“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” – Evelyn Beatrice Hall (1868-1956) – not Voltaire, as is often incorrectly attributed
First Amendment Denied at Berkeley
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
February 2, 2017
Free speech and tolerance were in full bloom and on display at UC-Berkeley last night. Liberals, socialists, thugs, malcontents and miscreants utilized their First Amendment freedom of speech and expression while campus keystone cops tolerated the violence, destruction of private property, and overall criminal behavior.
Denizens at the self-pronounced “birth place of the free speech movement” demonstrated their antipathy toward the First Amendment of the United States Constitution by thwarting the efforts, and ultimately forcing the cancelation of a speech to be given by Milo Yiannopoulos. Yiannopoulos, 33, is a Greek-born British citizen and the senior editor for Breitbart News, a conservative operation.
Yiannopoulos, a vocal supporter of President Donald Trump, is considered controversial by the left simply because they take issue with his conservative stances on numerous key issues. Regardless of his viewpoints and beliefs, he accepted an invitation to speak on the Berkeley campus, and should have been able to do so unfettered from violence and destruction. Peaceful demonstrations and non-violent protests should be welcome – after all they are the bellwether of the foundation of the United States. Don’t like the speaker’s perspectives, host a speaker of your own or write a letter to the editor.
Instead, more than 1,500 pedantic anarchists and left wing hooligans both from on campus and off, took to the streets in a tumultuous riot lobbing Molotov Cocktails, committing arson, throwing bricks at law enforcement, looting a Starbucks, and writing graffiti death threats on private property. One rioter pepper-sprayed a woman wearing a Trump hat, while another Trump supporter was beaten by other thugs exercising their expressiveness. At only one arrest, there is plenty of video from which to cull and identify the miscreant participants. Ultimately, the Yiannopoulos event required canceling. Yet it begs the question, where is the safe space for those people wishing to attend the speech – the same safe space liberals clamor about when they claim they can’t even listen to words with which they disagree?
The college campus, long the home of spirited debate, has in the past two generations deteriorated into a fascist den reenacting George Orwell’s 1984, rife with its so-called free speech zones. So-called, because to have a free speech zone, is to surrender the right of free speech on the remainder of the campus. In fact, most campuses with so-called free speech zones require appointments made weeks in advance to utilize the space and the topics need to be approved by the campus thought police masquerading as administrators.
The answer to objectionable speech, is more speech, not less. People, especially the younger generations, are barely able to communicate with one another anymore thanks to technology – people have their headphones on, and their eyes diverted to computers, phones, tablets, all living in their virtual world communicating with strangers, but not knowing how to talk to the people around them on campus or the workplace. This is not just sad, it is dangerous. It’s dangerous because less speech leads to less understanding of others and ultimately the violence and intolerance that was born of liberal odium of philosophy and ideas divergent from their own. Thus the signs reading “this is war,” and “Nazi scum,” in objection to Yiannopoulos, who apparently identifies as gay and Jewish.
Liberals and conservatives are at a linguistic crossroads. While conservatives are said to want to censor certain book lists seen as inappropriate for students of younger ages, it is liberals who want to censor the words and thoughts of anyone deigning to disagree with them. They seem to have a visceral fear and loathing of alternative viewpoints with an uncontrollable need to silence the masses. Liberals don’t like a television program, they want it removed from the airwaves, while conservatives simply change the channel.
A complete investigation into the myriad criminal activities must be undertaken to identify the guilty. They need be prosecuted to the limits of the law. Students involved in the chaos and bedlam should be suspended from school with the concomitant loss of scholarships if applicable. Regardless of whether students or not, all guilty parties must be held financially accountable and make restitution. This also means the police must do their jobs. Where is Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California system?
For a college campus whether UC Berkeley or any other bastion of so-called free speech and thought to demand the suspension of the First Amendment, perhaps President Donald Trump was right when he suggested denying the school federal funding. A war was fought to guarantee the people’s rights. It’s time to fight again to preserve those very rights.
Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN.