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December 7, 2016

Why First Amendment advocates should be wary of the right

(Katherine Mayo/ Daily Collegian)

(Katherine Mayo/ Daily Collegian)

Last year, the University of Massachusetts College Republicans made waves with an event called “The Triggering: Has Political Correctness Gone Too Far?” It was a speaking event in Bowker Auditorium featuring prominent alt-right mouthpiece Milo Yiannopoulos. Ostensibly, Yiannopoulos had come to speak on behalf of free speech, which he argues is imperiled by “social justice warriors.” The irony of this argument, in light of his dogmatic support for Donald J. Trump and Gamergate, seems to have escaped him.

Trumpism seemed to take root at college campuses as a response to a left-leaning culture. In an environment that many perceived to be too “politically correct” or lacking in “intellectual diversity,” the words Trump 2016 were a cry of rebellion. “The Triggering,” if nothing else, sparked heated discussion about free speech on college campuses.

Unfortunately, as the race for the White House continued, the tremendous threat that the alt-right posed to the First Amendment became increasingly clear. Yiannopoulos and the rest of the alt-right’s free speech-centric arguments seem to have been nothing more than thinly veiled authoritarianism.

During the campaign, Trump spent a considerable amount of time attacking his critics in the press. He accused news sources such as the Washington Post, the New York Times, CNN, Katie Couric and many others of fictitious reporting, slander and fraud. These are dangerous terms, considering these accusations culminated in Trump threatening to “open up the libel laws” and censor journalists.

Many Trump supporters have suggested that he would moderate his position in office. However, his recent attack on the cast of Hamilton and declaration that the “theater should be a safe and special place,” suggests he isn’t doing so. These aren’t statements to be taken lightly, considering Trump now commands the most powerful office in the United States and may have the opportunity to pack the Supreme Court.

The movement that catapulted Trump to the Oval Office is similarly intolerant of free speech. Breitbart News, the publication affiliated with Steve Bannon and Yiannopoulos, has no shortage of articles praising Gamergate, which most view as a vicious harassment campaign against women in gaming and journalists,. The alt-right hails it as a victory in America’s “culture war.” Colin Kaepernick, similarly, has received death threats for expressing his views on racial inequality. With hate crimes on a sharp upward trajectory after Trump’s election, America must now contend with the reality of physical violence and threats to suppress political opposition.

While it is still unclear what Trump will actually do once he assumes office, the actions of him and many of his most ardent supporters are extremely concerning. Trump’s views on freedom of speech stand to jeopardize our way of life and chip away at the bedrock of our political discourse. If you support freedom of speech, discussion and expression, then you ought to keep an eye on the alt-right.

Pat Malone is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at pmalone@umass.edu.

Comments
8 Responses to “Why First Amendment advocates should be wary of the right”
  1. PJ says:

    lest you forget the slew of speech disabling events done at UMass during your tenure on this planet? That you had an incident this year that gave me pause enough to address it directly with Chancellor Meehan in person not two months ago?

    Trump’s mewling whining behavior when it comes to the press is frankly annoying even if they deserve it. You have to seriously consider the speech disabling events that really do occur and how it seems like your universities are thought leaders on such disabling of speech within what are traditionally bastions of speech and inquiry.

    Also, how you worked “gamergate” is quite hilarious. It makes me wonder if you’re proud of your skillful ways of parroting the words of others. I tell you, there’s a lot of skilled mimics out there so you’re in strong competition. I’d suggest developing your own thoughts but it’s clearer every day that recitations of accepted wisdom as instruction towards the assumed good is the norm of the day. Most of “gamergate” was a reaction to not being allowed to speak about certain subject material and people taking offense to that. Yet we read an article about the alt-right’s threat to speech. “We have met the enemy and he is ourselves.”

    Remember, the real authoritarians are those who take action and this we have a record of what they do. So far the “alt-right” has a largely empty scorecard… the academic left on the other hand filled theirs out a long time ago. While things could happen we will all be there to try and stop it. The old line is “The dark night of fascism is always descending in the United States and yet lands only in Europe.”

    We have yet to see what will happen… we already know what already has happened.

  2. john says:

    Just to highlight some issues here… you use Gawker as a source proving the evils of Gamergate.
    A multi magazine company with proven history of outrage and straight up lies; and one of the primary targets by Gamergate as being examples of unethical journalism.

    You also imply it is a right wing group, however, an in depth study taken by an independent researcher showed that most members of Gamergate were more socially liberal than most Americans by quite a higher margin.

    Perhaps a lazy media, using each other as the source of facts and not undertaking proper research themselves, and the abandonment of “bias free” or “Opinion Free news” is what has caused a serious chipping away of serious discourse of political issues. If the Media stopped assuming everyone was either stupid, or in some way a Nazi, you wouldn’t be suffering Trump, and Milo would not be a “thing”.

  3. BiofGG says:

    “heater should be a safe and special place”

    His tweet was so obviously a joke at the expense of your side, and yet it flew completely over your head.

  4. Anonymous says:

    “Most” might view Gamergate as a harassment campaign due to a big PR campaign by the guilty parties. Read Infogalactic’s take on it to see the start of a very deep rabbit hole.
    https://infogalactic.com/info/GamerGate

  5. Richie says:

    It’s an absolute disgrace that you are let anywhere near young adults being educated. An absolute disgrace. It’s no wonder all colleges are pumping out these days is dysfunctional children spouting Marxist dogmas.

  6. David Hunt 1990 says:

    I find the irony of a Democrat wanting to protect free speech laughable.

    The lamestream media went all in on this election to coronate Hillary; they burned their reputation with thinking people – i.e., not you – to cover up scandal after crime she committed.

    YOU are the people who silence speech through fascistic actions and overt violence.

  7. All US citizens should be wary of AIPAC’s constant push to limit criticism of Israel. The US Senate is currently fast tracking a bill called The Anti Semetism Awareness Act which is cloaked as a means of silencing Students and orgs of all tyes speaking out against Israel. This Bill is unconstitutional as is the various States who passed Anti BDS laws
    We as a nation cannot sit back and allow special interest groups such as AIPAC to draft Bills and have them passed by Congress that attack the fabric of Our Freedoms such as the right free expression! Stand up to any law that encroaches upon Our Constitution We have a civic responsibility to do so!

  8. David Hunt 1990 says:

    @Kevin O’Connor: Been reading your “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” lately?

    Everyone, including a Zionist Jew like me, can and does criticize Israel. It’s the DISPROPORTIONATE criticism that is a concern.

    For example, there are over 100 “disputed territories” around the world. Anti-Semites carp about those related to Israel and ignore the other ones.

    Israel has been deemed the world’s most moral army by multiple authorities; it’s tactics and techniques for warning civilians who are in the way of legitimate strikes are being copied by militaries around the world. Arabs from both Gaza and Judea & Samaria get medical treatment in Israeli hospitals. Arab Muslims serve in the Knesset; Arabs are judges, doctors, and even serve in the military.

    BDS is nothing more than an agency to do two things.

    1. To weaken Israel economically and militarily, as a prelude to further attacks.
    2. To smear, with fake information, Israel to the point that its destruction is seen as a moral necessity.

    BDS is an agent of Hamas, a known and documented terrorist group dedicated to the destruction of Israel and the achievement of a second Holocaust – and BDS’ supporters are complicit with that conspiracy.

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