One day before semi-professional provocateur and campaigner for the freedom to be a complete dick Milo Yiannopoulos was set to speak at UC Berkeley on February 1, his sometime employer Breitbart published an article announcing that Yiannopoulos would be using his speech to launch a campaign against sanctuary campuses like Berkeley, and push to have their federal funding revoked. And in a letter that same day, January 31, from the campus Office of Student Affairs to Berkeley College Republicans, administrators expressed concern that Yiannopoulos was allegedly planning to "dox" or publicly out undocumented Cal students by name, holding up their photos on stage, in order to further make his point, as UCB's California Magazine is now reporting.
While some on the right are going to argue that identifying undocumented immigrants on a public stage still falls within the bounds of free speech and the First Amendment, there are big ethics and decency questions here as there have been with virtually everything Yiannopoulos has said and done for attention under the guise of being a "free speech advocate." He used a similar tactic, projecting a photo of a trans student during a December speech at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, singling her out for ridicule.
And the Office of Student Affairs is quick to point out the hypocrisy here, noting in their letter that members of Berkeley College Republicans had previously complained to the administration of being doxxed themselves by students on the left. "BCR has expressed their position condemning these tactics and, in fact, have been victimized themselves [via doxxing]," they write. "We are deeply concerned for all student’s [sic] safety and ability to pursue their education here at Cal beyond Milo’s speech. At the bottom of this email are campus resources for reporting incidents."
According to a source close to the school administration who spoke to California Magazine, the Republican club reportedly spoke to Milo's reps and requested that he not do any such public outing of students, and they were told, "Milo was not in the habit of taking directives, and that he often did the very thing people asked him not to do."
A rep from the campus says that this still would not alone have constituted a reason to cancel the event, as Yiannopoulos's speech would still be protected, but former U.S. Labor Secretary and Goldman School of Public Policy professor Robert Reich spoke out on his own blog reacting to the Breitbart story and pointing to President Trump's tweet the next morning suggesting UC Berkeley should be deprived of federal funding as a result of the night's protests. Reich said the coincidence "raises the possibility that Yiannopoulos and Brietbart were in cahoots with the agitators, in order to lay the groundwork for a Trump crackdown on universities and their federal funding."
While it could be a stretch to believe that the black bloc vandals here were somehow paid for given that they're not exactly organized and they're known to show up at every East Bay protest (and some in SF) where they think they'll be able to cause mayhem without arrest Yiannopoulos nonetheless used the at-times violent protest to argue on Fox News the next night that universities like this one don't deserve federal grants, which was the same goal of the anti-sanctuary campus campaign he would have pushed had he taken the stage.
In other words, regardless of whether the protest was exactly what he wanted, he won either way the goal of maligning UC Berkeley and other liberal institutions would have been reached either way, and he likely would have gotten wide press coverage either way. But if he'd been allowed to take the stage he would have also succeeded in causing personal harm to the students he allegedly intended to out and ridicule for their citizenship status.
Not only that, but Breitbart quotes conservative hero David Horowitz, who is collaborating with Yiannopoulos on the sanctuary campus campaign, as saying that policies of allowing undocumented students in public universities help "cripple the efforts of the Department of Homeland security to protect American citizens from terrorist threats." So they're not just draining federal resources, they're probably terrorists too. Free speech!
Berkeley sociology researcher Chris Soria spoke to Australia's Daily Telegraph following the incident, discussing how the tactic of trying to shut down Yiannopoulos only furthers his goals. Instead he suggests Milo should be confronted by people on stage who can actually debate him on the issues he mostly only has 140-character positions on. "Why not debate an actual expert in feminism, gender studies, or sociology (those which Milo constantly mocks) instead of just mocking them from a distance?" Soria says. "If Milo truly believes in the free market of ideas, why not put his ideas to the test against the very best the left has to offer? And if he refuses, it’ll just prove him to be a coward with no real interest in the spread of ideas, but just another troll which should not be fed."
Still, would angry students on the left in the audience at Yiannopoulos's event, had it been allowed to take place as scheduled, have been able to contain their rage and disapproval had he trotted out photos of actual undocumented students, and just stormed the stage? Would they have been wrong to do so, or is that within their free-speech rights?
It calls to mind the relentless, pseudo-religious idiocy of the Westboro Baptist Church, using their First Amendment rights to protest military funerals, the funeral of Matthew Shepard, and the funerals of gay victims of the Orlando shooting last year. The left needs to come up with non-violent strategies to counter that kind of hate without drawing criticism that the only free speech they like is their own. Angel wings, anyone?