Berkeley Gets A B-Minus in Free Speech
FrontPageMagazine.com | March 19, 2001
By Stephen Brooks
ON THE EVENING of March 15, approximately 400 students, faculty and guests
were lined up in front of the Valley Life Sciences Building on the campus
of the University of California, Berkeley, to hear David Horowitz speak.
It had been two weeks since Horowitz unleashed a "firestorm of
controversy" with the publication of his advertisement "Ten Reasons Why
Reparations for Slavery Is a Bad Idea and Racist Too" in the Daily
Since then, Horowitz has seen plenty of things he probably never thought
he'd see. He saw the Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle and Arizona
Republic publications hardly partial to Horowitz all defend him
against the forces of censorship at Berkeley. He saw campus newspapers at
numerous prestigious universities including Harvard, the University of
Virginia and his alma mater, Columbia reject the same ad.
And, on the evening of the 15th, as he looked out into the audience of 500
students (and others) in the Chan Shun auditorium at Berkeley, he saw
thirty armed officers from the University Police Department at the ready
to protect him from potential assailants among the University community.
It seems this is the price for speaking one's mind on college campuses
these days. Thirty armed officers, two private security guards, metal
detectors at the entrance, secured corridors and exits, and an unusual
"zero-tolerance" policy demanded of the Administration by Horowitz and the
event organizers -- the Berkeley College Republicans and the California
Patriot. All because a guy thinks there should be two sides to the
Some of the attendees had waited nearly two hours for campus police to
open the doors. While in queue, they were treated to the bullhorn-aided
chants of about 25 protestors from the Spartacist Youth League, advocating
"black liberation through socialist revolution." (Memo to the Spartacist
League: socialist revolutions are statistically 50 million times more
likely to kill you than liberate you.) They called Horowitz a "racist
ideologue" and urged the freeing of infamous cop killer Mumia Abu Jamal.
It should not pass notice that the same group that was advocating the
release of a convicted murderer was responsible for acts of campus fascism
book burning, intimidation, verbal abuse when Accuracy in Academia
head Dan Flynn spoke at Berkeley last semester.
Print and television media FoxNews, CNN, the local CBS channel, the
Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Oakland Tribune and others
were on hand to cover the event; in fact, Horowitz's speech had a late
start in part because he was giving interviews to nearly a dozen media
Grassroots conservative groups and concerned members of the community
spurred on by Freerepublic.com and radio station KSFO showed their support
for Horowitz by taking seats in the first several rows. In all, the crowd
of 500 was more or less evenly divided between those who supported
Horowitz and those who denounced him, while a significant number seemed
just interested in seeing what the fuss was about. (Judging from the
positive reaction he received at several points throughout his speech,
Horowitz appeared to enjoy a plurality of support for his ideas.
Unfortunately, like so many brand-loyal constituents who believe in
conservative principles but would never vote Republican, most of these
students remained critical of Horowitz despite their apparent agreement
Horowitz entered following an introduction by one of the organizers,
student Ben Carrasco. "The situation reminds me of an old Richard Pryor
album," began Horowitz. "On the cover, a half-naked Pryor is surrounded by
angry Klansmen about to lynch him. 'Is it something I said?' he asks.
Actually, in this case, it was something I said."
The self-described "controversial" man went on to describe the genealogy
of the anti-reparations ad, which began as an article several months ago
in the on-line magazine Salon.com. The article was written, Horowitz
noted, in response to a Chicago City Council vote of 47 to 1 in favor of
reparations for slavery.
"Whenever I see numbers like 47 to 1, I see intimidation. I don't think
you could get 47 out of 48 politicians to agree on anything, without some
kind of coercion." The point, he said, was that there was an atmosphere of
intellectual terror and even physical intimidation on campuses when it
came to ideas that the political left regarded as dangerous. Any professor
and any student defending ideas such as were contained in the reparations
ad would do so at their peril. The capitulation of the Daily Cal editors
to the intimidation of the left showed just how difficult the situation
The censorship on campus he said was carried out under the guise of
"sensitivity" to the feelings of minority students the subtext being:
Some ideas were too hard for them to handle. Horowitz called this attitude
toward minorities "patronizing" and "racist" in itself. The assumption
that minority students were too weak to withstand ideas they disagreed
with was ridiculous and demeaning.
Horowitz then explained how the reparations claim fed the victim mentality
that stood in the way of real empowerment for those who succumbed to it.
"When slavery was ended, African-Americans had nothing. In 100 years, they
have become the 10th richest nation on earth. Black Americans shape
American culture. Those are things to celebrate. But the reparations
argument is intended to prevent any celebration. It is meant to force
African Americans to dwell on the past, and to focus on failure. The
reparations crowd and the so-called civil rights leadership wants to wave
the bloody shirt, to isolate their own community and to position it as a
hostile and angry force. That's the way the shakedown works."
His speech, just over an hour long, was as eclectic as it was dynamic,
borrowing equally from popular culture (citing the film "Remember the
Titans," in which a black coach berates his white offensive coordinator
for making excuses for a black running back "You're crippling that boy")
and the social sciences (the turnaround by the University of California
faculty over Proposition 209, which two years ago ended affirmative action
in admissions: in a public vote, the faculty denounced the measure, 152 to
2; in a secret vote, they voted for the measure).
With the exception of a snicker here and a jeer there, the crowd was
well-behaved, thanks to the thirty cops, the media, and the ultimatum that
they would be ejected if they caused a disturbance. For one hour, while
Horowitz spoke, the most optimistic expectations of Horowitz, the Berkeley
College Republicans, even the University Administration were
met. And then, the floor was opened up for questions.
"And please^make sure it's a question," Horowitz said.
This would have been a good time for Assistant Chancellor John Cummins to
make his presence known.
Just days before the speech, Cummins faxed a rather curt response to
Horowitz's plea for civility at the event. "I cannot guarantee that you
will not be treated rudely because there is no law against rude behavior,"
he wrote. It was a reminder that (as Peter Collier once quipped) "the
profile of a university administrator these days is a cross between Saul
Alinsky and Neville Chamberlain."
The day before the speech representatives from the Berkeley College
Republicans had met with Cummins to request that Cummins himself introduce
Horowitz. Instead, Cummins sat in the back of the Chan Shun Auditorium,
nestled among the leftists. He remained seated while the Question and
Answer session, in the absence of a moderator, deteriorated into a
After two questions and the obligatory "You are a racist, Mr. Horowitz"
monologue, an unnamed student accused the speaker of "misinforming" and
"play[ing] upon the ignorance of white, especially Republican, students."
As evidence he noted that the First Amendment does not obligate newspapers
to print any ad submitted to them. This was a rather jarring non sequitur,
since Horowitz had never claimed anything to the contrary. Unfortunately,
Horowitz's attempts to rebut the student were met with shouts and
accusations of "filibustering."
And just like that, the civil dialogue was gone. The student organizers
looked at one another in confusion: after all, things had been going so
smoothly. They reminded the speaker (who was not a student but a "former
University employee") that remarks were to be in the form of a question.
When he ignored this, they asked him to relinquish the microphone.
Finally, they turned his microphone off. All attempts to wrest control of
the proceedings led to louder protest, until no one could be heard.
Worried that the situation was about to pass the point of no return and
wanting to ensure that no one would get hurt, Horowitz set down his
microphone and, accompanied by his security guards, exited through the
side door. Disappointed students, no doubt hoping Horowitz, like so many
rock stars, would re-emerge for an "encore," milled around until Ben
Carrasco announced that the event was over and asked the audience to "take
And all the while, the university's representative sat Chamberlain-like in
his back row seat .
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