This is How Free Speech Works

He’s only been a nationally-known figure for a few months, but it appears Milo Yiannopoulos has already done himself in with his own remarks.  A video of the alt-right provocateur making statements that appear to condone pedophilia has caught a lot of buzz over the past 24 hours, resulting first in a rescission of Yiannopoulos’ invitation to speak at CPAC, and later in the cancellation of his book that was to be released by Simon & Schuster later this year.

From USA Today:

The gay British writer, who has collected kudos in the era of Donald Trump as a self-described “dangerous” provocateur, teetered on the edge of disaster Monday after Republican conservatives released clips of videos-with-audio in which he talked about his own past as a teenager who had sex with men and suggested that some young teen boys might be old enough to give consent to such sexual relationships.

I suspect many who have rightly blasted Yiannopoulos for his dumb and provocative remarks, or who have wrongly insisted that he should not be permitted a platform to speak (such as those who shut down his recent speaking engagement by Berkeley with violent protests) will take this as a vindication of their position.  While the comments are indeed indicative of the attention-seeking turd he is, what this really vindicates is the pro-Free Speech argument that any moron, especially one like Yiannopoulos, should be permitted to speak in order to expose his his ideas for the worthless swill they are.

The comments in question come from an interview Yiannopoulos did with Joe Rogan, for the comedian/buff dude’s podcast.  If the protestors at Berkeley had their way that interview never would have happened, and our understanding of Yiannopoulos’ positions would be limited to a particular class of vile stupidity that — apparently — Simon & Schuster was willing to tolerate.  If Rogan, who clearly objects to Yiannopoulos’ comments, had refused to do the interview just because he disagrees with the interviewee’s opinions, the book deal would still be on.  It was only by being permitted to speak openly that Yiannopoulos was given the opportunity to expose just how dark and extreme his thoughts really are.

To extrapolate that idea, this is how Free Speech is supposed to work — the “marketplace of ideas,” as it’s been called — you’re allowed to express whatever thoughts or ideas you want, but you’re also responsible for those thoughts or ideas.  You’re allowed to be a stupid prick, but people are allowed to tell you what a stupid prick you are.  While our bleach-tipped friend Milo has been enjoying the freedom that being silenced at Berkeley affords him (check out his recent interview with Bill Maher, where he easily dodged any accountability for his positions  by telling us he’s just standing up for his right to speak), it was the fact that Joe Rogan allowed him a platform to say whatever vile thing he wants that has come around to bite him.

So if you want to protest someone for saying awful things, by all means do.  Just don’t drown them out when it comes time for them to speak.  Otherwise you might protect them from the fallout of their own wretchedness.

 

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