September 19, 2017

MEGAN MCARDLE: We Didn’t Normalize Trump. We Normalized the Left’s Violence. Once upon a time, conservatives spoke at universities without $600,000 in police protection.

Last week, conservative Ben Shapiro gave a speech. At Berkeley. And all across America, people watched their screens to see what sort of violence would erupt.

Reality was anticlimactic. Law enforcement was out in force, at an estimated price tag of $600,000. Concrete barriers were erected to hold back the liberal “antifa,” and police obtained permission in advance to use pepper spray. Much of campus was locked down and cleared out. Nine people were arrested. And so, Shapiro arrived, gave his speech, and departed without the mayhem we’ve become accustomed to seeing at such appearances. And collective relief was sighed.

But how relieved should we be that this is what it takes to maintain order in the face of … a speech? On the one hand it shows that even in the heart of antifa territory, police and authorities that are actually determined to control them can do so. That’s good to know (and gives the lie to chicken authorities who would give antifa a heckler’s veto). And yet, those authorities could be forgiven for feeling daunted, even aggrieved, when they realize that every speaker antifa doesn’t like means vast sums, and considerable effort, expended on turning your public spaces into a demilitarized zone.

Arrest the protesters, and charge them and their financial backers with a conspiracy to interfere with civil rights, and this problem will go away. But university administrators, for the most part, would rather have an excuse to shun conservative speakers. Then they wonder why the public doesn’t support higher education the way it did when a different ethic prevailed.

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