Framing Free Speech

The news reporting, along with public debate, on free speech has been typical. It’s not just dissatisfying but frustrating. It pushes a narrative that infects many a mind, including more than a few outside of the ‘mainstream’.

I found an example of this, although I’m not in the mood to directly link to the piece. On the individual’s About page, he obviously prides himself on being an independent thinker who looks down upon ‘Puny mortals’ who “come by their worldviews by accepting in good faith what they have been told by people they perceive to be smarter or better informed than they.” He is so anarchist that he doesn’t think other anarchists are anarchist enough. Yet he is basing his own view on controlled rhetoric designed to manipulate public perception and opinion.

I guess he is so anarchist that he has looped back around to the other side of the spectrum, maybe with his anti-intellectualism trumping his anti-authoritarianism. After all, he describes himself as a white working class anarchist, which apparently means anyone with a college degree is his enemy, including working class traitors who decide to better themselves by seeking higher education. Or maybe he is simply yet another example of an ideologically confused American.

In the piece he wrote, he goes off on some weird sociopolitical rant. It has little connection to the larger world outside of an internet echo chamber. He is shadow boxing the phantasmagoric demons lurking inside his skull and apparently finds it to be a gleeful sport where, as he is the referee of this self-inflicted mental pugilism, he always wins. But what interests me is that his demons just so happen to take the shape of the caricatures portrayed in much of corporate media, with a clear right-wing slant of the populist variety. He writes that,

Well, unfortunately, because of recent riots at Berkeley, we can’t really say that anymore. Now, a lot of those involved or allied will say that, because this action was undertaken by a ‘rebel faction’, and not an established power, it’s actually a righteous insurrection, rather than authoritarian oppression. But given the fact that these are the children of Hollywood, Silicon Valley, and Microsoft, many of whom are ‘Trustifarians’, their proletarian cred is highly suspect. If you can afford to live and go to school in that area of the country, you probably do not come from a poor background.

It’s muddled thinking. This misses so much of the reality of the situation.

The protesters are a small group or, to be more accurate, a mix of small groups. Most of them may or may not be students at Berkeley. Many of them probably are locals or outside agitators taking advantage of the situation, an opportunity for two sides to fight and maybe having little to do with the student body itself. There could even be some agent provocateurs among them. There is absolutely no evidence that they represent most people who are either college students or on the political left. I doubt these people represent a ‘rebel faction’ either, whatever that is supposed to mean. For damn sure, I doubt that many of “the children of Hollywood, Silicon Valley, and Microsoft, many of whom are ‘Trustifarians’” are involved in political activism of the direct action variety, the kind that can lead to becoming a target of violent troublemakers or else violent police.

I share the words of this particular anarchist only because it captures the dark fantasy created by corporate media, especially right-wing media, although sadly much of the supposed ‘liberal’ media as well. It’s bizarre. And it is highly infectious.

Even if these protesters were all Berkeley students, one should note that a fair number of middle class and even working class people get into college. The majority of Berkeley students aren’t the inbred spawn of the plutocratic elite.

According to recent data: 99% of Berkeley students come from the bottom 99.9% in terms of family income, 96.2% from the bottom 99%, 77% from the bottom 97%, 62% from the bottom 90%, 46% from the bottom 80%, and 7.3% from the bottom 20%. Considering that Berkeley has about 40,000 enrolled, those poorest of Berkeley students number several thousand and there are 4.9% that “came from a poor family but became a rich adult.” Other data shows that, depending on class year and such, 21-32% of students have parents with income below $40,000, which would be around 8-12 thousand students. About a quarter of freshman and about half of transfers are the first generation in their families to attend college. I might add that the vast majority of Berkeley students are minorities, with less than a third of freshmen being caucasian.

It’s possible that the protest disproportionately attracted students from the lower classes and from among minority groups who have had a lifetime of dealing with prejudice, the kind of people more likely to be offended by rich white assholes like Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos. From the same piece I initially quoted, the self-styled anarchist stated that, “You’re wrong about the working class, I hope they kick your Berkeley ass.” It’s not so clear to me who will be kicking whose ass, considering the demographics of Berkeley students and considering the real conflicts in our society. It is ludicrous to think it is the privileged rich white students who are protesting against these privilege rich white supremacists. As Alex Schmaus explains about an earlier protest, targeted minorities were fighting back against attempted oppression (The far right goes on a rampage in Berkeley):

It was rumored that Yiannopoulos would be launching a campaign to target undocumented students and their supporters on sanctuary campuses like Berkeley. But he and the College Republicans were unable to carry out this plan after they were confronted by some 2,000 or more students and community members chanting, “No hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here!”

The February 1 protest was inaccurately portrayed in the media as violent because a contingent of 100 or so masked Black Bloc activists carried out their own unannounced action–starting more than an hour after the much larger picket had begun–setting off fireworks and smoke bombs, pulling down police barricades, breaking windows and starting fires.

Reports of small numbers of far-right Yiannopoulos supporters trying attempting to intimidate protesters were ignored in almost every mainstream media account. Eventually, university administrators canceled the event, citing safety concerns.

I have no idea who are all of the groups of people at the various protests. I’m sure they represent a diversity of people on all sides with various ideologies and agendas, along with many innocent bystanders who simply got caught up in altercations that escalated quickly. My point is that most people with opinions about such issues are speaking from ignorance and that includes most corporate media reporters. No one seems to bother to find out. That said, I bet the FBI knows the exact identity and maybe even ideology of nearly every person that showed up, not that the FBI is going to share that info with the rest of us.

Here is what bothers me most of all. The political right is so much more effective in silencing opposition and frustrating free speech. But they do so in a highly controlled and devious way. A conservative college would stifle the free speech of both speakers and protesters. So, there would be no protest because there would be no opportunity. Free speech would be snuffed out in the crib. There would be nothing to report because nothing would happen. The corporate media tends to ignore what doesn’t happen (i.e., the muzzled dog that doesn’t bark) and why it doesn’t happen. The lack of free speech on conservative campuses is accepted as normal, not worthy of investigating or reporting.

Why doesn’t anyone complain that conservative Christian colleges don’t regularly have as guest speakers such people as anti-authoritarian pacifists, welfare statists, proud communists, radical anarchists, secular atheists, intersectional feminists, LGBT activists, moral relativists, sexual libertines, Pagan practitioners, Islamic fundamentalists, and Palestinian freedom fighters? These colleges also receive government funding but, unlike the larger universities, simply ensure nothing that isn’t conservative ever makes it within their walls. There are few non-conservatives and non-Christians in a conservative Christian college, along with few such people ever invited to speak. As such, there is rarely anyone to protest or any event to be canceled. An event that is never allowed to be planned can’t be cancelled, much less protested. It’s exclusion by design and we the taxpayers fund it, as Katha Pollitt put it (The Schools Where Free Speech Goes to Die):

If students are being denied a broad, mind-stretching education at universities often considered among the best in the world, what about the biased, blinkered, partial education that students are receiving at religious colleges? What about the assumption that no changing of the mind shall be permitted? Isn’t education supposed to challenge one’s settled beliefs?

And with Title IX exemptions in hand, colleges are free to ban and expel LGBT students, discriminate against women, use the Bible as a science text, and fire professors who disagree—without putting their federal funding at risk. The truth-in-advertising principle may protect the right of private colleges to do this. But the last time I looked, separation of church and state was still in the Bill of Rights.

Conservatives create an entire echo chamber of institutions and media. They shut out all alternative voices. There isn’t allowed any perception of other views. Their idea of free speech is to allow everyone they agree with to speak freely. Then they complain that conservatives aren’t allowed to dominate all forums and platforms of speech throughout the rest of society.

Yet, conveniently, conservatives don’t seem bothered when leftists are oppressed by suppression of free speech, such as those fighting Zionist apartheid. Howard Schwartz, as one random example among many, lost his position at a university for his lack of groupthink support for Israeli apartheid. Also, consider all of the careers and lives destroyed during the Cold War because of accusations of communism or communist sympathy. If conservatives had the opportunity, most of them would enthusiastically have a new era of McCarthyism.

It’s understandable that conservatives deceptively push the narrative that more than a tiny percentage of people on the political left care about shutting down free speech. The fact of the matter is there are far more people on the right who fear free speech. But we’ve grown so cynical about right-wingers that we assume they always have bad intentions toward a functioning democracy and, as such, we’ve stopped holding them accountable. Instead, even the supposed ‘liberal’ media seeks to silence protesters by promoting this conservative narrative, without much concern about petty factual details.

Why doesn’t the ‘liberal’ corporate media regularly do some genuine investigative reporting? They could research the larger context of what is going on. They could interview people to find out who are those involved and not involved. They could look at all sides such as seeing the role of right-wing instigators and outside agitators in fomenting conflict and violence. They could do surveys to find out what are the actual views and values of various groups, instead of making false accusations and unsubstantiated generalizations.

But if the corporate media allowed that kind of journalism to become the norm, they would no longer be serving corporate interests in a corporatist system that pushes rhetoric to further divide the public, ensuring that actual democracy remains hobbled. And you can see how highly effective is this tactic. Consider again the example of the avowed anarchist who has been pulled into this divisive narrative framing, without even the slightest clue that he is being manipulated. As I often repeat, never doubt the power of propaganda, especially not in the US where the propaganda model of media is more pervasive and subtle than maybe any ever devised in all of world history.

This is similar to how the corporatist Democrats used their narratives of identity politics. Sanders’ supporters were called Bernie Bros, as young women were attacked as gender traitors and young minorities were ignored, as both had been won over by Sanders’ genuine progressivism. Similar to how college students are caricatured, Sanders’ supporters were portrayed as violent radicals who are a threat to the supposed moderate and mainstream ‘liberalism’ of the corporatist ruling elite, despite the fact that the majority of Americans agree with Sanders on major issues.

We Americans are so propagandized that most of us can’t see straight. We are drowning in a flood of bullshit. Fortunately, there are a few voices that manage to get heard, even occasionally in the broader public debate. Yet the dominant narratives never change, as they continue to frame nearly all discussion and reporting.

* * * *

Ann Coulter’s Berkeley controversy isn’t really about free speech.
by Juliet Kleber

As Aaron Hanlon argued in the New Republic earlier this week, choosing not to host Ann Coulter or Milo Yiannopoulos on campus is not a suppression of their free speech. Academia certainly has an important place in selecting and elevating certain voices to relevance in a broader culture, but let’s not forget that a college isn’t a town hall: it’s a particular community of people engaged in intersecting missions of education. Coulter is not a member of that community and she has no claims upon it. Campus life is curated, and none of us outside of it are guaranteed access to that platform. Aside from safety concerns, that doesn’t mean trying to cancel her appearance was necessarily the right decision—it very well may be true that students should challenge her views face-to-face—but doing so is still not a violation of her rights.

That cannot be said, however, of the Fordham case. As Singal notes, Fordham is a private university, and as such the question of free speech in this case relates not to the Constitution but the university’s own policies. But unlike Coulter, who has a regular platform on television and in publishing, the students of Fordham are truly limited by what their university will and will not allow as protected speech. Those students have been denied the opportunity to engage in the political action they find meaningful. They have been punished for peacefully protesting that decision. At Berkeley, the College Republicans who invited Ann Coulter to speak presumably retain their official club status and likely their budget.

Berkeley Has NOT Violated Ann Coulter’s Free Speech Rights
by Robert Cohen

It was only after an ugly riot and arson by non-student anarchists on the night of the Yiannopoulos talk (leaving more than $100,000 in property damage on the Berkeley campus) that the chancellor reluctantly canceled the talk in the interests of public safety.

Fearing a recurrence of the Yiannopoulos violence, the Berkeley administration sought to postpone Coulter’s speech, and in the end asked that in the interest of security it be delayed a week. The administration cited threats it had received against Coulter, which is not surprising given that she is an intemperate nativist. Coulter and her College Republican and Young American Foundation sponsors responded with claims that the administration was trying to stifle conservative speech and that it had caved in to Berkeley’s “rabid off-campus mob” in doing so.

There are very few students on the Berkeley campus who see this week’s delay of the Coulter speech on public safety grounds as a free speech violation. That’s why the lawsuit the College Republicans filed this week against the UC administration had no Berkeley student sponsors other than the College Republicans. Think of the contrast with 1964, when there was a genuine free speech violation and a mass free speech movement; it mobilized virtually every Berkeley student group from left to right and even created a new organization of students, the independents, so that those who had been unaffiliated with any political group could be a part of the Free Speech Movement. In 1964 thousands of Berkeley students marched and hundreds engaged in civil disobedience when free speech was genuinely under threat. Not so today.

No, this is not a real free speech movement at Berkeley today, and that is because there has been no free speech violation by the UC administration. What the Coulter affair really amounts to is a “time, place, and manner” quibble.

Who’s behind the free speech crisis on campus?
by Dorian Bon

These rants in the mainstream press botch the facts of the stories they present, smearing thousands of mostly peaceful protesters as violent thugs, while disregarding the sincere debate on the left about how to confront the right on college campuses.

But that’s not even the worst of their mistakes. Their more spectacular failure is in attributing the crisis of free speech in American universities to the behavior of students.

There is, indeed, a crisis of free speech today, one that is steadily eroding the rights of students, faculty and staff in thousands of institutions of higher learning all across the country. But the blame lies with university administrators and bosses, not the student activists they loathe.

On campus after campus, university administrations are systematically rolling back decades of hard-fought gains for free speech, threatening students with suspension and expulsion for speaking out and clamping down on their right to assemble and organize. […]

THESE CHANGES occurred in tandem with a broader transformation of higher education, orchestrated to better serve the interests of business and the U.S. state, while placing the cost of education increasingly on the backs of students and faculty. […]

THE TRANSFORMATION of the university into a neoliberal regime has intensified the crisis of free speech on campus.

Contingent professors are justifiably afraid to express themselves openly with very little job security and power to defend themselves from their employers. Students, saddled with debt, cannot afford to risk discipline or suspension when their hopes of financial security depend on getting their diplomas and finding employment. To top it off, campuses are now dominated by an army of administrators policing student and faculty activity.

Conservatives Have Only Themselves to Blame for Today’s Campus Wars
by Jim Sleeper

This time, it was conservatives assailing colleges as too “liberal”—never mind that many campuses have already been transformed by the very corporate, capitalist incentives and pressures that most conservatives champion, with disturbing consequences that they’re trying to blame on liberal political correctness.

Some censorious “liberals” have indeed only helped to turn undergraduate liberal education into a dance of careerism, power-networking, and self-marketing. Many rail at glass ceilings that must be broken by women and people of color, forgetting that breaking the ceiling doesn’t improve the foundations and walls unless wholly different challenges are posed to the structure itself. Federal bureaucratic overreach has compounded the problem by enabling campus sexual-assault regimens to endanger the due process that is essential to liberalism.

Still, the accommodations of some left-liberals to the increasingly business-oriented and bureaucratic drift of higher education and of civil society are mainly symptoms, not causes, of our civic decay. Now that the Republican presidential campaign has elevated a financer of casinos and a vulgar, predatory self-marketer whom most of the Party denounces, even as its members asphyxiate free speech and open inquiry in Congress, the rest of us—some honorable conservatives included—are wondering just what kinds of “free” and “robust” speech right-wingers are willing to accept and what kinds of “political correctness” they themselves have imposed.

The students whom Deresiewicz called “entitled little shits” and whom conservatives characterize as coddled and frightened don’t exist in a vacuum. They are products of an increasingly frightening, atomizing society that turns college students from co-participants in universities’ historic scientific and social missions into isolated, heavily indebted consumers of career training. This model of education serves the casino-like financing and omnivorous, predatory, intrusive marketing that conservatives themselves have championed, even as it incubates a racially “diverse” global managerial elite that doesn’t consider itself accountable to any democratic polity or moral code. Absent massive public funding like that of the 1950s and ‘60s for higher education as a crucible of citizenship, students must mortgage themselves to future employers by taking courses and programs that private donors and trustees choose to fund.

It makes little sense to preach civic-republican virtues such as the fearless pursuit of truth through reasoned dialogue when conservative trustees and administrators are busy harnessing liberal education only to facilitate market priorities, not interrogate them.

It’s precisely because conservatives consider themselves so decent and principled that they’re in denial about their responsibility for the transformation of elite universities into training centers for wealth-making, power-wielding, and public relations, and that they’re campaigning so energetically to discredit those who want to keep liberal education somewhat independent of both markets and the national-security state.

Hoping for Another Battle, Nativist Trump Supporters and Antigovernment Extremists Again Descend on Berkeley
by Ryan Lenz

As the birthplace of the free speech movement decades ago, the debate surrounding Coulter’s speech put Berkeley in the precarious position of protecting its staff and students while ensuring freedom of speech, especially in a political climate where the possibility of violence between alt-right extremists and antifascist protesters becomes more frequent. Two previous appearances by far-right and conservative speakers have turned violent at Berkeley, including a protest on April 15 that left 11 people injured and six hospitalized. Police arrested 21 people on a variety of charges then.

Lawrence Rosenthal, chair and lead researcher of the Berkeley Center for Right-Wing Studies, issued a written statement on the day’s events. Rosenthal warned people not to be cowed by the alt-right’s claims of censorship and noted that the university had two concerns to consider in cancelling Coulter’s appearance — the unequivocal support of free speech and security.

“The situation at the University of California does not conform to the claims of suppression of free speech that conservative politicians and commentators have been trying to tie it to. Neither student groups nor the University administration are responsible for the threats of violence that surround Ann Coulter’s proposed appearance on this campus,” Rosenthal wrote.

Rosenthal also criticized Spencer for “exalt[ing] in the violence,” as he did in a YouTube video recounting the event.

“The deepest significance of the ongoing ‘Battles of Berkeley’ is the attempt by the alt-right to move the country toward fascist-anti-fascist violence,” Rosenthal said. “Conservative politicians and commentators wishing to use the Berkeley situation as a cudgel in the name of the free speech run the risk of enabling the dark goals of the alt-right.”

A white supremacist is accused of punching a protester. Classmates say he makes them feel ‘unsafe.’
by Lindsey Bever

In a video posted April 15, Damigo was seen talking about Identity Evropa, which he said is “interested in promoting and preserving European culture and values.”

He said his group was at the protest “because we believe that free speech is a European value and there are many people here who are wishing to use violence to silence other people. And so we feel that’s important to be here today to ensure that people are able to speak without having violence used against them and that they’re able to get their narrative out there and just start a conversation, start a dialogue and let people know that there are certain things they disagree with and some things they do agree with and they’re not going to be intimidated when these people come out here to promote violence.”

That was the same day Damigo was apparently seen in a video punching a female protester in the face and then running into a chaotic crowd.

The Schools Where Free Speech Goes to Die
Some of the worst offenders against the First Amendment are religious colleges.

by Katha Pollitt




18 thoughts on “Framing Free Speech

  1. It’s a popular meme that professors are indoctrinating students into being commie leftists.

    In reality, professors can barely get us to do the reading, much less indoctrinate us into thinking like them XD

    In any case, no one is really getting indoctrinated into being leftists, if only because in my experiences, professors are hardly leftists as a group. Statistically vote Democrat, yes, but since when are democrats left-wing?

    Honestly I’ve been way more likely to have a partisan dem “limousince liberal” professor than a leftist one.

    • A poor uneducated person is more likely to indoctrinate their children toward communism than is a comfortable professor who is doing quite well in the capitalist system. When you look at the hotbeds of communism in the past, they were working class communities such as mining towns and factory towns, the major centers of labor organizing. Economically comfortable people, no matter what claims to ‘liberalism’, don’t tend toward radical politics.

    • It’s not that professors are drumming Marx and Bakunin into students heads ( and giving them skateboards to sesh the quad instead of learning civics). The most ferocious objections are to the post-modern nihil mongers who’ve been pushing their lukewarm theory on students while steadfastly doing nothing to combat rising tuitions, which they could, often being the administrators as well as faculty. There have been cutting analysis of this trend by academics like Jordan Peterson and Camille Paglia. Not standard ones, but I’d rather read one of her books than sit through any humanities course today. If conservatives failed the universities, it was by forgetting the impulse to preserve cultural institutions like universities, and abandoning them to “Richard the Doctor” mentality of corporatism ( only Marm will get that one, probably).

    • Hello, DanyBreaks. Welcome to my blog.

      “The most ferocious objections are to the post-modern nihil mongers who’ve been pushing their lukewarm theory on students while steadfastly doing nothing to combat rising tuitions, which they could, often being the administrators as well as faculty.”

      Let me break that down. I couldn’t care less about “post-modern nihil mongers”. Anyway, that isn’t most professors.

      That doesn’t describe most professors of business management, engineering, architecture, medicine, physics, computer programming, etc. Even professors of social science, nursing, teaching, etc that tend toward more typical liberalism wouldn’t likely give a fuck about post-modern anything. It’s a narrow group of professors in fields such as philosophy, literature, and art that might fall into this category. I doubt religious studies professors, even the non-believers, would be prone to much of that.

      That seems like yet another caricature, to be straight with you. Such professors do exist, but they don’t dominate all of academia. The average college student isn’t likely to run into a whole lot of post-modernism these days, considering some of the most popular majors are along the lines of highly conservative business management.

      I’ve never seen survey data of professorial opinion about rising tuitions. I’d suspect that most professors, left and right, are simply focused on their jobs. This is partly because tenure is becoming harder to get and so less common. There are a few more outspoken professors like Corey Robin that would concern themselves about any of this kind of thing, but I just don’t see colleges as major centers of radicalism these days. Fighting for issues of economic justice, in a capitalist society, is very much radical. A professor is just a cog in the machine, as many universities increasingly seek out private funding. To the degree they don’t get that private funding as government funding is slashed, they unsurprisingly turn to raising tuition. That is money that is going to the professor’s paycheck, deincentivizing much protest from inside the beast.

      The last part of what you stated right there seems particularly off. From articles I’ve read, the trend is going in the opposite direction. It used to be the norm that professors were the administrators. But at least in major universities, they have moved toward hiring people trained in management. I live in Iowa City where the University of Iowa is located and they recently hired as the new president of the university a businessman, specifically the former IBM senior vice president. Now consider that this is a liberal university in a liberal town, a Clinton stronghold. Universities are big money these days and they are being run like businesses.

      I disagree with your premises and so I disagree with your conclusions.

      “If conservatives failed the universities, it was by forgetting the impulse to preserve cultural institutions like universities, and abandoning them to “Richard the Doctor” mentality of corporatism”

      I don’t know that anyone failed the universities. I put it in a larger perspective. Universities is a model of education that is older than the Enlightenment. There are seven universities in the world that are older than a thousand years, two of which are in the English-speaking world. Here in the US, a surprising number of universities are 2-3 centuries old.

      By design, universities are conservative in the sense of a rigid bureaucracy of hierarchical authority, not prone to quickly adapt to change. They tend to be closely associated with the governments of their respective countries, playing a central role within the system. If you are the type of person who wants to seriously challenge the system, you are unlikely to go into academia.

      It just so happens in the world right now corporatism dominates. So, that is what universities serve, at least in countries like the US. As long as the money is flowing in and good workers are being produced, the corporatists in power are fine with a few post-modern professors in fields irrelevant to the corporatist system. Whether or not someone took a class taught by a post-modern professor, all that employers care about is that the student got a good grade demonstrating that they will be a good worker who will follow the rules and play the game.

      Universities mostly are a way of weeding out the radicals, either frustrating them so much that they drop out or diverting them into meaningless degrees where they won’t do any harm.

  2. Would you consider Tim Pool far right and so on? He covered both protests in Berkeley, and I’d say his conclusions on those events are in extreme disagreement with yours.

    As an attempt to unify the fractured chunks of my personality I’ve spewed over various blogs and sites under pseudonyms, I’ll at least use part of my real name. Considering my own ambitions in publishing ( grandiose, pathetic, but I can’t stop) I may as well take that punch (or much worse ) coming to the face and the name I was born with.

    I’d hardly call myself conservative in the American sense, and would have voted for Sanders, not for him or his economic programs, but for his V.P, Gabbard. A strong, disciplined leader with a refined moral sense is my criteria for a politician, not sex or party. I suppose those are right wing reasons for voting , which I won’t deny.
    How many conservatives who have a developed understanding of their beliefs have you encountered in the last few years? I’ve worked with many, and find them to be more accepting than any urban bohemian or standard working class folks who lean left-liberal. They tend towards leaving alone in the private life, and don’t mind someone’s fantastically damaged personality as long as the work is done to high standards. Unfortunately the conservative movement in USA continually misunderstands it’s origins and principles, perhaps more than it’s enemies. The bright news is it smolders under American hearts, even unlikely ones. There’s a whiff of the frustration of Fisher Ames and a tincture of John Adams in your words at times.

    • “Would you consider Tim Pool far right and so on? He covered both protests in Berkeley, and I’d say his conclusions on those events are in extreme disagreement with yours.”

      I haven’t seen anything significant and compelling that disagrees with what I’ve written here. Maybe you could point to some examples. A main point I was making is no one really knows all of the people involved, why there were there, and where they came from. It’s not as if Tim Pool did a scientific survey of the protesters where he collected data on opinions and demographics.

      “How many conservatives who have a developed understanding of their beliefs have you encountered in the last few years?”

      Well, I was raised by conservatives. My parents live here in town and I see them on almost a daily basis. I actually don’t have any problem with conservatism, per se. In many ways, I’m more conservative than what goes for conservatism in this country. For example, I consider one of the most conservative of values is the precautionary principle.

      Yet too many American conservatives seem radical in this regard, maybe because a lot of them are not actually conservatives. Instead, a significant number of self-identified conservatives are actually classical liberals, libertarians, reactionaries, or authoritarians. These people aren’t much interested in conserving much, such as the ancient traditional Anglo-Saxon rights of the Commons.

      “I’ve worked with many, and find them to be more accepting than any urban bohemian or standard working class folks who lean left-liberal. They tend towards leaving alone in the private life, and don’t mind someone’s fantastically damaged personality as long as the work is done to high standards.”

      I’ve lived in conservative states when I was younger, specifically South Carolina and North Carolina. For most of my adulthood, I’ve been here in Iowa. This is a liberal city, but it’s surrounded by farmland and rural small towns. I personally know and work with many people who grew up on farms and in factory towns. I’ve been around plenty of conservatives over my lifetime. It’s not as if I’m one of those academics in an ivory tower. I’ve spent my life doing working class jobs, since my first job delivering newspapers in 3rd grade.

      My conservative parents are closer to being part of the liberal elite than I am. Unlike my parents, I don’t have a college degree. My perspective is a bit different, as my conservative father was a professor and my conservative mother was a public school teacher. The closest to a commonality I have with them is that they had government jobs and I now have a government job, as a city parking ramp cashier.

      In my experience, most people across the political spectrum are not overly ideological on a personal level. I have’t noticed immense differences between the average person on the left and the average person on the right. The ideological activists and loyal partisans are a different sort of person, but they don’t represent the average person on either end of the spectrum. When you look at polling data, the average person is actually quite bit far to the left on many issues. The average American is a working class left-liberal, but you wouldn’t know it because most people rarely talk about their politics. This has led to the problem that the majority of Americans don’t realize they are a majority.

      “Unfortunately the conservative movement in USA continually misunderstands it’s origins and principles, perhaps more than it’s enemies. The bright news is it smolders under American hearts, even unlikely ones.”

      From years of contemplation and study, I’ve come to the conclusion that most people are simply confused. Some of the most conservative-minded people I know identify as ‘liberals’. And some of the least conservative-minded people I know identify as ‘conservatives’.

      Personally, I don’t care that much about labels. I’ve spent much of my life thinking of myself as a liberal, although a close friend of mind said he sees me as bit of a conservative. I was raised by conservatives. I learned many of my intellectual habits and abilities from my parents.

      It’s funny that, down in right-wing South Carolina, my conservative dad was told by a close friend of his that he seemed like a closet liberal. That is probably because my dad grew up in the rural Midwest, a place of moderation. I’ve known liberals in South Carolina who are more conservative than conservatives I’ve known in Iowa.

      “There’s a whiff of the frustration of Fisher Ames and a tincture of John Adams in your words at times.”

      I’m not familiar with Fisher Ames. I just looked him up. He was a Federalist. I’m more of a working class Anti-Federalist and radical left-libertarian democrat like Thomas Paine. I’ve long admired Paine because he had a bad attitude and didn’t know how to shut up. John Adams was far too respectable for the likes of me.

      I sometimes claim ideological confusion of myself. I am a confused person. And the more I learn the more confused I become. I’ve come to realize most of the ideologies, frames, and rhetoric of our society doesn’t make much sense.

    • The basic argument I made in this post is that the dominant narrative is simply forced onto the incident. The assumption is that most people involved are Berkeley students and that most of the Berkeley students who did protest are violent, destructive, and against free speech.

      In none of the reporting I’ve seen, no one has shared data that indicates any of that is true. It might be true, but I demand that people not pretend to know what they are ignorant of. I see no reason to assume that most of the Trump supporters or most of the Anti-fascists were Berkeley students or even Berkeley residents. Only a few well known protesters/agitators on both sides have received much attention, such as the mentally unstable veteran who punched the girl and he wasn’t a Berkeley student.

      The incident seems to have ended up involving two groups that wanted to fight each other. They took over the event and I’m sure the peaceful protesters left the scene. Of those who remained, it’s not clear to me that either side was really there because of free speech. The whole event was co-opted by people on both sides who still wanted to fight over the election of Trump. Plus, the world is plain shitty at the moment and many people are simply in a bad mood. Maybe there are simply too many unemployed and underemployed people who have too much time on their hands.

      The main issue is that none of this really has anything to do with free speech. Berkeley was founded as a private college, as private as any Bible college. Like almost any college, it gets some public funding. But that funding is a tiny percentage, as 86% of its funding comes from private sources. Berkeley is private forum on private property. Private organizations are free to allow or not allow anyone to speak. Corporations don’t invite communists to speak to their employers, churches don’t invite atheists to preach the sermon, and of course conservative colleges don’t invite radical left-wingers to talk to students. Why are we expecting Berkeley to be treated differently, holding it to a higher standard?

      Besides, the reason Coulter’s speech was delayed because of security issues. It was Coulter who decided against giving a speech later on. She silenced herself, to the degree that she is ever silent. As explained by one of the articles I shared, the university in this incident was acting well within the norms set out by the free speech movement. They wanted to make sure that no person would get hurt or property damaged. Coulter was still free to speak. They just wanted to set a later date when they could guarantee security. It was the responsible thing to do, under those conditions. Unsurprisingly, Coulter was full of shit, along with so many others, in trying to make it into something it wasn’t.

      The framing of the entire scenario is bullshit. And that bothers me.

    • Here is a problem I have. There are no greater masters of political correctness than the political right. They are as much for free speech as a cow is for reduced methane emissions.

      Too many on the political right are a bunch of crybaby snowflakes. Tons of conservative colleges deny free speech to people all the time, but the political left groups and media don’t cause a shit storm every time it happens. If they did cause a shit storm every time it happens, the weather forecast would be 100% chance of shit storm every day of the year.

      Also, what bothers me is the utter disconnection from reality. This anarchist guy I quoted, claiming to be ‘centrist’, has no more idea of what is going on in the larger world than a professional politician in DC beltway or a professor in an ivory tower at one of the most elite colleges… or for that matter a pundit in the right-wing media at Fox News, Wall Street Journal, etc.

      That anarchist talks about being working class. And he claims to be critical of all sides. But he is as stuck in the propaganda model as everyone else. Whether or not he really is ideologically anarchist, he doesn’t come across as being independent-minded and clear thinking.

      His anti-elitism blinds him to reality. It is true that, even today, most Americans lack a college degree. But it also is true that most Americans who have a college degree grew up in the lower classes.

      My conservative parents were of a generation that was giving a hand up by affordable college because it was publicly funded to an extreme level. Berkeley is basically a private college now for how little public funding it gets, but earlier last century Berkeley received 70% of its funding from the government. The same was true for conservative universities such as Purdue where my parents attended.

      My mom and one of her brothers were of the first generation in her family to go to school. Outside of the Ivy League colleges, most college students aren’t from wealthy families and wealthy communities. It is bizarre to have an anti-elitist attitude toward those struggling to escape the too often dead end of the lower classes, as our economy is not kind to those on the bottom of society.

      What it really comes down to is that anarchist is an anti-intellectual. That is a pointless attitude. The failure of our society can’t be put on the back of college students who are trying to improve themselves and hoping to one day get a decent job, especially considering that many of them will simply be saddled with debt and still unable to find work. A large number of college graduates find themselves with working class jobs. It’s not like the average person who attends college is a part of some ruling elite.

      I find these false narratives frustrating and tiresome.

    • The Democratic Party made the argument in their defense that they aren’t a democratic organization and shouldn’t be obliged to act democratically in representing their members. It’s nice of them to be that honest, even if it is just a bullshit admission in a court.

  3. I just now finished a conversation with my father. We discussed this issue. Of course, he mostly sees conservative media and so his views were or at least his initial response was predictable. But we are usually able to come to a common understanding. And I find it helpful finding a way to communicate.

    This is what I came to. It’s not really a left vs right issue. The political right does annoy me because there is a dishonesty and hypocrisy or else a lack of self-awareness and knowledge in their accusations. At the same time, I’m constantly complaining about liberals and Democrats. There is a free speech problem that cuts across standard ideological divides.

    Still, that doesn’t quite get at the real issue. Democratic politicians and partisans don’t represent average people who are registered as, lean toward, and/or vote for Democrats. The same goes for Republicans. The same with corporate media, whether they pretend to be liberal or conservative, for in reality they are corporatists that are to the right of most Americans on many economic and policy positions.

    The same goes with special interest groups. Many unions, including the one I belong to, are divided. The leadership backed Clinton while the members backed Sanders. And the same is seen with the NRA where the leaders push radical right-wing rhetoric that serves corporate interests while the members, like most other Americans, support stronger regulation and more effective gun control.

    The divide here is obviously not ideological. It’s a divide of wealth and power. The leaders of various organizations (public and private, capitalist and not-for-profit) are disconnected from both their members and the general public. Most Americans aren’t divided about much of anything. It’s the ruling elite putting on a spectacle to distract the majority in the hope they’ll never realize they are a majority.

    This is part of the propaganda model. The ideological confusion, along with the mix of divisiveness and apathy that follows, is intentionally created.

    There are real issues to be discussed, even heatedly debated, about free speech. But the point is no genuine dialogue is possible as long as bullshit narratives and manipulative frames dominate.

    Consider Berkeley’s concern about safety and security for all involved is a genuine concern for both left and right. Was their rescheduling at another location fair and optimal? What were the other options that would have led to better results? How do authority figures deal with real risks and dangers? And if the university doesn’t act with caution and anything goes wrong, should the university be held liable?

    It’s similar to the police response or rather lack of responsiveness. At the protest, the police largely chose to not to intervene. They allowed the conflict to grow until it burst out into fighting. Even then, the police didn’t immediately respond. The police did the opposite by erring on the side of free speech as a fisticuffs free-for-all. But is that really free speech when all sides are simply given a forum to yell at each other until it turns into violent riot?

    Well, all of that could be debated. We could have a serious public discussion about what free speech means and how it could be made possible in a beneficial way. But because of all the bullshit, that debate won’t happen.

    Here is a smattering of my writing over the years that offers supporting data and analysis for everything I’ve said here in this post and the comments:

  4. I’d respond in length, but I don’t find that much to disagree with; the free speech issue cuts across all ideologies except for the far fringes, which as you demonstrated, don’t appeal on a ideological level to most Americans. Also , while I can somewhat fake it on the Ligotti board, I’m way too dumb to attempt any answers here. One caveat: would you say that Americans, frustrated from ‘lack of representation” or the ability to make themselves heard, will tack further to populism, of any ideological variety, thus allowing the fringe to move into the center? I saw this with Trump, and now that he’s revealing himself as the typical modern “conservative” , I doubt many who boarded his train will want to return to ideological moderation. That’s a grimly funny picture up there.

    The reason I harp on po-mo: I see it as an ambient pollutant infecting the right as much as , maybe more than, their enemies. Hence the re-branding of “Nationalism” from the early modern conception of “National Will” ( and every National Will only exists when it has an opposing Will, an enemy to annihilate ) sweeping all lands, to the fairly drab and buttoned-up notion of maintaining a border and avoiding those foreign entanglements. It’s odd to see so many anti-interventionist circles embracing that term, like they can change its meaning by simple decision. I suppose we’re all brain damaged now.

    • Ah, you visit Ligotti online. I peruse there on occasion, but I don’t think I’ve ever commented. Crisp once posted one of my more amusing, silly posts there. It was a very short story, although not particularly dark and philosophical, depending on how one looks upon such things.

      I doubt you are too dumb. My blog is a place of questioning and curiosity. No answers need to be offered. I am fairly demanding on an intellectual level, maybe because of my parents, but I simply enjoy discussing issues with others.

      I do think along the lines of what you suggest. Populism has an attraction that isn’t primarily ideological. The American public right now is so frustrated that they are as likely to vote for either a right-wing populist as a left-wing populist. It’s hardly a new thing, this frustration leading to populism.

      A surprisingly large number of US presidents came to power by campaigning on populism, by playing on populist tensions, or by somehow portraying themselves in a populist light: Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, TR, FDR, Nixon, Kennedy, Reagan, Clinton, Bush, Obama, Trump, etc. It’s become fairly standard for any candidate seeking the presidency this past century. But obviously there are times like this when the populist outrage and rhetoric goes into overdrive.

      The ruling elite have, in the past, been quite capable of manipulating the populist mood. But it might be getting out of hand now. Politicians often used fake issues (e.g., culture wars) to drum up support. What is different now is that the issues are all too real.

      It’s hard to know what the fringe is these days. Just as hard as to know where is the center. It’s all rather unpredictable. Trump’s supporters could easily shift to the far left in an instant, if the right candidate came along. It really isn’t ideological. The fear, though, is that populism so easily leads to authoritarianism. And even the middle-to-upper classes can be drawn into populism. I like to point out that demagogues often intentionally target their rhetoric to the middle class because it is on the middle class that modern societies pivot.

      I don’t disagree with you about postmodernism. It is far from being irrelevant. But I’m not sure exactly what is it’s significance in the world we find ourselves in. I honestly don’t have a clue.

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