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Berkeley is not America.

February 2, 2017

Everything that the 1969-1974 TV sitcom Brady Bunch was, the Berkeley Panties in a Bunch crowd isn’t.

If the language, tactics and messaging of the American leftist or anarchist movement has a verifiable birthplace, it was probably on the Berkeley campus.

As a class of 1964 high school grad vacillating between law and veterinary medicine as career choices, Berkeley and UC Davis were schools I considered.  In this case I can speak first hand of the devolution from an atmosphere of peaceful dissent and relatively civil discourse to the closed-minded and intolerant campus of today.

Berkeley was historically a campus that encouraged students to not only question the status quo but to seek ways to change it. In its best form, that’s actually what the college experience should do for any student.

That’s the mindset that doesn’t accept polio outbreaks every summer as the inevitable norm, and goes on to conquer it.

Unfortunately for society, there is often  a very fine and often fluid line between open-minded disagreement  and anarchy.

To understand Berkeley in 1963-65 you have to understand the times. This was the height of both the civil rights movement and the Viet Nam war protests, the so-called anti-war or  peacenik movement.

When students at many college campuses first began to question the wisdom of their elders on those two issues, the initial discourse was often raucous and loud, but not violent.

When campus administrations began to crack down not just on the form of the protests but the actual philosophy behind them, the Free Speech Movement was born.

At first it was only about having the right to simply disagree, but like the movements they supported, it quickly became fashionable, indeed even expected, to punctuate speech with violence.

The correlation between violence  and news coverage was not lost on students or their slightly older mentors. Finally! The old fogeys were listening!

Take one part youthful idealism, one part actual proof of social injustice, one part hormone-fueled energy, mix in equal parts drugs and alcohol, and viola, you have the Berkeley riots of the mid 1960’s.

Lest anyone think everyone between 18 and 29 supported that model, it would behoove me to point out that then, even as now, there were plenty of us who quite frankly thought our violence-addicted peers had lost their ever-loving minds.

It didn’t take very long to discover that disagreeing with the hard left could be hazardous to your health.

Then, as now, free speech was defined as making sure no one else had a voice.

The young lady who was pepper-sprayed in the latest exhibition of tolerance by the free speech crowd should be glad she wasn’t around then, when the weapons of choice were bottles and clubs, if not worse.

There is a right and wrong way to do anything. Suppression of speech is not freedom of speech.

Did it ever occur to anyone to simply not go to the Yiannopoulos event?  People who thrive on chaos only win when they can create chaos. By that yardstick, he won.

Just think how much less influence he would have had talking to a virtually empty room.

The terribly narrow legal definition of hate speech does not begin to protect anyone, nor does it foster civil discourse.  It certainly does not control violence nor prevent injuries to persons or property.

While the above-referenced statement by the UC Berkeley campus public affairs department appropriately decries the use of violence it also typifies the current reluctance to deploy proactive law enforcement actions to deal with that violence.

The minute the first rock was thrown, the first window broken,  the first fire set or the first paid agitators identified, the protest devolved from a demonstration to a riot and should have been dealt with as such.

Instead you have the public admission that no arrests had been made as of 9:30p.m. PST.

A gentle request to former U.S Attorney General Napolitano, now president of the UC system.

Please have your campus Public Affairs officers look up the definitions of riot, mob and anarchy. If they can call what happened yesterday the Free Speech Movement, you may well need to enroll them  in an “Introduction to Legal Terminology” refresher class.

From → op-ed

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