Trigger Warning: Milo Yiannopoulos, violence, rape culture
Amanda Chan | contributing officer
Dear Timothy Nerozzi,
My name is Amanda. We’ve met before. In fall 2014, I visited a Pitt College Republicans’ meeting to stage an inquiry about your club’s exhibition of the film “The Interview.” I was wondering if your club was conducting an act of patriotism in the wake of North Korea’s Sony hacking, and I mentioned that this film shamelessly exploited the promiscuous-Asian-woman trope. I remember you telling me that Republicans do not like the stereotype that they are racists and misogynists, and that your club would be open to suggestions on improving on that front.
I am sorry to see that your club’s hosting of Milo Yiannopoulos — a self-proclaimed free speech activist, according to Vox — on February 29 indicates otherwise. As you may have deduced from the student body’s reaction, many were extremely hurt by Yiannopoulos’ speech. The Pitt News reported that you defended the lecture by stating that it was in the interest of free speech. The premise of the lecture, according to its title, “Free Speech in Crisis,” was that free speech is in danger and, apparently, that it should be protected by spouting offensive, horrific, and hurtful rhetoric to emphasize that it is still legal. Milo said in his lecture, “I’ve taken it upon myself to go through life as offensively as possible.”
I am confused as to how you and Milo seemingly, based on your club hosting this lecture, feel that your free speech rights are in the potential for violation. Have you ever been arrested for protesting? Have state institutions threatened you for voicing your unpopular opinion? Are public universities denying you funding on the basis that they don’t agree with you? I’m sure you already know that others, exercising their First Amendment Rights, are completely within their rights to protest you, criticize you, call you names and attend a Student Government Board meeting detailing exactly why Milo was such a terrible guest to have at Pitt.
But I’m writing to you not because I want to argue with conservatives about critical race and feminist politics. That would be a waste of all of our time. Rather, I would like to make a request for the future activities for the Republicans at Pitt. It would certainly help you with your problem that conservatives are wrongly labelled sexists and racists, which you told me about at the meeting I attended last fall.
Here is my biggest question for you, Tim: Could you have some compassion?
I’m not calling for your arrest or your club’s defunding, so don’t worry about your free speech rights. Instead, I’m simply asking that, in the future, remember that even if you are perhaps only trying to prove a point, which I can only assume your intentions were when you chose to bring such a raucous conservative to campus, your words and actions can still have a traumatizing effect on others. Please, think of those who weep, cringe, and lose sleep at night because of their sexual assaults, their domestic abuse, their experiences with racism.
If you believe that we are playing the victim card and should get over these negative experiences, trust me, we are doing everything we can do just to move on. However, it does not help people with marginalized identities overcome this trauma when speakers like Milo take pride in tearing them down.
Compassion means to be gentle and considerate. It means that it is possible to prove a point without resorting to becoming a source of harm and suffering. You can still make your political statements while not blatantly insulting the existence of others.
Hallmark Republican ideals — like being tough on immigration, rejecting free tuition for colleges, critiquing feminism — are met with destructive, regressive solutions by people
like Milo. Being tough on immigration doesn’t mean decrying all “illegal aliens” as rapists and an epidemic to this country. Believing that reduced or free college tuition would be detrimental to the education system doesn’t warrant endorsing a bigoted politician who openly blames low-income students for their own class status and dubs them as freeloaders or welfare queens.
Your club’s Twitter account publicly favorited a tweet in response to one of ours, which said, “if you had anything intelligent to say you’d be debating his points, but you don’t do you.” You brought a speaker to campus whose followers made rape jokes on Twitter and responded to The Fourth Wave’s tweets, telling us to hurt ourselves. Trigger Warning: violence, rape culture, ableism, self-harm. A few included, “Please direct yourself to the nearest re and stay as long as possible,” and, “These crazy hoes need a little rape culture in their lives.” The Fourth Wave’s layout editor, Emily Perdue, watched members of your club take photos of people at a Student Government Board meeting without their permission — she said many people who spoke at the meeting explicitly asked that nobody take photos of them. It seems to me that the reaction you wanted from this event was simply to hurt us, silence us and make fun of us. That doesn’t seem like the attitude of someone who, just over a year ago, told me he was concerned about the negative stereotype of Republicans.
Perhaps, in the future, your club can hold itself accountable for the hurt it caused on campus. I believe you can realize that politics and political statements are not more powerful if they’re louder, or if they cause the most controversy. Remember, your words have consequences, and while they seem like the usual political rhetoric to you, they are vicious and wounding for many others.
President and Founder, The Fourth Wave