Posted by Curt on 4 February, 2017 at 11:31 am. 2 comments already!


Jonah Goldberg:

Some longtime readers — and a few quicker ones — might recall that one of my favorite episodes of Parks and Recreation involved a cult that worshipped an alien-beast-god known as Zorp the Surveyor, a reptilian Cthulhu rip-off. The harmless-seeming cultists, who look like the grandparents at an Osmond-family reunion, occasionally gather in a local park to greet the fiery destruction that Zorp has been prophesied to deliver. Anyway, the details, much like the House Progressive Caucus these days, really aren’t very important. The relevant bit is that when the Zorp-worshippers first formed — and briefly took over the town — they decided to call themselves “The Reasonabilists.” They figured no one would want to seem unreasonable by criticizing them.

(I know, I know: I should find another way of illustrating this point, but Rich Lowry has cut my budget for pop-culture references. I’m just lucky I don’t have to get everything at the Pop Culture Dollar Store remainder bin. Then it’d be “Lucy, you have some ’splaining to do!” and “Matlock!” references every day. Though, I should say as an aside, you can find some great stuff in there. Like that Johnny Quest episode with “Norway’s Greatest Acrobatic Dwarf!”)

Anyway, where was I? Oh right: the Reasonabilists. I bring them up because I have been in a twitchy, quick-tempered, fugue state of dyspepsia and crankery for the last couple days (“Days?” — The Couch) about the riot at Berkeley.

I don’t mean the violence or the fact that this couldn’t have gone better for Milo, a click-baiting huckster and alt-right apologist. I don’t even mean the fact that the authorities only arrested one person. Though that does vex me considerably. If you think free speech is assault but assault is free speech, you’re a moron of world-historical proportions. And if you think rioting is some charming rite of passage, you deserve to have your campus destroyed.

Anyway, what really gets my goat are coyotes. Which is why I have to keep buying new goats.

But what really ticks me off isn’t the rioting and violence. Well, I mean yeah, of course that stuff pisses me off. But we’re used to that sort of asininity from the Jacobin hordes. What has my left eyelid involuntarily flicking and my tongue clicking like psychopath when the thorazine wears off are the constant references to the “irony” of these riots at the “birthplace” of the “free-speech movement.” I can’t watch the news with glassware in my hand for fear of reflexively crushing it.

I hate to give any credence to this “triggering” nonsense, but every time I hear it, it sets me off like I’m Ron Burgundy and Veronica Corningstone has just said my hair looks stupid.

Even on Fox News people say it, and I’m all like “Fffft! Thiffft! [twitch] Wha-what . . . did you say?”

Do you want to know where the birthplace of the free-speech movement was? Well nobody knows for sure, but I have some guesses. It might have been ancient Athens. Or it might have been Jerusalem or Bethlehem. Or maybe it was London where, in 1689, the English Bill of Rights established a constitutional right to free speech for Parliament. Or maybe it was Philadelphia in 1776 or 1789.

I can make arguments for all of these places as birthplaces for the free-speech movement. You know where I can’t make that argument? Mother-[expletive deleted]ing Berkeley in 1964.

Oh sure, if you want to say that the Free Speech Movement™ was launched there, that’s fine in the same way it’s fine to say Reasonableness started in 1970s Pawnee, Ind. But the Free Speech Movement™ only had slightly more to do with free speech than Zorp-worship has to do with reasonableness.

I’m not going to wade deep into the weeds on all this, but if you want to you can read, say, Nathan Glazer’s 1965 Commentary essay “What Happened at Berkeley.”

“Those of us who watched the Free Speech Movement (FSM) daily set up its loud-speakers on the steps of the administration building to denounce the president, the chancellor, the newspapers, the Regents, the faculty, and the structure and organization of society in general and universities in particular, could only admire the public-relations skill exhibited in the choice of a name for the student movement,” Glazer wrote.

The students at Berkeley already had the right to free speech. As Glazer noted, left-wing groups regularly brought in Communists and other controversial speakers to campus. In fact, when bringing in Communists no longer seemed rebellious or controversial enough, left-wing groups brought in the West Coast leader of the Nazi party. The left-wing scamps even dressed up like Nazis and handed out fliers for the meeting at all the entrances to campus.

Sort of like what Bill Clinton always says about blind hookers, you just have to hand it to them; Those 1960s lefties were a tougher crop than the playschool communards of today’s campuses.

Anyway, the students had free-speech rights. What they weren’t allowed to do was organize and raise money for off-campus political activity on campus. Anyone who works for a 501(c) organization or knows anything about the rules regulating politicians, charities, foundations, etc. can grasp the distinction. And if you’re freaking out about Trump’s promise to “destroy” the prohibition of churches being involved in political activity, you might get it, too.

What initially set off the protests was the administration’s decision to enforce the rule at a park on the edge of the campus, where hippies and political activists hung out, I imagine, in thick clouds of pot smoke and righteous indignation.

Anyway, you can say it was a bad policy, but the issue from the outset was never really about free speech. It was initially about the use of campus resources and, very quickly, the will-to-power of a bunch of radicals who thought that any restraints on their political agenda were inherently illegitimate. It was also a classically romantic revolt against “the system.” Mario Savio, the huckster-philosopher at the forefront of the FSM™ famously proclaimed

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