As a student of the UC system, it is shameful to see the riots that broke out at Berkeley’s campus over Milo Yiannopoulos speaking. As a university student, we are meant to be tolerant of other people’s opinions and to uphold higher learning and the code of ethics we all agreed to. This riot is breach on the ethical values of integrity, excellence, accountability and respect, and the actions of a few cost the student body up to $100,000 worth of campus damage.
The tactic, called black bloc, is a practice where paramilitary rioters dress in black and cover their faces. These rioters are largely responsible and it seems that it’s still unclear how many were actual students. These individuals causing the damage are self-proclaimed anti-fascist, and this is an extremely hypocritical statement for them to make.
The definition of fascism outlined in Michael Mann’s book, Fascist, is, most concisely, “the pursuit of transcendent and cleansing national-statism through paramilitaries” and involves 5 broad key terms: nationalism, statist, transcendence, cleansing, and paramilitarism (17). These violent actors are from the far left and probably believe they are defending the values of America and speak for everyone, and an all-powerful government headed by their ideology can fix it. They will go to paramilitary violence to coerce their beliefs, and cleanse the opposite opinion from mainstream media and college campuses. They believe they are morally superior, and they are meant to lead the nation politically and morally.
To clarify, I don’t think fascism is alive in America from either side of the political spectrum, and only make that claim to show how easy it is to call anyone a fascist (maybe the alt-right which is at times embracing neo-Nazism, but this doesn’t encompass everyone on the right. It’s possible that self-proclaimed alt-righters only do so because they think it’s anti-establishment, not neo-Nazism). I think it’s funny when anyone calls their political opponent fascist, as it’s taking the easy way out of criticizing their opponent instead of using their own opinions. The protesting of conservative speakers is getting out of hand, as after the Berkeley incident Gavin McInne’s speech got interpreted at NYU leading to violence, and earlier this year Ben Shapiro was threatened with jail time by campus police to attend an event he was invited to at DePaul.
Moving forward, I also think Trump would be overstepping executive power to deny UC Berkeley federal funds, but this is nothing new as Obama threatened to do the same thing over transgender laws. If people who are anti-Milo — which I myself find many things he says to be blatantly false and even bigoted — should call him out and use free speech to condemn him instead of violence. Violence or trying to silence Milo only grants him further legitimacy among his followers. An IJR article says that because of this violence his book sales have skyrocketed, so now his words are being heard more than before.
Violence as a form of political expression is becoming mainstream on college campuses as students become hypersensitive to microaggressions. Microaggressions do have real world implications, but thanks to universities creating safe spaces for students, anything becomes a microaggression and people are finding it okay to respond with macroaggressions. This is flawed morally, and can perpetuate evils. Our first amendment rights protect all forms of free speech including hate speech. If violence against someone who is expressing themselves is okay (a.k.a. is it okay to punch a Nazi?), then what is the difference between that and pulling off a woman’s hijab?
Unfortunately, politics has become impulsive and emotional, rather than using facts and well thought out opinions, which will lead to division and violence. People are quick to rush to their side as if politics is a team sport, rather than taking a philosophical or factual argument. It is okay to disagree with people who are “on your side”, and it makes your arguments stronger and more compelling and makes you more of an individual. I challenge you to learn the arguments opposite of your beliefs. Even if it doesn’t change your mind you will come out more prepared for political debate.
Justin Hunter is a student at UCSD. The positions stated here do not necessarily represent the opinions of The Triton, any of its members, or any of its affiliates.
We welcome responses to opinion pieces. If you’d like for us to publish a response, or comment on a different issue affecting UCSD or the UC community, you may do so here.