Advocates of free speech suffered a major blow at the end of last month as the highly anticipated Free Speech Week was abruptly and unceremoniously canceled. The threats of violence and vandalism from far-left domestic terrorist organizations such as Antifa and BAMN proved to be too much of a liability for the University of California, Berkeley, but some evidence suggests that the university itself wanted the event canceled from the start.
One point of contention following the cancelation has been whether the intended speaker’s First Amendment rights were violated, or if they were merely victims of a crime. If the university treated them with impartial fairness and was legitimately forced to cancel due to safety concerns, then those affected are merely the victims of the organized oppressive intimidation of socialist activists. If the university itself was complicit in sabotaging the event, that means that a government-funded organization was complicit in the willful violation of First Amendment rights.
It might sound ridiculous and fantastic to suggest that the UC Berkeley administration encouraged conditions that led to a cancelation, which helped solidify their control over what opinions are and are not welcome on campus. At first glance, such plans sound as if they are coming out of the mouth of a James Bond villain, but recently leaked emails from Berkeley Interim Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Stephen Sutton, as well as Berkeley’s behavior leading up to the date of the planned event, suggest that the university was complicit in undermining the event.
Milo Yiannopolous’ website published an examination of Chancellor Sutton’s emails, attempting to prove that the organizers of the event, the Berkeley Patriot, were intentionally denied the use of the lecture halls they requested for the event, and that statements claiming that the student group failed to follow stipulated event planning protocols are bold-faced lies.
These measures caused high-profile guests such as Steve Bannon and Ann Coulter to withdraw their participation before the event was even officially canceled.
They also made charges of “hate speech” against students for merely putting up posters advertising Milo’s Free Speech Week event. This would have been an official event on campus hosted by a student-run organization. How can it be an infraction for students to advertise a legitimate event on their campus?
After so much contention and strife, the only thing that ended up happening was that on Sunday, September 24 — when the first day of talks should have taken place — Milo showed up arm-in-arm with guests Mike Cernovich and Pamela Geller to give a brief talk being escorted off campus by security just one hour later.
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Yiannopolous attempted to give a speech amid shouts of “no Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA.” It’s a fascinating thing to behold: a homosexual Jew married to a black man, alongside a female victim of misogyny, death threats, and religious oppression being called “KKK”..
The backfire effect — when protesters are incapable of changing their opinions when faced with irrefutable evidence to the contrary — is the only explanation that I can provide for this kind of behavior, but the reason for why they formed those opinions in the first place is even more troubling.
In order for people to believe blatant falsehoods with Orwellian fanaticism, two components need to be in place: first, the widespread coverage and reinforcement of the lie, and second: those attempting to offer a counterpoint being forcibly excluded from the conversation.
The first of these points can be easily verified by the salacious repetition in the mainstream media of the lie that Yianoppolous and his peers are members of the alt-right. The second is exemplified by the myriad of suspicious and unacceptable occurrences that led to the cancellation of Free Speech Week.
Even the short-lived visit by Milo on Sunday was derailed by police arbitration that forced attendees through an agonizingly long security process before gaining entry, but which somehow failed to confiscate the blow horns drowning out Yiannoppolous’ words.
Freedom of speech is in jeopardy in the United States. We must learn from what keeps happening at Berkeley and be ready to combat this flagrant violation of our rights.