Triggerer warning

Internet supervillain Milo Yiannopoulos to descend on UC Davis

This is an extended version of a story that ran in the December 22, 2016, issue.

Milo Yiannopoulos provokes professionally.

A Breitbart editor, he traffics in hyperbole and exception-is-the-rule logic to spread ideas that flirt with racism, sexism and xenophobia—seeking to both rile up the “politically correct” and thrill his occasionally bigoted fans. He’s an “alt-right” cultural icon, and he’s descending on UC Davis next month.

Sponsored by the Davis College Republicans, he’s scheduled to bring his “Dangerous Faggot” tour to the university on January 13. Unlike several other schools, UC Davis won’t be canceling the event, so as to foster an “environment that avoids censorship and allows space for differing points of view,” said spokeswoman Kim Hale.

Yiannopoulos often attacks Islam, feminism and Black Lives Matter. Openly gay, he praises Donald Trump and calls him “daddy.” He claims he can’t be racist because he “sucks black dick.” He sees himself as a speaker for forgotten voices—a nationalist defender of free speech, “Western civilization” and conservative values.

Tickets for next month’s appearance are already sold out. The lecture hall where the event is being hosted seats 511 people.

But not everyone is looking forward to his visit.

“His presence here is incredibly disturbing,” said Alex Lee, student body president of UC Davis. “His style is the human equivalent of online trolls. Any internet user with enough experience knows that engaging a troll just emboldens them, makes them worse. Because that is what they live of off. But you can’t just let evil happen and not say anything about it.”

Lee admits he’s never sampled Yiannopoulos’ work and said he’d support students both wishing to ignore or protest the event, though Yiannopoulos cites protests against him as proof of attacks on free speech. The DCR’s chair, Nicholas Francois, declined an interview with SN&R.

Sam Park, a Republican member of the student Senate, condemned some of Yiannopoulos’ comments, but respects his right to express his ideas. Park, who is Asian, claims he’s seen Davis students on Facebook tell white classmates, “You’re white, you can’t speak on these issues, shut up, sit down, check your privilege, move on,” when they comment on certain topics.

When Yiannopoulos brought his tour to Houston in September, the self-described “chief executive triggerer called “anti-white racism” a motivator of the alt-right.

“I’ve seen friends get immediately shut down solely on their color, rather than their ideas,” Park said. “Rather than raising the struggles of different individuals from different walks of life, it became an armament of silencing those who disagree with you or who are not of your group. I think that can become a really dangerous pattern if it continues.”

Freshman Republican Assemblyman Kevin Kiley recently pushed California’s public universities to “encourage a diversity of ideas” after the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education last week issued a report evaluating schools for restrictive speech policies. UC Davis scored a so-so “yellow light,” which means the university has some policies “that could be interpreted to suppress protected speech.”

Sacramento State earned a “red light” rating, meaning it had at least one policy that “clearly and substantially restricts free speech,” FIRE states. FIRE also warned of students tattling on classmates or teachers for potentially offensive statements, calling that “impermissible.”

As for Yiannopoulos, he has a talent for bringing out the worst in students.

On May 24, student activists rushed the stage as Yiannopoulos spoke at DePaul University, taking the microphone from his hand. That night, supporters and protestors clashed. Two days later, multiple students reported a noose hanging from a tree on campus.

At one point, Yiannopoulos had more than 300,000 followers on Twitter. He got banned temporarily after he called the shooter of the Pulse nightclub in Orlando part of “mainstream Muslim culture.” He was reinstated just hours before he held a press conference in front of the nightclub where he expanded on that train of thought.

Twitter permanently banned him after he mocked comedian Leslie Jones’ appearance, called her “barely literate” and spread photoshopped tweets falsely attributed to her. This lead to a deluge of posts by his followers directed at Jones, depicting her as a gorilla or with semen on her face. After the ban, he moved to Facebook. His page has more than 1 million likes.