FIGHT WITH WORDS, NOT FISTS
Kevin Chabrier | firstname.lastname@example.org
On February 1, 2017, a UC Berkeley event featuring notorious media personality and provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos was shut down by masked, “anti-fascist” thugs. This flagrant display of ideological intolerance and intellectual infantilism was the latest in a string of incidents in which protesters have shut down speeches, damaged property, assaulted conservatives, blocked traffic, and committed a litany of other offenses. These individuals, emboldened by the Left’s deplorable approval of such criminality, are gradually blurring the line between a legal protest and an illegal riot. What is equally problematic is the Left’s proclivity to justify the violation of the speech and property rights of others, under the banner of social justice.
Leftists, on the whole, believe in the existence of systemic iniquities, mystical forces like “white privilege” and “the patriarchy,” designed to oppress minority groups for the benefit of straight, rich, white, Christian, able-bodied, cisgender males. Basing your policies and proposals on this core premise necessitates that politics be viewed through the lens of victimhood. Consequently, when you indulge a generation of minorities with the idea that they are perpetual victims of bigotry, they are trained to feel as if any action, no matter how illegal or immoral, is justified, so long as it is committed in response to racists, sexists, homophobes, xenophobes, transphobes, Islamophobes, ableists, or any -ist or -phobe in the book.
This philosophy illustrates perfectly why professors like Marcellus Andrews believe it to be professional and acceptable to libel conservative students, and make nuanced threats against them. This mentality also explains why feminist students seem to think they are entitled to rudely and audaciously interrupt Christina Hoff Sommers, for committing the cardinal sin of presenting a viewpoint with which they disagree. Last year, there were numerous instances of vandalism, in which posters advertising an event featuring Milo Yiannopoulos were torn down or stolen. These individuals recognize that under a left-leaning administration, in a vastly and incontrovertibly left-leaning institution, their odds of facing disciplinary action for offenses perpetrated in the name of “social justice” are slim to none. While these are just a few examples of inappropriate conduct toward conservative students and speakers at Bucknell, they pale in comparison to the utter felonies that are committed – and justified – elsewhere.
America noticed a resurgence of violent protests in the wake of a number of police killings in late 2014. The Black Lives Matter movement has instigated innumerable protests, marches, and riots, many of which have devolved into outright chaos, resulting in empty stores and tens of thousands of dollars in property damage. BLM leader DeRay McKesson has since begun teaching a course at Yale University, entitled “In Defense of Looting,” in which he describes looting as “a righteous tactic.” It’s no secret that American universities are hotbeds of Leftism. But the fact that such a prestigious university has introduced looting and rioting into the realm of defensible forms of a First Amendment right underscores the extent to which the Left is prepared to justify felonies in response to perceived injustices.
This brings us to the incident at Berkeley, which illuminates the dichotomy between the Left’s views on free speech in the 1960s and those of today. Berkeley, once known as the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement, has decayed into a Leftist breeding ground of speech codes and ideological bigotry. Leftists persisted in their display of intolerance of opposing viewpoints, as Yiannopoulos’ event was quickly and violently shut down, such that Yiannopoulos had to be evacuated from the building by his cohort of security guards. Even more troubling, a few days later a collection of editorials appeared on the website of The Daily Californian, Berkeley’s student newspaper. The titles of some of these pieces included “Condemning Protesters Same as Condoning Hate Speech,” “Violence Helped Ensure Safety of Students,” and “Check your Privilege when Speaking of Protests.” The existence of a contingent of Americans willing to advocate for physical violence in response to a mere speech, and to equate feelings of offense with bodily injury is, if not unsurprising, particularly disconcerting.
The Left is increasingly adopting this philosophy, as exemplified by the debate over the battery of Richard Spencer, in which reputable media outlets like The New York Times legitimately entertained the notion that you can punch a Nazi for what he says or believes. This is how free speech dies.
Fortunately, we haven’t yet reached that point, but the idea of violence as a reaction to speech is insidiously gaining traction among the Left. In one of The Daily Californian editorials, Nisa Dang asserted, “As I recently wrote in a tirade against this brand of idiocy, asking people to maintain peaceful dialogue with those who legitimately do not think their lives matter is a violent act.” The fundamental claim behind such absurdity is that physical retaliation against verbal expression is justifiable based on the content therein. That is to say, it is permissible to brutalize anyone with whom you disagree, so long as you claim that you were offended by their words. This would officially mark the death of free speech in America, and alarmingly, it’s not as preposterous as it once would have seemed.
All of the nonsense and lawlessness connects back to the idea of social justice. The impetus behind such a tremendous spike in violent protests and riots is the Left’s continuous assurance that, because minorities are oppressed by evil white men, they are justified in retaliating against perceived instances of bigotry. When you combine that notion with the culture of victimization, with microaggressions, trigger warnings, and safe spaces, which encourage individuals to seek out evidence of bigotry in innocuous words and actions, this phenomenon perpetuates, and it manifests in ways that affect all of us.
There was no justification for Professor Andrews’ cowardly libel of conservative students. Had he actually attended the speech, he would have found that Yiannopoulos, whom the “racists and fascists” invited, acknowledged the historical discrimination of African-Americans, and argued that “they are still owed something.” Similarly, the conduct of a number of students, and a professor, during Christina Hoff Sommers’ lecture was downright rude and indefensible, and I highly doubt that similar behavior would have been condoned during Anderson Cooper’s event. All of this can be resolved by restoring basic standards of decency and civility, and actually disciplining those who act improperly, irrespective of race, gender, or religion.
As Voltaire so eloquently said, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” If you oppose somebody’s ideas or find them offensive, rather than attempting to quash his right to speak, or relying upon physical intimidation, criticize and refute the arguments themselves in an honest debate. Free speech is one of your most fundamental and inalienable human rights. Use it.