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“Freedom cannot exist without discipline” – Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman
There’s a basic principle in this world that most people live by and absolutely must yield to: Actions have consequences. I’m sure a recent guest speaker of ours is learning that principle the hard way.
Right before Breitbart News Tech Editor Milo Yiannopoulos came to CU Boulder, I wrote an opinion about why it’s important for him to be allowed to speak on CU’s campus, and why free speech should be treasured.
In case you haven’t heard, Yiannopoulos resigned from Breitbart on Tuesday after a soundbite of his interview with UFC Color Commentator Joe Rogan emerged in which Yiannopoulos joked about an actual sexual encounter he had between himself, when he was 14, and a pastor, who he refused to identify by name. He said that if weren’t for “Father Michael,” he wouldn’t be as good at oral sex as he is.
This is a grown man, in the public spotlight, joking about pederasty.
The point of emphasis in this fiasco is how he followed up on his statement after being called out. As the Washington Post reported:
“Yiannopoulos did tell his interviewers that he supports the current age of consent, but an April 2016 clip of his interview with podcaster Joe Rogan found him making the same ‘Father Michael’ joke, going on to suggest that sexuality is a choice, and that homosexuality, not entirely innate, often attracts people with fetishes.
“People are only gay to be transgressive,” he said. “They choose to be gay to be naughty.”
So not only is he defending his pederastic encounter, but he’s saying that if you’re openly gay, you’re positioning yourself to attract sometimes unwanted attention depending on how “naughty” you choose to be.
The irony here is amazing, mainly because he emphasizes choice and freedom of speech, but, at the same time, chose not to think about the words he spoke.
He then goes on to say that although he was joking about his own encounter, what he experienced wasn’t pedophilic and therefore not illegal, because he was 14:
“I did say that there are relationships between younger men and older men that can help a young gay man escape from a lack of support or understanding at home. That’s perfectly true and every gay man knows it. But I was not talking about anything illegal and I was not referring to pre-pubescent boys.”
It’s true, that’s not pedophilia — there seems to be some confusion there, because pedophilia refers to actual or desired sexual encounters with prepubescent boys (think before your teens). But his experience happened when he was still well below the legal age of consent, and the fact that he would lower the bar of expectations in his own defense shows a lack of judgment and lack of concern for how future cases like these could be interpreted by his followers and the general population. That is dangerous and unacceptable.
The scandal comes just days after it was announced that Yiannopoulos would be the keynote speaker at the Conservative Politicial Action conference, or CPAC. After hearing his comments, CPAC withdrew its invitation.
But here’s why I stand behind the point in my earlier op-ed: Yiannopoulos thought that he was on top of the world, invincible and could say whatever he wanted whenever he wanted. He was entitled to free speech under the First Amendment and it is still entitled to it. To him, it didn’t matter what he said. But he has spoken, and now, everyone else has a response: You’re a creep, and we want nothing to do with you.
If Yiannopoulos were Icarus, then free speech served as his wings made of wax.
The First Amendment’s inalienable right to free speech isn’t about being able to say whatever you want whenever you want. No founding father fought for free speech because they wanted to call each other cucks. Actually, when that happened, they would duel each other with pistols. The First Amendment is a privilege and it is meant to protect civilized voices of dissent against the powerful.
In the past, obtaining this privilege wasn’t easy. When John Peter Zenger published satirical cartoons and articles in the New York Weekly Journal criticizing the British governor of New York in 1734, he was arrested and tried. At this time, the government, acting on legislative policies from a foreign entity, treated Americans like subjects and second-class citizens for expressing their discontent with the people in power. Zenger argued that his criticisms were accurate, and the crown had no right to prosecute him for speaking the truth. Zenger won his case, and truth became the ultimate defense against libel. This is the cornerstone of the First Amendment.
Anyone who thinks Yiannopoulos’ story remotely parallels Zenger’s is high on something, and I doubt they’re getting it from Terrapin.
His comments are a national tragedy. He has used the comedy defense time and time again. Then, when challenged, he complains about how people are too sensitive and politically-correct to realize he’s “merely” joking. You simply cannot joke about pederasty.
Political correctness isn’t Yiannopoulos’s best defense, either. In some cases, making fun of people or events in an edgy way can teach us real lessons and moral values.
For example, South Park notoriously used the N-word 42 times in an episode titled “With Apologies to Jesse Jackson,” making the moral very clear: If you’re not black, you have absolutely no idea what it means to hear someone else use the N-word, so just don’t say it. That’s a moral lesson taught through a crude textbook, sure, but it’s also a life lesson.
Yiannopoulos, on the other hand, isn’t teaching anyone anything. He is high on fame and can’t control what he says. As a result, he incites hate and bigotry with his jokes, normalizes appalling behavior whether he intends to or not. In the past, he’s straight-up bullied marginalized people for the sake of laughs and entertaining his audience. This is high-school humor, and college — seemingly his biggest audience — is about transitioning into adulthood. If anything, he’s the reason why political correctness is so necessary.
As a result of his crass comments on pederasty, Yiannopoulos has lost his book deal with Simon and Schuster. He probably won’t get a good job with a news outlet anytime soon, if ever again. And now, thanks to Yiannopolous’ right to free speech, liberals and conservatives alike see him for what he is: a lowly, tortured maniac with no morals or values.
This is why I love free speech. It is our personal vanity that reflects our truest character for all eyes and ears to behold. And sometimes we have to use our own voice to ask ourselves who we really want to be.
Contact CU Independent Visuals Editor Jesse Hughes at firstname.lastname@example.org.