Berkeley riot shows the threat to free speech

The events on Wednesday night at the University of California-Berkeley remind me of a Christopher Hitchens’s speech:

Bear in mind, ladies and gentlemen, that every time you violate or propose to violate the free speech of someone else, in potencia, you’re making a rod for own back. Because the other question raised by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes is simply this: who’s going to decide?

To whom do you award the right to decide which speech is harmful or who is the harmful speaker? Or determine in advance what are the harmful consequences going to be, that we know enough about in advance to prevent?

To whom would you give this job? To whom are you going to award the job of being the censor? Isn’t it a famous old story that the man who has to read all the pornography, in order to decide what’s fit to be passed and what’s fit not to be, is the man most likely to be debauched?

Did you hear any speaker, the opposition to this motion — eloquent as… one of them was — to whom you would delegate the task of deciding for you what you could read? To whom you would give the job of deciding for you, relieve you of the responsibility of hearing what you might have to hear?

Do you know anyone — hands up — do you know anyone to whom you’d give this job? Does anyone have a nominee? You mean there’s no one in Canada good enough to decide what I can read? Or hear? I had no idea. But there’s a law that says there must be such a person. Or there’s a subsection of some piddling law that says it. Well, the hell with that law then. It’s inviting you to be liars and hypocrites and to deny what you evidently know already.

About the censorious instinct we basically know all that we need to know, and we’ve known it for a long time. […] It may not be determined in advance what words are apt or inapt. No one has the knowledge that would be required to make that call.

And, more to the point, one has to suspect the motives of those who do so. In particular, the motives of those who are determined to be offended, those who will go through a treasure house of English, like Dr. Johnson’s first lexicon, in search of filthy words, to satisfy themselves and some instinct about which I dare not speculate.

The riot happened at UCB over a speech Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos intended to give. According to Yiannopoulos, the speech focused on the topic of cultural appropriation. As he noted in his video response to the riot, that hardly seems a topic worthy of burning cars, smashing windows, and assaulting people. Yet that is what occurred.

How does one justify this?

One must witness the contortions the progressive press twisted itself into to excuse the violence. CNN claimed that Yiannopoulos tries to convince people that “hate speech” is cool. The New York Magazine claimed that this is what Yiannopoulos wanted. Then there are the Hollywood directors condoning riot and failing to understand what free speech means.

Free speech is a zero-sum proposition. You either have it or you do not. The moment you begin to censor the speech of your enemies, you censor yourself. You create the very tools that will be used to silence you.

What makes this so ridiculous is that there is nothing Yiannopoulos that constitutes hate speech. This is a gay Greek Jew who incessantly talks about bottoming for black men. He makes jokes about lesbians, transgender people, gay people, black people, white people, fat people, and whatever Ben Shapiro is. Yes, some of what he says is coarse and disagreeable, yet that is intentional. He is trolling the left, and opening states such. He is deliberately provocative.

Yet at no point does he incite violence. He never encourages his followers to attack anyone. When opponents come to his speeches and interrupt, he usually lets them do it or asks them to wait until the question and answer session. During those sessions he asks his supporters to let the opponents speak. He engages those people without calling for any violence toward them.

In what way is what he says “hate speech” other than some of it being deliberately distasteful? Is this really something to riot over? Is this something worthy of attacking people over?

The mayor of Berkeley Jesse Arreguin played into this nonsense by labeling Yiannopoulos a “white nationalist”. Never mind that Yiannopoulus is not a United States citizen and has the pesky tendency to swallow copious amounts of black penises. Arreguin later amended the label after receiving numerous negative responses. He now calls Yiannopoulos a “prominent alt-rightist”, despite Yiannopoulos repeatedly stating that he is not part of the alt-right and the members of the alt-right disliking him because of the gay, Jewish, and black fetish thing.

The irony is that all this does is make Yiannopoulos more popular. His book sales rose following the riot. He name is becoming more prominent. At present, if one types “milo” into Google, the first thing that comes up is his name.

The larger irony, however, is that all this violence and fear-mongering reveals the progressive community to be full of hypocrites. They are for diversity, inclusivity, and representation — unless one has different politics. At that point it become acceptable to silence, threaten, or even assault someone. Of course, should anyone do the same thing to their leaders or their commentators, the rules change and it becomes wrong.

This type of behavior is what leads to authoritarian control. It is not limited to the right or left wing of politics. It happens whenever any group decides that it and only it should control what people can read, see, hear, and say. At present, that is coming exclusively from the left and often enforced with violence.

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3 thoughts on “Berkeley riot shows the threat to free speech

  1. These people are letting their passions run away with them and I think it was Ben Franklin who said “Passion never governs wisely.”

  2. TS- I was kinda hoping you were going to write about the Lake Zurich high school hazing in the news. Are you planning to weigh in on that?

    It’s okay if the answer is no- given the subject matter it feels awkward to make requests. But I would be interested in your thoughts if you want to share.

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