Letter: An Open Letter to Todd Heywood and Everyone Else Obsessed with Milo
This letter is in response to City Pulse, Todd Heywood and his article titled “Milo fallout.” Heywood’s piece was in reference to Breitbart News Senior Editor Milo Yiannopoulos and his visit to MSU on Dec. 7. We will address both the factual inaccuracies and libelous statements below, completely void of journalistic integrity.
Although Spartans for Free Speech respects Mr. Heywood’s creative and artistic impact on our community, we seriously question his misreporting and lack of fact checking. Not only did Heywood and the City Pulse’s editors fail to correctly spell the name of our speaker multiple times, they published numerous blatant falsehoods.
A Media Ban Conspiracy
When referring to press access to our event, Heywood writes, “…other media reporters couldn’t see it because they were barred from attending…Breitbart was the only news organization allowed inside.”
Firstly, we had no obligation to grant all press access. However, media was not barred as Heywood erroneously reports. Other than Breitbart News — who live streamed the event — we had journalists travel from as far as Illinois to attend. Tickets were made available to the public in September — this included members of any media outlet who wished to attend. It is not our responsibility to ensure that all interested parties (including press) obtain their tickets before the event is sold out.
Heywood: “Spartans for Free Speech did not respond to messaged questions on Facebook, although the questions were seen.”
Yes. Heywood’s questions were seen, but we decided to not entertain his politically-charged witch hunt against our student organization. (Newsflash Inspector Todd: you’re entitled to nothing).
Heywood: “(Gretchen) Whitmer is calling on the MSU Police to investigate Yiannopoulos for throwing a poster board protest sign, which read 'Milo sucks,' into a crowd of protesters. He could face disorderly conduct or assault charges.”
What is her motivation here? If tossing a sign into the air toward your own fans is akin to assault in Whitmer’s warped world, God help the next person on the receiving end of her prosecution.
Heywood: “Whitmer, a former state legislator from East Lansing who is widely expected to run for governor in 2018 as a Democrat…”
Well, this speaks volumes to Whitmer’s true agenda. Our hope is that she would support using tax-payer dollars to prosecute real criminals in our community, not target journalists with opposing political views hosted by students within her own constituency.
Heywood: “Leaders of the student group communicate only through anonymous Twitter and Facebook communications and declined to be identified when communicating with The State News. The reason? The student organizers said they feared retribution for hosting Yiannopoulos’ appearance on campus.”
We are students exercising our First Amendment right, not elected officials. We don’t owe anyone an explanation for why we choose to keep our information private, especially after receiving anonymous threats. We would like Heywood to explain why he is seemingly content with publicly shaming students into releasing their personally identifiable information and then questioning their reasoning when they choose not to. This behavior is disconcerting not only for a journalist, but especially for a former Lansing Community College trustee.
Young Americans for Liberty
Heywood: “Young Americans for Liberty, another conservative student group … arose from the ashes of the collapse of the student group Young Americans for Freedom. Young Americans for Liberty was listed in 2006 as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the national YAF ultimately withdrew support for the group.”
Here is yet another example of Mr. Heywood’s failure at fact checking. Our friends at Young Americans for Liberty, YAL, don’t appreciate the misrepresentation. YAL prides themselves in being traditionally conservative and classically liberal — something Heywood conveniently omitted.
Anyone with internet access will learn that YAL wasn’t founded until 2008 and has nothing to do with Young Americans for Freedom. YAL is the continuation of Students for Ron Paul, SFP, after his 2008 presidential campaign. MSU’s chapter wasn’t created until 2014 and wasn't recognized by the university until 2015. YAL has absolutely no affiliation with YAF and was never listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Heywood’s false accusation here is nothing less than damaging to the students of YAL at MSU.
If reporting that a student organization was listed as a hate group when they weren’t isn’t libel, we don’t know what is. We understand clickbait-style articles might drive more online traffic to a dying medium and obscure outlets like City Pulse, but we didn’t expect these articles to devolve to such a level.
Thank you, MSUPD
We would like to thank the MSU Police Department for their help on the night of the event. We appreciate their professionalism and dedication to defending all students’ right to assemble. They ensured the safety of approximately 500 attendees and protesters despite some hostile actors.
Seven protesters were arrested after they refused to allow attendees to enter. Even though they were given roughly 20 minutes to move—delaying our event—and received multiple warnings, they would not cooperate.
We are pleased that the majority of protesters were peaceful and only a few couldn’t manage to stay out of handcuffs. There is no doubt that protests are protected by the First Amendment, but blockading doors and resisting and obstructing police is not. Simply put: play stupid games, win stupid prizes.
The students who make up Spartans for Free Speech are politically diverse. We don’t cower from controversial and uncomfortable speech — we welcome it. It might come as a surprise to many, but we didn’t host Milo Yiannopoulos because we agree with every single opinion he expresses. We did so to hear him address certain topics of interest and present arguments rarely heard on our campus. A well-rounded education requires the status quo to be challenged with alternative points of view. As students, we deserve the freedom to think for ourselves and reach our own conclusions.
If biased “news” articles and anonymous threats are the cost of hosting a controversial speaker, then so be it — but we refuse to be shaken by them. We believe it is a dangerous sign of the times when students have to endure what we have just to hear someone speak. We will not apologize for this.
We are students. We love our Spartan community. This is our school, too.
Sincerely, Spartans for Free Speech