News and Commentary

UC Berkeley Panel Blames Conservative Speakers For ‘Inciting’ Leftist Violence

A months-long study by a commission tasked with studying the issue of free speech on the University of California, Berkeley campus blames conservative speakers for deliberately “inciting” leftist violence. By insisting on speaking on campus, the commission says, conservative and right-wing speakers deliberately “incite[d] a violent reaction” from the radical left.

“Although those speakers had every right to speak and were entitled to protection, they did not need to be on campus to exercise the right of free speech,” the commission states, as reported by Politico. “Indeed, at least some of the 2017 events at Berkeley can now be seen to be part of a coordinated campaign to organize appearances on American campuses likely to incite a violent reaction, in order to advance a facile narrative that universities are not tolerant of conservative speech.”

Since the motives of the speakers, including Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter, are suspect, the report suggests, their right to free speech is “hard to defend.”

“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,” the report states. “Speech of this kind is hard to defend, especially in light of the acute distress it caused (and was intended to cause) to staff and students, many of whom felt threatened and targeted by the speakers and by the outside groups financing their appearances.”

In addition to resorting to what amounts to a blame the victim argument and a rather clear assertion of the “rioters veto,” the commission downplayed the anti-free speech presence on the campuses, relegating the violence and speech-suppressing tactics to a “very small group of students working closely with outside organizations.”

“Contrary to a currently popular narrative, Berkeley remains a tolerant campus,” the commission concludes, citing as proof a poll finding three-quarters of students supporting the idea of the university providing equal access and protections for speakers no matter how offensive their speech.

Politico notes that the commission was composed of “Berkeley faculty, students and staff and was chaired by Prudence Carter, dean of Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education, and R. Jay Wallace, a professor of philosophy.” Among its recommendations are new “free speech zones,” offering “counter-programming” during events deemed controversial, and more heavily vetting student organizations.

Just as the Berkeley commission released its report concluding that the campus was extremely tolerant of free speech, the Berkeley student government began deliberations over stripping the funding from the Berkeley College Republicans. Meanwhile, the BCR and Young America’s Foundation have filed a lawsuit against the university for “discriminatory application(s) of a policy to restrict conservative speech on the UC Berkeley campus, in violation of YAF and BCR’s constitutional rights to free speech, due process, and equal protection under the law.”

Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro, who spoke on the campus without incident in 2016, experienced firsthand the change in Berkeley’s “tolerant campus” in September of the next year in a speech for the College Republicans, the venue for which the administration moved to a smaller location for fear of violence and then surrounded by barricades and a massive police force. Read Shapiro’s response to the event here.

Related: How Politically Biased Are Colleges? New Study Finds It’s Far Worse Than Anybody Thought.