written about him; his name won’t be included in them.
After years of spearheading unrepentant racial and sexual harassment online, this person was permanently removed from Twitter this summer for instigating a hate campaign against Ghostbusters actress Leslie Jones.
While supporters declared this as an act of censorship against free speech, others saw this as the social media platform’s first real steps towards protecting its users against harassment.
See, while it may be a vast entity connecting the world, Twitter isn’t a public forum and can take measures to protect its users from attacks the same way a private business can shut down someone screaming racial obscenities at its customers. But even the notably permissive Twitter saw fit here to draw the line with someone who did irreparable damage to their community.
Admittedly, having the university cancel this event on those grounds would certainly bring around a discussion regarding the restriction of free speech. But I believe that this university should have exercised more caution when the use of hate speech and slurs against the LGBT community are explicitly used in the banner for this particular speaking engagement on this campus.
It bears mentioning that hate speech, threats, and “fighting words,” are not explicitly protected under the first amendment, and I believe that the language used by both the anticipated speaker on a regular basis and by this event’s advertising is hate speech and is a special instance that calls for the University to protect its students—not from an exchange of ideas, but by deliberate hateful language that threatens the safety of our diverse and beautiful student body.
MNSU is facing the same dilemma now that Twitter dealt with this summer. On the grounds of free speech, a platform has been given to someone who is the complete antithesis of the values of education, respect, and inclusivity the university is known for. Even with our eternal responsibility in mind, I would argue the need for more counseling and guidance from administrators to student groups in extreme or especially ill-fitting situations like this. If free speech is recognized here, it is the voices of the students that should be heard, high and above the voice of any potential speaker.
Other members of the community have come up with ways to deflect Yiannopoulos’ appearance. Local gathering spot, Coffee Hag, is hosting a Love’s Open Stage to encourage people to engage in kind words and positive performance art. Members of Mankato United, a social justice group, are also planning to protest.
Minnesota State President Richard Davenport issued the following statement in response to the protesters via the Mankato Free Press:
“As a public institution of higher education, Minnesota State Mankato is committed to being a university where free speech along with diverse thoughts and ideas are valued and explored, as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. This includes allowing expression of ideas by speakers that some persons may find offensive. We seek to build an actively engaged and inclusive learning community based upon civility, trust, integrity, respect, and diversity in a safe, welcoming physical environment — and that includes the event on Dec. 15.”
The MSU College Republicans, anticipating problems, have released a list of demands for attendees:
-The event will begin seating at 2pm with the doors closing a few minutes prior to 3pm with the event starting right at 3pm or just after.
-You must have a PHOTO ID for entry. (School ID/Drivers License are both acceptable)
-Print off your ticket, don’t think it is acceptable to have something on your phone. It will not be allowed.
-Your name on the ticket must be the same one as the one on your ID. This means John Doe can’t have two John Doe tickets and give one to Jane Doe. Jane would not be allowed into the event.
-Tickets are sold out.
-Just because you have a ticket that does not guarantee you entry.
It is on a first come, first seated basis and we cannot guarantee you entry.
-We will not say a time anyone should be in line to get them a spot, just make sure you get there as early as you think you need to in order for you to be seated in the event.
-No signs will be allowed in the event or in the line to get into the event. It doesn’t matter if they are Pro-Milo or Anti-Milo, they will not be allowed.
-EVERYONE is subject to a pat down going into the event because of credible threats we have received.
-NO bags will be allowed in the event.
-There will be an area for a coat check.
-Everyone is subject to be removed from the line or event for inappropriate/violent behavior.
-No food or beverage will be allowed in.