Armed with incendiary rhetoric and dressed in a priest costume, Milo Yiannopoulos spoke to a crowded lecture hall of mostly young men at Florida State University Friday. The self-proclaimed “provocateur” is touring college campuses across the country to challenge what he says is extreme political correctness.
Yiannopoulos, referred to commonly as just “Milo” is a British journalist and technology editor for Breitbart News. He’s gained notoriety for incendiary remarks against women and minorities. Those comments have drawn comparisons with the emerging alt-right movement, which Yiannopoulos denies he is a part of.
FSU’s College Republicans helped book Yiannopoulos’ FSU stop on his current speaking tour titled, The Dangerous F***t Tour.
His arrival was marked with intensity on both ends.
FSU student Robby Jones said, “I love Milo. I love what he talks about. I love his positions on topics that people are afraid to talk about…like Black Lives Matter, feminism…his ideas on every subject, I think they just make sense to a lot of people. And that’s why he’s pretty popular.”
Yiannopoulos has provoked audiences with his commentary on the appearances of women, most notably tweeting about SNL cast member Leslie Jones’ nude pictures being leaked. His comments online alluded that he found Jones to look like a man. And he was later banned from Twitter after instigating a troll attack against Jones.
As the line to enter the event grew, so did the number of people lining up to protest. At the Union Green students rallied together, chanting, “When Black Students are under attack, what we do? Stand up, fight back!” When queer people are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!”
“We are standing against Milo Yiannopoulos, as well as the college Republicans who advocate for racism and misogyny. We are opposed to that,” said Katherine Draken, President of the FSU Chapter of Students for a Democratic Society. “We are opposed to any sort of bigotry or hate speech. And we don’t support the fact that Milo is allowed to speak on campus. That they [FSU College Republicans] brought him here, and that administration approved of him speaking. What he says is a danger to people. It endangers black people, it endangers women, it endangers queer and transgender people…and we don’t want that on campus.”
Prior to the event, Florida State University Vice President of Student Affairs Mary Coburn issued a statement saying it was the club, not the university that requested Milo’s appearance, and that universities are “marketplaces of ideas where students can decide for themselves whether they wish to listen and/or they passionately agree or disagree."
The University of Miami canceled Yiannopoulos’ speaking engagement but that school is a private institution. Florida State University is a public campus.
The ejection from Twitter was part of the opening theme of his speech. Yiannopoulos entered with a casket displaying the Twitter bird held up by pallbearers donning “Make America Great Again” caps. He said Twitter has “buried its own grave,” is “a network on the way out,” and that Twitter has become “so ideologically driven” that it doesn’t even work for advertisers anymore.
Yiannopoulos also touched on a variety of current, trending topics. He said the social justice movement is being pushed by “losers, whiners, and idiots with low IQs, big egos, and daddy issues.”
When asked about whether he’s concerned about losing his fame, Yiannopoulos responded, “You can always find new ways to upset people…You can always invent new words to irritate people. And you know, profanity, the history of language is a history of profanity falling in and out of fashion. [With] new words popping up, and depending on social fashions and social mores, words becoming more and less offensive over time...That’s just the rich tapestry of linguistic history, so no. I never get worried about that.”
And about the Leslie Jones controversy, Yiannopoulos’ says, “I was wrongly accused of sending racist tweets about [Jones]. What I said what was that I thought she looked like a hot black dude. Which was a joke about her appearance, which I’m allowed to make. News flash, a gay guy’s catty. I absolutely don’t engage in racist and sexist rhetoric…it just didn’t happen.”