The Fake News Panel discussed propaganda in democracy, Islamophobia and suppressing free speech in the heavily protected Mott Athletic Center April 26. Libertarian student group Turning Point USA brought in YouTuber Carl Benjamin, known online as Sargon of Akkad, to discuss the issue of fake news with right-wing political commentator Milo Yiannopoulos and YouTuber Austen Fletcher, known as Fleccas, both of whom were invited by the Cal Poly College Republicans.
“This is an event where we brought Benjamin, and Milo was at the event. Turning Point is not endorsing, promoting or associating with [Yiannopoulos],” Turning Point president and political science sophomore Isaac Schick said.
Yiannopoulos began by defining fake news.
“It is a form of political warfare. Fake news is propaganda. It is ideological warfare masked, dressed up, as journalism,” Yiannopoulos said.
Benjamin said there was a second form of fake news that tribalizes society and makes people feel good about their own belief system.
Benjamin said both sides have propaganda machines that churn out fake news, and Yiannopoulos agreed and said liberal propaganda has deeper pockets and is more established.
Benjamin recommended readers check the news they read, find sources they trust and look for primary source documents in most things they read.
“It’s just diligence,” Benjamin said.
Yiannopoulos and Benjamin clashed repeatedly. Benjamin said social media is a tool that can be used properly, while Yiannopoulos said social media is intrinsically bad.
They disagreed on whether or not to read the news. Yiannopoulos argued that people’s view of the world should not come from news reporting.
“Don’t give the most biased, immoral and corrupt institute of people in society that power,” Yiannopoulos said.
“I think you’re asking something too much,” Benjamin replied. “It’s almost impossible to not do this.”
When Yiannopoulos said, “America is done,” because Muslims are allowed to live in the nation, Benjamin told the panel not to discriminate, but was cut off by Yiannopoulos.
“My country is gone. But this country is done,” Yiannopoulos said. “You guys didn’t learn after 9/11, so you’re not going to. You did not get the message about Islam in 9/11, so you’re not going to.”
“We were openly against guilt by association earlier,” Benjamin said later. “Just because you’re a Muslim doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. I don’t think we can rightfully discriminate—,” Benjamin continued.
“No, but you can blanketly discriminate against the ideology,” Yiannopoulos interrupted.
At least four times, Benjamin was interrupted by Yiannopoulos or Laura Loomer, a political activist and former Project Veritas employee Yiannopoulos invited from the audience onto the panel.
Project Veritas is a right-wing organization aiming to “investigate and expose corruption dishonesty, self-dealing, waste, fraud, and other misconduct in both public and private institutions,” according to their website.
Loomer claimed activist and Stoneman Douglas High School shooting survivor David Hogg was at home when the shooting happened and that he rode to Parkland High School to take photos during the shooting, a falsehood based on a quote taken out of context from CBS.
“I mean, what kind of sociopath thinks, ‘Oh my god, my classmates are getting shot, let me grab my camera’?” Loomer said.
Yiannopoulos also said Republicans are being spat at on campus at Cal Poly. Mustang News is not aware of any instances of this happening. However, two weeks ago during the Open House protests, a Black student reported being spat at campus while walking to a job interview.
He joked that agricultural business is “not a thing,” that audience members’ professors hated them and that suppression of free speech is the best way to create social change.
“I want these people to be terrified that they’re in public. I want to disrupt every speech that they ever give. Every time a university has a collective address by [American Muslim activist] Linda Sarsour, I want her booed into oblivion. I want her incapable of completing her speech,” Yiannopoulos said.
Editor’s Note: The headline previously read, “Conservative speakers clash inside controversial Fake News Panel.” It has been updated.