UC Berkeley students should respect free speech rights of conservatives

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Isabella Schreiber/Staff

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By now you’ve probably seen a meme or two mocking the phrase, “The Free Speech Movement is dead.” As the president of the Berkeley College Republicans, let me own up to having written those words.

I penned that phrase with adrenaline pulsing through my veins. Only minutes before, I was followed by members of an “anti-fascist” group yelling expletives and threats my way; not long before that, I was in the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union as it was pelted by rocks and bricks, fireworks exploding right outside, the mob burning with hate as the campus burned. It’s fair to say my feelings during that fateful night of Feb. 1 were deadly serious.

Unlike so many of these people who might have done me harm or wished violence upon me, I have a sense of humor. I chuckle to myself when I see a meme ridiculously — and incorrectly — portraying the son of working-class California natives as some entitled brat preparing to sic lawyers on UC Berkeley using his father’s money. And unlike so many of these edgy teens and meme-posters, I understand that the events that transpired in the city of Berkeley over the past year did not revolve around how the Berkeley College Republicans’ comments and actions were perceived, nor did it revolve around the spilled blood between two radicalized sides.

The so-called “Battles of Berkeley” were fundamentally about free speech. The debate between the far-left and -right is not whether communism or fascism is the preferable system under which to live; rather, the debate is over what kind of speech is truly “free” and deserving of the full protection of the U.S. Constitution. Anyone who fails to recognize this as a conflict over constitutional freedoms rather than political ideology fails to understand what’s really happening here at Berkeley.

This idea was best illustrated in the immediate aftermath of Feb. 1. A few students doubled-down and attempted to justify the actions of the violent “black bloc.” One such person — one of my peers at UC Berkeley — left an indelible impression on me when, smiling, he informed me that he believed it should be permissible to physically assault someone whom he suspected of being a “Nazi” or an enabler of one. I couldn’t help but think he meant me. Our discussion did not debate the merits and demerits of any political system; it came down to free speech, plain and simple.

So many on the left have been advancing the specious argument that “hate speech” is an unprotected form of expression, and even more believe “hate speech” should be suppressed even if it merits legal protection. For some reason, these ideologues, partisans and pundits do not find this repressive position to be in tension with the legacy of the Free Speech Movement at UC Berkeley. What an astounding level of cognitive dissonance to believe that Mario Savio would not find the recent silencing of conservative speech on campus utterly alien to the movement he spearheaded.

If we are to claim ourselves to be a nation of ideals and of law, then we must adhere to the Constitution as the law of land, completely unabridged. We cannot sweep freedom of speech under the rug to post a meme about the Berkeley College Republicans or debate airy ideologies. Instead, we should prove that the Free Speech Movement is alive and well at UC Berkeley.

Let’s listen to each other rather than shout each other down. Perhaps we might just learn something worthwhile.

Troy Worden is the president of the Berkeley College Republicans.

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  • BerkPed

    How does the author feel about college republicans trying to disrupt BAMN meetings?

    He cannot really be for free speech while trying to shut down other’s speech.

    • Bob

      The college Republicans attempted to attend a public BAMN meeting held on a public college campus to listen. Claiming they intended to disrupt the meeting suggests you can read minds, which is a super power, and I doubt you’re wearing a cape. BAMN is a joke. You’re a joke. Lol.

  • Zachary Levenson

    If you’re interested in being taken seriously, why not bring speakers who might teach something worthwhile, to use your phrase? Why invite careerist pundits like Coulter and Milo, whose appearances are designed to provoke, incite, and self-promote rather than advance any sort of political position?

    • Nunya Beeswax

      That’s a good point. Yiannopoulos and Coulter are middlebrow at best, and they appeal to the lowest common denominator. Is this a college campus or a Wal-Mart?

      • SecludedCompoundTTYS

        They are extremely interesting to listen to, just because you don’t agree with them does not make you smarter than them or people who may believe in some of their view points. Who do you want to come? They even try to stop and slow Ben Shapiro who is very honest in his views and you need to GTFO if you think he appeals to the lowest common denominator. I feel like you are just a biased indoctrinated young-in, but I may be wrong. You have a small world view.

        • Nunya Beeswax

          You are wrong, as it happens. I’m in my sixth decade and am far from being a doctrinaire leftist.

          • Nunya Beeswax

            Also, neither Zachary nor I brought up Ben Shapiro. You did.

            As far as I’m concerned, Shapiro is in a different class than Ann or Milo. He at least seems to have thought about his opinions for more than 5 minutes before expressing them.

          • SecludedCompoundTTYS

            So you think they should make a opinion list who is middlebrow, and then not allow them to speak. It’s so relative. Why do you want to stifle free speech? Anne Coulter is far from stupid and it shouldn’t matter. You want to use your emotions to choose who should speak. Have you read Anne Coulter book, obviously not, because you don’t even know what you are talking about. And yes you are, typically people who are indoctrinated, do not know they are indoctrinated and speak just like you with a lot of cognitive dissonance. Once again, you should read books of people you disagree with so you can actually know what they stand for and not what the media tells you to think about them.

          • Nunya Beeswax

            Why don’t you stop with the poorly-substiantiated and -supported assumptions about me? I don’t want to stifle anything. If some campus group wants to bring Coulter or Yiannopoulos in to speak, that’s fine with me. It seems like a wasted opportunity, though, when they could get someone with some actual intellectual heft. If BCR are really interested in free speech, they ought to invite people whose speech might be listening to, not vaudeville performers. Credit where credit’s due, though–Ben Shapiro is a step in the right direction.

            Maybe it’s petty, but I really wish you’d look into comma splices and how to avoid them. And yes, I admit I haven’t read any books by Ann Coulter (reading the occasional opinion piece online is enough), but I’d think that anyone who had would at least know how to spell her name properly.

          • SecludedCompoundTTYS

            You can’t argue your point in any logical way. I don’t care about my comma splices or spelling as I am trying to type fast to your non arguments. There is high demand for seats for both speakers, so I’m not sure what you are talking about. Many people are interested in hearing them speak, I’m sorry its not a liberal speaker. Honestly, you have no leg to stand on, therefore you attack my grammar. I’m glad you appreciate Shapiro. You do you!

          • Nunya Beeswax

            I wasn’t aware we were having an argument. I gave an opinion about Yiannopoulos & Coulter, and you disagreed. Fair enough; you don’t have to agree, and I don’t expect you to. But out of nowhere you start making some pretty bizarre assumptions about my life and opinions. Do I have to have an argument with you to contradict those assumptions? I’m fairly sure I can be considered an expert on my own thoughts.

            You will notice that I have not addressed anything about you except what I have read and can substantiate from your posts. You might want to look into doing the same, instead of assuming that I’d prefer only liberal speakers be invited to campus or that I’m an “indoctrinated” twenty-something. You only have to look into my posting history (something you have kept private, for God knows what reason) to see that neither of those things is true–yet you apparently can’t be arsed.

          • SecludedCompoundTTYS

            You once gain just argue with your emotions. You can never debate to the point and just get offended. Why is Anne Coulter middlebrow? Sorry I triggered you…

          • Nunya Beeswax

            How am I arguing with my emotions? I honestly don’t see what you’re talking about.

            But since you’re dying to talk about Ann Coulter : Ann Coulter’s sole rhetorical gambit is to make an outrageous statement that upsets people, and then to double down on it. She identifies as a Christian, yet (judging by her public speech) is completely lacking in Christian charity; she is a foe of government regulation, yet (in her recent tiff with Delta Airlines) seemed to suggest that Delta ought to be prevented from bumping passengers from overbooked flights; her every utterance supports the impression that she is a dumb person’s idea of what a smart person is like.

            She’s not stupid (though many of her fans are); she’s an articulate, talented, vicious hypocrite.

          • SecludedCompoundTTYS

            Do you not understand that your whole second sentence is completely based on emotion and what you have been told and not anything you have experienced or read personally? You are using a very large brush to state she is not Christian. You don’t even know her and I doubt you know much about Christianity and the different sects within it. You appear to think anyone who is controversial, should not speak, which is the reason the first amendment is so powerful. It is to protect people like Anne Coulter from people like you.

          • Nunya Beeswax

            You have a chronic problem with reading comprehension and projection.

            I did not say that Ann Coulter is not Christian; I said that she was lacking in Christian charity. Another way of putting that might be to say that she is not very good at being a Christian. And as far as what I know about Christianity, again your assumptions are getting out of control; I have a bachelor’s degree in theology. If you’d like to discuss the various jurisdictions and denominations of the Christian faith, I’d be happy to oblige.

            And I have never said that she shouldn’t speak because she’s controversial. I said that the Berkeley Republicans should choose someone of more substance to speak on a college campus. I don’t dislike her because she’s controversial; I dislike her because she’s a shallow jerk. I also dislike Richard Dawkins, not because he’s an atheist (everyone’s entitled to his opinion), but because on the topic of religion he’s a shallow jerk. And this may surprise you, but I dislike Michael Moore, even though I agree with much of his politics, because he’s a shallow jerk.

            I hope that is clear enough. No doubt I will return to this conversation later to find that you have made yet another unsupportable assumption about me, based not on what I have written, but on the template in your head of what “liberals” are like.

            Throughout this conversation, I have engaged with what you have written and not what I have assumed about your personality or character. It’s unfortunate that you can’t do the same.

          • SecludedCompoundTTYS

            Ok, so who should they invite that would appease you? I and many people find different controversial viewpoints very interesting to listen to and to listen to a Q&A of. I’m sorry you are so sensitive but I am not so feel free to hammer away. What politics of Michael Moore do you agree with?

          • Nunya Beeswax

            Well, it’s not about appeasing me! But if you want me to name conservatives that I might be interested in listening to, the following come to mind : Ross Douthat, Rod Dreher, David French, David Brooks, people along those lines.

            Like Moore, I’m pro-union and anti-corporate welfare. Like him, I think trickle-down economics is a joke. But unlike him, I don’t think it’s acceptable to lie in order to make the narrative stronger.

          • SecludedCompoundTTYS

            Do you think capitalism is a joke like he does?

          • Nunya Beeswax

            I don’t think it’s a joke. It has upsides and downsides. But it’s far from being an unalloyed good.

          • SecludedCompoundTTYS

            I agree, but it has decreased poverty by a lot in the last 100 years which cannot be ignored. Just take a look at India and China as we speak.

    • SecludedCompoundTTYS

      Oh Ben Shapiro is so evil. Are you insane?

    • Bob

      Coulter and Milo are “canaries in a coal mine.” If Berkely leftists refrain from violence against them, more serious conservative speakers will follow.

  • Man with Axe

    You wrote: “One such person — one of my peers at UC Berkeley — left an indelible impression on me when, smiling, he informed me that he believed it should be permissible to physically assault someone whom he suspected of being a “Nazi” or an enabler of one. I couldn’t help but think he meant me.”

    Of course he is ignorant of the law, not to mention he has no sense of basic morality. But he should also know that when you see him coming to physically assault you, you may very well have the right to defend yourself, perhaps by putting a couple of bullets into him if he is armed with a club or can of mace. Just sayin’.

  • angdonlon

    Well done!

  • Killer Marmot

    Berkeley is currently considered one of the best universities in the world, but if conservatives — or people of any political persuasion — are not allowed to speak on campus, then it will not deserve it.

  • diogenes

    Bringing a gang to town to hassle the locals and start a riot isn’t “free speech.” Pretending that it is is deceitful and despicable. Advocating it shames and disgraces the advocates.

    • Killer Marmot

      Are you talking about Antifa?

  • Rollie

    “Let’s listen to each other rather than shout each other down. Perhaps we might just learn something worthwhile.”

    Heretic!

  • FreedomFan

    Thank you for your courage and honor, Mr. Worden.