free speech

Commentary on the Recent UC Berkeley Riot at Milo Yiannopoulous’ Speaking Event

A guest post by LP

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted but I’d be remiss not comment on the riot at my alma mater, UC Berkeley, on February 1, 2017 which illustrates the consequences of taking justice into one’s own hands. One only needs to reflect on how sense of right and wrong changes with maturity to appreciate the subjective element. And this can be warped by unique brain wiring (e.g., Ted Kaczynski).

Departing from the usual post format, here are videos illustrating up-close details of more personal costs associated with “justice” administration (aside from the reported half-million dollars in damage to infrastructure and surrounding businesses) by the frenzied or not-so-bright. This is a 46-second clip taken by Mixed Martial Artist (MMA) Jake Shields’ girlfriend of his confrontation with Antifa (derived from “Anti-Fascists” and comprised of anarcho-communists as far as I know) after saving a Trump supporter from being beaten to death. If you can’t hear the conversation, as mentioned in the YouTube comment section, these rioters reasoned that Milo Yiannopoulos can’t be Jewish because he’s Greek.

To quote Shields, “I don’t think those people are capable of rationalizing. I think they’ve switched their brains to where if you have a different opinion of them, you’re a Nazi. I hate Nazis, too, but who determines what’s a Nazi?… There were hundreds of people cheering on, ‘Get the Nazi,’ and I went up and started arguing with them. Why’s this guy a Nazi? What did he say to make him a Nazi? No one could say.”

Without provocation, an Antifa member pepper-sprayed a woman wearing a “Make Bitcoin Great Again” hat. Anarcho-Capitalist Stefan Molyneux interviews her about this incident in this 21-minute video:

Meanwhile, as the night’s events unfolded, law enforcement’s capacity to assist others was limited as a would-be Milo Yiannopoulos event attendee described:

After about 2 1/2 hours, an officer told them, “if you guys want to go out of the building, you need to go now.” Walsh asked if officers would escort them. “They said, ‘It’ll make things worse for you,’ ” she said.

Walsh and her female friend made it to their car in a parking garage, where, in a surreal moment, a lurking stranger had mistaken their car as belonging to Yiannapoulos’ entourage and was hoping to see him.

They tried to drive out of the garage but the exit was blocked by barricades and a dumpster, she said. Two maintenance workers said they could not help them but gave them the phone number to the campus police department. She called but was told officers were “a little busy” though they’d try to send someone.

As it happened, Walsh had grabbed some anti-Yiannopoulos printed material (“propaganda literature,” she said) so she put it on the dashboard to fool the protesters – and held onto her pepper spray.

She drove behind another car heading to the exit, where several protesters moved the obstruction aside to let them pass, which took a while.

“They said ‘We’ll help you.’ They let us out,” she said. “That literature saved my life, I’m sure of it. It was insane.”

Styxhexenhammer666 contrasts political protests by the left versus the right and offers conclusions (which aren’t surprising) on where the vast majority of the violence comes from in this 12-minute video:

I can’t attest to the accuracy of his account of history, so corrections and comments are welcome. The narrative that the rioters were outsiders (unaffiliated with UC Berkeley) who took over what was to be a peaceful demonstration makes sense. Some protesters disapprove of Antifa’s methods I’m sure. However, if protesters believe Antifa are right-wing agent provocateurs, they should clarify their disapproval and arrange to ostracize rioters. Plan to be seen shouting them down or leaving to avoid being caught up in it.

Antifa has seemingly been accepted at leftist demonstrations for some time though (e.g. the Occupy movement). Perhaps young, college-aged protesters are too inexperienced and short-sighted about consequences to pursue effective methods for dealing with infiltration as others asserted. However,  I’ll believe their rejection of Antifa when I see it. Most viewers saw what I saw – protesters mostly cheering and celebrating. So, how is it not reasonable to interpret their actions as condoning stupidity and senseless violence? After a cool-down period, granting students’ “thought leaders” time to reflect and come to their senses on how to respond in a way that represents the campus and student community, writers at The Daily Californian (the campus newspaper) defended the rioters:

Neil Lawrence wrote, “Behind those bandanas and black T-shirts were faces of your fellow UC Berkeley and Berkeley City college students, of women, of people of color, of queer and trans people.”

Desmond Meagley wrote, “Condemning protesters same as condoning hate speech… I put my safety and my freedom on the line because letting Yiannopoulos speak was more terrifying to me than potential injury or arrest.”

At this time, the right-wing agent provocateur narrative may also be unraveling. It appears that UC Berkeley students may have been among the Antifa rioters’ ranks that night. However, rioters’ identities are still under FBI investigation.

I seem to recall a time when there was less extremism. Although college students aren’t all like this as they, too, represent different points across the political spectrum, in hindsight, it just seems the penchant for this craziness was not there to this degree. I attended Berkeley in the 1990s and was present for the discontinuation of Affirmative Action. Students’ reactions were uneventful compared to how riled up these protesters became over a visiting speaker they disagreed with. This leaves me wondering if it’ll get worse than this.

Quick Hits

There’s work underway to

find any of the genetic variants associated with intelligence, however weak and inconsistent they may be, and then look up the published literature to see how frequent those variants are in any racial group.

I’m fairly certain how it will turn out, if the work isn’t sabotaged by those who fear the truth.

Academe’s war on conservatism continues. What else is new?

There’s also a (not new) internet-based war on conservatism (e.g., here and here). Cass Sunstein, a leading light of the anti-free speech forces, was Obama’s regulatory czar. Connect the dots.

Robert Higgs hates the use of “we,” “us,” and “our” in policy discourse. So do I.

Steven Horwitz offers a concise and elegant gloss of Hayek’s “The Use of Knowledge in Society.” I’ve addressed Hayek’s essay here, and a related one (“The Pretence of Knowledge“) here.

Defining Treasonous Speech

Eugene Volokh, writing in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Holder v. Humanitarian Aid Project, digs into his archive for a list of five alternative ways of defining treasonous speech. The alternatives range from restrictive (#1) to lenient (#5).

My archive includes a five-year-old post in which I comment on Volokh’s five alternatives. In that post, I state a preference for this option:

2. Speech is unprotected only when the speaker has the purpose of aiding the enemy, and is paid for such speech. This, though, would be an odd distinction in U.S. constitutional law, given that speech is routinely protected despite being done for money. Most writers, filmmakers, journalists, and other speakers are paid for their speech.

Now, five years later, I lean toward Volokh’s least lenient alternative:

1. Speech is unprotected whenever the speaker has the purpose of aiding the enemy (and perhaps there’s some evidence that the speech is indeed likely to provide some at least modest aid). That seemed to be the court’s view in Gillars: “The First Amendment does not protect one from accountability for words as such. It depends upon their use. It protects the free expression of thought and belief as a part of the liberty of the individual as a human personality. But words which reasonably viewed constitute acts in furtherance of a program of an enemy to which the speaker adheres and to which he gives aid with intent to betray his own country, are not rid of criminal character merely because they are words.” This exception would justify punishing any speech that falls within the statutory and constitutional definition of “treason.”

How can I be so hard on speech that aids a foreign enemy and yet so supportive of free speech in the context of domestic affairs (e.g., see this post)? The terms “foreign enemy” and “domestic affairs” ought to be a clue. As I say here, in the context of illegal immigration, “the United States exists primarily for the purpose of protecting its citizens and their liberty rights.”

We must not give foreign enemies the same rights as American citizens. If we do, we run the grave risk of losing our own rights.