BY HANK REICHMAN
Clownish self-promoting bigot Milo Yiannopoulos fulfilled his pledge to speak on Sunday at the University of California at Berkeley campus, despite the cancellation the previous day of his fraudulent “Free Speech Week.” According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the bigoted bozo blew kisses, signed autographs and took selfies for about 15 minutes on the steps of Sproul Hall, an appearance that cost the university an estimated $800,000, or $53,333.33 per minute, in security costs.
Yiannopoulos had no permit to appear on campus and hence was not authorized to use a sound system. But any private citizen may walk onto the plaza and speak, a right regularly utilized by all sorts of political advocates, itinerant preachers, and self-promoters, not to mention students. Nonetheless, aware of Milo’s pledge to appear, the university brought in an “unprecedented” number of police officers from about ten jurisdictions, including the little Kern County city of Taft, hundreds of miles away, as well as police from other University of California and California State University campuses.
According to the Chronicle,
Security included a labyrinth of orange barriers, which prohibited access to Sproul Plaza until shortly before noon, requiring attendees to pass through a single metal detector to enter the area. In the end, only about 150 people in Sproul Plaza saw Yiannopoulos. Hundreds remained outside waiting to get in when he left.
“Our job as a campus and as a police department wasn’t to facilitate this event,” campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof said. “What drove our arrangements and our preparations and our decisions was the safety and security of the public, the campus community and any private citizens that may have come onto Sproul.”
Despite his repeated claims that he was defending free speech, Yiannopoulos didn’t give a speech at all. Instead, covered by a U.S. flag hoodie and “accompanied by an entourage that included private security, he greeted supporters for several minutes and then started singing the national anthem when protesters began yelling at him, challenging him on his views regarding immigration. Then, security escorted him from Sproul Plaza while police held back people who tried to follow him.”
For those who still, after all this, claim Yiannopoulos as some sort of free speech hero, the ridiculousness of his much-ballyhooed appearance should be a sobering lesson. This is not and has never been about freedom of speech, but about the self-promotion of a hateful and largely irrelevant provocateur and huckster. Through all this the Berkeley campus administration has acted with restraint and patience, perhaps too much so. Although arguments could be made that university regulations may and perhaps should limit the access of speakers whose campus sponsors lack sufficient credibility or whose message is unrelated to the institution’s educational mission, under current UC policies and most First Amendment legal precedent, Berkeley had little choice but to allow Yiannopoulos to appear and to provide security sufficient to ensure his safety and that of all others on campus. But for a university to be compelled to spend $800,000 of public monies to facilitate a cheap 15-minute publicity stunt like this far exceeds any meaningful defense of the First Amendment.
In a text Yiannopoulos said he “will be back to Berkeley over and over again, until the university starts treating its conservative students fairly.” But this is not about how Berkeley treats its students, conservative or not, but how Milo and, sadly, too many other so-called “conservatives” treat the public trust. And while I’ve previously argued that Milo does have the right to speak on campus, this long ago stopped being about his message or his rights. $800,000 to allow some jerk to blow kisses to his acolytes is $800,000 too much. Enough is enough.
Users who have liked this post. Please consider sharing on social media and/or making a comment below.