There seems to be a general misunderstanding about Milo Yiannopoulos’ visit. It has nothing to do with free speech.
Australia has no Bill of Rights, so we have no official decree of free speech – we happen to have such a luxury, but it’s only because it’s generally, socially accepted as being the case. The battle for free speech is one which has encompassed many aspects of Australian society for many decades, from the banning of books (Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint), to films (from Salo to Ken Park and Baise Moi) and pornography. We should not be banning everything, or anything for that matter, just because it’s offensive. I find The Bachelor intellectually offensive (why not just call it Vagina Auction and be done with it?), but it shouldn’t be banned – that’s why God gave us the remote control.
This notion of free speech being the be-all and end-all of a forward thinking society seems to have continued to this day, with the arrival of alt-right poster boy and pederasty apologist Milo Yiannopoulos, who as well as being fired from right wing “news” outlet Breitbart, was handed a lifetime ban from Twitter for inciting a bilious diatribe of racist, misogynist hatred being spewed at actress-comedian Lesley Jones. On the heels of a book tour, this loathsome cretin has been making the speaking rounds to crowds of mostly white entitled males, delivering a performance of insubstantial and reactionary fascist nonsense, under the guise of “free speech”. He never actually says anything of substance; he has no insights, no nuance. His whole act is just being a total, unhinged dick for the sake of it.
I’m all in favour of being able to say what you think. I’m also in favour of not being a dick about it. At his recent gigs, Yiannopoulos made the pronouncement that Muslim refugees had very few skills, but one of them was raping women. He had a picture of a then-19-year old feminist author Clementine Ford projected onto a screen with the word “unfuckable” superimposed on it
But, sure. Free speech. Woo.
There is a difference between free speech, and hate speech. Free speech means you can say what you want, without fear of being prosecuted for it. But it comes at a cost: you can’t run into a crowded theatre and yell “Fire!” You can’t simply say that which you know is untrue, and do so for the specific purpose of intimidating, harassing or offending people. That’s 18C – and that’s the whole makeup of Milo, and this fetid, self-aggrandising publicity tour of his.
Andrew Bolt was charmed by his presence and totted along to the Melbourne gig only to be offended by some of his lesser insights. It’s as if Bolt lay down with a dog and found himself puzzled by all the fleas he found himself with the next morning. Stunning.
The real issue here is that what we have in Yiannopoulos is, at the very best, a narcissistic nihilist. He stands for nothing, believes in nothing, wants attention above all else, and his sole reason for being is to get a rise out of a very specific subset of educated people. I mean, imagine if that was all you deemed yourself worthy of contributing to the world – going out of your way to be offensive, for no other reason than that it will upset people. He’s essentially Rodney Rude, but without the jokes.
The targets of Milo’s scorn and bile are the subset of people who care about those other than themselves. The ones who don’t lump all Muslims into one bag; those who have the apparently misguided temerity to think that women should be treated equally in life and under the law…those pesky folk who don’t regard feminism as cancer. The Left, basically. He has no ideas of his own which are practicable or useful. He just wants to pester.
So, as it turns out, he says what’s on his mind and becomes the pinup boy for the likes of “libertarian” South Australian Senator David Leyonhjelm, who this week darkened the halls of federal parliament by inviting this twit to speak. He’s got the ringing endorsement of Mark Latham, and that’s as red a flag as you’ll ever need. And Andrew Bolt had him on his Sky News show, was charmed by his presence and totted along to the Melbourne gig only to be offended by some of his lesser insights. It’s as if Bolt lay down with a dog and found himself puzzled by all the fleas he found himself with the next morning. Stunning.
The thing is that at the end of the day, we are, presumably, all adults who can make up our own minds about what ideas are sound and what aren’t worth oxygen. Milo is an oxygen thief, worthy of little more than the three stops on public transport this piece has required of you for its reading. You’re free to disagree with the precepts of third wave feminism, or how the misinterpretation of Islam has an effect on women in some countries, sure. But you’ll sooner or later just expose yourself as being at the centre of a vortex of ignorance and profound narrowmindedness.
But you also need to keep in mind the fact that people with better ideas will be heard just as well as when you allow your vile dribble into the public sphere. Sunlight’s the best disinfectant, after all.