Panelists criticize political correctness at UMass GOP event

By Danny Cordova

(Katherine Mayo/Daily Collegian)
(Katherine Mayo/Daily Collegian)

British journalist and entrepreneur Milo Yiannopoulos joined author and former philosophy professor Christina Hoff Sommers and YouTube comedian Steven Crowder to discuss feminism, social justice and microaggressions at the University of Massachusetts Monday night.

The event, titled “The Triggering: Has Political Correctness Gone Too Far?” took place at the Bowker Auditorium and was hosted by UMass College Republicans. The three speakers, known for their conservative viewpoints, drew long lines of supporters as well as pockets of protesters.

When Yiannopoulos stepped into the podium to introduce himself, he received a wave a cries from supporters and dissenters alike. His introduction was brief.

“Feminism is cancer. Thank you very much,” Yiannopoulos said.

Hoff Sommers claimed that feminist scholars have invented sets of victim statistics used in conversations about sexual assault and gender-biased wages. The one-in-four on-campus rape statistic and the gender pay gap statistics, Hoff Sommers claimed, are fabricated exaggerations.

“All of these claims are reckless exaggerations,” Hoff Sommers said. “So often, they are now, in some places, beyond the reaches of rational analysis.”

“Gender scholars, along with mischievous and credulous students have formed an axis of intolerance,” Hoff Sommers said.

The speakers were given an opportunity to define political correctness in their own words. Yiannopoulos described political correctness as an organized system of lying, one which is designed to “save the feelings of delicate wallflowers at the expense of reason, fact and truth.”

Yiannopoulos went on to say that political correction, at its worse, could be deadly. He cited that political correction stopped people from reporting the Fort Hood shooting in 2009 for fear of being accused as an Islamophobe.

Yiannopoulos was referring to an incident that took place at Fort Hood army base in Texas where Nidal Hasan, a psychiatrist and major in the U.S. army, killed 13 people. Leading up to the attack, Hasan had reportedly shown signs of radicalization. Officials labeled the attack as an incidence of workplace violence and not terrorism despite the opposition of conservative legislators.

Other members of the crowd were not pleased to see the panelists.

Some members of the UMass Interfaith Alliance protested Monday’s event before it started, holding signs that read “Milo does not speak for me,” and “Stop Islamophobia.”
“We do not approve of this kind of speech,” said Bahiya Nasuuna, an UMass junior majoring in public health.
“I’m here because it’s super insensitive for UMass would allow this speech to happen,” Lily Wallace, an UMass junior majoring in political science, said. “Especially on a campus that is coming out of so much anti-Semitic and Islamophobic graffiti everywhere.”
As some members of the audience began to yell at Yiannopoulos and the panel, Crowder used the demonstration as an example to make his point on political correction.

“These people don’t want to hear anything about differing opinions, that’s what political correctness is,” Crowder said. “These people don’t have arguments; they just yell out racist.”

Yiannopoulos argued that all speech, no matter how controversial, should be allowed. He used an example where BBC allowed the chairman and then-president of the British National Party, a far-right political party, Nick Griffin to be included in a debate where his extreme right views were challenged. Following the debate, the party began to lose elections.

“This is why it isn’t just important to give a platform to all normal speech, it’s important to give a platform on all speech,” Yiannopoulos said.

“I’m surprised to see the anger that came from some of the people in the crowd,” Michael Moschella, an UMass sophomore said. “I feel like (the panel) should be allowed to speak, even when people disagree with them.”

Hoff Sommers also challenged the gender pay gap further by citing the work of Claudia Goldin, a professor of economics at Harvard. Hoff Sommers claimed that Goldin said she “can’t find a smoking gun” when searching for a wage gap based on recent studies. Hoff Sommers referred to an appearance Goldin made on the NPR radio show “Freakonomics.”

Goldin said that on the surface level, a pay gap does in fact exist but not in the form generally referenced in public discussion. Goldin used her own methods of analysis to offer a more nuanced analysis of the talking point, according to her interview with “Freakonomics.”

“If it were really true that you can pay a women 23 cents less than a man, what intelligent employer wouldn’t fire all of their male employees and hire only women,” Hoff Sommers said.

Yiannopoulos followed by criticizing political correctness again. While political correctness is quick to label dissenting opinion as racist, Yiannopoulos said, he and the panel believe in a marketplace of ideas.

“If you believe in an open market of ideas, creative freedom, intellectual diversity, today, your enemies is the regressive left,” Yiannopoulos said.

Danny Cordova can be reached at [email protected]