Let’s call them what they really are: Brownshirts. Thugs.
What has happened at the University of California at Berkeley in recent weeks, from threats of physical violence to open rioting, is nothing less than out-and-out thuggery. Over here at Laura Ingraham’s LifeZette is this description by writer Edmund Kozak of what’s been going on at Berkeley and just who is behind it:
“Antifa, which stands for ‘anti-fascist action,’ is a network of loosely affiliated far-left anarchist and communist groups that orchestrate violent protests and attacks on populists, conservatives, and anyone else its members deem to be ‘fascists’ or ‘Nazis.’
Antifa was formed originally in Germany in the 1980s, its members taking the name of the communist paramilitary groups that engaged the Nazis in street-fighting in the 1930s. It now has active cells across the world, including in Germany, the U.S., Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Czechia, and France.
‘Anyone who tries to hold any sort of right-wing event literally gets beat up by militant communists in the street,’ said independent journalist Lauren Southern, who was present at one of the pro-Trump Berkeley rallies, in a video taken immediately following the violence.
Harrowing video footage taken by Southern’s crew showed Antifa street fighters throwing bricks and M-80 explosives into the crowd, as well as assaulting Trump supporters. Other footage released by someone present at the event showed one Antifa thug hit a Trump supporter over the head with a bicycle chain and lock.”
Into this already repressive, anti-free speech chaos appeared the irrepressible Ann Coulter. Invited by the Berkeley College Republicans, the mere thought of Coulter’s presence threw university officials into panic mode. After much public back-and-forth, Coulter did not appear.
Then there was the case of the noted conservative author Charles Murray, invited to speak at Middlebury College in Vermont. The Washington Post reported the story this way:
The demonstrations began conventionally enough, with several hundred organized protesters packed into a lecture hall Thursday, chanting and holding signs. They ended with Murray being forced to move his lecture and later being surrounded by an unruly mob made up of students and ‘outside agitators’ as he tried to leave campus, according to witnesses and school administrators.
After swarming Murray, a faculty member and a school official, the protesters shouted profanities, shoved members of the group and then blocked them from getting to a vehicle in a nearby parking lot. Witnesses said the confrontation was aggressive, intimidating and unpredictable and felt like it was edging frighteningly close to outright violence.
…Burger said Stanger’s hair was pulled before she reached the car, twisting and injuring the professor’s neck. Burger said she later went to a hospital and was fitted with a neck brace. (Stanger could not be reached for comment.)”
Now. What is the connection between this plain-as-day brownshirt behavior at two well-known American colleges and the U.S. budget?
The connection, of course, is federal aid to education.
It’s time — way past time — to hold not only the institutions themselves accountable but any student who participates in this kind of behavior while receiving federal funding. And the way to do that is attach free speech strings to every last dollar of federal aid to education, whether they are flowing to the institution or to individual students.
Over at National Review, Stanley Kurtz has gotten this exactly right:
“The first duty of a legislature is to protect the rights of its citizens. Speech at public colleges and universities already falls under the protection of the First Amendment, while most private colleges explicitly promise a high level of free speech rights to prospective applicants (which courts generally take as a contractual pledge). Yet in today’s academy, First Amendment rights, however guaranteed or promised, are regularly ignored and infringed. On its face, then, legislative remedies at the level of the state need to be considered. If a legislator is obligated to defend anything, it is our most basic individual rights. Equally important, intellectual freedom and free expression are essential prerequisites to the fulfillment of a university’s core functions of the discovery, improvement, transmission, and dissemination of knowledge.
Given all this, and given the fact that the federal government provides tens of billions of dollars in student financial aid and university research grants each year, it is incumbent upon Congress to make the protection of First Amendment rights a prerequisite of its financial assistance to America’s colleges and universities. If this has not been done in the past, it is because the American academy could once be relied upon to safeguard free speech rights on its own. For the past several decades, however, culminating in the free speech crisis of our time, the academy has ceased to be a reliable defender of the First Amendment.”
Exactly correct, as the appalling incidents with Coulter and Murray indicate. Kurtz calls attention to this proposal from the National Association of Scholars titled The Freedom to Learn Amendments. Among other things, the amendments say this:
- Require colleges to submit an annual report on steps taken to uphold these speech and association commitments, detailing any instances in which such a commitment has been violated by students or faculty and how the institution has taken steps to punish offenders and better protect the rights of speech and association in the future.
- Congress should also create an independent commission, directly responsible to Congress and overseen by the Education Committee, with full powers to summon witnesses and demand information, to see how colleges and universities have been fulfilling these responsibilities to protect student speech and association rights. This commission will report to Congress at least once a year, and list non-feasant and mal-feasant colleges and universities. Any non-feasant or mal-feasant college or university may then be denied eligibility for Title IV funds, by majority vote of Congress.
- “Protected speech” and “protected association” will be defined to include not only First and Fourteenth Amendment rights but also explicit mention of:
- The right of invited speakers to speak and to be heard.
- Rigorous and effective defense of free speech against intimidation, threats of violence, actual violence, and reprisals.
- The right to study in an environment free of disruption and intimidation.
- The right of student associations (especially religious ones) to determine eligibility for membership and qualification for positions of leadership. These rights not to be abridged by institutional mandates for race, class, sex, gender, or gender-preference inclusivity.
- The right of free exercise of religion.
It can’t be made any plainer than this.
It is crystal clear that there is an anti-free speech epidemic that has spread like a virus from one campus to another. In fact, the Coulter and Murray cases are but two examples of free speech being snuffed out through intimidation at institutions of higher learning.
If colleges and universities in America are to be turned into havens for those like the Berkeley brownshirts, there is zero requirement that says hard-working Americans have to fund them.
Period. Full stop.