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This must be the place

This must be the place

I’m entering hostile waters here, folks.

So, bear with me as I bring up this ideology I recently heard, which is that feminism and Islam are both “set on destroying the American way of life.” 

Sitting in the back row in the University Center at Western Carolina University one recent evening, I watched and listened as Milo Yiannpoulos gave an hour-long presentation comparing feminism and Islam, and how each promotes authoritarian agendas and censorship, with Milo echoing his interpretation of the supposed Islamic battle cry, “When in Rome don’t do as the Romans do. When in Rome, demand benefits and rape people.”

Now, of course, these are harsh words. As a longtime political satirist, shock artist and social commentator, Milo, a gay man from London (and senior editor at Breitbart), descended upon WCU with his speech, titled “Feminism & Islam, The Unholy Alliance.” I went partly out of curiosity, but mostly as a journalist trying to make sense of a presidential election cycle that is unlike any other before it in the 240 years we’ve been a country. 

Entering the Illusions room in the UC, there were around 100 or so students sitting quietly, respectfully listening to what Milo had to say, regardless of what side of his argument they may fall on. Throughout his presentation, Milo threw out innumerable statistics about rape culture or immigration, or the high percentages of Muslims in England and in the United States that believe that you should be put to death or that it’s OK to use violence when you insult Islam. 

Then, there was his take on feminism, where he stressed the differences between the first wave of the movement in the 1960s and where we are today. He noted the first wave of the Gloria Steinem-era of feminism focused on liberation and equality for women in a male-dominated world, whereas now, since women have made huge leaps in leveling the playing field, that feminism has become more “militant” and “man hating” in recent decades, seeing as it was the only direction to go to keep the movement alive since it had made real progress, something Milo noted wouldn’t have flown in the first wave. 

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And yet, he also noted the countless bombing and violent acts carried out by The Weather Underground (a radical left-wing organization in the 1970s), where many of those members are either still on the run or now, perhaps, teach and influence students at universities around the nation. 

So, what was the essence of what Milo was getting at? Well, from my perspective, a lot of what he was doing and explaining was a “man behind the curtain” expose on how what you’ve thought or known your whole life may not actually be inline with your own self-interest. 

“It’s just different excuses for authoritarian [states and practices],” Milo noted at the foundation of his case for similarities in motives and actions of feminism and Islam.

Sure, the presentation was quite jarring at times, especially when cartoons depicting bestiality and images of violence and protests against “America and freedom” appeared on the large screen behind Milo. But, the slideshow was no worse or gruesome that what we’re already seeing on 24-hour news outlets. What the real shocking factor was came in the form of how much of an anomaly Milo is — a gay English conservative who waves the American flag with pride, all while trying to get you to stand in a different direction and ask yourself the same questions you’ve been asked from your lifelong stance on social issues that have defined our world, for good or ill.

If everything you’ve just read above seems like a whirlwind, well, it is. Even a day after attending Milo’s speech, I’m still trying to wrap my head around what I witnessed. In an era of political correctness, sound bites, and utter chaos at the drop of a hat, it was interesting to sit there and comprehend the unique viewpoint of Milo, how it applied to what I’ve seen at the recent Trump rally in Asheville, and what we’ve all been exposed to in this down and dirty election year. 

Is some of what Milo says truly offensive? Yes. Is it any worse than anything else being plastered and shouted across social media and the news these days? No. From my perspective, his conundrum of being a gay conservative — an outspoken and controversial one, at that — really brings his presence into that national and international spotlight, especially with his tech savvy ways of reaching and engaging audiences. But, what one must remember that old adage, “I may not agree with what you say, but I defend your right to say it.”

Truthfully, part of me thinks Milo is Milo for the mere fact of being a devil’s advocate for the powers that be and ideologies that dominate the social dialogue in our country. He provides this counterbalance — albeit dark in nature — to the current state of banter and confusion that has swallowed up this presidential election, and also our everyday lives as we keep staring at our smart phones, keep staring at the television, keep staring at our computers, all while the lines between appearance and reality become more and more blurred. 


Hot picks

1 Mountain Faith will perform at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 20, in the auditorium of Haywood Community College in Clyde.

2 Chicago’s renowned comedy troupe Second City will be coming to Western Carolina University at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 26, as part of the university’s Arts and Cultural Events series and Homecoming week activities.

3 The Haywood Art Show will be exhibited through Oct. 30 at the Haywood County Arts Council’s Gallery & Gifts in downtown Waynesville. The Studio Tour will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 28-29 around the county.

4 The “Hot Air Balloon Fundraiser for New Library Campaign” will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 23, at Darnell Farms in Bryson City, weather permitting.

5 The Antioch Baptist Church will hold their annual Missions Fair from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22, at the Haywood County Fairgrounds in Lake Junaluska.

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