Former White House speechwriter comes to UC Davis

BRIANA NGO / AGGIE
BRIANA NGO / AGGIE

Kevin Samy of Forbes’ 2016 “30 under 30” list brings Dog Whistle event to UC Davis

Kevin Samy, former speechwriter to the Obama Administration Secretary of Defense, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Pentagon and special assistant to the Secretary of Energy, spoke at UC Davis on Jan. 13 as part of his Dog Whistle event. According to Samy, this event was hosted by the Davis College Democrats (DCD) as an alternative to Milo Yiannopoulos’ UC Davis stop on his “Dangerous Faggot” Tour on the same day.

Yiannopoulos, an editor for Breitbart News and a controversial “alt-right” figure, planned to speak at a UC Davis event that was cancelled due to a large protest.

UC Davis was Samy’s first official stop on his Dog Whistle Tour, sparked by a response to a Yiannopoulos event at Miami University.

“I thought, ‘Maybe I’ll stop in Ohio and offer another perspective’,” Samy said. “We don’t have the resources of internet troll royalty that Milo does — in three days, we packed a room full of hundreds of students.”

According to the Dog Whistle Project’s Facebook and website, Samy and partner Chris Roessner’s mission is to “decode the politics of hate and reaffirm our American identity, and shine a light on the algorithm of the kinds of messages and arguments they’re making that frankly appeal to the extreme fringe.”

Samy said that he and Roessner, who could not attend the UC Davis event, began noticing a trend in politics since the recent presidential election — dog whistle messages. Samy explained dog whistle politics as coded appeals or euphemisms. One example he gave was how supporting “family values” can be associated with anti-gay rhetoric.

“We are not an America that says, ‘Since you’re Muslim, we’re going to put an asterisk by your name,’” Samy said. “I see the way people talk about immigrants from Pakistan and it riles you up.”

Samy believes that America needs to become more cognizant of dog whistle politics in order to prevent it.

“There is a lack of depth of understanding of the mechanism by which this kind of affected coded strategy [dog whistling] works that is inherently deceitful,” Samy said. “I had conversations with people of color, and they wanted people to explain ‘What do we do now?’”

Samy also followed Yiannopoulos to the next leg of the “Dangerous Faggot” tour on Jan. 20 at the University of Washington.

In Samy’s opinion, Yiannopoulos was able to play the victim card after his cancelled UC Davis event.

“First, [Yiannopoulos’] message upon return [to the next day’s protest] was predictable and potent, rabble rousing around one-liners we can all agree with, such as ‘they care about diversity, but not diversity of opinion,’” Samy said. “Free speech can be used to tear down or build up. As a guy who goes around saying ‘faggot’ and bad-mouthing entire groups of people, Milo embodies the former.”

Christian Monsees, DCD president and a third-year political science major, wanted to support Samy’s message and provide an alternative to Yiannopoulos’ event.

“We are thrilled to have Kevin Samy in light of the [Yiannopoulos] event; he believes, as we do, in the dangers of the alt-right and how it’s damaging to our political system,” Monsees said. “He is here to talk about implicit bigotry and how politicians can use dog whistle politics to inspire hatred and bigotry that some people have in order to gain support. We believe that while it is absolutely important to enforce freedom of speech, that does not mean that you should invite just anyone onto a campus.”

Samy described Yiannopoulos as a “provocateur” and “super-villain,” monikers that Yiannopoulos has used to describe himself as well.

“Yiannopoulos is like a toddler in a Darth Vader costume,” Samy said.

For Monsees, Yiannopoulos was not an appropriate guest for the UC Davis community.

“It is one thing to have the right to free speech, but it is another thing to deserve to be heard,” Monsees said.

However, Samy said that he still upholds Yiannopoulos’ right to free speech.

“His action of espousing [his ideas] is an artifact of a functioning, open, free republic,” Samy said. “His existence is actually proof that our nation built on an ideal is working.”

Written by: Aaron Liss — campus@theaggie.org