If the College Republicans club at CSU Bakersfield wanted the rest of the city to realize there's a College Republicans club at CSU Bakersfield, it succeeded.
If the College Republicans club at CSU Bakersfield wanted people to believe they are dedicated to thoughtful, constructive discussion that facilitates civic engagement and elevates the tenor of our national conversation, this is one big whiff.
Bring flamboyant, alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos to campus for an orgy of anti-everything-liberal insults? Sure, that's the club's right, assuming it can work out certain contractual details with the university. Yiannopoulos should be heard by anyone who actually wants to hear him.
But, in offering Yiannopoulos a venue to peddle his uniquely distasteful brand of hate, the College Republicans are choosing to inflame an already polarized community and alienate potential constituencies that more pragmatic partisans would seek to win over.
Make no mistake: Despise the message, protest the message, oppose the message, but let him deliver the message. He deserves the right to stand on his soapbox and spew. That’s free speech.
But just know that, while the openly gay, somewhat self-loathing Brit walks away $20,000 richer, CSUB's College Republicans walk away having cast themselves as purveyors of tawdry, exclusionary farce disguised as political punditry.
Is that what they want? Apparently.
So what's the holdup?
The university is citing a rule that bars organizations from hosting on-campus events for the general public and charging an admission fee; such events must be free of charge. Alternatively, organizations may host events for students and a controlled number of guests and charge for it.
But the former seems unnecessarily arbitrary and the latter could invite scalping and other profiteering.
Of concern to the rest of us is the drain on public resources Yiannopoulos' appearance could cause. Some celebrities bring posses; Yiannopoulos brings riots, or seems to have come close in a few instances.
Who's paying for the extra security his appearance will require? Yiannopoulos? That's a good one. The College Republicans? Not likely. The taxpayer? Bingo, at least by extension. The College Republicans, whose members we can assume dislike government intrusion into our daily lives and the ever-higher taxes those intrusions invite, should be cringing at the thought of tapping the public vein to bring in a conservative-tending-libertarian speaker.
But if any of our constitutional rights deserves special consideration, it is the First Amendment.
Even when the message intentionally offends. Even when its shallow, soundbite nature goes against standards of debate and sober reflection encouraged by the institution that (perhaps reluctantly) serves as the host. Even when the motivation of the message's sponsors seems suspect and self-serving. Even if, after the show, we find ourselves walking out of the Icardo Center with the vague sense of having been had.
Free speech isn't always pretty.