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In the past six months, at least six U.S. universities have canceled scheduled appearances by white supremacist agitator Milo Yiannopoulis. In most cases, the Steve Bannon protégé had been invited by campus Republican groups. The University of Miami was one of the first to cancel, based on security concerns. That speech would have been in June.

NYU canceled a talk set for November. According to the Inside Higher Ed website, Florida Atlantic University canceled a talk that would have occurred in September. At Villanova, a campus group announced Yiannopoulis was coming but the university put out a statement say that wasn’t going to happen.

Yiannopoulis made an appearance at DePaul in May, provoking some fairly strong protest, strong enough that the university nixed a repeat performance planned for the fall.

But UC Berkeley, the campus joined at the hip with free speech, expended considerable time, money and energy to try to accommodate a Yiannopoulis talk on Wednesday and is now being denounced as the campus that killed free speech. (The same thing happened, in less dramatic fashion, at UC Davis earlier, but Davis never had Berkeley’s special reputation.)

Amid a peaceful protest by some 2,000, many of them students, an estimated 150 militants from off campus invaded the campus a couple of hours before the scheduled talk. They broke windows, set fires, set off firecrackers, and hooted and hollered to the point that the university, in consultation with its highly experienced police department, canceled the talk. And across this seemingly intelligent land, conservatives and liberals alike fell for the cheap narrative, taking to social media, letters to the editor and any other forums they could find to denounce UC Berkeley for embracing or even promoting intolerance.

If the university administration had simply wanted to muzzle obnoxious opinion, it could have said no from the start, like so many others had done. There would have been a couple of news stories and our charming new president, the boss of Yiannopoulis’ boss, might have tweeted out something about those hippies out in California. But there would have been no dramatic footage, no fireworks, no visuals to coax poorly informed people to lash out at pointy-headed university types without a moment’s thought to all the places that had simply told Milo to stay away.

This provocation by a man who makes his living by promoting misogyny and racism worked as planned, even prompting Trump to hint at ending federal aid to the UC system.

The propagandists even have some people believing that some rich liberals paid the protesters to disrupt the speech. Try to imagine George Soros handing out cash to the anarchists of the East Bay with instructions to go nuts. People with some semblance of common sense in their day-to-day lives are “liking” Facebook posts with that message and retweeting similar nonsense, without giving any thought at all to NYU or the University of Miami, Florida Atlantic, Villanova or DePaul. Maybe Soros dropped off some cash at those campuses.

Am I saying those other schools should have provided a forum for such a creepy character? In truth, that’s a tough question but here’s the way I lean. When it becomes obvious that the intent of the speaker is to irritate rather than inform, to provoke rather than prod, and it is obvious that someone is going to get hurt, I might unhappily fall into the camp that says that while the First Amendment protects your right to say whatever it is you want to say, it doesn’t require me to give you a forum.

I’m glad the Berkeley brass tried to accommodate the fellow but it should be recognized that keeping him away would not have prevented anyone from receiving his hateful message. Any young person receptive to his world view has received it or could fill the void by clicking on You Tube. The earnest young Republicans at Berkeley and NYU and DePaul who invited Milo, I’m guessing they had more on their minds than enriching the academic experience by bringing in a thought-provoking speaker. Call me cynical, but I’m guessing that some of them were happy when the events were canceled. Point made. Those liberals are just soooo intolerant.

A final point. While I’m disappointed by those who have attacked the university without thinking it through, I’ve also been disappointed by the news coverage. KSBW’s 11 o’clock newscast last night was a fine example. The story line went like this. Controversial speaker was going to talk at Berkeley but the students rioted so it didn’t happen and the president might cut off federal funding and here’s some film. But mind you, this was the newcast Thursday night, not Wednesday night. There was time to gather an interview or two, some information about the identities of the violent protesters and maybe some context about what had happened elsewhere, but, hey, that might have interfered with our wakeup forecast.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Maureen February 3, 2017, 2:05 pm

    No place for hate, no place for violence

  • Eric Petersen February 3, 2017, 3:00 pm

    I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”

    == Evelyn Beatrice Hall (made up quotation atributed to Voltaire)

  • Eric Petersen February 3, 2017, 3:02 pm

    KSBW has a long reputation for biased and inaccurate reporting (as does The Californian). Look at the inaccurate reporting by both about Jose Castenada.

  • David Balch February 3, 2017, 3:03 pm

    Don’t you get it, Royal? What’s happening with Milo is our chance to stand up for the First Amendment. It’s our Skokie. Don’t you be getting weak kneed just bc you agree with the protesters!

    • Royal Calkins February 3, 2017, 6:04 pm

      The 1st Amendment bars the Congress from making laws infringing on free speech or assembly. It doesn’t require anyone to give Nazis or the Klan a stage. I reluctantly agreed with the decision to let the fools march in Skokie, just as I would have agreed with anyone’s right to punch them out, and I don’t agree that the university has any obligation to host a speaker whose apparent aim is to provoke violence.

      • David Balch February 3, 2017, 6:53 pm

        And the 14th amendment talks about “due process” and that gives us abortion protections. Surely you know that the amendments have been interpreted beyond the plain text. (of course you know, you are just being a troll like Milo!)

  • Dan Turner February 3, 2017, 3:41 pm

    You don’t understand. These are nazis. Bash their heads in!

  • john moore February 3, 2017, 4:47 pm

    I have watched this story closely. I even saw the part where the group dressed in black with face masks arrived and were openly violent. They were obviously highly trained at their destructive path, but did not assert a message and were the reason that the event was stopped. They did not appear or purport to be students.

    The avengers in black have appeared in other parts of the country. Who are they and why aren’t we hearing more about their plank? Anyone?

    • Julie Engell February 4, 2017, 12:36 am

      That’s precisely my question.

  • Devin Podeszwa February 3, 2017, 4:58 pm

    Why is the press acting clueless as to the identity of the agitators who wrecked the campus? They are AnComs, the modern equivelant of bolshevik communists. They seek the abolition of the state, capitalism, wage labor, and private property. They should not be referred to as anarchists, they do not understand the concepts of liberty, voluntaryism, and non-aggression that are central to anarchism. They typically wear all black and cover their faces because they come to destroy. They fly the bolshevik and soviet flags, and the red and black and solid black flags of anarcho-communism.

    • john moore February 3, 2017, 6:03 pm

      Can you refer us to a source for your comment?

      • john moore February 3, 2017, 8:14 pm

        I just located a CNN report that the group of agitators at this incident are The Black Bloc, an Oakland group that was described as a University spokesman as “a group of anarchists.” Not much info?

        • PT Caffey February 4, 2017, 3:54 am

          They identify themselves as “antifas”–anti-fascist, anti-capitalist, anti-authoritarian. But prone to theatrical violence. In the Guardian article below, one of these pro-violence rioters at Berkeley gives herself the name, Lana Wachowski. The writer identifies the real Wachowski as the writer and director of The Matrix. But the true (and overlooked) reference is to another film Wachowski produced and co-wrote, V for Vendetta.

          About this 2005 film, from Wikipedia: “In the late 2020s the world is in turmoil and warfare, with the United States fractured as a result of prolonged second civil war and a pandemic of the “St. Mary’s Virus” ravaging Europe. The United Kingdom is ruled as a fascist police state by the Norsefire Party, helmed by all-powerful High Chancellor Adam Sutler. Political opponents, immigrants, Muslims, atheists, homosexuals, and other “undesirables” are imprisoned and executed in concentration camps.”

          (Note: At the time, this was meant to be a FICTIONAL film.)

          V is a freedom fighter or terrorist (depending) who covers his face with a Guy Fawkes mask, in reference to the Gunpowder Plot conspirator who wanted to blow up the House of Lords. This movie mask now shows up at protests of various sorts and was adopted by the hacking group Anonymous. I mean the latter, “for real.”

          So is this the new Weather Underground or a clutch of gamers acting out their virtual reality anarchistic fantasies in reality reality? And if there is a difference between reality and fantasy, would they even know it?

          As for Milo, his “outrageous” schtick isn’t that outrageous or even funny. He’s no alt-right Abbie Hoffman. He strikes me as a poodle on tour, dropping smoldering matches from campus to campus, hoping one might bloom into a Reichstag fire. That would make Bannon redden with glee for sure. And sure enough, Berkeley delivers! Next, Trump jumps on stage with his tweet assailing “anarchists, thugs and paid protestors” and we suddenly find ourselves in the virtual reality 1930’s with a line clearly not Trump’s. It had to be Bannon’s. Third, albeit remote possibility, is that Wachowskis are writing this entire nightmare.

  • James Toy February 3, 2017, 6:10 pm

    I think you’re being a little hard on KSBW. TV news has never been known for depth, due to time constraints. It really can’t do much but give you an overview. Within that framework, KSBW reporters do a pretty good job with local stories. But they don’t cover the SF bay area so one can’t expect a local station to provide much insight into events outside their territory. I don”t know how KION reported the story, but I would be surprised if they said much more than KSBW did.

    Once upon a time our local cable company provided access to several SF bay area news broadcasts from channels 2, 4, 5, 7, and 11. Now Comcast limits us to one, Channel 2’s 10:00 news. One and a seventh if you count KQED’s half-hour weekend talking heads program.

    If you want better SF bay area news, you gotta watch SF bay area stations. But if you want depth, you gotta read print.

    • Eric Petersen February 3, 2017, 9:28 pm

      If KSBW (and The Californian) are to report a story, the very least they can do is be accurate, and if there are subsequent events, report those fairly and accurately. In particular, I’m thinking of the incident when Jose Castenada was cited for having a suspended driver license. The Californian covered it over and over and over, even after the charges were dropped. If you have any interest in accuracy, why cover something when it has dramatically changed, without covering the changes?

      Further, you just aren’t going to get extensive news coverage, with the possible exception of the PBS News Hour. Commercial television news is there to make money, providing coverage is secondary. They do, however, cover the weather extensively and over and over redundently.

      If you want better news, then turn on National Publioc Radio and be prepared to listen for a while. Or, Pacifica News or Democracy Now!

      • Margaret February 4, 2017, 8:20 am

        It is essential that the media report “fairly and accurately,” even when they hate the guy. In Yiannopoulis’s case, the charge of white supremacism is incorrect. Apologies and retractions have been issued by NBC News, USA Today, CNN, CBS, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, and the mayor of Berkeley. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ywmd8kR-AmI

  • Joanna Greenshields February 3, 2017, 8:59 pm

    Who is funding his tour? Milo is a citizen of the United Kingdom, as am I. I wonder how he has been able to circumvent visa and green card requirements? And if he has been granted an HB-1 visa, on what grounds?

    • PT Caffey February 4, 2017, 4:19 am

      Milo is driving around the country in a fancy tour bus with his face emblazoned on the side, while Briefart (sp?) covers his every move. Who is paying is a good question. Why respectable college Republicans would want to associate with this nobody is a puzzle. Hate, hate, hate to turn conspiratorial but I always found Don Trump’s newfound anger over flag-burning suspicious. Ever since, I’ve been waiting for the false and phony flag burnings to commence, carried live on Facebook.

      Friends, what have we learned? Trump projects his sins onto others. It’s his “tell.” So when he says these anti-Trump rallies are bought and paid for, he may be telling us something about the black hooded army. They’re not very smart, and could be they’ve been infiltrated by paid or volunteer provocateurs. They arrested over 200 people at the Inauguration in D.C. just three weeks ago, many clad in black. Who were they? Perhaps a Post reporter can break away from the Bowling Green Massacre for a few hours and do a follow-up.

  • Glenn Scott February 4, 2017, 1:26 pm

    Good, thoughtful commentary, Royal. The national (and local) conversation needs more of this. Comments thread is compelling, too. We need to know more about the violent ones in black. Does seem convenient for them to be showing up to discredit better-intended demonstrations. Anarchists or mercenaries? Angry and alienated or the new Nixonian dirty tricksters?

    Good wishes Royal and Larry, ink-stained Fresno expats, from another now in North Carolina.

  • bill leone February 4, 2017, 2:02 pm

    It’s only a matter of time before we witness yet Another Reicstag Fire Decree:


  • bill leone February 4, 2017, 3:25 pm

    That’s Reichstag Fire Decree.

  • ENRIQUE MENDEZ FLORES February 5, 2017, 8:32 pm

    Have information for Sr. Parson. What is his e-mail ? Gracias

  • Margaret February 5, 2017, 11:44 pm
  • Judy Karas February 6, 2017, 5:30 pm

    I would like some ACLU lawyer or well-informed member to answer my query: I believe that there are Supreme Court decisions that have limited free speech rights when there is a clear and present danger–if the speech incites others to commit violent acts. I know it might be difficult to prove that the intended speech would necessarily cause violence, but–that WAS the case… Does anyone know more details about this?

    • PT Caffey February 8, 2017, 3:32 am

      For a public university to cancel a planned speech by someone who “might” incite others to violence would be action in advance of a crime–or a “Precime,” as imagined by P. K. Dick in “Minority Report.” I, for one, am unwilling to hand over the administration of free speech to the Precog Division of Trump’s Justice Department. Milo’s schtick is politically incorrect titilation, not the incitement of riots. If college students of the left would only ignore him, his stale, alt-right lounge act would find no purchase in the media. But college students being college students, a dramatic protest is inevitable (sigh) even when it’s clear that, as a political tactic, it’s ill-advised. I fully support mass protests when there is a high degree of organization and discipline. But these campus melees do not meet this test and are easily infiltrated by mysterious hooligans with objectives of their own. It’s a problem I wish the protestors would consider more carefully. Universities should think about it, too. One practical suggestion: Schedule controversial speakers during daylight hours. Don’t protest on dark streets at night.

      This reminds me of the case of Gerald L. K. Smith, a cohort of Huey Long who evolved into something of a Neo-Nazi. A noxious character. He thought Nazi war criminals should be released.. Even Strom Thurmond was repelled by him. He obtained a permit to speak at a school in Los Angeles, a circumstance greeted with fury by the progressive community there. But Al Wirin of the ACLU stepped in and defended his right to speak. Then, at the speech itself, Wirin stepped up and joined the picket line protesting Smith’s remarks. When the protestors threatened to block attendees from entering the auditorium, Wirin intervened and persuaded his fellow protestors to back off. It’s a famous story among lawyers (old ones, anyway) and neatly illustrates this maxim: Nobody said that sticking resolutely to one’s principles would be easy.

  • bill leone February 11, 2017, 9:00 am

    Let the Fool speak, allow protestors to exercise Their First Amendment Rights, arrest anyone who breaks the law….that includes the Pimp President.