An item that caught my eyes in the news yesterday is one that seems to be playing out on college campuses over and over. Conservative author and speaker Ann Coulter was invited to speak at the University of California-Berkley. Two campus groups extended this invitation, one the College Republicans and the other a non-partisan group interested in dialogue.
This did not sit well with the liberal faculty and students on the campus and they demanded that the invitation be rescinded and that she not be permitted to speak on campus. They threatened protests and violence if their demands were not met and the administration, having seen them back up these threats, asked the student organizations to cancel the invitation.
If this does not bother you then you really should be looking at what your values are. Universities and colleges are supposed to be places of learning where various ideas are debated and young mind can begin to decide where they are on these various topics. Not all of them are political in nature and students should be exposed to a wide variety of thoughts and ideas. But, alas, those on the left have decided that the First Amendment, you know the one that guarantees free speech in this country and gives them the right to protest, should not be afforded to speakers with whom they disagree. Students get support for this type of repression from liberal faculty members on their campus.
A similar incident was occurring at the Auburn University campus where a conservative speaker, Richard Spencer, was scheduled to speak. Now I don’t agree with the message Mr. Spencer spouts but I do support his right to speak in a free society. Antifa (anti fascists) protesters showed up and the Auburn campus police took a new tactic. Nobody would be admitted to the hall with either a hoodie covering their heads or a mask covering their face. They made anyone attending the speech comply with these rules. This caused the protestors to violently react. They demanded the right to conceal their identity. Now I may be naïve but in my experience when protesters show up with masks it is because they intend to do damage to property and do not want to be held accountable for their actions. We saw this in Washington DC the day of Trump’s inauguration. The irony of that protest was they smashed the windows of a Starbucks and a Bank of America, two companies that had donated heavily to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. They also burned the car of an immigrant who would not longer be able to earn a living as a driver.
Another interesting fact about these demonstrators is they all tend to dress in black. I was told this was on purpose to make it more difficult to identify them when they engaged in any violence. Many of them carried large poles and some had on some form of body protection. I wonder if anyone thinks this looks like someone attending a speech with the intention of exchanging ideas?
Take a look at the guy the police have forced to remove his mask. He has shoulder pads on and is carrying a stick and shield. Does he think he is going to some medieval jousting event?
The irony of all of these protestors is they claim the speakers they are demanding are fascists. Benito Mussolini in Italy first identified Fascism during the 1930’s. Under fascism there is no tolerance of any dissenting views and everyone must conform to the desires of the government. So these anti-fascist protestors are in reality carry out Mussolini’s policy by not tolerating any views differing from their views. I don’t expect them to understand the nuances of this debate because they don’t seem capable of discussing anything in a civil manner.
So back to Ann Coulter and her scheduled speaking engagement in Berkley on April 24. She has said she will speak and they will have to arrest her. That puts the administration in a difficult position. Suppose a liberal speaker is invited to speak the next month and conservative students protest and demand the speaker not be allowed to speak. Suppose they threaten violence? Will the administration ask the speaker not to come? I would hope the administrators at Berkley would look at themselves and ask what is our purpose here? We are an educational institution and all ideas should be explored. Then they would ensure that all speakers are welcome and that anyone that engages in disruptive behavior inside the speaking venue or in violence insider or out would be prosecuted. If they damage public or private property they are held accountable and have to pay restitution. If they were students they would be summarily expelled. That does not mean there cannot be peaceful protest. In fact, I would encourage it.
My second point is where are the political leaders on the left? When are they going to start speaking out forcefully against this type of “fascism” and intolerant behavior? Even President Obama spoke out about this behavior in September of 2015. He called these type of students “coddled liberals” and said they needed to be exposed to different ideas.
“It’s not just sometimes folks who are mad that colleges are too liberal that have a problem. Sometimes there are folks on college campuses who are liberal and maybe even agree with me on a bunch of issues who sometimes aren’t listening to the other side. And that’s a problem, too,” Obama said during a town hall on Monday in Des Moines, Iowa.
“I’ve heard of some college campuses where they don’t want to have a guest speaker who is too conservative. Or they don’t want to read a book if it has language that is offensive to African-Americans, or somehow sends a demeaning signal towards women,” Obama continued.
“I’ve got to tell you, I don’t agree with that either. I don’t agree that you, when you become students at colleges, have to be coddled and protected from different points of views,” he said.
When the political leadership on the left, and that includes Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, start denouncing these tactics I will applaud their efforts.