Who’s Afraid of Milo Yiannopoulos?

“I made a decision that has nothing to do with political ideology and everything to do with human rights and decency,” argued Adam Morgan’s article in The Guardian last week. The editor-in-chief of The Chicago Review of Books was justifying his magazine’s decision to boycott publisher Simon & Schuster in 2017. Why? For publishing a book whose author he finds repulsive.

Stranger things have happened in the past year than the call to boycott a publisher in the name of liberalism, but not many. Morgan’s words do not sound brave. Instead, they demonstrate some of the most basic forms of repression, cowardice and fearfulness.

Books become dangerous only when we show our own closed-mindedness to open debate. A hard-hitting review of Yiannopoulos’s book would have done far more to dismiss his slander and his lies. The Chicago Review should spend its time criticising ideas themselves, and not their free expression.

What are we scared of? Hardbacks hardly make for good bludgeons. If our beliefs are as robust as we think, our arguments will hold up against groundless opposition. We lose faith in the reading public’s ability to reason through the ignorant ramblings of the likes of Yiannopoulos at our peril. Do so, and liberal values will find themselves on the wrong end of the popular vote even more frequently.

In shutting down a conversation that so desperately needs to be had, Morgan is wrong. His Review’s decision has everything to do with political ideology—and not the one it thinks it represents.

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