Maybe it would have been more popular if they called it “Hate Speech Week”


Truth in advertising and all that, you know.

Milo Yiannopoulos, desperate to gather together the tattered shreds of his relevance, announced this past summer that there would be a “four day extravaganza” on the Berkeley campus that he called “Free Speech Week”. There was a preliminary list of potential speakers, including Ann Coulter, Charles Murray, James Damore, Mike Cernovich, Stephen Bannon, etc., which indicated that they were planning a total shit-show of horrible people, which certainly would test the limits of free speech. It turned out, though, they hadn’t bothered to ask most of those people, and the prospective speakers were a bit surprised to learn of it. Milo claimed to have $12 million in backing.

But the funny thing is, it doesn’t seem to be happening. It’ll still fill the need to feed the conservative persecution complex if it all falls apart, but it looks like they weren’t even seriously trying.

From the get-go, however, there have been various problems and unanswered questions, starting with the student group that was actually supposed to host “Free Speech Week.” This group, called the Berkeley Patriot, didn’t exist at all before July. Its site has five blog posts, its Facebook page shows no signs of real community and its Twitter account has 16 followers and no tweets. Both the blog and the Facebook page were started on Aug. 25 — shortly after Yiannopoulos announced he was working with this group to stage a major event on the Berkeley campus.

Despite being a tiny organization with no visible history, Berkeley Patriot had a huge ask: It not only wanted to hold events in the usual rooms offered at no charge for student events, but also wanted to rent Zellerbach Hall and Wheeler Auditorium, two of the largest venues on campus. The former of those, for instance, seats around 2,000 people and is mostly used for concerts and major performing arts events. According to the university, Berkeley Patriot was given three deadlines — Aug. 18, Aug. 25 and, finally, Sept. 15 — to sign a contract and pay the $65,000 rental fee for the two auditoriums. The students failed to do that.

Huh. Imagine that.

There is a problem lurking here with the student groups. Students get a real deal on these events: students can book any room on campus, complete with audio-visual gear, seating appropriate for 20 students to 400 students (we’re a small college, so we don’t have those 2000 seat auditoriums) at no charge. What it means is that a conservative with lots of cash can astro-turf a “student group” into existence by finding one or a few compliant students and getting them to host what is essentially a non-student event that is nominally student driven. It’s possible because universities are diverse, and there will always be far right wing students in attendance to provide an entry point. The Morris North Star, the ghastly ultra-right student paper that was here at my university for a couple of years, was a case in point: there was no organic drive to support it, it was managed by just a few students, and it got external money thrown at it…and it fell apart as soon as a few students graduated and the money bags didn’t get delivered anymore.

Milo Yiannopoulos, by the way, is a college dropout who has no connection at all to Berkeley. He’s the very definition of an outside agitator taking advantage of loopholes in college administration.

But it turns out that they — Milo and the students — were either incompetent or had a sneakier plan in mind. They aren’t going to have an official room or rooms or building for this event, so instead, they’re inviting random mobs of the kind of people who want to hear Coulter or Cernovich to show up and march around the campus. He’s nurturing this narrative that they were unjustly denied official space by Berkeley to fuel resentment. His little gang of neo-Nazis will wander around, being nasty, and when Berkeley rightfully cracks down on them, he’ll howl about persecution.

The alt-right thrives on the idea that it is being oppressed by violent leftists, a narrative that was in danger of dying out after a white supremacist killed a peaceful counter-protester and injured many others with a terrorist-style attack in Charlottesville. With his Berkeley event, Yiannopoulos has created and nurtured an atmosphere of right-wing grievance and anger — and now his gathering will happen outside, on the streets, with maximum opportunity for violent clashes between right-wing racists and counter-protesters. You might almost think that was how he designed it.

As if disrupting the work of the university is something Nazis should be allowed to do.

Comments

  1. robro says

    Their little parade of misanthropes won’t be complete without a gaggle of so-called “antifa” demonstrators of equally questionable provenance to stir up trouble and add to the media bubble. Footage at 7:00.

  2. Nentuaby says

    Robro, speaking as a Berkeley resident and University affiliate, let me assure you that that your take there is *very loosely* based on reality. There was some rioting after (not at) the original Milo protest, but the four major rallies since then have been peaceful. Yet we keep having this problem where after we gather for a peaceful protest, have it, then go home, the media runs with a “marred by violence” narrative anyway. Because that’s what sells papers, I guess.

  3. says

    This group, called the Berkeley Patriot, didn’t exist at all before July.

    The Berkeley Patriot existed before–they have another website dated to 2015. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if they were inactive most of the time. The more established group is the College Republicans.

    The Morris North Star, the ghastly ultra-right student paper that was here at my university for a couple of years, was a case in point: there was no organic drive to support it, it was managed by just a few students, and it got external money thrown at it…and it fell apart as soon as a few students graduated and the money bags didn’t get delivered anymore.

    Sorry to say that’s what happens to a lot of atheist student groups too, and probably other kinds of student groups too. Student groups tend to be all kinds of incompetent. Like failing to acquire a venue for a speaker, that happens. But failing to inform the speakers themselves, that goes beyond mere incompetence. It’s not like you have to navigate university bureaucracy in order to send an e-mail.

    It’s really hard to imagine that the outdoors event would actually work out.

  4. whheydt says

    Wheeler Aud is a shadow of its former glory, ever since it was torched and rebuilt in the late 1960s. On the other hand, at least they didn’t attempt to use 1 PSL…. (Yeah, I went Berkeley. Most of what I did in Wheeler Aud was take finals for classes that were actually held elsewhere…like in 1 PSL.) And for those confused by this…1 PSL is the “Physical Sciences Lab”. It’s a lecture hall with a rotating stage so that while one lecture-demonstration is being held, the previous one can be taken down and the next one set up. All very clever.

  5. robro says

    Nentuby — I’m well aware of the overall peaceful nature of demonstrations in Berkeley in the last year or so, as well as the earlier one in Davis where Milo was going to speak. I think it’s uncanny that when Milo is going to speak, a small group shows up to the legitimate peaceful demonstration and causes enough trouble to force the police or the university to cancel the event. And thus Milo and his gang can claim that their free speech is suppressed. I’m sure this narrative plays very well on Fox.

  6. says

    PZM –

    The Morris North Star […] fell apart as soon as a few students graduated and the money bags didn’t get delivered anymore.

    They graduated? Not expelled nor dropped out?

  7. says

    It’s a shame that Free Speech Week isn’t going to happen. It would have been a delight to watch them all tear into the White House for demanding that ESPN fire Jamele Hill over anti-Donald tweets! And can you imagine their fury at Chelsea Clinton being de-platformed by Harvard?

  8. Nentuaby says

    “I think it’s uncanny that when Milo is going to speak, a small group shows up to the legitimate peaceful demonstration and causes enough trouble to force the police or the university to cancel the event. ”

    Yeah but see, what I’m saying is that’s not what’s been happening. At some point in every rally the police decide to start barking Orders to Disperse because they’re tired of having a bunch of people being inconveniently political around the place. Depending on the tenor of the rally and whether the Nazis actually bothered to show up this time (lately they’ve been straight up no-showing in the face of wildly unbalanced rally/counter-protest sizes), we either go home satisfied or tell ’em to get fucked and keep standing there while they keep barking. Then after things actually do wrap up we learn in the news, much to our surprise, what we were “actually” doing to justify the order.

    Like I get that you’re hinting at agents provocateur or whatever, but you’re under-applying your cynicism in taking it for granted that there needs to be actual events forcing/”forcing” the shutdowns and driving the media narrative.

  9. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    Tabby Lavalamp,

    And can you imagine their fury at Chelsea Clinton being de-platformed by Harvard?

    I guess Harvard just has a thing against women named Chelsea….

  10. Siobhan says

    @9 speed0spank

    Welp, looks like the right’s demonization of Antifa is working.

    And how! You’d think we learned from the Red Scare, but apparently we’re not done with that drink.

  11. lumipuna says

    Charlottesville was a PR disaster for the alt-right but apparently Milo thinks his own fanboys are smarter and better at posing as nonviolent victims of antifa aggression.

  12. carlie says

    Our university requires that student clubs have a faculty or staff sponsor who is an active full-time employee of the university. Wouldn’t necessarily completely eliminate such sham orgs, but it does cut the possibility down immensely.

  13. ck, the Irate Lump says

    A lot of people seem to think this is Milo playing on a variation of the Ann Coulter “cancellation” outrage, where the RW conflated a failure to come to an agreement over venue with silencing their free speech. In this case, it’ll probably be a conflation with failing to pay for the venue with silencing their free speech. It’s cynical as fuck, but I’d bet it’s going to work.

  14. robro says

    Nentuaby — I understand that there hasn’t been nearly the disturbances at those events as the media purported (particularly SFGate). And I get that cops get to decide what’s trouble. Several friends who live in Berkeley have emphasized that those events were peaceful. The reports I read in Berkeleyside of the demonstration a few weeks ago recounted people having a nice day with their kids, virtually unaware of any trouble or the 13 arrests…at least 5 of which were for standing in the wrong place. To the extent that there was trouble, my friends saw it as overblown by the media and instigated by “outsiders”…although I don’t know how they know that, or even why it would matter. I grew up in the South where race riots were always started by “outside agitators,” meaning black people, and never the white people carrying axe handles.

    Some of the things that the media reported as violence in the demonstration against Milo speaking at Berkeley last summer seemed more like street theater than actual violence…no property damage, no arrests? Come on…what sort of anarchist is that?

    As for Antifa, Anarchists, etc. I don’t think it’s “Red Scare” demonization to recognize that such loose knit collections of people (hardly an “organization”) using social media to communicate and arrange actions are vulnerable to infiltration and manipulation. I have no negative feeling about them and accept that most of them are sincerely fighting for what they believe is right and in a way they believe is necessary. Hopefully they are being cautious about who they listen to.

    In such circumstances, though, infiltration is easy. It’s happening the other way…see PZ’s later post. Theo Wilson, a black man, says that he created a white supremacist internet persona to get inside their social media conversation. Infiltration happened in the anti-war movement in the 60s/70s. It happened in the black movement. Sometimes these people were independent actors, sometimes they were government agents. Sometimes they were just collecting information, but there were reports that they attempted to incite people to violence.

    Of course, it doesn’t take much for the media to declare “violence” and make a lot of noise about it. The most serious charge in the recent Berkeley event was “assault with a deadly weapon”…the woman threw a cup of ice at a cop’s back and was accused of using her dog as a weapon. In any case, our wack job president furrows his brow and declares…”See! Bad leftists.” I’m not suggesting anybody stop doing what they are doing, just encouraging awareness that they can be gamed.

  15. Vivec says

    Though I can’t speak for the specific situations at Berkeley, I have personally witnessed protests where we’ve had to shut down conspicuously violent protesters that nobody seems to actually know and seem to try to encourage everyone to commit blatant, pointless crimes.

    Aka, like, Narc McCopbuddy rolls up to a group of people with signs and is like “HELLO FELLOW PROTESTERS. IT WOULD BE “DOPE” IF WE SET THAT CAR ON FIRE.”

  16. says

    “… injured many others with a terrorist-style attack in Charlottesville…”
    Terrorist-style… terrorist-style. Not a terrorist attack. Nono. Terrorist “style”.

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