This is getting ridiculous. Conservative author and speaker Ben Shapiro is scheduled to speak at Berkeley next week. Young America’s Foundation says 2,500 people have expressed interest in attending the event. Zellerbach Hall, where Berkeley is allowing the speech to be held, seats just shy of 2,000 people, meaning some people are already going to be turned away. But today, the school announced Shapiro will only be able to fill a little over half of those seats. From the Daily Californian:
In a press release issued Tuesday morning, YAF spokesperson Spencer Brown stated campus officials had notified event organizers that they would be lowering the maximum number of seats from 1,978 to 1,024…
According to campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof, the maximum audience size was decreased because the balcony overlooking Zellerbach’s main floor will be closed due to safety concerns. Anything thrown from the balcony could cause injuries to people below, and confrontations could result in “significant injury” if anyone falls over the railing, Mogulof wrote in an email.
So the justification for closing the balcony is that a) someone will throw something at people below causing injuries or b) someone will “fall” over the edge. The email doesn’t specify who might be responsible for these potential injuries but it’s not hard to work out. The danger here isn’t from conservatives or from open-minded students coming to hear the lecture, it’s from so-called anti-fascists, i.e. people who label everyone to the right of Bernie Sanders a fascist. Berkeley is suggesting these anti-fascists might try to hurt people they disagree with. Let that sink in a moment.
As I pointed out back in June, Berkeley’s justification for all of these security restrictions (and the extra expense) is that it has to worry about the safety of people attending the event. What Berkeley doesn’t say is that there is no similar danger for progressive who want to attend a lecture on campus and, thus, no need for similar restrictions.
This is the heckler’s veto in action. The possibility that the left will pelt people below or even shove someone off the balcony is the reason only 1,024 people can attend Shapiro’s lecture in a hall that holds 1,978. It’s also why Berkeley had demanded a $16,000 security fee to cover the cost of securing the appearance, though the Daily Californian says that cost will be reduced to around $9,000 now that the event has been reduced in size.
The threat of violence is being used to diminish the audience of a Jewish speaker who is neither a fascist, nor even pro-Trump. Progressives who have been defending the honor of the anti-fascists ought to try to reckon with this in one of their next columns.