To wit: The Tab reported that academic administrators at Villanova University had disinvited Breitbart Senior Editor Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking on campus in November. Opponents on the political Right immediately went into high gear. The gist of their criticism is that, yet once again, free speech is being shut down, as academic administrators cower out of fear to the folks on the political Left.
As always, there is a kernel of truth in that assessment, even if it ends up being true that Milo wasn't invited to Villanova. (The reporting conflicts...see the facts below.)
But, let's consider some background:
- Yiannopoulos is a practicing Catholic. He self-identifes as a homosexual, cultural libertarian, free speech fundamentalist, and critic of feminism, Islam, the "social justice" movement, atheism, Islam, and political correctness. He believes these and other ideologies and movements are authoritarian or belonging to what he terms the "regressive Left." (That's a pretty funny play on words, The Motley Monk would observe, as they call themselves the "progressive" Left.)
- Yiannopoulos is the bane of most on the political Left. They don't want him being invited to any campus to speak his imind.
As would be expected, when Villanova's College Republicans (CR) invited Yiannopoulos to speak on campus, Twitter lit up, petitions were signed and forwarded to administrators, and the Villanovan—the campus newspaper—received a surge in the number of "Letters to the Editor." Opponents purchased tickets for the event in an effort to depress the number of tickets for sale to Yiannopoulos' proponents.
The Left's tactic of using social media to engage in "name calling to shame" also reared its ugly head yet once again:
Taken at face value, the critics on the political Right could view this disinvitation as yet another example of academic administrators limiting free speech. Whether Villanova's administrators are sympathetic to or cower in fear before ideologues on the political Left who challenge the dominance of "extremely contentious discourses," they decided to limit free speech, like so many others across the nation's college campuses.
- Ask Ward Connerly.
- Ask David Horowitz.
- Ask Mike Adams.
- Ask Ann Coulter.
- Ask Monica Crowley.
- Ask Dinesh D'Souza.
But, in this instance, don't be fooled. This disinvitation wasn't a matter of limiting free speech. Instead, The Motley Monk would respond that it's a matter of protecting free speech.
How so? Words (and the phrases they form) have meaning. For the folks on the political Left, "free speech" means being able to say whatever they want, whenever they want, and however they want as long as they agree with what's being said. Furthermore, nowhere is that meaning of the phrase to be safeguarded moreso than on the nation's college campuses.
That is a false understanding of the phrase "free speech." No one is "free to shout 'Fire' in a crowded theater," as the U.S. Supreme Court noted in 1919 in Schenck v. United States. The logic is fairly straightforward: "Free speech" means "free" but not "unfettered" speech. There is one relatively simple, straightforward, and logical fetter, on resting upon the shoulders of anyone who wants to speak freely in public places. It's call "decorum."
In response to the disinvitation, a Villanova professor of Communications (according to Brietbart) or "a senior communications major "looking for an internship or prospective job opportunities" (according to LinkedIn)--the reporting isn't clear--by the name of Victoria Kurlander, demonstrates what constitutes both decorous and indecorous speech when she told The Tab:
(decorous speech) I knew it wouldn’t fly. It only takes three minutes of Googling the guy to see why. Despite his degrading comments and hypocrisy, I was looking forward to a true political debate on campus with an interesting aftermath to follow.
(indecorous speech) But he’s absurd as f*** so I’m not surprised he’s not coming.
No doubt about it: Milo Yiannopoulos is politically incorrect. He may be brave for placing his life, limb, and property in danger to speak mind freely when the issue concerns free speech. That's why he's a hero to the folks on the political right.
However, brave—perhaps even very brave, as his proponents believe—Yiannopoulos may be, disinviting him (if he was officially invited in the first place) was entirely appropriate in this instance. But, not for the reasons proffered by two representatives:
- [of the administrartion] Jon Gust of the University's Media Relations team said the club didn't follow proper protocol in organizing the appearance. That is, they failed to get the required approvals from the Office of Student Life. (That's a bureaucratic, public relations response that avoids confronting the real issue.)
- [of the students] Some CR members said a select few of its executive members made the decision to bring Yiannopoulos to campus. In addition, the majority of the CRs do not wish to be associated with his visit. (That's a quasi-legal, "procedural" response that also avoids confronting the real issue.)
Opponents of the disinvitation can call the decision "a shame and a poverty...A loss for the entire Villanova community. Your loss. Your students loss. Free Speech loses too" all they want. They can also assert "Safe Spaces and Political Correctness obviously rule at Villanova" all they want.
But, The Motley Monk disagrees when it comes to this particular disinvitation. This decision was correct, albeit for the wrong reasons, as advanced by Gust and those CRs. It raises for consideration an appropriate principle that places limits upon free speech on a college campus. That principle is "decorum" and it's evident lack in the title of Yiannopoulos' tour as well as in his choice of language in public as well as his response to the disinvitation when he characterized those making the decision as "Faggots." (Whether Villanova's academic administrators apply that principle equitably is an entirely different matter.)
Rather than resorting to the same kind of indecorous language those on the political Left invoke when they attack their ideological opponents, there are more decorous ways folks on the political right, like Yiannopoulos, could choose to communicate their criticisms of feminism, Islam, the "social justice" movement, atheism, Islam, and political correctness.
Let the discussion begin...
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