Students react to Milo Yiannopoulos' falling out

Students react to Milo Yiannopoulos' falling out
Jacob Arthur / Alabama Crimson White

Yiannopolous spoke at the University earlier this year despite criticism.

Less that two weeks ago, Milo Yiannopoulos was one of the most in-demand figures on the political right. But on Sunday, Feb. 19, videos of prominent alt-right figure condoning pedophlilia surfaced, leading to immediate public backlash against the known provocateur. 

Within a 24 hours, the Conservative Political Action Conference dropped Yiannopoulos from their 2017 mega conference, publisher Simon and Schuster canceled his book deal and Yiannopoulos’ fellow employees at Breitbart News threatened to quit if Yiannopoulos was not fired. 

Disgraced, Yiannopoulos resigned from his position as editor of Breitbart Tech the following Tuesday and, in multiple statements, denounced pedophilia and claimed the videos released were, “edited deceptively.”

Response to the swift fall from public grace of Yiannopoulos has ranged from sympathy for Yiannopoulos, who spoke of being sexually assaulted at a young age, and anger that the man famed for making insensitive comments was only rejected after such an extreme statement. 

The entire range of such responses was reflected among the student body at The University of Alabama. 

Michael Smith, a sophomore majoring in economics and finance and the director of external affairs for the College Democrats, was surprised it took so long. 

“I’m sad that it took something like this to put him down, when he said such horrible, disgusting things in the past," Smith said. "But I think that there are some hard lines in the sand that Milo Yiannopoulos crossed.”

Smith also commented on Yiannopoulos’s common use of the First Amendment as a defense for his statements arguing that he inappropriately uses it at a shield. 

“I am a strong believer in the first amendment, but what Milo uses the first amendment to be is a scapegoat for (his) ability to say anything he wants with no repercussions," Smith said. "Criticizing those words is using our right of free speech to speak out against those words.”

Smith also condemned both CPAC and UA’s College Republicans chapter for their initial support of Yiannopoulos, who spoke at the University at a College Republicans-sponsored event in October. 

“It’s sad that this is the first time conservatives have taken him seriously," Smith said. "CPAC, and our own University of Alabama College Republicans had him speak when he made plenty of racist, sexist, misogynist, transphobic, homophobic comments over the years and these conservative institutions only react to this pedophilia. And I’m glad they reacted to it, but I wish they’d reacted to the other things he’s said.”

Many conservatives view the release of the videos to be a calculated move by his opponents on the political left. Gerald Fraas, a sophomore majoring in political science and economics who serves as chairman of the UA College Republicans, echoed this view. 

“The sudden, calculated media expose on Mr. Yiannopoulos almost immediately after his being announced as a speaker at CPAC shows that the contents of his prior interviews was likely withheld until it was political viable," Fraas said.

Fraas also said Milo was taken out of context, but that he should have chosen his words more precisely. 

“I view him as a man who made his fame as a senior editor by carefully choosing his words, but failed to do so in an interview pertaining to a topic too serious for humor, and is ultimately paying the price of his actions," Fraas said. "I do not condone his comments.”

Cameron Mixon, a sophomore majoring in political science and history and vice chairman of the College Republicans, did not agree with the initial placement of Yiannopoulos as a speaker at CPAC to begin with. 

“Milo Yiannopoulos should not have been a speaker at the Conservative Political Action Conference because he is not a Conservative and he himself admits that fact," Mixon said. 

Mixon did not support Yiannopoulos previous to this incident and does not support him now.

“The American tradition of free speech is unparalleled by any other in human history and we must remember this when we hear speech we disagree with," Mixon said. "We can not conflate speech with actions.”

According to multiple national outlets, Yiannopoulos is reportedly establishing his own independent media company. Yiannopoulos plans to announce the new venture within the next month.

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