Many influential Liberals do not unequivocally condemn political terrorism. “Anti-Fascist” thugs burned, pillaged and rioted in Berkely University a few days ago. A girl was maced for wearing a Trump hat. Rioters smashed ATMs. Other mask-wearing “anti-Fascists”, shrieking with primal glee, beat up Trump supporters. The general leftist response? Meh, hate speech is far worse anyway.
A brief disclaimer. Not all liberals have condoned or stayed silent on the riots. In fact, the New York Times headlined the story with “A Free Speech Battle at the Birthplace of a Movement in Berkely.” The writer, Thomas Fuller, commendably highlighted the “anti-fascist” violence that occurred. However, the overarching reaction as a whole from the left has been, well, unpleasant.
Most liberals showed no anger at all toward these vicious attacks. Now before I get accused of blanket ad hominem, allow me to point out some specific examples. CNN’s lead on the Berkeley Riots read, “Extremist Milo Yiannopoulos whose Berkeley event sparked protests, takes on the college establishment and rallies white supremacists.” This headline is beyond hideous. It clearly tries to cover up the violent nature of Berkeley. Spraying mace in a girl’s face for supporting Donald Trump is not protest. It is simply outright, inexcusable violence.
By the way, did President Rawlings issue an email statement condemning the Berkeley riots? Is campus free speech an issue out of his purview?
The Washington Post tried to rationalize and normalize the Battle of Berkeley by saying Trump’s calls for free speech could in fact be truly viewed “As indirect support for Yiannopoulos, a poloarizing figure who portrays himself as a champion of open expression. His detractors view him as a hatemonger.” For the sake of argument, if Yiannopolous is actually a hate mongerer, should the campus be burned down in justified response?
Another Buzzfeed “journalist,” Hannah Jewel, responded with “lmao Berkeley.” I highly doubt Jewel’s immediate reaction to getting maced would be liberal snark.
In the ensuing chaos, government officials like California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom did not issue any sort of condemnation toward the rioters. However, he teed-off in response to Trump rationally tweeting that maybe a public institution like Berkely should not receive federal funds if it shuts down constitutionally-protected free speech with thuggery.
The Mayor of Berkley, who clearly does not understand the first amendment, tweeted, “Using speech to silence marginalized communities and promote bigotry is unacceptable. Hate speech isn’t welcome in our community.”
You do not get to decide what speech on a tax-payer funded public University is “welcome.” Indeed, wasn’t Berkeley the epicenter of the liberal free speech movement a few decades ago? Even if you find such speech “unacceptable” that gives you zero right to beat up someone for wearing a MAGA hat. Moreover, while literal threats and libel can be regulated, the constitution makes no mention of “hate speech” being forebidden. To repeat a tired albeit true trope, the first ammendment is designed to protect unpopular speech, not popular speech.
In fact, a term like “hate speech” is highly subjective and it has become merely a bludgeon for liberals to hurl against anyone they disagree with. Do you have some ideological differences with modern day feminism? HATE SPEECH. Do you think stop-and-frisk works? HATE SPEECH. Do you believe that a slightly lower capital gains tax helps economic growth? HATE SPEECH.
What happened in Berkely is part of an emerging, ugly pattern of violence justification. In the days after the inauguration, liberals overwhelmingly (albeit not unanimously) reacted with delight to watching Richard Spencer, an Alt-Right leader, get punched in the face during an interview. Why? “Because he is a Nazi” they said. Leftists reasoned such an attack was mere self-defense to his ideology. To be clear, I do not agree with Spencer’s White Nationalist views. That said, I would never sneak up behind him and punch him. Whatever happened to “the marketplace of ideas” where the best ones win and the worst ones lose after being publically heard out by rational actors?
In fact, I attended the anti-Trump protests here on campus shortly after the election. Not once did I even entertain the threat of confronting such protesters with violence. Given what some speakers said to cheers about Trump supporters, they probably hated me.
The rioters in Berkely and their ideological ilk see absolutely zero difference between anyone to their right, including Spencer and Yiannopolous. Both of them are Nazis, even though Yiannopolous is a gay man with a Jewish mother. In fact, shortly after the inauguration, Frank Luntz, a middle-of-the-road Republican pundit was assaulted and called a “Fascist” by similar “anti-Fascist” thugs. Liberal columnists have called most of Trump’s supporters “deplorable.” They claim there is no such thing as a good Trump voter. In a near-repeat of Berkeley, Gavin McInnes, a cultural libertarian and founder of Rebel Media, got pepper-sprayed yesterday at his NYU appearance. Labels like “Nazi” and “Fascist” have evolved to rationalize violence against anyone of conservative-leaning opinions.
This radical, far-Left, neo-Marxist assault on free speech perhaps has not been seen since the days of the Cultural Revolution where “Red Guards” in Mao’s China would attack with fervor any individuals, groups, institutions or organizations that represented reactionary rightist elements opposed to the new communist paradise. The leftists of Berkeley are embracing the fringe of the forbearers.
Do you see the pattern? The far radical Left that is becoming ever more normalized. The rioters of Berkeley see dissenting voices as enemies that must be brutally crushed, smashed and destroyed. They zealously try to destroy free speech protections because they are convinced that all opinions ranging from slightly right of center constitute a grave, impending moral threat to their existence. The ends justify the means. They do not see the political space as a forum for civil discussion but rather as the setting for a nasty, merciless fight to the death. Given this trend, the future of political polarization will become even far worse than today. In the near future, at least, any sort of political unity is highly untenable.
How should the right respond to this violent fiasco? The answer is simple. Do the exact opposite of what these mask-wearing rioters want us to do. They hope their violence can achieve the political goal of silencing their enemies. In other words, they are political terrorists. Of course, we should not respond in kind with political terrorism. However, we should not remain silent. To any college students reading this, invite thinkers of the right to speak at your university. Invite controversy. Do not bend to any threats. Voice your opinions no matter the costs as I try to do hear at the Review. Do not let anyone shut you up.
Even if such violence continues, it will tarnish the already tainted image of the left further in the eyes of the remaining political centrists. Indeed, Trump was in part elected as a backlash to anti-free speech leftist authoritarianism on College campuses. The country is on our side with this issue. So as our President says, let’s continue to keep winning so much that we even get tired of winning.