Yiannopoulos’ Planned ‘Free Speech Week’ Appears To Implode Spectacularly

Milo Yiannopoulos’ much-hyped plan to yet again rile the University of California at Berkeley’s campus by inviting a host of provocative far-right icons for four days of public speeches appears to have imploded in spectacular fashion.

According to new reports in Vanity Fair and Mediaite, after student organizers failed to file the proper paperwork to reserve university buildings, and after Yiannopolous apparently neglected to notify some of the scheduled speakers that the event was even happening, the affair has been reduced to a Saturday press conference in San Francisco.

“Free Speech Week” seems to have been something of a fiasco from the start.

Per Vanity Fair, Yiannopoulos, a former Breitbart News editor who lost his gig and a book deal over comments that appeared to condone pedophilia, had promised to book flights and hotel rooms for the long list of speakers that included former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, conservative pundit Ann Coulter and anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller.

But Bannon and Coulter never publicly confirmed their attendance, and several other speakers, such as James Damore, the Google employee who was fired over a screed he wrote on why women are less biologically suited to coding than men, said they were never even told they were invited.

A university spokesman told Vanity Fair that Berkeley Patriot, the student group behind the event, failed to complete the contracts required to rent private buildings on campus, leaving speakers without security and relegating them to public spaces.

Amid this steady stream of bad news, participants began to drop out. Lucian Wintrich, a writer with the far-right blog Gateway Pundit, announced his withdrawal Wednesday, citing “uncertainty surrounding the event on both sides.”

Though a few slated participants, including conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich, told these publications that they still planned to deliver speeches, Mediaite cited anonymous sources who said Yiannopoulos intends to announce the event’s cancelation at Saturday’s press conference.

The former Breitbart editor is part of a wave of far-right provocateurs trying to gain media attention and student followings with high-profile campus appearances. Prominent white nationalist Richard Spencer is currently trying to arrange a nationwide campus speaking tour, and one of his backers has sued Michigan State University for rejecting a request to host Spencer on the East Lansing campus.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Allegra Kirkland is a New York-based reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked on The Nation’s web team and as the associate managing editor for AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter @allegrakirkland.
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