The Spirit of Free Speech at UC Berkeley: Why the Left Opposes It

In an article focusing on free speech on the campus, The New York Times tells its readers that the UC Berkeley faculty is divided over whether or not the university should allow right-wing speakers to appear on campus. Their most recent concern was motivated by a "Free Speech Week" event that was being put together by provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, who was invited by a small campus group called Berkeley Patriot. He was going to appear on the campus in February, but his scheduled speech was canceled after protesters prevented it from taking place. The upcoming event was scheduled to take place from September 24-27,  but as Rick Moran reports in these pages, it was announced today that Berkeley Patriot canceled the event. Participants initially mentioned were Steve Bannon and Ann Coulter, but now it has become apparent that neither planned to attend. Listed speaker Charles Murray announced he would not participate in any event Milo had arranged “because he is a despicable asshole.” Murray’s name, moreover, was listed without his knowledge or consent. All of these announced speakers regularly enrage leftist students and send them into conniptions.

To confound issues even more, Milo Yiannopoulos announced he would appear and speak anyway at the famous Sproul Plaza, the site of the 1964 Free Speech Movement protest. Promising surprises, he now is asserting his right to free speech as a private citizen to speak on campus without any formal group sponsorship or invitation. Saying he would appear this Sunday at noon, there is certain to be a large police presence as well as a vast group of leftist protestors, most likely including Antifa groups.

The highlight at the now suspended conference was to be the "Mario Savio Award,” given to the individual who in their eyes has most represented the idea of free speech. The name of the award is also meant to anger liberals. Mario Savio led the famous Berkeley protests in the 1960s. When the university moved in October of 1964 to prevent a protestor from speaking, students spontaneously surrounded the police car he had been put in. Savio gave an eloquent speech that made him famous from on top of the police car. Soon 3000 or more students arrived. Then they took over Sproul Plaza, the administration building. Eventually, scores of police arrived and arrested those students who had taken over the building. Now Yiannopoulos is co-opting the once liberal and leftist cause of free speech as his own, and in effect positing that he and his associates are the ones acting in Savio’s spirit. An organizer of the original '60s protests, playwright and author Barbara Garson, called Free Speech Week a “grotesque parody” of the movement she helped lead.

As of today — the 23rd — the event will not take place. Yet Milo's appearance — should he show up — has  forced the university authorities to spend one million dollars arranging for security, since they fear the kind of violence that erupted in Charlottesville when Antifa appeared to contest the neo-Nazis and racists who planned a rally there. It’s getting very expensive for conservatives to speak. Recently, Ben Shapiro spoke without incident and reported he had a fruitful exchange of opinion with liberal and leftist students, although security for his talk cost UC Berkeley $600,000.