The beginning of February saw conservative personality and provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos set to speak at the University of California-Berkeley. This took somewhat of an interesting turn, however, when violent protests broke out on campus ahead of Yiannopoulos’ appearance.

As CNN reported on Feb. 3, 2017, these riots caused $100,000 worth of damage across campus and ultimately led administrators to cancel the event amidst the violence. Attackers assaulted two Berkeley students during an interview. Protesters set fires and threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at police who were trying to contain the situation, injuring at least six people. This is a barbaric form of political activism, but what’s truly worrying is the reaction to these riots.

As of right now, America is as politically polarized as it has ever been in recent memory. The troubling trend of people on both ends of the political spectrum normalizing violence as a legitimate form of political dissent mirrors this polarization.

On Feb. 7, 2017, Berkeley’s student-run news publication, “The Daily Californian,” published a series of op-eds that justified the use of barbaric violence to shut out Yiannopoulos on campus. The premises of these articles can be surmised by their titles. “Violence as self-defense” argued that the violence used to shut out Yiannopoulos was justified. “Check your privilege when speaking of protests” argued anyone condemning the violent protesters was speaking from a place of immense privilege. “Violence helped ensure the safety of students” argued that the violence was beneficial as it protected students from the harm of Yiannopoulos’ rhetoric. “Black bloc did what campus should have” argued that violently protesting was a form of self-defense. “Condemning protesters same as condoning hate speech” argued that condemning the violence was equatable to agreeing with Yiannopoulos rhetoric, which the author described as hateful. “Plurality of tactics contributed to cancellation of Milo Yiannopoulos event” argued that freedom of speech should not be inclusive to Yiannopoulos’ rhetoric.

There are few instances in which violence can be truly justified. In my opinion, these instances are exclusive to using violence to defend oneself or another from violence. Part of the reason that political violence is justified is that there is a current wave of people equating polarizing rhetoric to physical violence. Many of the previously cited articles made this equivalency. A particular video of a protester at Yiannopoulos’ event went viral, as it depicted her asserting that Yiannopoulos’ rhetoric functioned to “threaten us, intimidate us, rape us, [and] kill us.”

The problem with the argument that the likes of Yiannopoulos’ words are equatable to violence is that it simply isn’t true. He has never advocated for violence of any kind. In fact, his rhetoric is virtually the same as numerous modern day American conservatives. I personally disagree with him on many issues, but to say that his words are equivalent to physical violence is intellectually disingenuous.

If one wants to characterize the likes of Yiannopoulos’ rhetoric as “hate speech,” that’s their prerogative. It’s their prerogative to protest what figures like Yiannopoulos have to say. It’s their prerogative to refuse to listen to or engage with people who espouse these viewpoints. It is not their prerogative to escalate this sentiment to literal violence.

Violence is a counterproductive way of combating ideas. The fact that Yiannopoulos’ political viewpoints are harbored by an overwhelming amount of Americans makes it important to listen to and engage with his rhetoric if one wants to dispel his ideology. In our current political climate, civil and tempered discourse has never been more important. It’s the only way we can grow as a collective. Using violence as a political tactic then normalizing its use is the mark of a regressive and archaic society.

Author: Rahul Tamta

11 COMMENTS

  1. Rahul Tamta by far writes the best articles on Metea Media. Even if you don’t agree with him, you can’t deny that his opinions are incredibly well researched and articulated.

  2. I think that, in the current system of government and with the current political polarization, people feel that resulting to violence is all they have. People are sick of not being heard. Not saying the violence is right, but it may be all we have.

  3. I like how they say “Love Trumps hate” but yet they are the ones who are burning down our towns and cities.

    • I respect your opinion, but if minority groups were just given the equal rights that they deserve originally, there would not be any violent protests and riots. This is a free country, where people should have the right be who they want, not having to be scared of going outside because of the color of their skin or having a different sexual OR gender preference. I personally don’t agree with all the violence that has taken place on both sides, but they should have a chance to have their voice heard, not silenced.

      • Minorities have had equal rights for decades. No one is being oppressed… People just like to put the blame on the government instead of themselves. They are responsible for the faults of their own communities. If they want to make a change, make a change from within and stop pointing fingers.

      • This is absolute insanity, minorities have all rights as everyone else, many don’t want to go out and work for a living, or instead sit and collect welfare and then complain that others are privileged. privilege does not come from nothing, it comes from work. if you are seriously concerned about the other things like the gender pay gap, maybe women should stop majoring in gender studies (In which a degree barely qualifies you for a job at subway) and go into a field that needs workers.

  4. I can’t access the video. Proof read the article before posting it. Stop wasting our time by having us click on restricted videos.

  5. I’m all for revolution in times where it is desperately needed (think of instances where the hypothetical country’s government is preventing its people from having access to food or water, or is supporting the kind of corporatism that leaves many people to suffer…not saying America doesn’t do the second part to a degree), but responding to different viewpoints with violence is never a good idea otherwise. Milo may be sort of ridiculous, but all he is doing is expressing his views, no matter how extreme they are. He doesn’t seem to be encouraging his fans to go out and physically harm those with opposing views to him.

    I think both sides of the political spectrum need to learn how to have civilized discussion instead of resorting to anger, ad-hominem arguments and petty resistance. Both sides are turning to extremes because they don’t feel they are being heard, so we need to stop and listen to each other.

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