On Wednesday, Alt-Right provocateur Milo Yiannopolous held an event at the University of California at Berkeley. It was taken over by violent protesters who used pepper spray and metal poles to assault Trump supporters and those who came to hear Milo.
Demonstrations and violence against those engaging in free speech are becoming more and more common at campuses across the U.S. as leftists continue to shut down speakers that they don’t agree with.
Regardless of whether or not we agree with Milo or any of the things that he was speaking about on campus, shutting him down is not appropriate. The best strategy for combating rhetoric that is problematic is simply to debunk it using facts, statistics, and empirical evidence rather than shutting down the person who is speaking or attacking the messenger ad-hominem.
What was even more stunning than the deplorable behavior of the rioters was the lack of any law enforcement presence. Rioters hurt people, started fires, looted, and vandalized buildings with impunity. Security was nowhere to be seen.
This isn’t the first time that the University of Berkeley has faced massive protests and riots.
As governor of California, President Reagan faced off against protesters when they rioted after taking over university land to make a park in 1969. The protest became massive and violent, so Reagan sent in the National Guard to shut down the protesters. After campaigning for governor on the promise of quelling the ludicrous and violent activity going on California’s campuses, he took bold and decisive action to keep the people of California safe.
To put it lightly, Reagan was not a fan of UC Berkeley. He called the university, “a haven for communist sympathizers, protesters, and sexual deviants,”—an observation which is largely true even today.
Unlike California’s current leadership, Reagan knew that allowing the rioters to ‘blow off steam’ at the expense of the law abiding residents of Berkeley would signal the breakdown of law and order, leading to more violence.
To that end, he delivered a heavy-handed response. He called in the police and state troopers to quell the violence with tear gas and shotguns. When that didn’t work, he brought in national guard tanks.
Reagan nicely summed up the issue of campus rioting when he rightly blasted the adults and professors supporting the unlawful protest, saying:
“This all started when those of you who know better and are old enough to know better let young people think that they have the right to choose the laws they would obey so long as they were doing it in the name of social protest.”
If we continue to allow anarchists to run roughshod over the rights of law abiding people, law and order will certainly break down. Law enforcement looks to have taken a non-confrontational approach in an attempt to de-escalate the chaos. De-escalating a situation, however, is only beneficial if it’s mutual, and the rioters were certainly not backing down.
It seems that the Berkeley authorities could learn a thing or two from the great communicator. Reagan himself was fond of Alexander Hamilton’s quote, “A nation which can prefer disgrace to danger is prepared for a master, and deserves one.” And Tuesday night’s riot at UC Berkeley was certainly a disgrace.