Friday, February 10, 2017

Editorial: For freedom's sake, Milo should be able to speak his peace at UC Berkeley

An editorial statement from The San Francisco Review of Books

Why is it so bad to let a man speak his peace – even if this does not bring respite to you personally?

Freedom of speech, not to mention press and assembly, is enshrined in our nation’s constitution. It, like the sun, shines for all who embark on American shores. Like it or not, that includes Milo Yiannopoulos. Last week, he attempted to deliver a speech at the University of California, Berkeley. An untold number of public figures did so before him, and until he prepared to take the podium, the situation seemed manageable. Not cool, mind you, but manageable.

Even under the best of circumstances, Milo’s speech was set to be controversial in the extreme; not because of anything he planned on saying, but rather the emotions of people at UC Berkeley and in its vicinity. One can allege Milo many things, but an inciter of rioting is not one of these. His UCB opponents, meanwhile, sparked a riot themselves and caused severe property damage.

Ironically, Milo, along with any other rightist person or institution, was not harmed by their savagery. Instead, the citadel of progressivism took a heavy toll – all because some folks wanted to wage war against conservative beliefs.

Years from now, historians might look back on that as the Hamburger Hill of social justice warfare. If you do not know what is being referred to here, check this out.

Resisting the SJW tsunami’s riptide is no less valiant than opposing the draft. Both social justice warmongering and involuntary soldering reduce the individual to a cog in some machine – but one aspect of a larger movement with no respect or consideration for personal autonomy.

Just as military conservatives lashed out at freethought and castigated a fellow shunning conscription as “selfish,” social justice warlords denigrate diversion from their ideology as “selfish” and care not a whit for preserving the free marketplace of ideas.

San Franciscans, by and large, rightly asserted themselves and rebuked physical slavery-by-another-name in the 1960s. Why now, then, are so many of this city’s residents, not to mention those across the Bay, okay with what happened to Milo?

Last week it was him. Next week, or perhaps even this week, the social justice militants might turn their focus on another group. Who will it be? None of us can say any more than the actions of a crazy person can be mapped out. Nonetheless, men and women of good will – irrespective of partisan affiliation – should beware the rising sea of fanaticism.

If it soars above the flood walls imposed by civil society, these waters have the capacity to drown us all.

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