In an era of severe distrust permeating campuses nationwide, one self-proclaimed liberal student calls for exchanges of respectful dialogue, not insults.
Just last week, Breitbart News editor and public speaker Milo Yiannopoulos saw one of his speaking engagements canceled when a protest against him at UC Berkeley turned into a violent riot. Rioters broke windows and even took part in brutal beatings of Milo’s supporters.
I am not on the same side politically as Milo. I am a liberal because I believe in liberty. First and foremost, my most cherished liberty is freedom of speech. The entire idea of freedom of speech is predicated on the notion that one must protect not only speech which they agree with, but also speech they disagree with. That also extends to speech which *gasp* offends you.
The regressive left doesn’t truly stand for liberty.
The violent rioters at UC Berkeley are representative of a phenomenon I and other actual liberals call the “regressive left.” The regressive left doesn’t truly stand for liberty. Instead, they stand for the idea that anyone that says anything which offends them or doesn’t fit their narrative can and should be silenced.
This regressive mindset is not only wrong, it is incredibly dangerous. A healthy public debate of ideas never silences anyone who wishes to engage in an open and honest dialogue about important issues. Unlike many of his critics and the bulk of these rioters, I have actually listened to Milo speak.
When Milo is faced with a tantrum from a protester who disrupts his events, he mercilessly mocks them to no end. However, and this is crucial to my view of Yiannopoulos, when faced with a respectful challenge to his ideas, he’s extremely polite and gives very well thought out answers to genuine questions from liberals.
This is what public discourse between people who disagree is supposed to look like. It’s not supposed to look like the absolute temper tantrum that many regressive leftists throw at his events.
You’ve all heard it over the course of the past year. Conservatives are racist, sexist, islamophobic, etc.
And when they’re not throwing tantrums, these regressives resort to the next most destructive thing, name-calling. You’ve all heard it over the course of the past year. Conservatives are racist, sexist, islamophobic, etc. Despite my progressive views and liberal credentials as a youth leader in the Democratic Party, I’ve been called all of these things when I speak freely about political issues. The one thing I have not been called is the utterly hyperbolic “neo-Nazi.”
Milo has been called a neo-Nazi by many of his most fervent critics. He is also a half Jewish, openly gay man. I will refer to my ethnic heritage when I say that calling Milo a Nazi is incredibly insulting to the memory of my ancestors and the millions of others who suffered during the holocaust.
Milo is not an oppressor, he’s a messenger. I don’t agree with every aspect of his message. However, I must admit, I agree with some of it. And that’s important. It’s important for people from different sides of the isle to listen to one another. That’s how you find common ground and come to a consensus. It’s how you change minds and strengthen your movement.
When you listen and engage in a respectful dialogue about your differences, that’s called making an argument; something many liberals, the regressives, are forgetting how to do.
When you listen and engage in a respectful dialogue about your differences, that’s called making an argument; something many liberals, the regressives, are forgetting how to do. Instead, they attempt to silence their foes by name-calling and throwing dramatic tantrums to distract from their weak debating skills.
If Milo comes to Towson, and I hope he does, don’t be one of these regressive babies. Go to his event, listen, and if you disagree with something he says, ask about it during the Q&A. As a true, blue liberal Democrat who vehemently opposes President Trump, I want avid Trump supporter and right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos to know that people like me exist. I want him to know that true liberals are here to debate him, not silence him.
And lastly, I want all the regressives to know that their childish antics will not be tolerated. To each and every one of you that would even think to engage in the kind of behavior that took place at UC Berkeley, or who calls their political opponents neo-Nazis in a pathetic attempt to slander them with false, ad hominem attacks which harken back to the tactics of McCarthyism. You are the shame of the progressive movement and could not be more antithetical to true liberalism.
Learn to make actual arguments or get out of the debate hall. Right now, with this country in the state that it’s in, we adults don’t have time for your tantrums.
Matt Teitelbaum studies Political Science/Mass Communication at Towson University and is the President at College Democrats of Maryland.
This piece originally appeared in The Huffington Post on February 6th, 2017.