College Republicans at UCLA have set a very dangerous precedent by inviting, then abruptly disinviting, the iconoclastic conservative firebrand Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking on campus.
This capitulation by conservatives who ought to know better undermines the conservative movement and emboldens the anti-free speech campus Left. It is also disturbing proof of just how far politically correct dogma has penetrated conservative thinking. This morale-killing sellout comes 13 months after the night of Feb. 1-2, 2017, when leftist UC Berkeley students and Antifa thugs rioted to prevent Yiannopoulos from delivering a David Horowitz Freedom Center-sponsored speech demanding the end of “sanctuary campuses” that harbor illegal aliens.
After inviting Yiannopoulos to campus Feb. 13 for a Feb. 27 talk this year, the board of directors of the Bruin Republicans suddenly withdrew the invitation Feb. 15 under pressure from the self-styled conservative Gabriel Rossman, an informal academic advisor they barely knew.
Yiannopoulos is an outspoken, gay, Roman Catholic, ethnically Jewish, Greek-born British citizen who ardently supports President Trump. He revels in his status as "the world's most fabulous supervillain” in the eyes of left-wingers. Because he swears like a sailor and is in-your-face about his sexuality, Milo is not everyone’s cup of tea, but he has a way of putting things that young people easily grasp.
His rapier wit and mastery of the art of ridicule, have won him many admirers in conservative circles, including no less a conservative intellectual than David Horowitz, who describes him as “indisputably the most effective conservative on campus battling the anti-American, identity-obsessed, racist left.”
That said, in a Feb. 14 open letter to Bruin Republicans, Rossman, a professor of the pseudo-discipline of sociology at the University of California Los Angeles, bullied his trusting young new friends in, of all places, the pages of the Weekly Standard.
Instead of quietly arguing his case in private as a real friend would do, this grandstanding sociologist made his pitch in public to maximize the humiliation of his targets, something one might expect a left-wing adherent of Saul Alinsky to do.
I was very glad to meet everyone at a recent lunch. You seem to be a great group of students with serious aspirations and a strong interest in conservatism. As you will recall, in my remarks I expressed the hope that you would follow the traditional debating society model of the Harvard Republicans rather than the epater les SJWs performance art model of the University of Colorado Republicans as described in Binder and Wood’s Becoming Right. You will also recall a very specific corollary I mentioned: Do not invite Milo Yiannopoulos. It was for this reason that I was surprised when I learned Tuesday that you were doing exactly that, and for a talk entitled “10 Things I Hate About Mexico.”
Rossman certainly had a lot of leverage over people he had only met with one time. Apparently, not inviting Yiannopoulos was an order, not a suggestion, along the lines of an offer from Don Corleone that couldn’t be refused.
The professor refers to himself as “one of the few conservative faculty at UCLA, and one of a very few who knows the campus club.” He vowed in the open letter that “should the event go forward, I will decline to have any association with the Bruin Republicans until it has experienced a complete turnover in membership."
Rossman described the talk by Yiannopoulos as “evil on the merits,” and attacked conservatives for their willingness “to embrace a man who says despicable things for the purpose of ‘triggering snowflakes.’”
“I want to be clear that my point here is not that some people will be offended, but that the speaker is purely malicious,” he writes without providing evidence of that alleged malice. (Whether malice is an entirely bad thing in a conservative warrior is a discussion for another day.)
A spokeswoman for the Bruin Republicans’ coward faction, UCLA student Mariela Muro, echoes the professor’s talking points in a separate op-ed at the Weekly Standard.
Muro slams Milo as “a loathsome intellectual bantamweight of no public consequence,” a characterization that suggests she is unfamiliar with his work, which can be as intellectually profound as it is shocking.
It bears mentioning that in order to mock the leftist idea of “white privilege,” Milo created a "Privilege Grant" for white men only, which is described "as exclusively available to white men who wish to pursue their post-secondary education on equal footing with their female, queer and ethnic minority classmates."
This is racism? This is malicious? Not even close. It is biting and funny. It’s the kind of thing that changes minds.
Muro falls into a politically correct trap when she argues that in order to advance conservative ideas, it is necessary to counter “the liberal dogma that conservatives are racist troglodytes and [for] demonstrating that Republicans aren’t all old, or white, or men—I’m a 21 year old Mexican-American woman—and explaining that at the end of the day, it’s ideas that matter, not identity politics.”
Obviously identity politics is terribly important to Muro because she feels obliged to make her case on left-wing turf, implicitly accepting the premises of the other side. She embraces ethnic and sexual tokenism, brandishing her status as a Mexican-American woman as a virtue, when in fact it is irrelevant in the marketplace of ideas. You don’t undermine identity politics by using identity politics. You can’t win an argument when you doubt the rightness of your own side.
As for Yiannopoulos, he marveled at the UCLA Republicans’ high-speed surrender, writing on Facebook:
In two years, and dozens of colleges, I have never seen students crumble this quickly before. And all because I wanted to tell a few jokes about MS-13. It’s shameful. 60 million people in America voted for Donald Trump and their point of view is being exterminated from public life — with the help of so-called Republicans on campus. This is why the Left wins and will continue to win the big cultural victories: conservatives in this country have no stomach for the fight.
Rossman is engaging in “intimidation, plain and simple,” according to Milo:
This is a new front in the Left's war on campus conservatism: applying pressure in the media while pretending to respect free speech to bully students into canceling the most popular -- and therefore the most dangerous -- conservative speakers.
I’m not even far-right, or all that controversial. I'm a gay Jewish immigrant married to an African-American who talks about free speech. But because I'm effective, and popular, and because unlike other conservative speakers I persuade moderates, the censors go crazy any time my name is mentioned. And so do the snobs of the Republican establishment who can't understand how someone as gauche and attention seeking as me could possibly be popular.
The conservative movement needs an intellectual street fighter like Milo Yiannopoulos and what his critics deride as his performance art. Milo reaches people conservatives traditionally have difficulty reaching and has the good sense not to accept his enemies’ premises.
As Mark Bauerlein, an English professor of at Emory University and Senior Editor at First Things Magazine, writes at Newsmax,
When your own political leaders let the other side set the terms and put you ever on the defensive, you want someone like Milo to cut the game off from the start. Forget whether President Trump spoke inappropriately in a closed meeting. Instead, he's likely to say, "Democrats ought to stop acting like teenage girls indignant over what one of them said about another one. Grow up!" Or something funnier than what I can come up with.
This is why Milo matters. Reputable Republicans push for tax cuts, but they wilt whenever a charge of racism is in the air. They want market deregulation, but they don't want to go near LGBT issues no matter how much Human Rights Campaign bullies and smears social conservatives. Battles are being fought over religion, manhood, historical statues, and bias at Google, but "responsible" conservatives want to avoid them. Liberals and leftists have made them nervous and conciliatory.
There are conservatives like Gabriel Rossman who want to be seen as respectable, and there are conservatives like Milo Yiannopoulos who want to win and take America back from the Left.
The Rossmans of the conservative movement had their chance. They need to step aside for someone who can get the job done.