A student group at the University of New Mexico has invited an incendiary figure to speak on campus. Milo Yiannopoulos is a columnist from the U.K., who writes for the website Breitbart News. He’s associated with the so-called “alt-right,” a term the Associated Press says white supremacists have embraced to describe their ideology. He was banned from Twitter after his followers attacked actor Leslie Jones with racist abuse.
KUNM spoke with Ryan Ansloan, the vice president of UNM’s Young Americans for Liberty, which is bringing Yiannopoulos to the university.
RYAN ANSLOAN: Our group certainly does not agree with all of his positions. We’re bringing him in because we agree with him on free speech issues primarily. He’s gone to a lot of college campuses, and he says provocative things. I think he’s defined himself as a professional troll, but really I think that he gives voice to a lot of issues in a way that college students are typically not exposed to.
KUNM: So among his positions, what are the things that you disagree with?
RYAN ANSLOAN: I can’t name anything off the top of my head. I disagree with sometimes how far the rhetoric goes. But, you know, that’s a matter of taste I would say.
I know he’s associated with the “alt-right,” and obviously the Young Americans for Liberty are not in line with that ideology as a whole. We’re never going to be sympathetic to anyone that gives credence to any sort of white supremacy or anything like that. I know that’s where the conversation often goes for some reason.
KUNM: Have you read his columns and seen video of his previous speeches?
RYAN ANSLOAN: I’ve seen some—not all, but some.
KUNM: Milo Yiannopoulos is known for an unapologetic and bigoted ideology. His talks, his writings, his articles disparage Muslims, immigrants, transgender folks and women. Why are you bringing him to UNM?
RYAN ANSLOAN: Because I don’t necessarily agree with that characterization. There’s a lot of generalizations in that statement right there. I would say a lot of his statements regarding women are not inaccurate. I would say that again sometimes they go too far. I don’t think that anyone benefits from dealing in absolutes like that.
His rhetoric regarding Muslims is primarily targeted towards radical Muslims, those who would be in favor of implementing Sharia law in this country and those who, in foreign countries, stone people for being gay or stone people for, you know, being women and not conforming to an extremely strict and oppressive regime.
KUNM: So I read a bunch of his columns. I read a lot of his work, and in one of them, he very specifically identifies that his issue is not with radical Muslims but with Muslims. And that’s part of what he’s talking about. I don’t think it is too extreme to say that his articles disparage Muslims. That’s part of what he wrote.
RYAN ANSLOAN: Well, we don’t agree with any sort of complete disregard for the second-largest religion in the world. But at the same time, a lot of the things that he says are focus specifically on using hyperbole—very similar to the way that many people on the left do—to hammer home a point.
KUNM: So a lot of people characterize what Milo says as hate speech. And even though hate speech isn’t an exception to the First Amendment, it’s still hate speech. Do you have concerns about how this kind of event could impact people on campus?
RYAN ANSLOAN: Not particularly just because I think that hate speech is a very subjective term. Oftentimes it’s in the eye of the beholder, and something that he considers being right, other people consider hate speech.
And making sure that people feel safe on campus is important. But we also have to make sure that people aren’t stuck inside a bubble and that everything that they disagree with isn’t automatically labeled hate speech.
KUNM: So what do you hope comes from his event at the University of New Mexico?
RYAN ANSLOAN: The Young Americans for Liberty, we identify ourselves as socially liberal and fiscally conservative. I think that we benefit from having both sides able to talk, and historically Milo’s speeches tend to have that effect where you have a lot of people who are interested in what Milo has to say, and then you’ll have a lot of people who are interested in protesting what Milo has to say. And we welcome both.
KUNM: You invite demonstrations and protest.
RYAN ANSLOAN: Absolutely. As long as they don’t try and silence him, we would absolutely welcome that conversation. And I know Milo often has extended question-and-answer sessions where he hears from both sides and he responds to both sides.
Editor's Note: This story has been modified to comply with Associated Press style guidelines on reporting on political views.