“Censorship reflects a society’s lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime.”—Justice Potter Stewart
Hard to fathom that such wisdom was expressed in a Supreme Court decision relating to pornography dating back to 1966. In 2017, however, the same cement streets beneath and surrounding the campus renowned for being the “birthplace of the Free Speech Movement”–the University of California at Berkeley (UCB)–now serve as the foundation for which domestic terrorist groups such as Antifa and BAMN vociferously terrorize and brazenly assault anyone who expresses a dissenting point of view.
Yet more disturbingly, these armies of bullies who conceal their identities in uniforms of all-black accessorized with matching masks (because costumes are worn by those who will gladly engage in acts of “Lord of the Flies”-style savagery as long as they can’t suffer the consequence of being identified such as the Ku Klux Klan) have cost the City of Berkeley more than a million dollars’ in property damage since the Milo Yiannopolous riot in February of this year. Further, they’ve caused serious physical injuries to numerous attendees—concussions to broken ribs to permanent memory loss—and yet are lauded by the UCB campus for their commitment to silencing “fascism” and “white power” groups (read: Trump supporters), a fact evidenced by a search of UCB’s student newspaper, The Daily Californian, (TDC), archives dating back to early February.
A recent “Editorials” piece entitled “Antifa presence helped defend communities,” published on April 18, 2017 following a planned “Free Speech” rally that had occurred days before, perhaps most aptly communicates the campus’ position in support of Antifa’s mission to silence free speech–even if such must be achieved by breaking the jaws of those whose “voices” they don’t want to hear.
Based on the foregoing, members of UCB’s Editorial Board would have us believe that the battle to preserve and protect Free Speech, particularly on college campuses, is based on “good versus evil” or Jesus Christ battling the fallen angel Lucifer to save humanity from the perils of hell Dante illustrates so well in “The Inferno.” However, it its version of this allegory, Antifa and BAMN represent “the good” whereas anyone who supports Trump and/or opposes these groups’ methods are “the bad.”
The introduction alleges “…the national media has taken to sensationalizing and oversimplifying the event to a debate over free speech and Trump.” But isn’t that exactly what’s been happening since November 8th, when Donald Trump won the election? Haven’t liberal-leaning universities such as UCB sought to prohibit hosting Conservative-based speakers such as Milo and Ann Coulter–both of whom publicly supported candidate Donald Trump—from speaking on-campus?
And since this is the case being both speakers were ultimately “silenced” by actions proximately related to decisions made by the UCB governing board, whether it was UCB police refusing to control the Dystopian-like pandemonium that arose on February 1st and instead “standing down,” or the cancellation of Coulter’s speech altogether, asserting “security reasons” as the cause, then why is The Daily Californian attempting to downplay the University’s discriminatory practices by rhetorically “defending” this type of activity and overlooking the need to report on the governing board’s choices? Moreover, why is it deflecting away from its own responsibility as a member of “the press” and role as UCB’s official “voice” to defend the First Amendment on behalf of the entire student body, and instead pointing the proverbial finger at corporate media for “misreporting” on the same?
Paragraph 2 alleges, “[t]he event, as it is being covered, was a battle that pitted pro-Trump against anti-Trump, free speech advocates against masked assailants.” One should ask, are these “free speech advocates” breaking the law by threatening these “masked assailants” with the use of “fighting words” like Antifa does? Forget the use of logic to form viable counterarguments to those positions held by pro-Trump supporters or employing Gandhi’s infamous “The pen is mightier than the sword” tactic—Antifa has a well-established history of using force and abusive language as a means of countering its opposition. Hence, this rally was a de facto battle—not by design but rather as a result of those members of Antifa who’d crashed a peaceful assembly with the intent to disrupt by use of brute force–which is its modus operandi.
The editorial later posits, “[t]he national media oversimplification largely skims over the fact that neo-Nazis and white nationalists were involved in the Free Speech Rally.” First, isn’t this statement alone a gross overgeneralization as to the ethnic backgrounds of those who’d attended? Doesn’t TDC’s description blatantly imply that those who support Trump are categorized as either a “neo-Nazi” or a “white Nationalist.” And if this is the case, what about groups such as “Blacks for Trump”? Are they “neo-Nazis’ since by definition they can’t be “white Nationalists.”
“Antifa did not come solely to protest Trump supporters. Similar to its presence during the Milo Yiannopoulos protests on campus…Antifa came as a reaction to white supremacism.”
Once again, TDC is hoping to elicit a visceral reaction from its readers by using “white supremacism” as if we should feel compassion for Antifa and recognize them as a collective of “do gooders” or “Robin Hood” figures who risk their lives by invading the urban forest of Berkeley with the purpose of “taking” away the voice of white supremacists and “giving” greater power to those who are convinced they have monopoly control over the First Amendment.
The Editorial Board feigns amnesia towards what was nothing short of an apocalypse that had erupted during Milo’s visit as a proximate cause of Antifa’s presence. Or perhaps its members’ sense of reason is still clouded by the fog of Molotov cocktails and smoky M-80’s that Antifa and BAMN had used that evening to assault attendees. By purporting “[t]he net consequences of its [Antifa’s] actions were that neo-Nazis and white-supremacist groups with a violent rhetoric were denied a platform to speak in the city of Berkeley,” the article sells Antifa as some sort of “superhero” to its audience. As such, TDC passively justifies Antifa’s use of smoke bombs and fists as if Berkeley is the West Coast’s Gotham in a Batman film.
Make no mistake, these are not protestors like those UCB predecessors who fought to promote the First Amendment against the violent tendencies of local police. Conversely, the goal of these groups is antithetic to the plight of UCB protests of the past: it is prima facie censorship by using authoritarian methods in order to police what can be said, and control who has the right to speak in public. And those who challenge Antifa’s self-appointed authoritative regime must suffer the consequence of having to deal with those who behave like petulant children refusing to take a nap or eat their spinach, simply because they don’t want to hear any opinion aside from that of their own collective illogical mush-mouth baby talk.
The subject editorial concludes by alleging that “Antifa was able to protect people…” while in the very same sentence acknowledging, “…albeit by using violence itself.” However, it further attempts to justify said violence by claiming “…it [Free Speech Rally] should be viewed as the conflict between violence as a means to protect versus violence as a means to further attack and harass certain communities.” These “communities” it speaks of are “…people of color, transgender people and so many other marginalized communities.” Again, such assumes that neither persons of color, transgender persons and/or unspecified “other marginalized” individuals voted for Trump and/or disagree with Antifa’s methods.
Most importantly, Antifa’s militant role is commendable simply because it has taken the initiative to ingratiate itself into the battle for free speech and has exploited the same to wage its own war against those it (and a predominant number of UCB’s Editorial Board) believe should be destroyed.
Notwithstanding the obvious issues of violence and censorship and speech suppression noted above, the attitudes of those intimately tied to university governance arising out of these recent events introduces what is nothing short of an epidemic infecting college campuses: Who ultimately has the right to determine what “types” of speech and assembly are permitted?
Further, it is legal, much less ethical, for the government of a public university such as UCB that receives federal funds and grants to determine what is “acceptable” speech on-campus? Or, taken a step further, to promote groups who are known for blurring the lines between the use of “hate speech” and “fighting words”? Should UCB be allowed to apply its own “standard” outside of Supreme Court rulings and therefore act as a sort of “judge and jury” when it comes to selecting those speakers who can address its student body?
Whereas “hate speech” can be quite broad in interpretation, “fighting words” are those that pose an imminent threat of harm to another. Simply put, the latter arises when a person directs a face-to-face insult towards another for the purpose of provoking a fight. Video and eyewitness testimony indicates that Antifa and BAMN both engage in behavior that goes well beyond verbally antagonizing their opponent that in turn has resulted in instances of their members having been responsible for having initiated acts of physical assault. And yet despite existence of the same, UCB unabashedly endorses, even welcomes, these groups, on-campus whenever pro-Trump supporters want to exercise their First Amendment rights.
The legal standard as to what constitutes “fighting words” arises out of Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire (1941), wherein the Supreme Court upheld the conviction of a Jehovah’s Witness proselytizer who’d been found guilty of having used “abusive language” in public. Specifically, the Court found:
“There are certain well-defined and narrowly limited classes of speech, the prevention and punishment of which has never been thought to raise any Constitutional problem. These include the lewd and obscene, the profane, the libelous, and the insulting or ‘fighting’ words—those by which their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace.” (Emphasis added.)
It’s hard to argue that the emphasized portion of the foregoing doesn’t apply to the acts of Antifa.
UCB’s position concerning a group that is nothing less than that of a domestic terrorist is clear. The University’s loyalties to the application of the First Amendment for all forms of protected speech and peaceful protest unequivocally side with those who solely desire for liberal thought to be expressed. This harrowing truth is consequently setting a dangerous precedent for those of us who are committed to preserving and furthering free speech. How can censorship be challenged if these institutions of so-called “higher learning” aren’t willing to educate and expose its students on the importance of respecting those whose opinions we disagree with? How does teaching the suppression of speech behoove us as a society?
If select groups such as Trump supporters can’t voice their beliefs safely, then we as a society are effectively imprisoned by the same laws as those Communist countries such as China who impanel select individuals to identify what is “publicly acceptable” thought and in turn punish those who disagree.
In a 2012 interview, renowned First Amendment scholar David L Hudson Jr stated, “I don’t think we have enough free speech in our public schools.” He further asserted, “[s]tudents don’t get to experience their freedoms on a day to day basis in their interaction with peers and school officials.”
Hudson was referring to high school level education; however, the increasing episodes of civil disobedience occurring at the university-level indicates that this need to control speech in schools demonstrates the lack of freedom many college students experience. Higher learning shouldn’t be premised on thought control; rather, it should be founded on the importance of free expression.
Welcome to 2017–the year when free speech is officially silenced within university communities, the very places where it should be shouted from.