UC Berkeley issues a ridiculous and biased report pretending to support free speech, but really criticizing the Right

Much more than The New York Times, the Washington Post is becoming the most visible left-wing media site that sticks up for free speech, and by that I mean it will defend purveyors of so-called hate speech  against repeated deplatformings and disruptions by the Authoritarian Left.

To see this, you might want to first read the report of Chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley’s “Commission on Free Speech” issued two days ago (full report here). The commission, consisting of various members of Berkeley’s administration, faculty, and even a few students, was convened to prepare a response to recent incidents of violence or threats of violence occasioned by upcoming speeches by Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter (neither speech occurred, but Yiannopoulos’s speech, which was canceled, provoked outbreaks of rioting and violence). They were also to make suggestions to make the campus climate more amenable to free speech.

What do you suppose Berkeley recommended? Well, read the report for yourself and you’ll see that the  Post‘s critical summary (click on screenshot below) is absolutely accurate: the report can’t help blaming those pesky conservatives for all the troubles, and trying to exculpate the demonstrators, rioters, and threat-makers for all the expense of putting down riots and providing security. If we could just keep the “hate speakers” off campus, the report implies, all would be well.

But of course they can’t say that and at the same time promote free speech. So they make recommendations, all of which make it tougher for conservatives to bring speakers to campus. They even propose some “free speech zones” away from the main part of campus, including Sproul Hall Plaza (home of the original Free Speech Movement demonstrations), to isolate those speakers whose presence will provoke demonstrations. (That means, of course, right-wing speakers or those liberals, like Christina Hoff Sommers, who don’t adhere to principles of the Authoritarian Left).

And those groups who wish to bring controversial speakers to campus must now not only bear most of the expense, including security, but submit statement of how their proposed speakers don’t violate the campus’s “principles of community.” Big Brother is watching!

Have a look at this article; it’s not long, and I’ve put a brief excerpt below:

From McArdle’s Post piece (my emphasis):

The Berkeley document does not condemn the violence, mind you; that is virtually the only direct mention of it. But apparently, antifa’s violence is now eligible for condemnation, if someone else had a mind to provide it.

They have plenty of harsh words, however, for the conservatives who were targeted. “Many Commission members are skeptical of these speakers’ commitment to anything other than the pursuit of wealth and fame through the instigation of anger, fear, and vengefulness in their hard-right constituency.” Their invitations to speak represented “the assertion of individual rights at the expense of social responsibility by a handful of students.” As a result, the commission finds speech of this kind “hard to defend, especially in light of the acute distress it caused (and was intended to cause) to staff and students.”

In the report, conservatives are active, provoking and triggering. The left-wing activists who set things on fire appear in passive voice, that great grammatical machine for sanitizing the indefensible. Left-wing groups have reasonable fears for their safety from conservative speakers, and the police needed to defend them (from what? Further deponent sayeth not.) Conservative students “allege” that their beliefs make them targets for left-wing professors. And when it comes to the remedies, it’s clear who the commission thinks ought to change their ways.

The commission’s members can’t quite bring themselves to say campus conservatives ought to be prevented from inviting speakers antifa doesn’t like. But they can’t quite keep themselves from implying it, either. Again and again, they impugn the motives of speakers and the students who invite them, complain that conservative groups are a tiny minority (isn’t this supposed to mean we try extra hard to make them feel welcome?), and otherwise suggest that the real culprits are conservatives, not the people committing the violence. The commission recommends thinly-veiled mechanisms to make it difficult for conservatives to stage these events — for example, by requiring student groups to provide one student volunteer for every 50 expected attendees, a rule that is obviously going to disproportionately burden groups representing a small minority.

. . . And I hardly believe that I have to say that — whatever their offenses against common manners and common sense — Coulter and Yiannopoulos are not smashing people in the head with bike locks.  They are not hurling Molotov cocktails. They are not attacking young women with flagpoles. The people doing those things are the ones the commission has tenderly swaddled in the protection of the passive voice. To focus on the motives of the speakers, rather than the violent actions of the protesters, suggests a commission that has allowed their tribal politics to blind them to basic human decency.

. . . And thus the ancestral home of the free-speech movement inches as close as it dares to advocating for censorship of any speech that offends a powerful majority — or even any minority that’s decently armed.

Indeed. I’ve put the executive summary of the report below, but suggest that you read the whole thing if you have time. If you don’t agree with McArdle, then I don’t know what to say, because the report positively breathes enmity towards conservative “hate speech”, and blames conservatives, not protestors, for all the trouble.

Here’s one further excerpt from the report which shows that the Berkeley administration stands ready to counter specified “hate speech” by sponsoring its own counter-speech, rather than letting faculty and administration exercise counter-speech on their own. When the administration so blatantly takes sides in controversies that have not yet erupted, you know that they’re not serious about promoting free speech, no matter what they say (my emphasis):

The Commission does not deny that hate speech can impose serious harms on its targets, and the harm is only exacerbated when the speech is allowed to take place within the boundaries of shared community space.  [JAC: note that nowhere do they define “hate speech.”] At the same time, the campus is part of a larger political culture filled with disturbing and hateful rhetoric (especially on the social media that have come to define the experience of free speech in the contemporary world). The campus should encourage members of the community to function in this environment with a sense of self-confidence and agency.

To this end, the Commission suggests that the Administration respond to the most disturbing events planned for the campus by sponsoring alternative events, perhaps scheduled at the same time, that aim to empower participants, by helping them to understand current events better and to take constructive steps to counter the forces that would seek to exclude and denigrate them. A teach-in with local representatives of the Southern Poverty Law Center elsewhere on campus, for instance, might be an effective counter to celebrity hate speech by individuals associated with the disturbing resurgence of white supremacism. The Chancellor herself, and other campus leaders, could exercise their own free speech rights by speaking out forcefully against hate speech on campus, and encouraging participation in events programmed to counter such speech.

Wouldn’t the Southern Poverty Law Center just love to go to Berkeley to do its teach ins, especially when the University sponsors it? And when the Chancellor or administration suggests this kind of stuff in advance, you know that they’re holding their noses when they talk about promoting free speech on campus.

By all means let the campus organize counter-events. But when it’s done officially by the University administration, that means putting your weight on the scales, not promoting free discussion. And blaming the speakers rather than rioters for violence and disruption is doing the same thing. If students riot when Ben Shapiro talks, and the administration itself organizes anti-Shapiro events, then you know a campus has lost its compass for free expression.

What a sad thing to happen to the home of the famous Free Speech Movement!

h/t: Grania

87 Comments

  1. mikeyc
    Posted May 12, 2018 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    The dissembling in that report is blatant and obvious; the termites have finished their feast.

  2. Posted May 12, 2018 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    I really liked McArdle’s article. My only nit is her suggested remedy. Even she hints that it might not work. While this “free speech on campus” fight is well worth fighting, we are in need of a practical solution.

    How far should protesters be allowed to go? They do have free speech rights too, of course. What should the punishment be if they step over the line? Of course, if they commit real violence they should be handed over to the police. But there’s a wide gulf between reasonable protest and real violence. What should the rules be for platformers? For speakers? They must be made to bear some responsibility for what happens at their events.

    While we have universities who are trying to do a good job of defending free speech against the Authoritarian Left (U. of Chicago, right?), do they go far enough? Is there a university who has the whole solution?

    • Simon
      Posted May 12, 2018 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

      Why should a speaker take responsibility for an opponent trying to stifle their voice?

      Obviously protesters have the right to free speech and I don’t think I’ve seen anyone suggest otherwise. Trying to stop someone from expressing their opinion to people who have expressed an interest in hearing them is hardly exercising one’s right to free speech though, is it? More like an attempt to infringe on other’s rights.

    • Max Blancke
      Posted May 12, 2018 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

      Saying or writing on some subject or other does not make the author responsible if some person opposed to them commits an act of violence.
      The whole point of a civil society is that people who have differing views can live in proximity to each other without violence.
      When I was at university, there were all sorts of speakers that campus organizations had sponsored to give talks. Some of them had pretty unorthodox views. If you were interested in the subject, or just though it would be entertaining, you attended. Otherwise, you did not.
      What I never imagined possible was that someone would attack you just for attending. Honestly, I am old fashioned enough that you trying to prevent me from attending would be a big encouragement to show up, even if I had no interest in the speaker.

      • Posted May 12, 2018 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

        I was reacting to the report’s claim that some speakers have as their main goal to incite violence. First, I doubt that this is really true. Most of these right wingers are not asking the crowd to commit violence. My guess is even the most radical white supremacists are smart enough to avoid crossing that line. Second, by “violence” I mean real incitement to physical violence — the kind not protected by the First Amendment.

  3. Historian
    Posted May 12, 2018 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    After actually reading the report, I cannot take conservative columnist Megan McArdle’s analysis as the final word. I think the recommendations of the commission are generally reasonable considering the difficulty the university has in encouraging free speech while preventing riots from breaking out. Moreover, the financial cost of maintaining order at the speeches of provocative people is a real issue.

    Here are a few other things to note. The report does attempt to define hate speech. See footnote 1 of the report. I find the definition a little vague, but at least the commission made the effort. The report also does condemn the far left. See the last paragraph on page 5 of the report. Unlike McArdle, I take the statement seriously.

    There is little doubt that many of the right-wingers invited to the campus had the intent of creating disruption. This is not reason enough to disallow them from speaking. But the university has the right to take measures that will reduce the likelihood or intensity of such disruptions. The commission concedes that there is no perfect solution to the problem of allowing the free speech of disruptive speakers or those that many on campus find abhorrent. I think the recommendations may help in this regard while adhering to the principles of free speech. As the report states: “Further—and perhaps separately—before a potentially disruptive event, senior leadership should state loudly, clearly, and more than once that it disapproves of intentional provocation on the one hand, and violence and platform-denying on the other.” (page 11)

    • Posted May 12, 2018 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

      I have a problem with phrases like “the right-wingers invited to the campus had the intent of creating disruption.” Disruption is one of those vague words. Does it mean inciting to violence or committing crime, or just telling people to rebel in the realm of ideas? We have to draw hard lines between what is passionate advocacy and incitement to violence or crime. As long as it is speech about others speaking and taking non-violent action it should be free and supported.

    • Posted May 12, 2018 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

      Well, yes, I missed that footnote, as I had to read quickly. But the definition of hate speech is basically just tautological:

      For purposes of this document, hate speech is defined as use of words which are deliberately abusive and/or
      insulting and/or threatening and/or demeaning.

      There’s nothing new there, and that covers nearly all free speech that is trying to make a serious point, like Damore’s memo, criticism of Islam, and so on. In other words, it doesn’t clarify anything, because any speech people don’t like they consider “abusive, insulting, threatening, or demeaning.” Seriously, that’s just ridiculous. Who is to say what speech falls under that category? Damore’s Google memo was considered demeaning and insulting, as is criticism of Islam. In other words, they did not define hate speech in a way that allows one to make useful distinctions, because what it is depends SOLELY on the listener’s reaction.

      • Craw
        Posted May 12, 2018 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

        Much of WEIT would count as hate speech too under that, because for example creationists are routinely insulted, as is Trump. I think in fact many of Historian’s own comments insult conservatives and fundamentalists and would fall under the definition.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted May 12, 2018 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

        Point is, however inutile that definition of “hate speech” may be, it’s expressly offered up in the Report as a variety of speech that Berkeley, per its commitment to adhere to First Amendment principles, is vowing to protect.

        • Paul S
          Posted May 12, 2018 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

          No, the point is the commission shouldn’t be defining speech they don’t like as hate speech. Defining it as such automatically labels those that don’t hold with the commisions ideals as people who need to be tolerated contrary to the good of the community.
          Much like the xtian right, they’re a majority and claiming persecution at the same time.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted May 12, 2018 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

            The “hate speech” definition is appended to the following sentence:

            The University of California, Berkeley, in its commitment to adhere to the First Amendment, must
            continue to embrace its obligation to protect the fundamental right of free speech, including hate
            speech.

            Is there something in that sentence you take exception to? How does it differ from a sentence one might hope to find in a SCOTUS decision saying that such speech is protected by the First Amendment? It’s saying that, contrary to the calls of some to censor such speech, Berkeley will protect it. Is “hate speech” a label that dare not speak its name? Must be addressed apophatically, rather than defined ostensively?

            • Paul S
              Posted May 12, 2018 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

              Yes, when you include the footnote I take exception to that sentence.

              1 For purposes of this document, hate speech is defined as use of words which are deliberately abusive and/or
              insulting and/or threatening and/or demeaning.

              Who makes the determination?

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted May 12, 2018 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

                What’s the difference, if it’s all protected? Do you not see the distinction between defining “hate speech” invidiously for the purpose of excluding it from legal protection, and defining it merely as a shorthand reference for a particular type of controversial speech that nonetheless will be granted full free-speech protection?

                Do you have the same issue when someone says “profanity” (a term with similarly imprecise definitional boundaries) constitutes protected speech?

              • Craw
                Posted May 13, 2018 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

                Don’t they indicate though that the level of protection might be less? For instance demanding speakers pay for security.
                There is another problem. The purpose of labeling some speech as purple is to distinguish it from other speech. Why do that unless the goal is to treat purple speech differently at some point? I think Paul is right to detect a whiff of bad faith here.

    • Taz
      Posted May 12, 2018 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

      Under that definition, if a speaker said “Trump is an asshole” they’d be guilty of hate speech.

      There is little doubt that many of the right-wingers invited to the campus had the intent of creating disruption.

      By counting on left-wingers to be disruptive, and the dupes obliged them.

      • rickflick
        Posted May 12, 2018 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

        I like your example because Trump really IS an asshole. Is there a category for hate speech that is demonstrably justified? As opposed to hate speech that is simply being provocative? Perhaps “speech” is it’s own justification.

  4. Dale Pickard
    Posted May 12, 2018 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    I think that the 1st amendment necessarily assumes that speech cannot equate to “real” hurtful violence. However, this does not necessarily obtain in the real world where speech is used to both commit and provoke real violence that leaves lasting scars.

    It’s interesting to see how these free speech advocates are so strongly defensive of extreme right wing views while denying advocacy of those same views.

    • Posted May 12, 2018 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

      Inciting real violence is still a crime though and should be prosecuted strongly when a speaker advocates violence.

      • Dale Pickard
        Posted May 12, 2018 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

        I think I was trying to say that the speech itself can equate to real violence (in functional terms), despite the implicit assumption in the 1st amendment that it must not. The speech of the oppressor should be distinguished from that of the oppressed in terms of effect, I think.

        • Posted May 12, 2018 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

          It’s high time this everything-as-oppressor-vs.-oppressed paradigm got deep-sixed.

          • Max Blancke
            Posted May 12, 2018 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

            Besides which, it is a subjective and fluid thing.
            The idea that some people are permanently oppressors, and all bad, and that others are the permanent saintly oppressed is contrary to human nature.
            Often, when two groups are in long-term conflict, whichever side is currently winning is seen as the oppressors.
            Also, actual oppression is not someone being allowed to say something that you disagree with. I have seen actual oppression, and it often involves human heads on stakes, not mean words.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted May 12, 2018 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

            Sure, and the way to accomplish that is by alleviating de facto oppression among those who have traditionally suffered from it.

            Or did you mean they should just shut up about it already?

            • Posted May 13, 2018 at 10:14 am | Permalink

              How can an individual ‘traditionally’ suffer something? Either they currently suffer it or they don’t. But of course you’re suggesting we grant preferential treatment today to all members of an identity group subjected to discriminatory treatment in the past. And that is both morally wrong and highly ineffective.

              I suggest that sensible people resist falling into the neo-marxist trap of always viewing everything only through the lens of a power dynamic between oppressor classes vs. oppressed classes.

              • Posted May 13, 2018 at 11:30 am | Permalink

                I agree. The paying of reparations to identity groups is likely to cause more harm and resentment than justice or furthering of that group’s interests.

              • Posted May 13, 2018 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

                Whenever someone advocates for reparations to descendants of slaves, I note that for ages, women were under- or un-paid for their labor. They nod enthusiastically until I suggest that therefore all descendants of women should receive reparations.

              • Posted May 13, 2018 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

                Good one!

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted May 13, 2018 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

                I said nothing about preferential treatment. My point was merely that we shouldn’t expect people holding the shit-end of the inequality stick simply to shut up about it.

                There’s nothing “neo-Marxist” about that; it’s a clear-eyed view of our troubling history and its problematic legacy that’s with us still.

              • Posted May 13, 2018 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

                I’m not sure how one quantifies the “shit-end of the inequality stick”, but to assume that all members of a particular class hold it, and thus should receive uniform accommodations to even out past injustices against that class, most assuredly constitutes blanket preferential treatment dispensed based on group identity — to ‘even things out’, as it were.

                That is thoroughly neo-marxist: merely substituting race, ethnicity, sex, etc. power struggles, for the bourgeoisie vs. proletariat struggle.

                Further, the putative ‘problematic legacy’ you speak of would not uniformly affect all members of a class; therefore, to implement a uniform remedy for the entire class would be both ineffective and unjust.

        • Posted May 12, 2018 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

          I don’t follow what you mean by “speech itself can equate to real violence (in functional terms)”. This sounds like the “hate speech is violence” argument. I think we have to differentiate speech we don’t agree with from actual physical violence.

          • Dale Pickard
            Posted May 12, 2018 at 11:09 pm | Permalink

            Yes, that’s what I’m saying. Many on this site would be appalled if I were to bring up antisemitic images reminiscent of the Holocaust – so it is with those who are “identified” with 248 years of slavery and over 100 years of Jim Crow or those whose ancestors were subject to genocide and relegated to “reservations”. So it is with those forced into apartheid in their own land. Wherever “hate speech” brings up serious memories of genuine oppression it is emotionally and genuinely harmful. These are just facts.

            • Posted May 12, 2018 at 11:28 pm | Permalink

              These ideas are detestable but why isn’t simply saying so enough of a protest? Why must it extend to preventing them from speaking and denying the rights of the idiots that want to hear them?

              • Dale Pickard
                Posted May 13, 2018 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

                I never suggested that speech should be restrained. I am suggesting that speech can be tangibly harmful in ways that are immediately apparent to the targets of such speech but not perhaps to others who cannot share their experience.

                Recall that much of what we call “bullying”, (by young and old) consists of speech and is not without tangible harm.

              • Posted May 13, 2018 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

                It’s true that bullying does cause real harm but surely the speakers we are talking about are not bullying individuals. Are you suggesting that they are bullying a group and, therefore, such speech should be outlawed?

            • Posted May 13, 2018 at 12:41 am | Permalink

              As someone who identifies as a secular Jew, and deeply abhors the Holocaust, I cannot say that I am harmed when the topic is raised. Yes, it make conjure up some negative emotions in me, but how am I harmed?

              • Dale Pickard
                Posted May 13, 2018 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

                I think the simple answer is that the “conjuring up negative emotions” is tangibly harmful – especially if those emotions include fear, anguish, anger, alienation etc. Bullying is a form of speech and we all know that bullying can be tangibly harmful to the targets. Bullying someone over an identity, the history of which is rife with persecution can be used as a a purposeful means of harming that person.

                Also, with all due respect, I think the identity you espouse as a person of Jewish descent has necessarily sensitized you to anything that could be construed to be antisemitic, and perhaps rightfully so.
                I can tell you as a white man, I fear for, and am defensive of, my own friends and relatives and companions in this society who were not born white, male. I am far more concerned with defending their rights not be ostracized than I am with any undue defense of those who deliberately wield their right to speech as a weapon to harm others.

              • Posted May 13, 2018 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

                This idea of speakers bullying identity groups seems like “hate speech” using different words. The only worthy response to hate speech is “disagree speech”.

            • Posted May 13, 2018 at 2:47 am | Permalink

              Being appalled is not the same as being subject to real violence.

            • Posted May 13, 2018 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

              Wherever “hate speech” brings up serious memories of genuine oppression it is emotionally and genuinely harmful.

              ‘Harmful’ to feelings, perhaps, but not in any tangible way. No one has a right to not have their feelings hurt.

              It’s a dangerous thing indeed to start censoring speech based on whether it hurts feelings. For pretty much all speech will offend someone. And then it devolves to, ‘well some groups deserve to be offended.’ And then we’re in the realm of Animal Farm equality.

              • Dale Pickard
                Posted May 13, 2018 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

                I never said that speech should be censored – just that we shouldn’t pretend that some speech is not only harmful but intended to be harmful. What is otherwise objectively xenophobic and sociopathic behavior is cloaked under the mantle of free speech.

                I also think that those who are overly concerned with rights to harmful speech are most likely to reserve the right to harmful speech for their own purposes.

              • Posted May 16, 2018 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

                The protection of speech of all sorts serves the purpose of a free society.

                Your vague use of the term ‘harmful’ leads to conflation of hurt feelings with tangible, tortious harm — inadvertent perhaps on your part, but deliberate for the very anti-free speech advocates who, for their own purposes, seek to silence views they oppose.

              • Posted May 14, 2018 at 11:42 am | Permalink

                Also, how will you know? The emotion-o-meter is yet to be invented.

    • Taz
      Posted May 12, 2018 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

      They’re not defensive of extreme right wing views, they’re defensive of free speech rights. It’s irresponsible to conflate the two.

      • Dale Pickard
        Posted May 12, 2018 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

        I think “free speech rights” can be just cover for what are otherwise extreme views.

        • Posted May 12, 2018 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

          Sure but why isn’t saying that they are extreme and hateful views enough of a response?

        • Taz
          Posted May 13, 2018 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

          I think that assumption can be used to smear and intimidate free speech advocates.

          • Dale Pickard
            Posted May 13, 2018 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

            I said
            “I think “free speech rights” can be just cover for what are otherwise extreme views.”

            I’m not making any assumptions but it’s interesting that you seem especially concerned with “free speech advocates” being smeared and intimidated, presumably by the “free speech” of others.

            I think your comment makes clear that speech can be used to “smear and intimidate”. Does that constitute real violence?

            • Taz
              Posted May 13, 2018 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

              Why is it interesting? Do you think it says something about me other than that I’m an advocate of free speech?

              To answer your question – no, it’s not violence.

              • Dale Pickard
                Posted May 13, 2018 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

                I just think that “it says” that you are concerned that others may use their speech to intimidate and smear you. Others share those concerns for themselves even though you don’t seem to consider intimidation and smearing a form of violence.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted May 12, 2018 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

      For First Amendment purposes, the line is drawn at inciting imminent lawless action. Anything less, even the general advocacy of lawless or violent conduct, constitutes protected speech.

      • Dale Pickard
        Posted May 12, 2018 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

        That just passes it off to what constitutes imminent and lawless.

        • Posted May 12, 2018 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

          Just because a line is fuzzy doesn’t mean we have to throw the whole thing out. We have courts to adjudicate any differences of opinion.

          • Posted May 13, 2018 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

            In the US, the line is decidedly unfuzzy, thanks to Brandenburg v. Ohio. I can’t help escaping the impression that Dale wishes to prohibit certain speech based not on whether it concretely & imminently incites criminal acts, but rather on whether it hurts someone’s feelings.

            • Posted May 13, 2018 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

              Right, that is the “hate speech as violence” argument which I don’t buy.

              Some commenters are hinting that bullying should be another behavior that physically harms people and people need to be protected from it. I guess I would agree with this but only when an individual is bullied repeatedly and in a context where they can’t get away (eg, in school). It is by nature a fuzzy line but, as I said here earlier, that doesn’t make it not worth adjudicating.

            • Dale Pickard
              Posted May 13, 2018 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

              You can’t “escape impressions” because you are prey to your own apparently preconceived bias. I hope I haven’t hurt your feelings with my speech. Dog forbid!

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted May 13, 2018 at 12:28 am | Permalink

          “Lawless,” I think, is self-defining. “Imminent” means that it is likely to occur before better, contravening speech can intervene to dissuade the listener from engaging in lawless conduct — a Klansman standing on a soapbox in front of the sharecropper’s house by the light of a burning cross, urging his rope-wielding listeners to “teach the niggers a lesson,” is a classic example I tend to use.

          Our First Amendment is premised on the notion that, in all but such immediate and dire circumstances, good speech can out-compete bad for the listeners’ acceptance in the marketplace of ideas. Now, that notion may ultimately prove unavailing, but if it does, then our experiment here in establishing a democratic republic is doomed.

          • Posted May 13, 2018 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

            Tru dat.

          • Posted May 14, 2018 at 11:44 am | Permalink

            One thing I admire about the US is the First Amendment. I have learned a lot from your discussions about it, Ken.

            What I’ve started to think through is where all the “parameters” in it (and the case law you draw attention to). I ask those who would change it or use different principles at different times to tell me which parameters they are tweaking and why.

  5. Ken Kukec
    Posted May 12, 2018 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    I’ve taken up your suggestion to read the Report of the Berkeley chancellor’s Commission first (25 pages including appendices). I find Megan McArdle’s WaPo piece addressing it to be tendentious to the max. She’s wrenched sentences in it from their context for her quotes, and where she can find no quotation to support her, she simply paraphrases the report inaccurately.

    Also, the Report does not suggest that “groups who wish to bring controversial speakers to campus must now … bear most of the expense, including security[.]” There’s a four-paragraph section at pages 12-13 of the Report on “Financial Costs,” and it says nothing about shifting the burden to Registered Student Organizations hosting controversial speakers. (There’s only a discussion, about which the commissioners could reach no conclusion, on whether the university should set some annual cap on security costs, for all invited speakers, in light of the school’s $150 million operating deficit.) I also see no problem with the Report’s suggestion that the school open a third “free-speech zone,” on campus property but remote from its central administration buildings, so that security costs and campus disruptions can be minimized during Major Events.

    The Report suffers the vagueness and weaselly prose endemic to writing by committee in general (and to writing by academic committee in particular). And there’s no doubt it takes some gratuitous shots at student organizations that invite provocateurs to campus for provocation’s sake. But, frankly, I don’t give a damn if the commissioners “[a]re holding their noses when they talk about promoting free speech on campus”; I give a damn that they actually allow free speech on campus to all comers, regardless of political persuasion (and this the commisioners’ suggestions would do).

    Hell, I wish more people would learn to hold their noses and tolerate other people’s controversial speech. After all, as the saying goes, political opinions are like assholes — everybody’s got one, and most of ’em stink.

    • rickflick
      Posted May 12, 2018 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

      It’s good to hear that the administration seems to have done a decent job of dealing with the situation, even if an imperfect job. They can’t all be idiots.

  6. DrBrydon
    Posted May 12, 2018 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    I think the first thing Berkeley could do is to stop using the term hate speech.

    Chancellor Christ formed the Commission on Free Speech in October 2017 “to analyze events featuring external speakers in order to recommend changes in policy and procedures that might make similar events [to those of September 2017] less disruptive and expensive for the campus, and to advise how we might best align our responsibility for protecting free speech with our values as a community.” (p. 4)

    It is clear that the work of this committee was more focused on the first part of this mandate than the second. Even within its recommendations, encouraging free speech comes last.

    At the same time there is an implied tension between the right to free speech, and the “values of our community,” which is odd because “freedom of expression and dialogue” is one of Berkeley’s Principles of Community. In general, though, I find that individual rights are usually at odds with ideas of community values. Thus one of the suggestions is that student groups:

    . . . submit a public statement explaining how the event comports with the Principles of Community . . . . (p. 2)

    Which, to be a meaningful procedure, implies a review and approval (or disapproval).

    At the same time the report recommends that one way to prepare the campus for these events is to:

    Train students how to debate and disagree respectfully; build logic and empirical inquiry skills. (p. 3)

    and

    Honor not just the campus’s Principles of Community but its mission of education, research, and public service by voluntarily balancing their right to hold events with their responsibility to the
    community. (page 3)

    It does raise the question of how the students have been educated previously, since it’s clearly a problem.

    The truly telling statement, though, comes in reference to the existing law on free speech:

    The Commission has no appetite for instigating a legal battle over this issue (except possibly in connection with cost, as will be discussed later), in part because members are not convinced that a defensible procedure could be devised for determining in advance which planned events are likely to represent constructive contributions to campus discourse. (pages 9-10)

    It is not that they agree with the law, but that they can’t think of an alternative formula.

    No, I said this was not a ringing endorsement of free speech, but merely of campus bureaucracy.

    • DrBrydon
      Posted May 12, 2018 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

      Ugh. Last two paras are me, not the report. Silly tags.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted May 12, 2018 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

      Ok, but where a significant portion of the campus community has railed against “hate speech” — where they’ve claimed that “hate speech isn’t free speech” and thus should go unprotected, by both the constitution and the university — how do you go about letting the community know that such speech will hereafter be protected, if you don’t use that term?

      And if you use that term without offering a definition, you run the risk that it will be misconstrued to include “fighting words” and “incitements to imminent violence,” two types of speech that are constitutionally unprotected.

      • Craw
        Posted May 13, 2018 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

        That’s a good question. You do it by emphasizing that hate speech is not a legal category, that different criteria would be applied by different people, and that it’s dangerous to label speech that way. You acknowledge that some find some speech hateful but you make it clear that reaction will not lead to action.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted May 13, 2018 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

          Oh, I agree. And if I’d’ve written the Berkeley report, that’s where the emphasis would be. But I think that’s where the Commissioners’s report ultimately comes down, albeit in a unfortunately backhanded way.

  7. Simon
    Posted May 12, 2018 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    I have heard that many Berkley businesses feature signs in their windows conveying anti-Trump sentiments. A Berkley conservative interviewed by Tim Pool said that a business owner had admitted that the sign was only there because a failure to have it would lead to smashed windows. That’s Berkley for you.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted May 12, 2018 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

      Because if there’s anything that ought to be taken as gospel, it’s double hearsay about what some rando guy on the street claims he heard from some unnamed business owner.

      • Simon
        Posted May 13, 2018 at 7:49 am | Permalink

        Tim Pool, compared to your average mainstream journalist, is like Hyperion to a satyr to quote Shakespeare. He is about as scrupulously objective as you can get. But call him some rando guy on the street if you will.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted May 13, 2018 at 9:02 am | Permalink

          The rando guy in the street is “the Berkeley conservative” you say Pool interviewed. If we add to the mix Pool himself (and you, since you provided no link to substantiate the story), it’s quadruple hearsay.

    • Posted May 14, 2018 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

      That’s bad!

  8. CHARLES A SAWICKI
    Posted May 12, 2018 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    David Brooks pointed out in a March 15,2016 NYT opinion piece (Shame Culture) that college campuses have developed a culture of shame largely driven by social media.
    In shame cultures, such as seen in many Muslim majority countries, good and bad are defined by collective group norms, not by standards of right and wrong or of true and false. Group members watch the behavior of others carefully to make sure that they conform to these norms.
    Trolling for and pouncing on minor offenses as well as lying about or distorting the views of others seems to be an aspect of approval seeking by members of this new shame culture of the regressive left.

  9. Simon
    Posted May 12, 2018 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    For an insight into the mind of the modern SJW activist, you should check out Rubin’s talk at New Hampshire Uni. There were a few pointless mongs protesting, but one women stood out. She was bristling with indignation about the IRL discrimination she claimed to experience. When Rubin asked her to tell everyone about her experience she asked why she should enact the mental labour without payment. She then claimed she hadn’t claimed to be oppressed. I was a bit irritated at Rubin’s refusal to respond directly to her question about whether hate speech can inspire violence.

  10. Posted May 12, 2018 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    Free speech zones? That Orwellian – or more accurately George W Bushian – term sends chills down my spine. The only such zone needed should be the whole damn place.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted May 12, 2018 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

      It’s a lot less Orwellian once you understand that First Amendment doctrine draws a bright line between traditional public forums and other areas. A college campus does not constitute a traditional public forum for First Amendment purposes, although a university may designate specified areas as such, as Berkeley has done with regard to the Upper and Lower Sproul Plazas (and is proposing to do w/r/t West Crescent).

      • Posted May 13, 2018 at 5:22 am | Permalink

        Ah, that’s much better. Of course, the Bush doctrine attempted to corral protesters away from many traditional public forums into a subset of public areas that were removed from where the cameras and microphones would be. In the case of colleges, I would hope that students and faculty, not just universities, would be recognized as able to designate, for example, the main Quad as a public forum, whether the university administration likes it or not.

  11. Barney
    Posted May 12, 2018 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    The Washington Post is “left wing”? Or the New York Times? Wow, the Overton Window hasn’t just been shifted, it’s been picked up and plonked in the next state.

    McArdle is, of course, not “left wing” in the least. She’s a extreme capitalist.

  12. Rich Sanderson
    Posted May 12, 2018 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

    “UC Berkeley issues a ridiculous and biased report pretending to support free speech, but really criticizing the Right”

    Yup, cf.

    Similar to “social justice warriors”, who hide behind “social justice” language to bully, harass, and abuse others, and often, engage in racism and bigotry, especially anti-semitism.

    Also, similar to those “anti-war” Russian shills (Khalek, Blumenthal, Greenwald, Norton, Beeley, Pilger) who deny Assad and Putin’s war crimes, and push the most insane conspiracy theories as disinformation. These creeps are pro-war. Don’t buy their “anti-war” nonsense.

  13. Plunky
    Posted May 12, 2018 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

    Our gracious host Jerry has been clear on his views about free speech and the importance of allowing the free promulgation of ideas even those we disagree with, and for the most part I tend to agree.
    But at the risk of treading on that basic concept or at least adding an annotation to the concept there is one type of speech which I think may in some circumstances be allowed to be suppressed or discouraged, especially on a college campus.
    Provocateurs like Anne Coulter and Yiannopoulos are not good faith purveyors of information or alternative ideas. They are more akin to bomb throwers or even pornographers and like pornography you know it when you see it. Their main goal is to sell books or tickets to a show or sell themselves to be famous celebrities by any means possible. There presentations are designed specifically to needle and provoke listeners who disagree with them. There goal is not to persuade or teach or change minds but to create controversy in the most inflammatory way. It’s not that the underlying ideas they are representing should be avoided or suppressed but that their tactics and motivations should maybe be called into question.
    Speakers on college campuses should be there in good faith to teach, persuade, open minds to new ideas.
    Does anyone else see this distinction? I’d like you to persuade and inform me.

    • Posted May 12, 2018 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

      I agree with your assessment of Coulter and Yiannopoulos but can’t people vote on their ideas with their feet, or lack thereof? I certainly wouldn’t line up or pay money to hear either one speak. I suppose some conservative student or professor might give them a platform on campus but what would it hurt really for their fans to hear them? Isn’t the real trouble caused by the authoritarians who show up to confront them and attempt to deny them a platform?

    • Paul S
      Posted May 12, 2018 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

      If I may summarize, you’re for free speech as log as you get to decide who’s worthy.

      • Posted May 13, 2018 at 12:49 am | Permalink

        Yes, I think that’s an apt summary of that statement. After all, you don’t have to stretch things that far to see some of Hitchens’s talks as being in that genre.

        At any rate, as paultopping said, just don’t go if you don’t want to hear it. Once someone has been invited to campus and accepted, the responsibility for any violence and disruption is on the demonstrators, not the speakers. That is the main issue the Berkeley report gets wrong.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted May 13, 2018 at 1:00 am | Permalink

      I share your views as an aspirational goal for campus speakers, but as a legal standard, it’s completely untenable, since there’s no way to define the speech you wish to prohibit that could be consistently applied in a manner that would not also reach protected speech.

      Plus, to extend your pornography analogy a bit further: Don’t know if you’ve had a look around the internet lately, but nearly all manner of sexually explicit material has been deemed constitutionally protected. That is as it must be when applying the “I know it when I see it” standard, since almost everyone will see it differently.

    • Posted May 14, 2018 at 11:54 am | Permalink

      I think one has to distinguish between student groups, who should have freer reign, and the “different kind of free reign” of faculty, to introduce educational resources as they see is appropriate to their classes.

      There’s *some* constraint there: that’s why you can censure someone for bringing a flat earther to the geography class (in a way that isn’t meant as a “rip him to shreds, folks!”)

      • Posted May 14, 2018 at 11:56 am | Permalink

        Yes. Good point. A faculty member should have to justify their invited speaker choices in educational terms.

  14. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted May 13, 2018 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    I see some recent perspective on that here in Sweden – where hate speech in EU fashion is defined and unlawful – concerning schools inviting speakers.

    The larger context at the moment is the long term ideology of “integration” or at least anti-segregation – rather than US type melting pot – something that happens in EU but at different efficiencies. [Note: A melting pot may be more socially and economically efficient for all I know, same goes for absolute free speech as there seems to be a lack of data.] Our school system have allowed a few small religious organizations to set up closed schools. The framework has been as they abide by human rights at inspections, such that they inform on society and do not enforce “confessional” lessons. That free school system is now likely coming to an end after a long series of infractions, while at the same time politicians have concluded from statistics that these schools have promoted rather than hindered segregation. [Note: I have not studied the data, so do not know if the conclusion is valid.]

    Especially one Muslim school has been in the news for years, for enforcing gender segregation and repeatedly inviting speakers promoting misogyny, antisemitism and even terrorism. It appears the local authorities have dropped the shoe – and, based on an analysis of the school not sharing the communal value grounds (such as no racism) –
    will remove their funding and kick them out of the low rent communal buildings they occupied. These actions seem fair to me, as I understand it the state authorization of the school remains valid for the time being. The school can continue invite speakers separate from lectures, and the speakers get into legal trouble if they break the hate speech law. But without funds the school will likely close.

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted May 13, 2018 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

      I should rephrase a lot, but especially here:

      “the school not sharing the communal value grounds (such as no racism)” – the school not sharing the communal value grounds (such as working against racism).

      Of course schools have to be a non-discriminatory. But here, when they preferentially invite speakers that promote racism, they are considered “not helping”.


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