Thousands of well-educated college students around the country are cheering for the most anti-intellectual presidential candidate in modern history: Donald Trump. Want to know why? Look no further than DePaul University, where a visit from conservative provocateur—and Trump stand-in—Milo Yiannopoulos provoked strident denunciations from left-leaning faculty and even mob violence at the hands of liberal students.
Trump is a troll, and Yiannopoulos, a tech editor at Breitbart and hero to the toxic alt-right crowd, is no different (in fact, he's proud of it). But when campuses tolerate all ideas except the ones that offend some facet of the left, they become breeding grounds for blowback against political correctness. Many conservative and libertarian students are falling in line behind Yiannopoulos, not because they agree with everything he says (no one could), but because he symbolizes resistance to the climate of censorship imposed on them by the campus left.
And make no mistake: Yiannopoulos was indeed censored at DePaul last week, despite having been invited to speak by the College Republicans. Yiannopoulos, who lovingly calls Trump "daddy," has been touring the country as part of his deliberately offensive "Dangerous Faggot" tour (he's openly gay), and past events have gotten out of hand, so DePaul asked the CRs to fork over an extra $1,000 for security. This turned out to be a waste of money: not because the protesters behaved themselves—they absolutely did not—but because the authorities refused to intervene anyway.
During Yiannopoulos's Q and A, a dozen protesters stormed the stage and interrupted the session. They were led by Edward Ward, a student-activist aligned with the Black Lives Matter movement. One of his accomplices, a female student, actually struck Yiannopoulos in the face (albeit gently).
DePaul is a private, Catholic university, so the First Amendment doesn't strictly apply. But as an institution of higher education, DePaul should protect its students' free expression rights, it should let them bring speakers with views outside the norm to campus, and it should make sure the discussion proceeds without interruption. In this case, the university did nothing of the sort. Security stood by idly as censorious protesters shouted down a conservative speaker.
Afterward, Yiannopoulos led his flock to the offices of DePaul President Rev. Dennis Holtschneider to demand his $1,000 back. He was not compensated: instead, he received a long statement of condemnation from the president, capped off with a tepid apology to the CRs:
On behalf of the university, I apologize to the DePaul College Republicans," wrote Holtschneider. "They deserved an opportunity to hear their speaker uninterrupted, and were denied it."
This statement offended the campus left, too. Dr. Shu-Ju Cheng, an associate professor of sociology at DePaul, accused Holtschneider of moral cowardice. According to Cheng, DePaul should have denied a platform to Yiannopoulos:
"Your handling of this case is shameful and embarrassing," she wrote in a letter to the president. "It is a lack of moral courage in the disguise of intellectual objectivity and positional neutrality. Shame on you."
According to Cheng, letting Yiannopoulos speak was a tacit endorsement of his insulting views toward women and black people. Multiple news outlets reported that she had even resigned in protest, though a spokesperson for DePaul told The Daily Beast that Cheng actually made the decision to step down last December. Cheng herself did not respond to a request for comment.
Still, it’s clear this professor utterly refuses to teach at an institution that permits a range of opinions to be heard. That's a terrible shame. Diversity—a highly-touted feature of a liberal arts education—does not just mean including people who look differently: it means including people who are actually different, even if their views are offensive to a great many people.
And if nothing else, letting Yiannopoulos speak without interruption might actually defuse some of his influence. Shouting him down, hitting him in the face, and resigning in protest of his appearance are all things that prove him correct in the eyes of his supporters.
Just listen to John Minster, president of the DePaul College Republicans.
"What happened at this event demonstrates the obsessive, social justice infused PC insanity that has enveloped American campuses all over the country," Minster told The Daily Beast. "They feel they can decide what people are allowed to think."
It's impossible to overstate how important this idea—that politically-correct activists have become a kind of thought-police on campus—is to young Trump fans. Consider a recent interview The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf conducted with a 22-year-old Trump voter. Even though the young man is college educated, in a mixed racial marriage, and a supporter of globalization, he is still voting for Trump because:
"If Trump wins, we will have a president that overwhelmingly rejects PC rhetoric. Even better, we will show that more than half the country rejects this insane PC regime. If Trump wins, I will personally feel a major burden relieved, and I will feel much more comfortable stating my more right-wing views without fearing total ostracism and shame. Because of this, no matter what Trump says or does, I will keep supporting him.
After his DePaul appearance, Yiannopoulos headed to the University of California at Santa Barbara, where students literally carried him to the stage on a throne.
Campus censorship is a moral wrong on its own. But look, progressives: if you want to stop the Trumps and Yiannopouloses (Yiannopouli?) of the world, you might want to ask yourselves if continuously proving them right in the eyes of their fans is the best strategy.