Penn State’s chapter of Turning Point USA will bring two YouTubers to speak on campus this week — Carl Benjamin, better known as Sargon of Akkad, and Hunter Avallone — to discuss matters regarding censorship.
Benjamin brands himself as an anti-feminist and caused commotion for tweeting at a member of the British Parliament facing rape threats that “[he] wouldn’t even rape [her].”
Avallone is known for a video he published to YouTube titled “The Truth About Transgenders,” where he criticizes members of the LGBTQ community, adding to hateful discourse that already exists about transgender people.
Benjamin was banned from Twitter in response to the above tweet, and his YouTube channel was demonetized by the platform. According to an April Instagram post from Avallone depicting an alleged message he received from YouTube, Avallone’s YouTube channel was suspended due to violations of “community guidelines.” Since then, he has regained access.
Turning Point USA has every right to bring “conservative” speakers to campus. But bringing speakers like Benjamin and Avallone, known for hateful rhetoric — and then labeling that hate as “conservatism” — crosses a line.
It is important that the university hosts speakers from a variety of views in order to cater toward the entire Penn State community. But “diverse” views are not synonymous with “hateful” views — individuals’ whose “opinions” revolve around threatening marginalized group of people should not be invited to speak at the university.
The alleged purpose behind the talk is to discuss censorship of “big technology,” which pertains to Avallone and Benjamin in the sense that they were banned from specific social media platforms. Platforms like YouTube and Twitter can ban those who publish hateful rhetoric at their discretion, but these users can still find other platforms — like the talk hosted by Turning Point USA — to continue voicing these thoughts.
Turning Point USA can claim the event will be held just to discuss censorship, but it is impossible for Avallone and Benjamin to talk about why they were censored without further projecting the hateful messages they promote.
It is disappointing Turning Point USA chose Benjamin and Avallone over others who may have been able to speak to their experiences with censorship on mature and civil levels.
On its website, Penn State lists policies about intolerance directed toward students and faculty, but does not explicitly state requirements for speakers on campus. Free speech is protected in this country and on Penn State’s campus. But when groups of people feel threatened by messages someone is sending on our campus, speech should be reasonably limited.
Avallone and Benjamin take pride in spreading hate about groups who are already oppressed. Hopefully, those in attendance at Turning Point USA’s event will see the two’s deplorable true colors through what will likely transpire: Avallone and Benjamin’s notoriously hateful, uneducated and disgraceful rhetoric.
A discussion on censorship does not have to be rooted in potentially hateful speech, but it’s looking like Turning Point USA’s event could shape up to be just that.
The organization could have an opportunity to start a productive conversation about censorship. Unfortunately, though the event hasn’t even happened yet, the opportunity for civil conversation to transpire at the talk might as well be scorched already by virtue of who its guest speakers are.