Photo credit: Joanna O’Malley
In the wake of Milo Yiannopoulos’ visit to the Economics and Philosophy societies of UCD, Emma Toolan examines what lessons we can take from the self-confessed “internet troll for good”.
On Thursday the 28th of January, the Economics and Philosophy societies of UCD jointly hosted Mr Milo Yiannopoulos to discuss whether political correctness in today’s society has gone too far. The event was moved to theatre L in the Newman building due to demand.
Yiannopoulos is the technical editor at breitbart.com, founder of online tabloid newspaper ‘The Kernel’ and a social commentator. Whilst expressing his views and opinions on all things from politics to feminism, he has been met with anger and praise in equal measure. Within UCD, Yiannopoulos’ visit was met with discontent by the UCD Feminist Book Club who addressed a letter to the Economics Society on Thursday asking for a change to the organisation of their event.
After speaking for 20 minutes, Yiannopoulos took questions from the audience for close to two hours. During the course of these discussions he outlined how safe spaces, censorship and content warnings have no place in a university setting or society in general. University, he argued, is a place for broadening one’s mind and challenging one’s views. Curtailing and censoring the discussion of certain viewpoints and topics has a negative effect therefore, as these viewpoints will then be forced into the shadows for fear of ridicule or shaming. This only serves to make these views radical in the long-term.
“safe spaces, censorship and content warnings have no place in a university setting or society in general”
Yiannopoulos is a self-confessed internet troll. An internet troll by definition is someone who deliberately sows discord on the Internet by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community with the intention of provoking readers into an emotional response. Whilst many believe this is for his own enjoyment (which it partly is), he believes he is a troll for good; a troll with a beneficial ulterior motive.
By speaking his mind openly and unashamedly, and professing truths as he sees them, he hopes to help in the process of breaking open the safe spaces in society and loosening the ties of censorship. He hopes that by doing this, he will embolden others to do the same and to therefore break down the public shaming culture which exists in today’s society, which he believes has peaked in 2015. He used the example of Justine Sacco, a woman who made an inappropriate joke regarding AIDS and South Africa on Twitter before embarking on her flight to South Africa. Upon her arrival to said country, she received a massive backlash, her hotel had cancelled on her and she was subsequently fired from her job. She was not a public figure but rather a private Twitter user with no more than 170 followers. Yiannopoulos believes that in today’s society, no joke should ever end someone’s career.
Whether or not you agree with his views is not of real importance; when you strip back the radical, his message is clear and basic. Public shaming and censorship is counter-productive and gets in the way of honest and factual discussions – and it can also have serious, damaging effects on a person’s life.