Berkeley Riots put the violence back into US politics

Rioting in response to Milo Yiannopoulos and the right wing is foolish, despicable, and totally inneffective

Image: Joe Parks

Allow me to be absolutely clear, the last thing I want to do is to defend a side of politics that I do not necessarily agree with in its entirety. However, the recent rioting at UC Berkley by left wing protesters and the subsequent shutdown of controversial writer Milo Yiannopoulos’ talk has forced me to condemn a side that I honestly should be on. No matter your political stance, it is never okay to burn, shut down or abuse people who just so happen to disagree with your political narrative. During these riots that were under the guise of protests, the campus was shut down, rioters looted local business and most deplorably of all, they directly punched and assaulted people on the street: rioters who think that creating a huge bonfire of unrest will solve all of America’s problems. This foolish reaction is a response to the isolation of the far left in American politics, and what I believe to be genuine fear. These events stem from a year of political defeat that forced the liberal elements of society to the margins and led to drastic action that has culminated in the highly disturbing show of violence, and ultimately weakness.

From the home of the free speech movement, it is both surprising and illuminating to see an event by a right wing writer shut down on the premise that it might hurt someone’s feelings. A campus hijacked, where political debate was switched with severe unrest. I feel for students who were locked into the campus as property was damaged and people hurt on account of political ideology. If your political speaker feels a genuine fear for his life, you cannot call your campus a haven for free speech. Couple that with a paltry police presence and you have a recipe for disaster. The event in question was the catalyst for what turned into a violent riot on the premise of blocking a person’s first amendment rights. The trouble is, whether you agree with that statement or not says more about you than it does about the truth of the event. I believe that this is a response to a real fear that the left wing is being challenged and much to their horror, by many people are not on their side. Social justice advocates, feminists and many other people on the left have been marginalised and I believe have resorted to intensely radical views and aggressive forms of advocacy (aka calling people racists, sexists, bigots or fascists if they don’t share the left’s views) which isn’t winning anyone over. The ideals of classical liberalism that I hold dear are being challenged by not only the right but the left as well.

Almost as despicable is how celebrities are deifying this event as a valid method of political action. Statements such as “blow up the White House”, “punch a Nazi” and others have made Trump’s claim that political opposition are out to get anyone who supports him into somewhat of a reality. Violence should never be the norm in a pluralistic society, regardless of how abhorrent you find what a person says. If a political movement has to resort to violence instead of maintaining a good dialogue with the opposition, it is a clear sign that they have lost the argument. It doesn’t matter how much catharsis you feel when someone punches Richard Spencer, if that is your only retort to his beliefs then he has won the debate.

I wish I could be spending this time calling Trump’s immigration ban awful. I would love to spend time calling Mike Pence intolerant and evil for his views on sexuality. I would adore the opportunity to call out these people for the many flaws they have. Instead I have to deplore the idiots that call burning campuses to the ground politics and making people I do not agree with the martyrs of free speech. I hope these attitudes change and until then, God save the United States.

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