The University of California at Berkeley, once popularly associated with the old Free Speech Movement, now is better known for black-clad goons beating people on the streets with clubs and fists, hurling rocks and bricks and Molotov cocktails at police, and pepper-spraying a young woman wearing a “Make America Great Again” parody hat in the face.
Oh, and also setting fires and smashing windows at the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union, attacking businesses near the campus, and causing an estimated $100,000 of property damage.
Why? Well, as one protest — er, riot leader shouted, to “shut this f*cker down!”
That is, sans the profanity, to force the cancellation of a sold-out speech by Milo Yiannopoulos, the Greek-born British author, now a senior editor at Breitbart News.
“The Free Speech Movement is dead,” read a statement by the Berkeley College Republicans following the mêlée, which “successfully” prevented 500 people who purchased tickets from attending the group’s event.
Yet, only one arrest was made Wednesday night, and two more on Thursday, when a man in a suit apparently “triggered” two guys to jump out of their car in the middle of an intersection and assault him. Because of his Trump hat. More arrests may be forthcoming, one can hope. The Washington Post reported that “University police rescued many people in the crowd who were being attacked, trapped or injured . . . and are collecting video to try to identify suspects.”
In its report, CNN dubbed the “inflammatory” Yiannopoulos a “professional provocateur.” He has also been labeled a racist and white supremacist, which he vehemently denies, and a homophobe, even though he’s gay.
Milo certainly does push the envelope against political correctness, calling “college campuses . . . a crucible where these bad ideas are formed” — not to mention “cancerous and toxic to free expression.” Nonetheless, his right to speak and the right of others to listen are constitutionally protected.
And violence to block a peacefully expressed point of view is never justified.
Or is it?
Yvette Felarca, with the group “By Any Means Necessary,” responded defiantly to a TV interviewer’s question about the violence: “This isn’t a question of violent versus peaceful protests. . . . It was a mass protest; it was a militant protest. And everyone was there to shut him down. And so, whatever it was going to take to do that, we were all there with a united cause and we were stunningly successful.”
“Why not be peaceful?” Felarca was asked. “I think that the Left has been far too timid for way too long,” she answered, declaring that what happened in Berkeley “should be the model of how the movement needs to take things now in the future.”
Yet, she calls Milo the “fascist.”
On his CNN Tonight program, Don Lemon began a segment discussing the Berkeley violence by bemoaning that,
“It plays right into the hands of a rightwing white supremacist, someone like Milo Yiannopoulos.” Lemon offered no evidence of Milo’s alleged “white supremacist” philosophy.
Robert Reich, the former Labor Secretary and a Berkeley professor, authoritatively expounded, “I was there for part of last night, and I know what I saw and those people were not Berkeley students. Those people were outside agitators. I have never seen them before.”
Of course, there are 38,000 students attending the university and it seems unlikely Reich knows each and every one of them. Not to mention, the thugs in black were wearing masks.
“There’re rumors that they actually were right-wingers,” Reich then claimed. “They were a part of a kind of group that was organized and ready to create the kind of tumult and danger you saw that forced the police to cancel the event.”
“With all due respect to Robert,” Republican strategist Alice Stewart chimed in, “I think it’s absurd to think that those on the right had any part in the violence that ensued last night.” She remarked, “I think it’s insulting to protesters to call these people protesters. These are violent left-wing vandals.”
But Reich objected, “Now when you say, Alice, that these are left-wingers who did this, I don’t know that that’s true. . . . I don’t know. We just simply don’t know. It jumps to a conclusion on both sides.”
When Lemon inquired again about the possibility that the violent mob was a right-wing plot, the odds-making Reich replied, “I wouldn’t bet against it, Don.”
“I’ve heard — again, I don’t want to say factually,” he demurred. “But I heard that there was some relationship there between these people and the right wing — and the right-wing movement that is affiliated with Breitbart News.”
Reich’s no-fact rumor-mongering conflicts with everything we know about the blackshirt hoodlums of Antifa and similar far-left “anarchist” groups.
“Yiannopoulos is a bomb-thrower,” lectured Todd Gitlin, Professor of Journalism and Sociology at Columbia University. “The folks wearing the balaclavas — therefore we don’t see their faces, we don’t know who they were — are bomb-throwers.” He went on to compare the balaclava-wearing criminals, who “have declared total war . . . on capitalism,” to Stephen Bannon, Counselor to the President, who“wants to declare total war on Islam.”
“So they are equivalent,” he concluded. “Behind the mask is Steve Bannon.”
“I think there’s a larger context,” Reich explained, “and that is that Donald Trump . . . has released, has legitimized, has given permission for a certain hatefulness and hate speech in this country and hate acts in this country.”
So the anti-Trump mayhem in Berkeley was — you guessed it — really Donald Trump’s fault.
And what of the much-maligned Mr. Yiannopoulos? “Don’t fight identity politics with identity politics,” Milo recently told an audience permitted to hear him. “White pride, white nationalism, white supremacy isn’t the way to go. The way to go is reminding them and yourselves that you should be aspiring to values and to ideas. You shouldn’t give a sh*t about skin color. You shouldn’t give a sh*t about sexuality. You shouldn’t give a sh*t about gender. And you should be deeply suspicious of the people who do.”
Our deep suspicion should also fall upon anyone defending those who aim to violently squelch free speech.