The Berkeley Revolution

Following the riot at Berkeley that successfully stopped Milo from speaking, two things happened. The first was that Antifa proclaimed victory.

“We won’t put up with the violent rhetoric of Milo, Trump or the fascistic alt-right,” said a Berkeley history student who declined to give his name. The student, who was dressed in black and wore a face mask, carried a banner that read “Queers bash back”. He said he identified with the “antifa” (anti-fascist) movement.

“We are willing to resist by any means necessary,” he added.

Why? Because it’s a “moral imperative.”

Lana Wachowski, another protester, defended using extreme tactics to deny Yiannopolous a platform. “The moral imperative is to win,” she said. “There’s something to be said for fighting according to a code, but if you lose, people are going to die. People are going to get deported.

“It’s absolutely acceptable to use violence. They are 100% certain to use it against us.”

When you’re “100% certain” that if you lose, people are going to die, best to kill them first, right? This is not being spread around the campus as a controversy. This is war.

The second thing is that University of California Chancellor Nicholas Dirks issued a statement regarding the riots.

UC Berkeley condemns in the strongest possible terms the actions of individuals who invaded the campus, infiltrated a crowd of peaceful students and used violent tactics to close down the event. We deeply regret that the violence unleashed by this group undermined the First Amendment rights of the speaker as well as those who came to lawfully assemble and protest his presence.

Notably, Dirks calls the rioters “invaders” who “infiltrated a crowd of peaceful students.” The Guardian, on the other hand, disagrees, quoting a “Berkeley history student.” Regardless, the “peaceful” students cheered the violence.

Some cheered when the police announced the cancellation, but others continued to jeer and call for the police to send Milo out to face the crowd. “Milo isn’t here,” one police officer shouted amid the din. “Milo isn’t here.”

Dirks goes on:

The university went to extraordinary lengths to facilitate planning and preparation for this event, working in close concert with the Berkeley College Republicans. Dozens of police officers were brought in from UC campuses across the state. Numerous crowd-control measures were put in place. But, we could not plan for the unprecedented.

It’s true that prior Milo protests hadn’t been so extreme, so it may be that Dirks is correct that the degree of violence could not be anticipated. Then again, Dirks has exposed himself to criticism in the past, and the University of California (Davis) has had some problems with handling protests in the past, which may well have influenced its course.

For the campus police, the primary objective is always the safety and well-being of our students and the public. That is what informs their strategies and tactics. In that context we are relieved that, as of now, there have been no reports of serious injuries.

Then again, the campus police didn’t do much to help one student, who got a dose of OC for giving an interview. After all, when it’s a moral imperative, when it’s war, people can justify anything.

We are proud of our history and legacy as the home of the Free Speech Movement. While we have made clear our belief that the inflaming rhetoric and provocations of Mr. Yiannopoulos were in marked opposition to the basic values of the university, we respected his right to come to campus and speak once he was invited to do so by a legitimate student group.

For Gertrude fans, the equivalence here is plain.

The violence last night was an attack on the fundamental values of the university, which stands for and helps to maintain and nurture open inquiry and an inclusive civil society, the bedrock of a genuinely democratic nation. We are now, and will remain in the future, completely committed to free speech as essential to our educational mission and a vital component of our identity at UC Berkeley.

What Dirks means by “completely committed to free speech” is a curiosity. When this was raised on the twitters, Conor Friedersdorf responded that “in defense of Berkeley, it sounds like they earnestly tried to protect event and underestimated resources needed.” And, indeed, that may very well be true. But is it sufficient?

Despite Dirks’ facile pronouncement that these violent invaders weren’t his students, thus absolving him from responsibility for both their violence, his school’s failure to inculcate respect for the Constitution and its contribution to the radicalization of students to the point where they believe they are entitled to go to war against the Constitution as a moral imperative, this doesn’t cut it. Spouting empty rhetoric may be sufficient palliative for some, but in the face of war, and wrapped up in Dirks’ deliberately mixed message, it’s well below tepid.

It’s understandable that many can’t stomach Milo Yiannopoulos, and ponder why anyone would invite him to speak anywhere.  But free speech has invariably been tested by assholes, since the First Amendment isn’t needed to protect speech that makes us all happy. There are thus separate issues to address, the assault of the likes of Milo on the sensibilities of tender ears, and the assault on Free Speech by violence.

Nicholas Dirks says he is completely committed to Free Speech. Is he committed to stopping his Antifa students from going to war? It would appear not.

41 thoughts on “The Berkeley Revolution

  1. Morgan O

    “They are 100% certain to use it against us”… They certainly will now. And now you’ve made it even easier for them to pre-emptively do that. As for “this is war”, be really careful what you wish for. To paraphrase Cicero, “Impertinens enim adfecta inter arma”

      1. Morgan O

        Sorry. Incorrect use of voice, I suppose. The comment is directed at the protestors, not at you. From the perspective of security services, the behaviour of these protestors makes it a hell of a lot easier for us to get “more leash” from civilian overseers when it comes to how harshly we would lock down future events. And the point about declarations of war is that the other side might agree, and start behaving as if it were actually a war. It’s one thing for these protestors to give campus cops a hard time. I doubt National Guardsmen, particularly those with battlefield experience, would be as inclined to restraint. Can’t say with certainty, though. As a Canadian, I get to do things your Constitution doesn’t allow.

        1. SHG Post author

          Ah. Commenters sometimes forget we can’t see into their head or know their particular communication peccadilloes.

          You make a good point about this being used as an excuse to ramp up security against its recurrence, and the kids will likely lose badly if this spirals into war. I don’t want to see anyone hurt on either side. Let them scream their heads off, but no violence. Later, we can all have a beer and argue who had more fun protesting.

          1. Morgan O

            Yeah. I was peripherally involved in the Montreal Student Riots in 2012-2013, and they walked this road for a while. They were very lucky that they calmed down before the city ran out of money for police overtime and riot pay, and called in the army. I can only hope these students end up in the same circumstance (calming down, not getting the army sicced on them).

            As to my peccadilloes, I will apologize for my odd rhetorical choices, but I refuse to negotiate on the use of the letter U in colour, honour, etc.

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  3. Matthew S Wideman

    A few years ago, I went to my senior associates house (at my first job) to pick up a file. When I went into his home office, he had a small arsenal of guns. This senior was not a right wing gun nut or a liberal-hippie. I asked him why he was armed to the teeth. He said, “both extreme sides of the political spectrum believe violence is justified against those who don’t agree with their views”….. “Anytime their is a revolution on either spectrum…Lawyers are the first to go….Lawyers just don’t do what people want us to do”. At the time I thought he was a little off and self-righteous. But, lately I can see where he is coming from.

    1. SHG Post author

      I’m a peaceable fellow, but his point about extremes and their self-righteous rationalizations is a truism.

  4. kushiro

    It’s unfortunate that the Guardian published the comments from that “100% certain” protester (“Lana Wachowski”). It’s only going to encourage her to speak up more, and that’s bad news.

    I mean, this quote was pretty enjoyable, but the next two will most likely be terrible, include a lot of inane mysticism, and feature some really bad acting by Keanu Reeves.

    1. Dwight Mann f/k/a "dm"

      Kushiro. Two perfect trolls. The first by “Lana Wachowski” on the Guardian (unless it really was Lana Wachowski (highly unlikely)). The second by you on SHG, who also completely missed the reference(s).

  5. wilbur

    Mr. Chancellor says: “we respected his right to come to campus and speak once he was invited to do so by a legitimate student group.”

    And if he wasn’t invited by a “legitimate student group”? Does it become a no speech zone for the public at large? Or does that depend on who the speaker is and the content of the speech? I couldn’t just stand on a soapbox and talk about my Pocket Fisherman? Or the Erie Doctrine? Or El Presidente Trumpo?

  6. Jack

    “We won’t put up with the violent rhetoric of Milo, Trump or the fascistic alt-right”, by using actual violence…
    The irony is strong with with you, young “antifa”

  7. Nick Lidakis

    People all around me said that a vote for Trump was a vote for fascists to come out of the woodwork and attack gays and other people who dared to speak out. I guess they were right.

  8. David

    I think you are painting with too broad a brush. It is still unclear who was responsible for the violence. My daughter is a student at Berkeley and while she was not present at the riot (she was in class) she did get first person accounts of the incident. While it is impossible to say no student participated in the violence, they reported a substantial number of older people involved in the violence. Though not conclusive, they believed the people were not students. Based upon the pre event organizing, the intent of the bulk of students was to combat speech with more speech. Random interviews of students really do not represent the student body and the overall attitude towards allowing speech to which they disagree.

  9. Jake D

    You mad bros? Hit the road and show those special snowflakes with all their messy, hormone-fueled feelz how protesting fascism was done in the good old days!

    Then you might remember that free speech ≠ consequence free speech.

    Don’t believe it? Walk up to a drunk biker and tell him his motorcycle is an ugly piece of shit and he looks namby-pamby on it. Bonus points if you get a third party to videotape…That shit is Youtube Gold!

    1. SHG Post author

      When people say free speech isn’t consequences free speech, it means people can disagree, call you stupid and tell you that you’re ugly. Not violence. You did realize that, right? RIGHT?!?

      1. Jake D

        I have the right to speak freely without fear of government retaliation or censorship.

        I may even have the right to call some individual citizen’s wife an ugly dog right to their face, but I do not have an expectation that it will be without consequences.

        UC Berkely did what they had to do, under the law. The consequences were a matter of practicality. If Milo Yanawhatshisface was interested in making an intellectual point, as opposed to making money, he’d do well to come up with a less inflammatory, and therefore more practical, way of making it.

        1. SHG Post author

          No. Not even in your strangest progressive fantasies does anyone have the right to commit crimes, destroy property or cause physical harm to another person because they find someone’s speech offensive. Not even a little bit.

  10. norahc

    We to be moving away from “violence is the last refuge of the incompetent” to “violence is the first refuge of the extremes”. Shame on us.

    1. SHG Post author

      Do you think this insignificant pimple is really a Nazi or just some nobody spouting nonsense who’s been given way to much play in the media so that it creates the impression that he’s relevant when he’s not? Does he terrify you? Should he? If the media never mentioned him again, would you know he exists?

      Creating an atmosphere of fear is a great tool to motivate people. It’s emotional manipulation to see who can be tricked into believing and fearing, and using that to get people to act upon their fears. It works if we let it.

      1. maz

        “Creating an atmosphere of fear is a great tool to motivate people. It’s emotional manipulation to see who can be tricked into believing and fearing, and using that to get people to act upon their fears. It works if we let it.”

        At least it does if the electoral votes fall out right.4

        1. SHG Post author

          It does nor matter which side you’re on. You get no points by being hypocritical and intellectually dishonest.

  11. ElSuerte

    The ‘assholes testing free speech’ thing is more of a feature than a bug. They keep the window of free speech open, so it doesn’t snap shut on my tamer speech.

    The whole thing puts me in the mind of Everybody Draw Mohumad Day. I don’t casually blaspheme, but I’d make an exception because fuck those violent censors.

    Same with inviting speakers.

  12. Nigel Declan

    Berkeley got trashed, students got hurt, and Mr. Yiannopolous got far more publicity than he otherwise would have, while rioters did nothing to dispel his criticism of his opponents as intellectually-dishonest fragile teacups unable and unwilling to confront him on the merits of what he says. His supporters, I would imagine, have been galvanized by such a display. rather than persuaded of the error of their ways.

    A Pyrrhic victory for the antifa, at best

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