The event featuring prominent and polarizing conservative blogger Milo Yiannopoulos, which was scheduled for Saturday evening, was postponed indefinitely last Friday.
Yiannopoulos, senior editor of the conservative Breitbart News Network and self-described “supervillain of the internet,” was slated to appear on Yale’s campus at an event organized by Strong Americans at Yale. Organizer Karl Notturno ’17 announced the cancellation of the event on Friday evening, citing low prospective attendance numbers. A new date for Yiannopoulos’ appearance is yet to be confirmed, Notturno said.
“We’re experiencing incredibly underhand tactics from universities both public and private attempting to derail the most successful and interesting college tour in American history,” Yiannopoulos said in a statement posted on his Facebook page Saturday evening. “Last-minute venue changes, time changes, extortionate security fees and all manner of absurd restrictions are just some of the feeble methods they’re employing to disrupt or postpone my talks or to reduce audience sizes.”
Yiannopoulos has been a prominent voice in anti-Muslim and anti-feminist online communities. He gained widespread notoriety last summer after Twitter permanently banned his account due to his alleged participation in cyber abuse against Ghostbusters and Saturday Night Live actress Leslie Jones.
For Notturno, the event’s cancellation came as a disappointment due to the amount of work he had put into scheduling the event. He said the scheduled timing of the event, which fell during Yale College’s fall recess, had been decided months in advance, and that it was too late to advertise to the public to boost attendance by the time it became clear that not enough students could attend.
“I think Yale students can engage with ideas they might not necessarily like or agree with even when they are presented in a way they might find offensive,” Notturno said. “It would be a good thing for our campus to show that we are not these special snowflakes who need safe spaces.”
The postponement at Yale is the latest in a series of hindrances that have plagued Yiannopoulos’ ongoing tour of college campuses nationwide. Himself gay, Yiannopoulous named his tour after a derogatory epithet used to classify homosexual men.
This fall, administrators at schools such as New York University, Florida Atlantic University and Villanova University have all either canceled, postponed or denied requests for Yiannopoulos’s appearance on campus.
However, Yale spokesperson Tom Conroy said no one from the University was in contact with Yiannopoulos before or after the event was cancelled.
“Scheduling the event over fall break was not wise on [Yiannopoulous’] part,” said William F. Buckley, Jr. Program President Josh Altman ’17, “I also have the impression that would-be protesters thought the best response to Milo would have been not attending his lecture.”
Altman added that the program, a conservative campus group, did not help with the organization of the event, and that it had no official opinion on Yiannopoulous.
The event garnered strong attention from the campus community after Notturno had posted about it on Facebook last week. Students and alumni interviewed by the News suggested that Yiannopoulos would not be a popular presence on campus.
“I don’t think Milo deserves any of the attention he’s been given,” Matthew Massie ’17 said in an email. “Yalies should let this two-bit Nazi cosplayer writhe in obscurity instead.”
Ferny Reyes ’10 echoed Massie’s sentiments, arguing that Yiannopoulos was not an individual whose views should be taken seriously. He added that “a night at Yorkside [Pizza] is far more entertaining and human” than hearing Yiannopoulos speak.
While similarly disapproving of Yiannopoulos’ antics, Rek LeCounte ’11 — also a gay conservative activist — stressed the importance of being exposed to a wide variety of perspectives. He recounted having seen conservative figures such as Karl Rove and Rick Santorum speak to packed crowds during his time at Yale, despite their deviation from what he characterized as the “far-left political mainstream at Yale.”
“I don’t know why Milo postponed his event, but I hope that, despite several disappointing recent developments on campus, Yale remains a place where a profound diversity of ideas is welcome in healthy debate,” LeCounte said in an email. “[Yiannopoulos] represents the views of a substantial portion of the American electorate, and it’s important that Yalies respectfully and constructively engage the real perspectives of real people.
Noting that the infamous pharmaceutical investor and online provocateur Martin Shkreli had been given court approval to come to the event, Jacob Derechin GRD ’16 lamented the missed chance to see Shkreli and Yiannopoulous engage each other as well as the campus community in debate.
“They are both huge trolls so I think it would be pretty funny to see them go at it,” Derechin said in an email.
The setback to his tour notwithstanding, Yiannopoulos continued to share his distinctively partisan thoughts across various social media platforms at a steady clip. Sharing a link to a video of Hillary Clinton’s LAW ’73 apparent “robotic, strange laughter” on Facebook Sunday night, he suggested that his readers hide their children and wives as “Hillary’s on the road.” Later the same evening, he posted a video featuring Bill Clinton LAW ’73, and sarcastically asked his followers why the former president — whom he accused of being a rapist — cannot “catch a break.”
On Instagram, his most recent day’s worth of posting included a reminder of his Monday evening appearance at the University of Delaware, a declaration of his opposition to Muslim immigration and an image of a packet of cigarettes next to a bottle of red wine bearing the surname of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
“To the god emperor,” the caption declared.
Yiannopoulos dropped out of the University of Manchester and Cambridge University.