Yiannopoulos Will Bring Hate, Not Insight, to Emory

Author’s note: This article contains examples of victim blaming, Islamophobia, white supremacy, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia and references to pregnancy, rape and suicide.

 

“What I’m doing, every day, is speaking for the voiceless majority against the powerful minority, which is what I always thought journalism was supposed to be about.”

You might think this is a call for journalists to illuminate the corruption of political elites or the exploitation of workers by the rich. Wrong. According to Milo Yiannopoulos, “powerful minorities” refer to trans-women, immigrants to the United States and social justice activists in general. Thanks to our campus chapters of College Republicans and Young Americans for Liberty, Yiannopoulos is coming to Emory to spread his hateful, violent ideology and promote his personal brand while discussing the recent Trump chalkings, “political correctness, feminism and other ‘hot’ topics.”

Yiannopoulos has an odd knack for inverting reality, saying, for example, that online feminists complaining about receiving death threats are “playing the victim:” that if they “use” these threats to garner sympathy or to seek legal action against those who threaten them, they’re “even more pathetic” than the people sending them death threats.

This is a typical narrative for Yiannopoulos. Those seeking to change the system that oppresses them are powerful bullies, while those in well-cemented positions of dominance in the community are powerless victims; any negative experience faced by an oppressed person, whether it’s a microaggression or a death threat, is just that person being over-sensitive. In contrast, activists bringing up heterosexual, cisgendered white men’s privilege is an attack against from which these men need to be defended. To respond to the perceived attacks on white men, Yiannopoulos has started a scholarship fund for them in an attempt to “put them on equal footing with their female, queer and ethnic minority classmates.”

To claim that white men need to be given assistance to put them on the same level as other groups is to deny completely the reality of oppression in order to defend the status quo. This is an attempt to undermine any potential for positive social change and to encourage people to defend the world as it is. By denying the existence of oppression, Yiannopoulos is able to defend the current organization of society, which is built on gendered and racial oppression, without coming across transparently as a white supremacist or bigot. While society views this position as more respectable than explicit prejudice, the results of this ideology are largely the same as those of explicit white supremacy and patriarchy.

But Yiannopoulos is not worried about avoiding explicit oppression and hate speech either. Regurgitating standard right-wing myths, he argues that gay people, and people in general, should oppose Muslim immigration to Europe and the U.S., which he argues will lead to Sharia law, an increase in rape and an increase in anti-gay violence. Additionally, he has dubbed his birthday “World Patriarchy Day” and encourages his followers to harass women in order to mock the concept of patriarchy, suggesting that they “cat-call at least five women” and “impregnate something.”

This is open misogyny, and Yiannopoulos doesn’t feel the need to hide it or deny that it happens — he’s promoting it — all he does is say it doesn’t matter, that he doesn’t care, that the harassment of women is perfectly fine with him.

This is hate speech. Inciting violence against women and treating them as deserving of harassment is hateful. There is nothing noble about not caring about the suffering of others or harming people for the sake of “pushing boundaries.” It’s selfish and apathetic.

Similarly, he encourages people to use gay, queer and f*ggot as insults, claiming that they’re great insults and that, as a gay man, his voice and experiences are representative of — or indeed, overshadow — those of millions of other queer people. This is also hate speech. Despite Yiannopoulos’ status as a gay man, he is actively promoting hatred against gay people, and he is promoting the idea that there are two types of homosexuals: f*ggots who should be hated and people like himself who should be accepted and praised because they support the status quo. He specifically mentions using these terms to distance himself from other gay men, again suggesting that his primary motivation is selfish: he’s content with gay people being treated horribly as long as his approval of discrimination gains him social capital and renders him, at least mostly, immune to the consequences of homophobia.

This theme continues when he discusses trans people. He argues that gay, lesbian and bisexual people should “drop the ‘T’ from LGBT” since trans people are too radical, are demanding too much politically and generally aren’t “respectable.” He wants those who have the privilege to assimilate to leave behind those who do not.

Additionally, he actively attacks trans people, arguing that society should respond to tragically high rates of trans suicide by ceasing to fund medical transitions through health insurance. In the same article, he consistently refers to trans-women using slurs, cites a study of trans-women being forced into prostitution as evidence that they’re more likely to be “criminals,” claims they’re really just gay men and claims that transphobia is “fueled mostly by theatrics from the uptight trans lobby.”  

To be clear, trans people have been erased and marginalized within the LGBT community and activism for a long time. Attempting to leave behind trans people is nothing new. It is, however, part of the transantagonistic world we live in where 41 percent of trans people in the United States have attempted suicide. Trans-women, especially trans-women of color, are living in a state of emergency — trans-women make up 72 percent of all anti-LGBTQ and HIV-affected homicides and trans-women of color make up 67 percent. The only appropriate response to these tragic realities is to support tangibly trans people, especially trans-women of color, and work to dismantle the systems of oppression that devalue and promote violence against trans people.

But, to Yiannopoulos, trans folks are just another “powerful minority” bullying people to make themselves feel special.

Yiannopoulos is a sexist, racist, Islamophobic, transantagonistic, ableist, transmisogynistic, reactionary bigot whose main “strength” is his ability to deny other people’s suffering and whose main activity is mocking those who are working to make the world better.

For these reasons, I am writing to condemn publicly and explicitly Emory College Republicans and Emory Young Americans for Liberty’s decision to bring Yiannopoulos to campus to speak. He is toxic. By giving him a platform, they are making themselves an active part of the problem.

Stop enabling and inciting hatred.

And before anyone goes there, this is not about free speech. This is not me requesting any action from the administration — though I will say this is an excellent example of how Emory fails to be the “community of care” it advertises itself as. I’m much more concerned, at present, with morality than with policy — and supporting Yiannopoulos’ hatred is morally deplorable.

We don’t need a celebrity whose career is based on a toxic ideology that valorizes apathy, mocks the oppressed and denies the reality of their oppression in the name of pushing boundaries. We need to get serious about the fact that we have a moral obligation to care about each other, and this demands that we dismantle the systems of oppression that are harming people. We need to reject supremacy, selfishness and apathy. We need to continue the hard work of moving from empty rhetoric and bold dreams to a reality of liberation, towards a world where our value, our rights and our safety are not precariously dependent on us being white, documented and performing the genders assigned to us according to coercive societal norms. Our value should not be dependent on our ability to produce profit for those in power or being convenient to their political interests. And we need to continue to imagine what that would look like at Emory as we work to make it happen.

There’s a path forward. There’s a future worth being excited about. Milo Yiannopoulos isn’t part of it.

Anaïs Hussung is a College junior from Jackson City, Tennessee. 

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