After the Charles Murray fiasco at Middlebury, I wrote that “We’re getting closer to the inevitable moment when someone is literally murdered on an American campus because a right-winger tried to speak.”
Berkeley’s administrators agree. In canceling Coulter’s speech next week, they made no bones about the fact that there are now so many fascist “anti-fascist” animals running around campus that Coulter herself or someone in the audience literally might not leave it alive. And after what happened when Milo Yiannopoulos tried to speak in February, that’s a perfectly reasonable fear. You call the local police in Berkeley if you want to arrange “symbolic arrests” at the sit-in you’re organizing for your pet cause, not to stop rampaging leftists bent on smashing store windows and skulls because a thoughtcriminal has arrived in town.
She says she’s going to show up anyway. Who’ll secure the speech to make sure that the “heckler’s veto” doesn’t silence her? The mayor? Jerry Brown? Trump?
UC Berkeley officials say they were “unable to find a safe and suitable” venue for the right-wing provocateur who was invited to speak by campus Republicans on April 27.
In a letter to Berkeley College Republicans sent Tuesday, Vice Chancellor Scott Biddy said officials made the decision in consultation with campus police who determined they could not ensure the safety of Coulter, audience members or protesters expected at the event…
University spokesman Dan Mogulof said that posters went up on campus last week threatening disruption of the event and officials discovered “targeted threats” on various websites indicating the possibility of planned violence.
We’ve reached the point now in American academic culture where the risk of “active security threats” needs to be weighed when scheduling someone to come to your campus to talk immigration. According to Coulter, the university tried to get her to back out of the speech “voluntarily” by imposing some demands on her — the speech had to be held in the afternoon (since rioters are more likely to come out at night), only students would be allowed to attend (to make sure local agitators can’t get in), and the venue wouldn’t be announced until the last minute (presumably so that “protesters” couldn’t shut down the building before Coulter showed up). Her sponsor, the Young America’s Foundation, advised her not to agree. But she did agree, on the condition that Berkeley met two demands of her own:
1) That the University of California chancellor request that the Oakland chief of police refrain from telling his men to stand down and ignore law-breaking by rioters attempting to shut down conservative speakers, as he has done in the past; and
2) That UC-Berkeley announce in advance that any students engaging in violence, mayhem or heckling to prevent an invited speaker from speaking would be expelled.
The school promptly canceled the speech. “It has nothing to do with anyone’s political views,” said Mogulof, the school’s spokesman. “We believe in unqualified support to the First Amendment. But we also have an unqualified focus on safety of our students.” He claims they’re trying to reschedule her for sometime in September, which is the smart thing to say if you’re a public university. Admitting that they’re shutting down Coulter because of her views would be unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination under the First Amendment; insisting that she’s welcome eventually, just not next week, is more defensible as a time, place, and manner restriction. Problem is, there’s no reason to think campus will be any safer in September than it will be eight days from now. The idea that administrators can suspend basic liberties in the name of “safety” is a farcical campus mini-version of the rationale used by states like Egypt, which maintained a state of emergency for decades after Sadat’s death so that it could bypass civil rights. If the school can bar Coulter indefinitely in the name of the “safety of our students” then it has a de facto license to ban all right-wingers from speaking.
Either some government provides the security needed to guarantee Coulter’s safety or Coulter should sue on First Amendment grounds. Which, according to what she said to WaPo, she might do: “I feel like the Constitution is important and that taxpayer-supported universities should not be using public funds to violate American citizens’ Constitutional rights.” It’s really high time for right-wing speakers to put some legal pressure on universities to get them to take the left-wing fascism they’ve bred on campus more seriously. There’s nothing you can do to a private school that shuts you down, but a public school? If nothing else, a lawsuit would force Berkeley to defend the heckler’s veto publicly. That’s a nice humiliation for an institution that’s forever wanking itself over its history as the home of the “free speech movement.”
Exit question: Is Trump going to end up wading into this fight? He piped up in February after the Yiannopoulos event was shut down. And Coulter is a big fan.