In a packed auditorium Wednesday, several students at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, interrupted ultradivisive conservative writer and speaker Milo Yiannopoulos with blaring air horns. Outside, more student protesters held signs reading “End rape culture” and “Rape culture is not a myth.”
At another event several days earlier, students at Rutgers University smeared faux blood on their faces while Yiannopoulos spoke, shouting, “This man represents hatred.”
And those were the events Yiannopoulos made it to. A handful of universities in Britain have canceled appearances that are part of an ongoing speaking tour, which Yiannopoulos, who is gay and highly critical of “politically correct chaos” on college campuses, has dubbed the Dangerous Faggot Tour.
His website also lists a canceled event at Ohio State University, but a spokeswoman there said, “No one at Ohio State has knowledge of this event being scheduled here.”
Yiannopoulos himself says the number of university event cancellations is as high as 10 in the last 12 months, but he has agreed not to publicize some at the behest of student groups that were involved.
The Student Union at the University of Manchester in Britain cited “various comments lambasting rape survivors and trans people” and referred to Yiannopoulos as a “rape apologist” in announcing the cancellation. “We believe these views could incite hatred against both trans people and women who have experienced sexual violence. As we believe it is probable these views would be aired in this discussion should he be allowed to speak on campus, we have no choice but to ban him.”
Yiannopoulos is a British social media firebrand and tech writer for the far-right website Breitbart who may have angered so many on Twitter that the company revoked his verified status. He was once also removed from a protest march against rape culture, called a SlutWalk, which he attended while holding a sign that read, “Rape Culture and Harry Potter: Both Fantasy.”
“Students aren’t used to hearing alternative points of view,” Yiannopoulos wrote in an email to Inside Higher Ed. “That has been the case for a decade or more. It enrages them that not only do I make evidence-based arguments and consistently beat them on the rare occasion they show up, but I do so with style, sass, and my trademark humility.”
“If you don’t want to come to a Milo Yiannopoulos lecture, don’t come. But you have no right to deny others the chance to,” he wrote. Aside from a “tiny minority” of “social justice warriors,” he continued, “pretty much everyone else agrees with at least some of what I’m saying, because they recognize that, for example, feminism hurts women as much as it hurts men and they are mystified that feminists are unwilling/incapable of defending their wacky positions.”
Among the articles he’s written for Breitbart is a piece entitled “Feminists and Progressives Attack College Football With More Dodgy Rape Statistics,” which is critical of a study that found reports of rape near big-team colleges increased on game days. The prevailing concern about campus rape, he writes, “isn’t about protecting women. It’s about man-hating. It’s a confected moral panic directed against young, male, mostly white American college students despite the fact that American college campuses are among the safest places for a woman to be, and despite the fact that rape rates have been dropping for 30 years.”
“It’s a campaign,” he writes, “aimed squarely at undermining masculinity—the sort of healthy male athleticism and competition perfectly encapsulated by the great American tradition of college football. Don’t fall for it.”
In another article, running under the headline “Why Equality and Diversity Departments Should Only Hire Rich, Straight White Men,” Yiannopoulos argues that “all heads of diversity and indeed every employee of any diversity or equality department should be white men—the more privileged the better. After all, only rich, well-educated, well-connected heterosexual white males have the required detachment and lack of emotional connection to the issues at hand to make the right calls.”
Is all of this serious? The answer seems to be mostly yes but a little bit no.
Yiannopoulos has indeed, for example, started a college scholarship fund exclusively for white men, but it started as a joke, “something that would wind up social justice warriors,” he told BuzzFeed News. “All of my very best ideas start as mischievous jokes because they will wind up the right people.”
It is very real now, however. The Yiannopoulos Privilege Grant has $125,000 in funds, collected from private donors, including Yiannopoulos himself, who contributed $25,000. Yiannopoulos said the money will be disbursed in $2,500 grants to “applicants that identify as white. We’re not in the business of getting DNA tests.”
“American college campuses have changed and demographics once considered disadvantaged are no longer held back by racial, homophobic or sexist bias,” explains the scholarship’s website. “Research now suggests that low-income Caucasian males are the most in need of help. Women’s advantage in college graduation is evident at all socioeconomic levels and for most racial and ethnic groups.”
“He says things that are definitely inflammatory but contain a kernel of truth,” said Deion Kathawa, a University of Michigan student who writes for and edits a right-leaning student publication and who spearheaded an effort to recreate on his campus the debate that was canceled at the University of Manchester. The go-to word among Kathawa’s friends, he said, was provocateur. (Yiannopoulos has characterized himself in a similar way, telling a Fusion reporter, “The only proper response to outrage culture is to be outrageous.”)
So far, Kathawa said, he and other students advertising the event have been met with some shouting, nasty looks and one student who said “they’d throw up” at the thought of Yiannopoulos coming to campus. “Just sort of general dislike that we’re doing it,” Kathawa said, but “nothing organized.” He noted that may change as the event draws closer.
In advance of Yiannopoulos’ appearance at the University of Minnesota, students posted fliers calling him a “professional mansplainer” and announcing a formal protest outside the event against “misogynistic and transphobic hate speech on our campus.”
The student group that organized the protest said in a release, “By allowing for student service fees to be used to invite violent, misogynistic, and transphobic hate speech onto our campus, the University of Minnesota is condoning this dangerous speech with its inaction in the interests of the student body.” The group, Students for a Democratic Society, said it “sees his violent speech against women and in defense of violent acts against them as hate speech, which has no place on our campus.”