J.J. Jenkins is a Cal Poly alumnus and former Mustang News editor-in-chief. Letters to the editor do not reflect the viewpoints or editorial coverage of Mustang News. To submit a letter to the editor, review Mustang News’ submission policy and guidelines online. Send your letters to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In a feat worthy of a Westworld narrative, I fear Cal Poly students will be trapped in Milo Yiannopoulos’ loop when he visits campus on Jan 31. I can predict it here and now.
After being greeted by throngs of protesters outside the event, inside Yiannopoulos will provoke and mock dissenters in the audience. He’ll often emerge with the upper hand, given he’s the one standing on stage with a microphone. In articles and interviews afterward, Yiannopoulos will spin his experience, saying that for all their talk about tolerance, the liberals who protested and yelled at him at Cal Poly weren’t all that tolerant of his viewpoint, deplorable and repugnant as it is. I know, because it happens at nearly everycampushevisits.
Cal Poly students are already starting down this path, scurrying to President Jeffrey Armstrong to protect them from Yiannopoulos’ trolling stunt. But I’d like to suggest a different route.
Claim as many tickets as you can, stand in line calmly, and when Yiannopoulos starts in on his canned speech, stand up and walk out into the lobby when you see fit. Leaving him behind with only his true believers and the scorn-worthy Cal Poly College Republicans is the best way to neuter his outrage-driven brand, because the only thing that separates Yiannopoulos from the guy screaming the book of Revelation at you on the bus is your willingness to engage.
If president-elect Donald Trump follows through on some of his extreme promises, there will be plenty of time and energy to be expended on protests that could make a concrete difference. Unfortunately, all you will be doing by protesting Yiannopoulos is sustaining his career.
I’ve read that several student leaders on campus want the administration — which has an obligation as a public institution to not infringe on First Amendment rights — to make it clear that Yiannopoulos’ brand of hate isn’t welcome on campus. But the best way to show Yiannopoulos that he isn’t welcome is to just not engage. That and lobby your fellow students, which brings me to the Cal Poly College Republicans.
Let me read some stats to them. Hillary Clinton lost the election while winning California by 30 points (61 percent to 31 percent). Exit polls project that young voters voted for her by 17 points (54 percent to 37 percent).
I say that to impress upon these young Republicans that if they plan on winning statewide office in California anytime before 2050, they ought to be in the business of rhetorical persuasion. And Republicans traditionally have some great arguments to make, especially to young people!
Small governments shouldn’t be in the business of deciding which person you’re allowed to marry or what type of non-addictive substance you should smoke. Small governments with smart regulations and incentives can encourage the next generation of jobs in America. And small governments can have the benefit of lower taxes, which everyone can get behind.
Unfortunately, that is not the message you are sending when you sponsor Milo Yiannopoulos on campus. You are sending a message that Muslims aren’t welcome in America, women suck at tech interviews (where many of your fellow male and female students will be employed after college), and — something that I think should disqualify him from being sponsored at Cal Poly — that “lesbianic feminist administrators” are attempting to curb dangerous hazing rituals as part of an anti-masculine agenda.
Why send that message when you can hold a forum or speech by a conservative thinker rather than a Republican provocateur? There are countless alternatives, from Stephen Miller to Ramesh Ponnuru to the pro-Trump Hugh Hewitt. My pick would be Grover Norquist. He almost single-handedly developed a national brand for Republicans. No matter what you think of the policy, if someone signed his pledge, whether they ran for councilperson or president, voters knew the candidate would not vote to raise taxes.
You have every right to sponsor Yiannopoulos’ talk. My argument is that for the sake of your party, you should consider an alternative.