A writer with the leftist hate group Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) told UC Berkeley students and administrators Tuesday night that the alt-right is laying a trap for Berkeley students during next week’s planned Free Speech Week, according to UC Berkeley News.
The four-day event beginning Sunday brings right-wing speakers such as YouTube provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos and Freedom Center founder David Horowitz to campus for noon and evening rallies. Speaking in advance of Free Speech Week was SPLC senior writer Ryan Lenz, who urged would-be protesters to be cautious.
“This is a group of people that wants to piss you off; this is a group of people that wants to trigger you, as they say” Lenz told a crowd of about 100 people in the Multicultural Community Center. “This is a group that calls you all little snowflakes; this is a group that comes from trollish environments online that does things for the lolz, for the giggles and the laughs. They are coming at you with the intent of making something uncomfortable for you, and they do it really well.”
Taking the bait would give Yiannopoulos exactly the kind of coverage on Fox News he is hoping for, claimed Lenz -- who, you may recall, is the man who claimed that the phrase, "Drain the swamp," is racist. “You should make your presence known, just as they do,” he added. “But don’t engage them.”
No, the students should feel free to engage them -- just not violently. Intellectual engagement is what universities are for.
Oscar Dubón, vice chancellor of equity and inclusion, said at the opening of Lenz’s talk that it was part of Berkeley’s commitment to open dialogue on campus. Any protests during Free Speech Week should be peaceful and respectful. That's exactly right.
“We have to practice our First Amendment rights,” Dubón said. “We need to use our free speech to call out hate speech, to call out racist speech.”
You also need to teach your students that people you disagree with have First Amendment rights too.
One UC Berkeley student who attended the talk, Drew Do, said, “I want to listen to Bannon and Milo to see what they say. I’m intellectually curious to see how people think that way, and how they use their oratory skills to convince others.”
He may be shocked to find that their oratorical skills are based on facts, reality, and truth.