Friday, February 3, 2017
As Berkeley Burns
The Berkeley College Republicans got it into their heads to invite conservative firedbrand Milo Yiannopolous, a frequent contributor to Breitbart, to their university. It seems they wanted to rile up the predominantly liberal student body and they got what they wanted -- a veritable riot, replete with flame-throwing, personal and property damage. No one was seriously hurt, but the reputation of UC-Berkeley has been tarnished for its illiberal views, gleefully reported by conservative outlets.
Everyone knows the temperature of the country has risen these past two weeks, so why not add a little fuel to the flames, turning liberalism into a "self-defeating cause," as Fox News described. Of course, no mention of Milo's well-catalogued incendiary rhetoric that would almost make G. Gordon Liddy blush. Like Liddy in the 80s, Milo is touring college campuses in hopes of spurring young conservatives into action. He hopes they will rally around Trump the way conservatives did Reagan back in Liddy's era. The big difference is that Liddy's bravado was real, whereas Milo's is entirely affected. He is more concerned in the cut of his Gieves & Hawkes suits and the hits he gets on YouTube than he is what he's saying.
This tailor-made right-wing talk is the new rage, presenting itself as an appealing alternative to stuffy, effete liberal academia. Milo (33) is one of many such spokespersons that are gaining large audiences on social media. There is also the loud and very obnoxious Tomi Lauren (24) who was given even broader exposure thanks to The Daily Show. The Left doesn't really have anyone like this conservative Adonis and Aphrodite. The closest we get are Jessica Williams (27) and John Oliver (39) and they use humor to get their political points across. Jessica comes in at the tail end of this clip. Milo and Tomi are utterly humorless, although Milo probably thinks he is being sarcastic.
I'm not sure which works best on college audiences. I suppose it depends on the nature of the university. But, much too much is being made of the blow-up in Berkeley. It was no worse than the riots we see after a college football game, but you would think the whole campus was in flames.
Of course, Trump immediately seized on the incident, threatening to block federal funds to UC-Berkeley. This is a sizable chunk of the university's research funding, so it is a very serious threat the President made. Interesting that Milo responded immediately, as if this may have been a coordinated attack. One of many we are likely to see as the Trump administration in tandem with its conservative news outlets goes after the liberal establishment. This is a tactic Putin used very effectively in Russia. Lest I sound too paranoid, let's remember that Stephen Bannon, the former editor-in-chief of Breitbart, is Trump's chief counsel.
Of course, the students of Berkeley should have exhibited a little more restraint. Protesters could have heckled Milo's speech, like Liddy was when he visited the University of Florida during my college days. There was no point in getting so violent, as it feeds right into the conservative media image of liberals running amok. The incidents also heighten these conservative d-bags' clout in the social media, kind of like rap singers' run-ins with the law. The Trump administration even invited him to a White House press briefing.
We have to control ourselves and fight this administration with sarcasm, peaceable protest and resistance to its policies. This is what will sway people. Violence only reaffirms the mushy moderates' view that the Left is just as illiberal as the Right. At the very least, come up with some photogenic placards more suitable to post.