Free speech dies in Berkeley
Debra J. Saunders
3/13/2001 12:00:00 AM - Debra J. Saunders
Now you know what the UC in UC Berkeley stands for: University of Censorship.
Last week, UC Berkeley's student-run paper, the Daily Californian, ran an ad, "Ten Reasons Why Reparations for Slavery Is a Bad Idea -- and Racist Too," written by author David Horowitz.
Leftist activists promptly protested the paper's decision to run the ad. They stormed the paper with a list of demands, including that the paper "hire a person to review the paper for offensive racial context," that it run "two formal apologies" with photos of members of the paper's board and staff, that it run photos of students opposed to the ad, and that it run 10 columns, each rebutting one of Horowitz's 10 points.
Then, like good little Brownshirts, the activists stole all the remaining papers from their racks. It is a sorry commentary on how much students have become used to the censorious acts of the student Left that the Daily Cal didn't even report that activists stole copies of the paper in order to keep other students from being exposed to opinions with which the activists disagree.
When asked why the theft didn't make the paper's story, editor Daniel Hernandez replied, "There are a couple things in the story that we could have added." (No kidding.)
Daily Cal editors should have told the activists that they would run an opinion piece taking the content of Horowitz to task -- but not if the mob stole the papers. In the piece, activists could challenge some of the ad's more offensive statements, such as that welfare benefits constituted a transfer payment to African Americans. (More whites than blacks are on welfare.) Best to fight offensive speech, not by muzzling dissent, but with counterspeech.
But the Daily Cal ran a formal apology. Hernandez wrote a letter to readers that noted that the ad contained "incorrect or blatantly inflammatory content." He said the paper's staff should have vetted the ad. And added, "I promise readers it will not happen again."
But the ad was not "blatantly inflammatory." Horowitz did not use the crude bomb-throwing lingo the paper's liberal columnists find so handy. Nor was the ad incorrect; it was a documented matter of opinion.
"This whole thing has brought a mirror to our faces," said a wary Hernandez.
The mirror shows something downright unjournalistic about the Daily Cal. As Berkeley College Republicans Chairman Robb McFadden noted, "Unfortunately, it seems like freedom of speech at Berkeley only applies to those who don't stray from the liberal line of thought. I'll be the first to admit that I do not agree with all of the things that Mr. Horowitz said in his advertisement, but I cherish the fact that in America he has the right to say them."
Yes, in America he has the right to say them. But not in UC Berkeley.
Quoth Horowitz, "Even in the McCarthy era, Communists could buy ad space in a college newspaper."
This nasty episode makes one ache for the education student activists clearly are missing. They know too little history. They don't appreciate the First Amendment, or understand the ugly consequences that can occur when people with power try to dictate what other people say and think. They have a glorious window to the world of knowledge, yet they prefer to spend their time telling other people what they can't write, or can't read.