…R U catching that to identify those of a different persuasion the “press” refers to them as liberals to differentiate from the run of the mill democrat/republicans…
What Liberals Don’t Get About Free Speech in the Age of Trump
The Berkeley protest against Milo Yiannopoulos raises questions about what a right to free speech is — and is not.
Ever since a bit of lighting equipment was set on fire at UC Berkeley, causing the cancellation of a planned rally by Breitbart editor and professional crypto-fascist troll Milo Yiannopoulos, we’ve seen endless handwringing and finger-wagging defending his right to free speech and chastising of the evil, violent protesters. Interestingly enough, there wasn’t anywhere near this much speech surrounding the attempted murder of an anti-fascist protester at the University of Washington by one of Milo’s supporters. Apparently, a right-winger trying to shoot someone to death matters less than an anarchist smashing a Starbucks window, but I digress.
There are other confounding details as well. Were the violent actors at the Berkeley protests even students, or Black Bloc agitators from outside? Why do all accounts of the protest ignore the many months of peaceful work, operating entirely through speech, that had been dedicated to pushing back against the hate Yiannopoulos was spreading? Why is there less emphasis on what Yiannopoulos was actually at Berkeley to talk about — i.e. providing a training to Young Republicans on how to identify and report “illegal immigrant” students on Berkeley’s campus, a form of harassment that is nothing if not chilling on the speech of those students and potentially damaging to their prospects? Why have so few talked in detail about Milo’s specific acts of hate, from sexual harassing a blogger and supporting the abuse of Gamergate, to using derogatory slurs and anti-Semitic symbols, playing a role in the rise of hate crimes against Jewish people?
Why was there no battalion of op-eds in major newspapers about Adelaide Kramer, the trans woman Yiannopoulos harassed off of UW’s campus after he devoted the better part of his address there to attacking and slandering her? Whither her free speech, or her right to the education at UW that she had earned on her merits? Coverage of her story was limited mostly to online opinion outlets and Teen Vogue. Yiannopoulos warranted an editorial from the Los Angeles Times Editorial Board.
We could even go more broadly and ask where these noble defenders of liberty — from eggs on Twitter to carefully manicured beards at TheGuardian — were when it emerged that US Customs and Border Patrol were searching the phones of certain people of color to see if they had criticized Trump on social media?
This entire essay could simply be comprised of questions like this — all the things that are not asked loudly enough or from lofty-enough platforms because they do not involve the rights of a photogenic right wing man, a “provocateur” that allows certain liberals to morally posture about how superior they are because they “tolerate” him.
But more should be said on what a right to free speech is, and is not, made of, and why so many nominal liberals (and leftists) routinely allow themselves to be seduced into defending the rights of fascists while ignoring the speech rights of the less powerful.
A common refrain is this: A right to free speech is not a right to a platform. But this statement needs to be unpacked a bit more because it is often misunderstood.
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