When asked for comment on the Milo Yiannopoulos event
Photos by Ethan Wise and Maggie Fischer
Ethan Wise, Editor-In-Chief
The bold sections are questions that we were asked by Elizabeth Worthington, who wrote the article in The Bucknellian about the Yiannopoulos event.
The responses are a joint statement by Tom Ciccotta, ‘17, President of Bucknell College Republicans, Ethan Wise, ‘17, President Bucknell University Conservatives Club, and Colby Rome, ‘17, President Young Americans for Liberty, who hosted Yiannopoulos.
What was your primary motivation for bringing Milo to campus?
Correspondence started when Tom emailed Milo Yiannopoulos about his and others’ experiences dealing with overwhelming political correctness and perceived progressive bias here at Bucknell, and asked Milo to be a guest on our radio show. Milo indicated that he would instead like to come and speak at the University, free of charge.
A lot of people are questioning this decision and wondering why you didn’t choose a less extreme/controversial conservative. Thoughts/comments?
The vast majority of Milo’s views are not extreme and are held by many Americans, but perhaps he gets that reputation from his style and schtick. Milo is the only conservative or libertarian speaker in recent Bucknell history who filled an auditorium with college students, and for that reason, he was the perfect choice.
What do you think about the political attitude on campus in terms of openmindedness and composition of liberals versus conservatives?
To generalize and say that all on the right are more open-minded than those on the left is an incredibly absurd statement. But generally, those who have opposed events similar to these across college campuses typically consider themselves to be on the left side of the political spectrum.
Were you surprised by student reaction? Specifically the tearing down of the posters?
We were disheartened and disappointed by the response of some in the Bucknell community who thought it was acceptable to deface or destroy our posters, or found personal attacks a justifiable or productive form of discourse.
I’ve heard that professors have told some of their students not to attend. Do you think this defeats the purpose of free speech?
It doesn’t necessarily defeat the purpose of free speech, as choosing not attending is a form of expression, however it defeats the purpose of a liberal education where students should be provided the tools to come to their own conclusions and be responsible for their own destinies.
How do you define the boundary between free speech and hate speech?
We believe that all speech should be permitted, with the exception of direct incitements of violence. The best way to defeat ideas is not to censor them, but to challenge and defeat them.
If you believe someone is wrong, the best way to beat them is to shine a spotlight on their ideas and to challenge them, not try to hide them or prevent them from being heard.
How can Bucknellians benefit from this speaker?
Bucknellians will be given a glimpse at alternate perspectives that are very often not presented, and even intentionally skipped altogether. This was clearly evident by the response of some in the faculty who signed the petition to cancel the event or actively encouraged their students not to attend.
Anything else that you deem relevant or notable or want to make sure people hear, please include.
University of Michigan recently hosted Milo, and the article about the event in their student newspaper included a quote from the university spokesperson, who said: “ The university feels so strongly about [freedom of speech] that our commitment is codified in an official policy, called a Standard Practice Guide. ” In the Standard Practice Guide, it states that “ Expression of diverse points of view is of the highest importance...The belief that an opinion is pernicious, false, or in any other way detestable cannot be grounds for its suppression.”
We call upon this university and its administration to adopt a similar policy, giving all members of this University the right to set forth their views and opinions. Although the student handbook states, “We affirm that diverse experiences and perspectives in the classroom and across campus enhance everyone’s educational experience,” there is no specific mention of freedom of speech or expression similar to that aforementioned. You cannot have one without the other.
The Great Facebook Debate
In The Bucknellian article published on March 3rd, junior Tooba Ali, who started the ‘safe space’ Facebook event commented: “Somehow the people who told us ‘you should hear both perspectives’ were belittling us and preventing us from even going together as a group.”
We can only assume she was referring to Tom Ciccotta’s post in the event page, as we are unaware of any other posts to the event page by members of our organizations. We were understandably confused by this statement, for Tom’s post was very cordial and respectful. But we’ll let our readers decide who is being belittling whom.
Below you’ll find exactly what Tom posted in the ‘safe space’ Facebook event page (directly below), as well as what a student against the event posted in the official event page created by Tom:
I’m the person who arranged MiIo‘s visit to campus, and for what it’s worth, there’s probably nobody more anti-Trump on this campus than me. As a libertarian, I’m probably on the same page as you all on a lot of issues. I believe in absolute social freedoms and privacies, like the right to abortion, gay marriage, gender pronouns, reassignment surgery, etc. I’m the member of a multi-racial family (my sister is South Korean), I visited New Hampshire during their primary to campaign for a Latino-American candidate, attended a Bernie Sanders rally, and I’m currently arranging a political comedy event between my club and the Bucknell Left and the College Democrats. Divisiveness isn’t really part of my nature.
For what it’s worth, on the Joe Hogan podcast, Milo revealed his support of Trump isn’t all that serious. In fact, based oft my off-the-record relationship with Milo, I can say that his most controversial statements are almost never serious or entirely serious. There seems to be a fear that Milo will cross the line Thursday night, but who has crossed the line so far’? Our posters have been ripped down and defaced. And due to potential fears for our safety, the administration has decided for Thursday to place a plain-clothes officer right outside of where we’ll be eating during our club dinner. I ask you all to consider whether that’s more of a reflection on Milo and his message, or on some Bucknell student’s inability to carry themselves maturely in the face of adversity (as displayed by the actions of a few individuals in destroying and defacing $220 worth of our posters).
In my opinion, the most efficient way to defeat fringe and radical opinions, is to challenge them rationally and maturely. The information section of this event page is dripping with emotional language, and I guarantee that it is in your best interest to not approach Thursday night this way. I don‘t agree with everything that Milo says, but isn’t that kind of the point’?
We been surprised at the lack of willingness to talk to me or one of the members of my club directly about this event. There have been a few people who have reached out to me, and I can honestly say that those conversations have been incredible, and eye-opening. My personal hero, Walt Disney, said “We have created characters and animated them in the dimension of depth, revealing through them to our perturbed world that the things we have in common far outnumber and outweigh those that divide us”, and these conversations have further revealed for me that Mr. Disney’s sentiment here is undeniably true of this world we live in and of the human condition.
Thursday night’s event is truly an incredibly experiment and opportunity for Bucknell students to show their ability to behave civilly and rationally in a truly challenging situation. If the attitudes we’ve seen so far this week manifest themselves in Trout Auditorium on Thursday night, Bucknell students will risk their reputation on a national level, just as it happened at Rutgers last week. That story was the number one trending story on Facebook, and the focus wasn’t on Milo, it was on the student’s misbehavior and disruptions. I’m quite busy managing my work and preparing for Milo’s visit/responding to hate mail this week, so I won’t be responding to this post, but please feel free to reach out to me (email@example.com), if you’d like to briefly chat in person. I’d be more than willing to take the time to sit down with you, and address your concerns.
- Tom Ciccotta
Couple things –
First of all, you’re clearly an extremely open minded and progressive guy. You don’t support an openly racist, sexist, and ethnocentrist presidential candidate; you haven’t ruled out a presidential candidate despite his lesser background as Latino, and you’ve even managed to accept your sister despite her Korean heritage! Wow, good for you – you clearly have a lot of world view and perspective.
We lesser Americans are also truly grateful that you’re able to find it in your heart to grant us equal freedoms like marriage – well, even though you sort of don’t have a choice anymore. But that’s fine. Thanks so much anyway. I also greatly appreciate you allowing me to make decisions about my own body! Because that’s absolutely something that concerns you.
Now that we’ve established how much alike we are – let me bring something attention regarding the emotional language that your event page is “dripping” with. If you had time for more than a “brief chat” about the issues that burden your fellow students here on a daily basis, you would understand that when a person’s ability to feel safe is threatened, it makes them speak in an emotional way. I can imagine that you can start to put yourself in these shoes since apparently tearing down posters is enough to make you feel so scared that you require the protection of a law enforcement officer.
Speaking of posters, since economics is the preferred veil of power and authority that I know that right wing rhetoric favors – you printed $220 worth of posters! Wow! How much are you paying Milo, then? And how much of that money is being contributed by me, and by other students that are gay, transgender, feminist, black… or just not white male republicans? If you truly hold all of these socially liberal views, then I have to assume that you’re fiscally conservative. If that’s the case, we that do not support this event that are paying for it would be more than happy to accept a refund from you.
Thanks so very much for your time and attention.