Free Speech Week

Before we begin, a word about format.

I do want to keep some structure to the Run. While not intentional last time, I’ve decided to keep the Grab Bag as a regular segment. It will serve two purposes. The first is to follow up on major events (such as major legislative efforts at both the State and Federal levels). The second is to widen the scope from month to month after a long-form report on a single topic.

In short, I will keep some news around, but the weekly news format started to become both repetitive and more than a little redundant. It was time to change that.

The news briefs will continue, but they will be spread out.

Now, let us begin.

This week, we discuss one of the greatest ironies in modern history: a university once dedicated to the ideal of free speech doing everything it can to censor speech it doesn’t agree with.

This week, we discuss the bizarre circumstances surrounding Free Speech Week.

1.) Baseline. Conservative speaker/author/journalist Milo Yiannopoulos had attempted to speak at Berkely earlier this year in February. The speech was cut off, and eventually canceled, due to massive protests riots that led to $100,000 in damages. Protesters assaulted people, including one woman who was pepper sprayed on camera, and generally destroyed everything in their way.

Milo vowed to return for a much larger event in April, scheduled for sometime in the fall. And he did so this week, planning to bring a few more conservative/libertarian speakers to the program as well.

2.) Collapse. But that didn’t happen. After a series of threats, intimidation, and a ton of bureaucratic moves behind the scenes, Milo and the Berkeley Patriot (the conservative student group that sponsored his event) were forced to cancel this event as well. Despite the cancellation, however, Milo did organize a few events to take place on the campus, including a speech that lasted all of about 15-30 minutes. One of the would-be speakers, Lisa De Pasquale, later decided to post the transcript of her speech, on Medium.

It’s also worth noting that UC Berkeley spent upwards of $800,000 in security for Milo’s event. For a series of speeches, almost a million dollars in security was needed on a supposedly pro-free speech campus.

However, this leaves Milo in a strangely solid position. Free Speech Week had been built on the premise that colleges tend to censor opinions of a certain bent, and while it is true that Ben Shapiro spoke at Berkeley the week prior, the behind-the-scenes efforts to censor Milo and the other speakers, and eventually to force the event to cancel, have proven his point remarkably well. (Although Milo and Shapiro aren’t exactly big fans of each other.)

3.) Free Speech. As if to strengthen Milo’s argument, a professor at Berkeley later called Shapiro a “racist, sexist, misogynist jerk,” and that current law “fetishizes free speech.” The professor went on to say that Berkeley should have hosted counter-events alongside the Free Speech Week events themselves.

However, this tendency for liberal institutions to censor opinions they disagree with, and frankly opinions deemed “politically incorrect” has had an upshot. An article on FOX News from September 13th entitled “Liberals sick of the alt-left are taking ‘the red pill’” shows us that it is having the opposite effect on many students, and possibly the broader movement as a whole. The “red pill” is a reference to the Matrix films, where the pill is used to free someone from the world of the Matrix, and essentially show them what the world is actually like outside of the echo chamber. Among the issues this new group of former-leftists take are what one commentator calls “an authoritarian sort of Progressivism.”

It is worth remembering, however, that attacks on free speech are not exclusively a liberal issue. The outrage culture we find ourselves in has people on both sides completely unable to tolerate opposing, and sometimes controversial, opinions.

We have a long way to go until we undo most of the damage this outrage culture has caused, but clearly more people are starting to see the dangers of responding to opinions with over the top outrage.

It is that slow realization that will work to the advantage of those who support free speech, and to the detriment and eventual defeat of those wishing to censor it.

Stay informed. Stay alert. Stay free.

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